The Heart of Unity

Personal Matters

A number of circumstances lined up recently to bring the functionally divided state of the Church to my attention once again.

Firstly I was listening to a local pastor bemoaning the seeming inability of his fellow ministers to work together.

Two days later I was in a prayer meeting where a speaker shared about a miraculous coming together of Perth Christians across the denominational spectrum to work in concert 45 years ago.

We could all sense that there was a “spirit of unity” at that time we rarely see today.

Most significantly, something between these two incidents gave me a sense of a new word from the Lord.

I was in a team meeting at our local church when the other ministers spoke of a recurring pattern.

Church folk enthusiastically volunteer for a task then “don’t turn up” on the day.

A scripture immediately sprung to mind; “Teach me your way, O LORD, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.” and I could see a heart divided in two (Ps 86:11).

Where the heart of an individual, congregation or city-Church is divided this is a sure sign of the absence of the fear of the Lord so that God’s kingdom purposes are being frustrated. One of the greatest needs in the Church today is the recovery of the biblical vision of the heart.

The Centre of it All

Reflecting upon the fragmentation of revivals in his own eighteenth century, pastor-theologian Jonathan Edwards1)wikipedia.org “Jonathan Edwards” turned to a core biblical text; “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Prov 4:23).

your heart

Edwards correctly discerned that “heart” stands for the generating centre of all our thoughts, choices and feelings. If the “heart” is like the trunk of a tree, the branches are our mind, will and emotions.

Everything flows from the heart; it is not merely the source of strong feelings!

Someone, for instance, may respond passionately to an appeal to participate in a church working bee but if there is no follow through then their “heart” was never in it.

A united heart means a unified person coordinated in every aspect and action of being.

A whole heart wisely guides a mature person away from evil and towards good (Eccl 8:5; Prov 9:10).

Whoever fears God from their heart will shun division and work closely with others (Deut 10:12; 2 Chron 19:9). The present apathy about a functionally divided Church is a sign that we have gone into cardiac arrest and need an electroconvulsive shock from the Spirit to revive us.

The only way this can come is through a greater vision of God’s heart seen in the cross.

God’s Broken Heart

The glory of Jesus is in making visible the heart of his Father.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father….No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is in the heart of the Father, he has made him known.” (John 1:14, 18).

The glorious heart of the Father is publicly displayed through Jesus’ signs and wonders but hidden to normal sight in the cross (John 2:11; 11:4, 40; 12:40).

The revelation of the generating centre of God’s inner being occurs in the place fallen humanity never seeks glory, suffering for others.

In great pain Jesus prays; ““Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again”….“My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death…. Yet not what I will, but what you will.”” (John 12:27-28; Mark 14:34, 36).

The agonising alignment of the will of Jesus with the will of God is an agreement that means the Son in his frail humanity will take on the heart of the Father for lost humanity.

We have a glimpse of the dimensions of what this will cost Christ in the prelude to the Genesis Flood, “The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great…and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil…And the LORD regretted that he had made man…and his heart was filled with pain.” (Gen 6: 5-6 cf. Ezek 11:19). The pain hidden inside the heart of God across the ages breaks out in full view on the cross; ““My God, my God why have you forsaken me”” (Mark 15:34).

To be united with the pain-filled heart of the God is the glory of Jesus where his humanity reaches complete oneness with his Father in love for us (Heb 5:7-8).

This explains his prayer; “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one,” (John 17:22).

Christ’s sacrificial love is the glory that binds our hearts together as one.

This is not some abstract ideal for it becomes real in the heart-experience of forgiveness.

One Heart

Forgiveness unites our hearts to God’s undivided heart through connecting us with the cost to Father and Son of Jesus’ sacrifice for us (Luke 23:34).

The apostles ministered in the power of this connection.

When Peter preached at Pentecost his hearers “were cut the heart” and cried out in holy fear “what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37 cf. Heb 4:12-13).

The will of his hearers was coming into alignment with the will of God through repentance and the receiving of forgiveness (2:38).

As the Church lived in such all forgiving love they “were of one heart and soul…” (4:32 cf. Jer 32:39).

As the grace of God’s heart uniting us to him is forgiveness (Heb 13:9), our hearts are bound together in forgiving each other in love.

This explains why the exhortation to “put on love which binds everything together in perfect unity” is preceded by the command, “Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” (Col 3:13-14 cf. Eph 4:32-5:1; 1 Pet 4:8).

Contrary to popular practice a mature Church sustains extraordinary forgiving love by “walking in the fear of the Lord” (Acts 9:3). After all, Jesus warned that grace is lost “if you do not forgive your brother from your heart.”” (Matt 18:34-35).

To walk in holy fear is to refuse to receive the forgiving grace of God in vain (2 Cor 6:1).

Such a Church “bears with one another in love” in order to “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Eph 4:3).

Conclusion

The life of the Church is meant to be a response to God’s whole-hearted action in forgiving sinners at the cross.
 3cross

Where the gospel is proclaimed as a message of full forgiveness for those who cause God untold anguish the Word creates an undivided heart walking in the fear of God.

» This is Christian normality.

We however live in a Church with a divided heart expressed in divided words portraying a divided image to the world.

» This is the spiritual tragedy of our time.

Jesus taught that only a Church visibly “one” in his “glory” can reveal his unity with the Father “so that the world might believe that you have sent me” (John 17:20ff.).

What can we do to bridge the gap between Christ’s call and our own spirituality?

Confess that as individuals, congregations and city-Church we are dominated by an ungodly fear that flows from a divided heart breeding competition and distance between us.

Recognise that only a sovereign divine visitation of the all-forgiving love which draws all things together in perfect harmony can heal our fractured hearts and make us whole (Col 3:14).

Pray that in the light of the cross we might each have a revelation of the depths of the psalmist’s words:

v.3 Lord, if you kept a record of our sins, who, O Lord, could ever survive?
v.4 But with you there is forgiveness, that you may be feared….unite my heart to fear your name.

3cross

Ignorant

Personal Matters

God’s greatest encouragements often come from surprise turns of mind that confound our natural thinking. I was walking through the CBD last week reflecting on how today we are inundated with “experts” on the human condition.

Whether it be psychologists, neuroscientists, business and marketing analysts, media commentators, sociologists etc. the contemporary world is dominated by specialists telling us what we need to know about ourselves.

This feature of mainstream culture has sadly become part of the character of the Western Church; a host of church growth and health consultants, multitudes of prayer ministries or a mass of Christian counselling methods, let alone the usual indoctrinations of pastors and professional ministries who will tell you all you need to know about God and his Church.

But there is truly only one “expert” on the character and condition of our humanity, Jesus.

To admit this is to confess personal ignorance; something which the Lord values very highly.

Temptations of a Professional Christian

My “career”, a word I deeply dislike, has always been in the knowledge industry. As a school teacher, church pastor, theology lecturer and spiritual director the working assumption is that I know something others don’t know. The temptation to make this a part of my self-worth is very strong for in a fallen world what we know and who we think we are have become intimately related. This was one of the great costs of eating from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Gen 2:17).

Unwittingly the Church rewards the possession of knowledge in a way that robs us of the glorious presence of God. Savvy church culture makes it easy to forget how totally ignorant we were of the ways of God when we first came to Christ, but how powerfully the Lord answered our prayers and poured out his Spirit (Gal 3:1-5). We forget that Jesus did not choose “influential” people to lead his movement to change the world.

Paul puts it plainly; “consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong…. so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.”(1 Cor 1:26-27, 29).

When Christ reprimands the Ephesian church, ““remember the height from which you have fallen”” he is not recalling them to status and success but the simplicity of a first love (Rev 2:4-5). That ““God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”” is well known amongst us but in practice unintentionally transgressed (James 4:6). We need a fresh revelation of the importance of bring ignorant in the presence of God.

Mercy to the Ignorant

At the climax of the book of Jonah God speaks to the rebellious prophet; “And should not I pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”” (Jon 4:11). The Lord unflatteringly ranks the spiritual and moral discernment of the Ninevites with that of dumb beasts, BUT this makes them candidates for mercy.

If ever there was an afflicted man surrounded by “experts” on the ways of God it was Job, who himself had plenty to say about the Lord. Only when God appeared speaking of himself as the opponent of proud men who find fault with the Almighty did Job became truly wise repenting in dust and ashes (Job 40:1-2, 11; 42:1-6). That the self-confessed ignorant can obtain mercy with God is likewise a powerful New Testament hope.

Amazingly, Peter says to the Jerusalemites who had a hand in crucifying Jesus, ““And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.”” and promises those now enlightened refreshment and restoration if they turn to Christ (Acts 3:17-21). Once Peter himself was arrogant about his knowledge of the ways of God but his failure to follow Jesus to the cross had softened his heart towards the ignorant (Matt 16:22).

Paul is even blunter in speaking about God’s grace to the ignorant; “formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy because I had acted ignorantly in unbelief, and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.” (1 Tim 1:13-14). All this is encouraging to us spiritual dullards, but to understand the true power of ignorance we must examine the life of the Son of God.

The Ignorance of Jesus

Hebrews informs us that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin…every high priest…can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness….” (Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 5:2).

In what sense can Christ personally identify with our ignorance’s?

Jesus cry from the cross, ““My God…why have you forsaken me?”” is the ultimate confession of human ignorance (Mark 15:34).

In bearing our sin he who knew himself to be the Son of God has lost all knowledge of the Father (2 Cor 5:21). Christ’s ignorance of his sonship pays the price for our prideful confidence concerning the ways of God with man and pre-eminently qualifies him to be the one who shows mercy to the ignorant. Those who ignore Jesus’ ignorance for them will always fail to come to him as ignorant people needing mercy.

In the re-confession of her ignorance lies the Western Church’s hope of restoration.

Re-confess Ignorance

The Church as we know it has become skilled in professing its knowledge of God. Books, seminars, courses and programmes abound without number.

Multitudes work hard at raising their spiritual, or ecclesiastical, Key Performance Indicators.

This is not how we first came to Jesus for “it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.” (Rom 9:16). Ignorance is not an attribute or skill you can work at but a weakness to be confessed in the presence of God. This is great news of rest for all who have been labouring under the burden of Christian expertise (Matt 11:25-30).

The Christian consultancy industry might see this counsel of ignorance as a recipe for laziness and cheap grace. And it would be if we took our eyes off the centrality of the ignorance of Jesus himself. Our self-confessed cries to God as ignorant people pleading for cleansing and refreshment do not earn us some sort of merit through our dullness.

Rather we are heard when we confess ignorance in the name of Jesus because we share in the ignorance of Jesus’ cry on the cross, a cry that issued in resurrection power (Mark 15:34; Acts 4:12; Heb 5:7-8).

All genuine knowledge of God, including knowing we are ignorant, is a share in Christ’s relationship with the Father.

Conclusion

The message of mercy for the ignorant is great news for activist Western Christians who have searched again and again for some key to spiritual revival and restoration.

 
By our labours for understanding we have spawned a huge Christian knowledge industry and kept the people of God under bondage to “experts”.

 
In the mercy of God may we realise that it is what we don’t know that can lead us back to those green pastures of grace alone we first experienced when we came to the Lord.

Beware the Gift

Personal Matters

The first thing that came up on ABC news radio this morning (8/6/15) was the decision of Hillsong to cancel their invitation to controversial US pastor Mark Driscoll to speak at their upcoming conference.

Until his dismissal last year Driscoll had seen Mars Hill Seattle grow from a lounge room meeting to a 10,000 plus megachurch. Since his leaving the church has effectively dissolved. There are some similarities with the case of Australia’s first televangelist Clark Taylor, whose ministry grew perhaps the largest church in the nation in the 70’s.

He was forced to resign because of repeated infidelities.

Whilst Taylor has been restored he comes to mind because I have recently been counselling someone whose family was devastated by his ministry. Both Taylor and Driscoll are extraordinarily gifted men of God.

My thinking about the influence of giftedness actually began a few days prior to the ABC clip when I encountered several men confused about their relationship with the church because of the powerful influences of gifted leaders on their lives.

I can personally remember occasions where I was drawn to men of great gifting, the results were always disastrous. “Beware the Gift” calls us to look through the minister of the gifts to the sole ministry of Christ to the glory of God the Father.

Idols

The most obvious sin in following gifts rather than Jesus as Giver is idolatry. Humans obsessively “exchange the glory of the immortal God for images representing mortal man” (Rom 1:23). This is a chronic problem. When I went to the website outlining Clark Taylor’s current ministry there was a bio which jumped over the years of his disgrace and placed him under the heading, “My Hero”.

This is dangerous behaviour which may be illustrated with an example.

Whenever I do marriage preparation one of the first things I look for in a passion-filled young couple is infatuation. Infatuation not only glazes our physical eyes but also dulls our inner eyes to the faults in another person. Samson’s sexualised blindness to Delilah’s true ambitions is a biblical case in point (Judges 16). The lure of blind attachment to another person actually operates on multiple levels.

It may simply be that we believe that their gifts can impart to us something we need for a fuller life e.g. health and wealth.

More profoundly however the sort of “soul attachment” that breeds a deep dependency on another mortal being is an attempt to absorb from them a quality we don’t believe is in us. This may become a sort of “cannibal compulsion” whose end result breeds cultic attitudes towards “anointed” visionary leaders (Leanne Payne).

The root sin underlying idolatry is unbelief concerning the worth we have in the eyes of the Father.

Our worth before God is unlimited because his lives Son in us (Gal 1:16; Col 1:27). Even the glorious angels “long to look” at our salvation in Christ (1 Pet 1:12). What then blinds us to “the riches of God’s glorious inheritance in the saints” so that we are swayed to follow other mortals (Eph 1:18)? We fail to understand Christ crucified!

The Cross Brings Clarity

Jesus’ closest earthly companions failed to grasp that only through suffering could his (and their) identity be fully revealed. When the Lord said, ““If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” the disciples were dumbfounded. (Matt16:24). When Jesus declared, ““the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected …and be killed”” Peter rebuke him (Mark 8:31-3 2).

Such resistance to following a suffering Messiah flows from a natural mind which can only see suffering as a painful sign of lost glory (Rom 3:23; 8:7). The transformation of the disciples thinking about suffering awaited the resurrection. In his risen splendour Jesus testified to his apostles; ““Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?”” (Luke 24:26).

Whilst those who followed Jesus as a power Messiah all fell away because of the blinding effects of guilt, the vision of the crucified-and-risen Christ who suffered for us convinces our doubting hearts that God truly loves us and counts us to be of inestimable worth (John 2:23-25; Rom 5:6-8). Only when Christ is publicly portrayed as crucified do we transparently see God’s loving heart valuing us in our lost and broken condition (Mark 15:34; Gal 3:1).

The marginalisation of the cross in the Church is the spiritual root of the following of gifts today.

Transparent Disciples

Jesus made remarkable comments about the inability of “Christians” to discern his presence, or absence, in their lives. “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you;” (Matt 7:22-23).

These miracle workers and exorcists knew the power of the name of Jesus but lacking inner transparency could not discern the Lord was never in them.

So inwardly dull were the apostles they were unable to recognise the presence of a demonised Judas in their midst (John 6:70). Responding to Christ’s declaration of a betrayer amongst them they spoke in unison; ““is it I Lord”” (Matt 26:22). Such a gross lack of personal and interpersonal transparency amongst Jesus’ team before the cross can be traced back to their avoidance of the call to suffer for his sake.

Jesus promised a blessing of joy for those persecuted for his kingdom, a promise that later came true when Peter and John were beaten for their testimony and “rejoiced that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonour for the name.” (Matt 5:10-12; Acts 5:41).

Suffering for the Lord brings a compelling sense of worthiness that expels the idolatrous need to seek something special from following others. Our brothers and sisters in the persecuted church have a clear head start over us in these matters.

Yet we do not have to wait for open harassment before we can sense our worth in Christ and be freed from following the gifts of men. Whoever surrenders sickness, personal conflict, monetary need, psychological pressure or any other source of pain to Jesus for the glory of God will soon experience their agonies as enveloped in the “fellowship of sufferings” (Phil 3:10). Such people sense the glory of God in them and are moved by the Spirit to follow Christ alone.

Conclusion

Jesus always wants to spare us from the useless pains bred of idolatry and bring us into genuine spiritual maturity. Consistent Christ-centredness is maturity (Col 1:28).

I fear however for the spiritual condition of the mainstream Church today. Scripture warns us that Satan’s ultimate deception will come “with all power and false signs and wonders,” (2 Thess 2:9).

With many Christians crying out in prayer for mighty works apart from seeking a deeper revelation of Christ crucified the stage is set for a great falling away from the true Messiah; just as Jesus predicted (Matt 24:24).

Such things do not have to be! If we are wise we will ask the Lord to reveal to our own hearts any places where we have been following the gift rather than the Giver. Once freed from distractions and disillusionments we will become those wise persons who turn others towards Christ alone, not as some sort of “hero” but as the man whose present power came only by the weakness of the cross (Dan 12:3; 2 Cor 13:4; Heb 5:7-10).

He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. (Rev 2:7 etc.)

The Puzzle of Humanity

 by Dr. John Yates

Personal Matters

Being human is a struggle. Looking back over my life I can see three phases of inner wrestling. When I was an unbeliever I nearly went crazy, especially when drunk, turning over and over in my mind whether life had meaning.

Coming to Jesus resolved that issue; but another intense dilemma soon emerged.

It has been poignantly said,

The longest distance in the world is between head and heart.
This distance between my doctrinal affirmations and my actual experiences tormented me for some years until I stopped looking at myself.

As a more Christ-centred believer another acute tension surfaced, the one which still so often troubles me and from which there seems to be no deliverance. This is a tension generated by the massive difference between who I know Jesus to be and the outworking of this in and around me through the Church.

Is this a special prophetic burden that comes through discerning the difference between a present condition and a future state (Zech 12:1; Mal 1:1)?

If a spiritual gift is at the source of my inner tensions then the generally apathetic Aussie Church needs a revelation of Jesus as the Lord of glory (1 Cor 2:8; 1 Pet 1:13). God can shift our lukewarm spirituality, but only if we seek the depths of “the love of Christ that leaves us no choice” (1 Cor 2:10; 2 Cor 5:14; Rev 3:16).

To possess biblical wisdom about who we are not we must go back to our beginning.

Made for Glory

Adam and Eve were made in the image and glory of God but knowing that they could die made them acutely aware they were radically incomplete (Gen 2:17; 3:4-5). This awareness of imperfection was part of a larger divine plan; “God…has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end.” (Eccl 3:11).

The first couple must have longed for an eternal marriage, but the divinely imposed shadow of death presented itself as an impenetrable barrier to endless marital joy.

Knowing there were things only God knew about good-and-evil proved to be an intolerable tension, one which they tried to solve by reaching out for personal immortality (Rom 1:20, 23). The result was a terrible Fall; instead of ascending to perfection humanity fell short of the glory which God had always designed for us (Rom 3:23).

This loss of glory is experienced as shame, an unbearable sensation everyone tries to over with the substitutes of religion, money, sex, power, family, knowledge, work and so on (Gen 3:7; Jer 2:11; Acts 17:29; Rom 1:23). Such idolatries actually satisfy some people, even those thought to be enlightened. “Hinduism as I know it entirely satisfies my soul, fills my whole being.” (Ghandi) By God’s grace however such satisfaction always eluded the pre-Christian me.

My serious efforts to “kill” my inner puzzlements about life through attachment to the pure materialistic determinism of behaviourist psychology only intensified my sense that something drastic was missing inside.

This severe discontentment, for which I now thank God, was a necessary stimulus in moving me towards Jesus. In this “lucky country” however we face a powerful social taboo against confessing despair over life itself. Adopt this attitude and expect to quickly be hit with some demeaning psychiatric label to explain away your “confusions”. 

Praise God he is working to a plan for our restoration to glory and Jesus is its absolute centre (1 Cor 2:7).

Showing the Glory

The history of salvation moves forward through bursts of the revelation of glory; “the God of glory appeared to…Abraham”, Isaiah has a vision of the glory of God “filling the whole earth”, Jesus’ “manifested his glory” at the wedding in Cana moving his disciples to “believe in him”, Saul is struck down by an epiphany of Jesus on the road to Damascus, John sees the glorified Son of Man so that he is equipped to receive the visions filling Revelation (Isaiah 6:1-6; Acts 7:2; 9:1-9; John 2:11; Rev 1:12ff.).

Manifestations like these shake our humanity to its foundations, not simply because of the vast gulf between divine glory and fallen human wretchedness, but because they are revelations of the glory of God in the humanity of Jesus.

The scriptures teach that even the Old Testament saints and prophets had a vision of Jesus; Christ said Abraham, “rejoiced as he looked forward to my coming. He saw it and was glad.”, likewise John tells us that Isaiah’s vision of the Lord was a vision of Jesus (John 8:56; 12:41)! If the glory of God is concentrated in the face of Jesus why are our churches so preoccupied with our healing, salvation, deliverance and prosperity (2 Cor 4:6)? It is because we cannot bear to embrace the broken glory of Christ’s cross.

True Glory

Approaching his “hour” of death Jesus prayed; ““Father, glorify your name…. glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you,”” (John 12:28; 17:1). The full manifestation of the Father-Son glory for which Christ prayed comes only through Jesus immersion in our radical incompleteness. The cry “My God, my God, why have you….?”” (Mark 15:34) is a total identification with all our sin-laden puzzlements.

Unlike us however the bewildered Jesus never turns to idols to cover a place of shame but turns only towards the covenant God of Israel (Ps 22:1). Whilst the glory of the cross is hidden to natural eyes the resurrection of Christ “by the glory of the Father” testifies that God’s glory was perfected in the supreme weakness of his Son (Rom 6:4; 2 Cor 12:9).

Whilst the cross as God’s plan for our glory remains hidden from the “wise and understanding” by grace it is revealed to those who puzzle over their very existence (Matt 11:25; 1 Cor 1:18; 2:7).

For too long our churches have imbibed the self-confident spirit of an age which claims an answer to everything. We need immersion in the eternal Spirit who transited Jesus through the existential exasperation of the cross into his perfection as the glorified Son of God (Rom 1:4; Heb 9:14).

For the sake of moving us to seek his glory the Father will allow us to pass through periods of deep perplexity (2 Cor 1:8; 4:8).

For only those who know they do not hold the answers to life’s deepest puzzles can possibly live a truly Christ-centred existence.

Only in radical incompleteness are we driven again and again to the scriptures where we find that Jesus really is the answer to every question. He is the glory of what it means to be a human being, a spouse, a worker and one who knows God as Father (Gal 4:6; 1 Cor 11:7; 2 Cor 4:4; Heb 2:5-9). Only in Jesus can we sense our future glory; “when he appears we shall be like him, for we will see him as his is.” (1 John 3:2).

Conclusion

Until we meet the Lord face to face the radical incompleteness of human life will remain with us.
 «Yet our perpetual puzzlements are no barrier to the conquering grace of an all wise Father» (James 1:5).

The revelation of Jesus as the Lord of glory which us apathetic Aussies so desperately need will not come through the confident professionalism of the super-churches of our day but through unlikely candidates whose brokenness embeds them in constant humility (2 Cor 12:5-13). Such wise children are those who thank God that being human involves such a struggle, one that  moves us to turn again and again to the only person who truly understands us, Jesus our Lord (Matt 11:25; 1 Cor 2:7).

Uncompetitive Glory

Glory (Unity/Disunity) 

by Dr. John Yates

Personal Matters

We are all competitive by nature. This came home to me with particular power the other day when Donna was playing the card game “Snap” with our 3 year old granddaughter. Donna managed to call out “Snap” first and the little one spontaneously ran to her room howling in tears – because she had been beaten. When I was young I could never stand losing, in my serious table tennis playing days I regularly smashed bats.1)Fortunately I knew how to make new ones by hand.

Competitiveness is not the sole property of the immature young; it can be just as common among the chronologically mature. It’s not so long ago when I would go to a pastors’ conference and meet someone new and I could infallibly predict he2)Always seemed to be a “he”.  would always ask within a few minutes, “How big is yours?” They were of course inquiring about the size of “my” church, but Freud would categorize this as a classic case of penis envy. Pathetic and juvenile but immensely tragic. In recent days I believe I have been given clearer insight into the way out of this competitive spirit; the discernment of God’s glory in others.

Jesus’ Glory

Jesus’ great prayer for Christian unity is preceded by a marvellous statement of his awareness of the Father’s presence; ““I glorified you on earth, having accomplished the work that you gave me to do. And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”” (John 17:4-5 ESV). Christ is fully conscious that everything the Father has to give of himself lives in him.

This will come out repeatedly in his prayers for us; “that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us” (John 17:21).3)Theologically this is called inter-containment, or perichoresis.  Jesus continues in prayer opening up glory as the heart of unity, “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.”(John 17:22-23 ESV).

The insight of the Son into the glory of the Father in him, and vice versa, is the substance of their oneness and so that of the unity of the Church. The Father and Son could never compete for glory because the glory of the one was the glory of the other. Glory is essentially uncompetitive. The cross, which at first sight appears to be a one-sided affair of cost to the Son and benefit to the Father, establishes the full mutuality of the Persons of Godhead. For it is only through death-and-resurrection the Word made flesh can be restored to the glory he shared with the Father in eternity (Romans 6:4; Philippians 2:9-11). This talk of glory applies to us.

Touch of Glory

The inspiration for the positive side of this article flows from a prayer time with a group of mainly younger pastors and leaders last week. The Spirit gave me an unusual sense that each of them had been given by Jesus a distinct aspect of the fullness of the glory of God. Some had dimensions of apostolic glory, others prophetic, evangelistic, teaching, pastoral and so on. All Christians share in the glory of sonship as well as having glorious gifts from the Lord (Romans 8:14-17; 1 Corinthians 12:1-11). When I have a revelation that all of these gifts we see in others are given by Jesus for the glory of the Father I can no longer measure or compare myself to my brother/sister.4)when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” [2 Corinthians 10:12]  Spiritual insight into the glory given to another believer necessarily draws out the following response.

I desire with my whole being to see the gifting I discern in my brother/sister go forward and increase for God’s glory in Christ. Mutual awareness of glory is essentially non-competitive and other affirming. This insight is at the godly heart of all genuine spiritual fathering, mothering and mentoring in the Church. The still divided state of the Church leads us to the tragic conclusion that we lack insight into such glory.5)This becomes a vicious circle, lacking insight into glory given we compete and are blinded to glory and so on.  Yet the Lord has more to say.

Move with the Wind

So far I have omitted to mention of the dynamic of glory and its unity, the Holy Spirit. The glory of God was visible only in Jesus’ active witness to the Father in the power of the Spirit (Matthew 12:28; Luke 3:21-22; Luke 4:18 etc.). An illustration may give us clarity as to how the work of the Spirit manifests glory-unity in the Church.

Some gardens near my place have little plastic windmills with blades made up of all the colours of the rainbow. When there is no wind each blade is separate from the others and all their colours are distinct. When however the wind blows hard the windmill becomes to the naked eye one solid looking white mass. The unified white colour cannot exist without the dynamic interplay of all the colours of the spectrum. In many languages the words for “spirit” and “wind” are the same. When the Spirit of God moves the people of God with all their diverse gifts of glory to cooperate together in joint prayer and mission the glory of God will be visibly manifested in the Church.

Conclusion

Once upon a time we used to sing this line in church; “I can see in you the glory of my King and I love you with the love of the Lord”. These words are untellably profound for they sum up the prayers of Jesus and the purpose of his sacrifice, “The glory that you have given me I have given to them….that the love with which you have loved me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:22, 26). Nothing is deeper than this in heaven or on earth.

Prophetically I see that the Lord is on moving today to create a family that will love one another with unlimited devotion. This love will be activated by a revelation of the glory of the Lord in each other; it is upon this family that Jesus will pour out his Spirit with signs, miracles and wondrous healings of body and soul following. Seeing the glory>loving-unity>power is the order of Father, Son and Spirit which alone can restore the Church and touch our land.

I can see in you the glory of my King”. Is this your testimony about how you see every brother/sister in Christ? Do you want this to be your testimony? If you desire this then the Lord will grant your request and your life will be filled with forwarding and increasing the glory of God in Christ in others. Your life will no longer be your own.

References

↑ 1. Fortunately I knew how to make new ones by hand.
↑ 2. Always seemed to be a “he”.
↑ 3. Theologically this is called inter-containment, or perichoresis.
↑ 4. when they measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another, they are without understanding.” [2 Corinthians 10:12]
↑ 5. This becomes a vicious circle, lacking insight into glory given we compete and are blinded to glory and so on.

God-sent wounding

by Dr. John Yates

Personal Matters

In my last article, Ignorant, I shared about my overwhelming experiences of spiritual dullness. Several people responded to this teaching saying they felt much the same about their own lives. Closely related to this is a persistent sense of some sort of threshold that needs to be crossed if I am to grow in the Lord.

Tragically, I do not feel the overall spiritual climate of the Church in WA is either challenging or empowering me to take this step. In praying about this spiritual stalemate I believe I have received a clear and concrete direction which is a prophetic call to the people of God.

Receive the Wound

We live in times which “pamper the flesh”; the maximisation of human comfort dominates not only mainstream culture but also the Church.

God’s prophetic Word is calling out, “The flesh has to be wounded for glory to be revealed.” This motto linking the release of glory with wounding is eminently biblical.

Of Jesus it says, “he was wounded for our transgressions” (Isa 53:5);But one of the soldiers pierced his side with a spear, and at once there came out blood and water1)Symbolic of forgiveness and the release of the Holy Spirit [John 1:29; 7:37-39].  (John 19:34). Paul boasts of his piercings, “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies (2 Cor 4:10); “I bear on my body the scars that show I belong to Jesus. (Gal 6:17).

Such scarring does not come through the normal trials of life, it is a wounding sovereignly chosen by God for his glory (Mark 14:36; Luke 24:26, 29; 2 Cor 12:7).

The wounding2)The following list does not claim to be specifically or exhaustively inspired.  could be a period of fasting and lamentation; the humble open recognition that every part of the Church needs every other part, whether Pentecostals, Catholics or in between; the difficult admission that Indigenous Australians hold a key to long term spiritual transformation; an acceptance by Gentiles that Jewish evangelism is a prophetic priority; a coming to terms with the reality that the Judaeo-Christian heritage of Australia is a thing of the past and so on.

A key aspect of this God-sent wounding is that it must NOT be contained behind the closed doors of churches (Dan 6:10; 9:1ff.).

Embarrassed at Large

The Lord is speaking about an “embarrassing public dimension” to this wounding.  As scripture teaches, “But he gives more grace. Therefore it says,God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6, ESV).

I see a full page statement in The West Australian newspaper containing a confession and commitment from prominent Christian leaders to pray, fast and repent for the failure of the Church to be a preserving and purifying presence in our culture.

The scandal of sexual abuse in Christian institutions, the matter of homelessness in one of the richest states in the world, the appalling condition of aboriginal people, the catastrophic condition of sexual immorality, abortion and so on testify to our overall spiritual impotence.

The signatories to this confession need be drawn from all realms of society (business, arts, media, politics, sport, law, education, medicine, science, industry…) and not just heads of churches!

Allied to this newspaper statement would be a call to a day of prayer for our community which would occur in public space.3)Cf. my Envisioning the Impossible article.

Christian lawyers and judges might pray in front of the Supreme Court, business folk around the Stock Exchange, medical personnel at hospitals, others praying at parliament, TV stations, schools, universities, shopping centres, industrial complexes, airports, sports arenas and so on.

2 Chronicles 7:14 is beloved by many, ““if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.””. Very few Christians however have considered that the present day equivalent of confession at Solomon’s temple might be the space in which they lead their Monday-Friday lives.

Conclusion

The details of how a public wounding by the Lord should be enacted are open to debate, but the need is not.

My lack of confidence that most prominent/influential Christians in our state will publicly lower themselves to be part of such an enterprise only confirms the desperate need for such an action.

Surely such an open demonstration of the power of the cross is only something God can do; and that is exactly how it should be.

References

↑ 1. Symbolic of forgiveness and the release of the Holy Spirit [John 1:29; 7:37-39].
↑ 2. The following list does not claim to be specifically or exhaustively inspired.
↑ 3. Cf. my Envisioning the Impossible article.

Going on to Maturity

by Dr. John Yates

v11 About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. v12 For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, v13 for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. v14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. Hebrew 5:11-14

Introduction

Every church aims to be “mature”, but it would be hard to name a church in Perth, large or small, that could honestly claim maturity in love, unity, mission or holiness. The problems that assail the wider Australian community- marriage tension, divorce, family strife, immorality, anxiety, depression, unforgiveness, materialism, and so on, are equally common amongst the people of God.

The tension between what the Bible says we can be in Christ and our actual spiritual development has generated a huge industry of books, recordings, music, conferences and programmes that seem powerless to mature the church. In dealing with the foundational problems underlying immaturity we must start with the Fall of Adam and end with the resurrection of Jesus.

The Challenge in the Garden

When created Adam and Eve had not yet reached perfection. They were innocent and sinless but not yet mature. To reach the spiritual maturity of full God-likeness they needed to confront evil. This was why it was necessary and fitting for the first couple to be tempted.

Adam was given one specific command that required complete obedience, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.””(Gen 2:17). When Eve was approached by Satan, Adam (Gen 3:6) should have confronted the devil with a righteous anger that revealed jealousy for God and for his bride. If he had “hate(d) what is evil and clung fast to what is good” (Rom 12:9) he would have been holy as God is holy and entered into the mature destiny of sharing the divine glory. The opposite happened, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23).

The story of the Fall is familiar, but we often miss why God left Adam and Eve alone in the garden with only his Word to confront the devil.  God’s Word is the complete irreproachable truth as ultimate and indestructible as his nature. To deny God’s Word is to deny God.

Alone in the Garden however, things were not so clear. When Satan began to speak, God didn’t “turn up” to rebuke the devil, give a sign or impart some special feeling to Adam and Eve. It must have seemed to them that God didn’t care, that they had been forgotten by their Father (Luke 3:38) and that the devil was right in rejecting the Word of God. In the end it came down to God’s Word against Satan’s Word, God was acting like an absent Father but Satan was up close and personal. We would all have done exactly what they the first couple did and we have all suffered their fate.

The LORD declares “ ‘those who honour me I will honour, and those who despise me shall be lightly esteemed.” (1 Sam 2:30). Immediately Adam and Eve let go of the divine Word planted in their hearts (Rom 10:9-10) and ate of the tree they were filled with shame. In themselves they deeply sensed the loss of the glory of God (Rom 3:23).

The Hebrew word for “glory” means “weight” or “intensity”; when sin through shame strips humanity of God’s glorious presence people feel lightweight, insignificant, small and purposeless. Today’s plague of depression, anxiety, drug taking and sexual addiction reflects the loss of the glory of God in man. Even more tragically, the Christian entertainment industry and the mediocrity of popular preaching that has degenerated into motivational speaking shows that this tragic state is as alive in the church as in the world.

The Failure to Mature

Like Adam and Eve, Israel failed to mature and inherit the promises of God. God spoke to his people personally at Mount Sinai, “if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine” (Ex 19:5). Yet when Moses went up the mountain to receive the Ten Commandments the nation felt forgotten by God and worshipped a golden calf. In the wilderness, they grumbled like spoiled brats and in the Promised Land they never stopped chasing idols.

Nevertheless, inside the Old Testament we find pointers on the way to maturity.1)Abraham struggles in lonely obedience up the slopes of Mount Moriah to slaughter Isaac. Job wrestles to resolve the tension between his blamelessness [Job 1:1] the faithfulness of his Creator through family tragedy, economic disaster and physical illness. In pain, the psalmists cry out, “Has God forgotten to be gracious? Has he in anger shut up his compassion?”(Ps 77:9). As the merciless Babylonians approach to devastate Jerusalem the prophet Habakkuk complains, “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not hear? Or cry to you “Violence!” and you will not save?” (Hab 1:2).  These figures groan in the depths of their being, “Where is God when it matters most?

Speaking in the midst of exile Isaiah opens with a declaration from God that seems shocking, “v7 I form light and create darkness, I make well-being and create calamity, I am the Lord, who does all these things.  (Isa 45:7). The prophet then proceeds with a revelation that seems intolerable, “Truly, you are a God who hides himself, O God of Israel, the Savior. (Isa 45:15). The truth that God deliberately hides himself is both offensive to human ears and the key to all spiritual maturity.

Maturity in Jesus

The writer to the Hebrews has a lot to say about Christian maturity, but it is all grounded in the life of Christ. He describes Jesus agony in Gethsemane like this:

v7 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. v8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. v9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him, v10 being designated by God a high priest after the order of Melchizedek.” (Heb 5:7-10) Jesus never sinned, but he was only able to reach the depths of perfect submission to his Father through the extreme suffering on the cross.

The Bible has many images to help us understand the distress of the cross, one is the use of drowning imagery of the psalms, “v6 You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. v7 Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.” (Ps 88:6-7,)

v1 Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck…. v2 I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. v17 Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me…” (Ps 69:1-2, 17). The psalmists understand God has plunged them into waters that overwhelm them and only God can rescue them.

Drowning is a pretty scary experience: JY been a Christian for only a few months, swept out by a rip, waves were breaking over me, been under twice and believed the next time under was the last, I found myself crying out again and again to God from my heart the words from the cross, “Father into your hands I commit my spirit.”. If you have ever had a drowning experience, or been diagnosed with a terminal illness, or abandoned by a life partner, or involved in a horrific accident or lost a child… or experienced some other tragedy, you know that there are no human remedies. However confused your mind becomes there is only one place you can go, you can only cry out to God! Nothing else, no-one else, not your religion, not your faith, only the God who is sovereign over your circumstances can help; you can appeal to God for grace. But our struggles, however painful, are radically different from the  anguish of the cross.

The “loud cries and tears” of Jesus’ prayers in Gethsemane concerned the “cup” which his Father asked him to drink (Mark 14:36); this is “the cup” of the divine wrath.2)Ps 75:9; Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15-16,28; Jer 51:7; Lam 4:21; Hab 2:16. The cup means darkness, disaster and abandonment by God to the realm of evil. This is why Jesus “cried with a loud voice … “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34). As the world was covered with darkness (Mark 15:33; Gen 1:2) it seems to Jesus’ that God’s anger is directed against him and that all is lost. Jesus feels so stripped of the glory of Sonship that in the words of Psalm 22 (from which he has already quoted) that he is “a worm and not a man” (Ps 22:6). The substitutionary suffering of the cross brings Jesus into the midst of the shameful smallness and frailty of human life apart from God.

Yet Christ’s cry, “My God, my God”, does not curse the darkness, does not recriminate his murderers, does not seek deliverance by human hands or the relief of his physical agonies, it is a cry only for God. His only recourse lies in the will of God in heaven, even if in this state of suffering there is no evidence that God is his Father.

This cry, so basic and childlike in its simplicity, shows that Jesus’ dependence upon God has reached perfection. This is what the writer to Hebrews means when he says, “looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter 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.” (Heb 12:2). Jesus’ own faith was perfected because he kept calling out to God as his God, calling out to God for his Word even when all evidence of the presence of God had been removed and he was left naked and utterly alone.

No-one at the foot of the cross, neither his followers nor his enemies, saw that the wrath of God being poured out on the Son of God was not against him but against our sin. The truth that could only be given by divine revelation (even to Jesus) was that everything that looked and felt like God’s anger was more deeply the working of eternal grace.

Mercifully however, Jesus did not need to bear the withdrawal of God’s presence for the entire period of his crucifixion. John records, “v28 Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, …. v30  said, “It is finished,” and he bowed his head and gave up his spirit. (John 19:28, 30). This expression “it is finished” means, “It is completed, all is accomplished.” Luke’s climax to the cross is even more forceful, even in the midst of physical torture Jesus’ spirit breaks through into the divine presence and he utters a cry of  victory, “ “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” (Luke 23:46)

Piercing the death pangs of Jesus was a sense of the Father’s satisfaction, he knew that he had done all that the Father asked him to do, he knew that however cruel the experiences of life, God is blameless. In his spirit the dying Christ was so penetrated with the presence of God that he knew he would soon to pass into the divine glory and to be raised immortal (2 Tim 1:10).

Maturity in Christ

In saying, “Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.” (Col 1:28), Paul teaches that maturity can only come to us in the way it came to Jesus. The Holy Spirit imparts the mature sonship of Christ in leading us on the same road of submission to the will of the Father that took Jesus to the cross.

In 2 Corinthians 1 the apostle shares his own experience of this road, “v8 For we do not want you to be ignorant, brothers, of the affliction we experienced in Asia. For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. v9 Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.v10 He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us. On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again.” (2 Cor 1:8-10)

We only mature as we are confronted with the evils of rejection, slander, misunderstanding or physical pain and God does not seem to be present. Our circumstances must be so pressing that it becomes God’s naked Word against Satan’s word, the world’s word and even the voice of our own conscience. When faith seems alone and God does not seem to speak all we can do is cry out with Job, “Though he slay me yet will I hope in him” (Job 13:15).

In the midst of this dark night of the soul we cry out to God for deliverance in the same Spirit of sonship (Gal 4:6) by which Jesus cried out to his Father in the Garden and upon the cross. This is the Spirit who always delivers us; in God’s way and at God’s time. It is through conformity to the fellowship of Christ’s sufferings and the power of the resurrection (Phil 3:10) that we learn that when all feels like God has abandoned us the truth is that as his children we are always under grace. JY recently asked by a student what I understood by humility, “Humility is the way of maturity and it involves agreeing with God when he is crushing sin out of us.”  It is only in this way that the flesh is crucified, Christ formed in us and the deceptive effects of the Fall are undone.

Experience teaches us that to go deep with God he must take us into those places where all our usual mechanisms of avoidance, denial and self medication fail. As Hebrews says, “v13  everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. v14 But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Heb 5:13-14).

Maturity is the ability to discern the difference between good and evil, and this ability is formed only in the furnace of affliction where we come to know the God is blameless no matter how bad things appear. Maturity in Christ involves accepting that this cycle of darkness and light, despair and jubilation, affliction and deliverance, obscurity and clarity, confusion and revelation, crucifixion and resurrection will never come to an end in this life. It also means knowing that this all worthwhile, because as you keep on praying, seeking and knocking you find a goodness in God’s heart that is indescribably wonderful.3)Teresa of Avila famous 16th century Christian mystic: “The angel appeared to me to be thrusting the spear of fire into my heart and piercing my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and left me all on fire with a great love of God.”

The Passion of True Ministry

Paul speaks of his passion “to present everyone mature in Christ” (Col 1:28 cf. 4:12).v12 To equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, v13 until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:12-13) is the purpose of all true Christian ministry.

All the gifts, graces and ministries of the church are designed to bring men and women to their true completion in Christ. Authentic ministry has no space for entertainment, indulgence, co-dependency, self service or personal advancement. The hard truth confronts us, all those who are being matured in Christ will necessarily disciple and mature others, and the fruit of their lives will remain (John 15:16).

Struggling to mature

The church so often resists the maturing work of the cross because the triumph of the cross is essentially the triumph of faith alone by grace alone through Christ alone. And sometimes it can all feel very alone. The author of Hebrews comes to our aid once more when he says of Jesus, “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 2:10).

We reach a stage in life experience when we realise that suffering is the only “fitting” way of making us mature sons of God for the only way “flesh and blood” (Heb 2:14) can be redeemed and transformed is for God to come to us in the way of weakness and frailty.

With God, life goes in cycles. Recently I went through a stage when someone took offence at me warning him against an evil influence in his life, a Christian leader mistakenly believed I was personally attacking him in a public way meeting and another rebuked me for overstepping the boundaries of my spiritual authority.  In the depths of rejection, when the waves are breaking over your head, you keep on confessing the absolute faithfulness of God and sooner or later you get an insight that radically changes everything.

Coming out of this tunnel of darkness I felt the Lord speak to me very deeply and say, “I chose you because you are so weak. (cf. 1 Cor 1:26 ff), by which he meant so weak psychologically, so frail emotionally. As Paul heard from Jesus, ““v9 My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. v10 For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor 12:8-10). Such dealings do not leave us feeling small, but reveal to us that we are sharing in the glory and significance of the Son of God.

Conclusion

Christians are so often predictable and superficial. We love sayings such as, “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.”, but who amongst us is truly impacted by the depths of the divine hatred of evil and the extent of God’s love for the lost?

Jesus exhorts his church, “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. (Rev 3:2). The author of Hebrews is very straight with his readers, “v1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity…. v3 And this we will do if God permits.” (Heb 6:1-3)

If God permits” is a very sobering word, because the state of affairs amongst the people of God indicates that God may not permit his unmotivated, lazy and compromised people to go on to maturity. He may very well pass them by and raise up from outside the established church (from the addicts, outcastes, impoverished, sexually broken), a group of disciples who will obey him.

There is only one certainty, only as we return to the “word of the cross (1 Cor 1:18) can we experience a power adequate enough to keep us anchored to God in a world where he seems so often absent. Only the message of the crucified Christ can keep us close to him in a world ever full of distractions; only the gospel is powerful enough to bring us to maturity.

v10 And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. v11 To him be the dominion forever and ever. Amen. 1 Peter 5:10-11

References

↑ 1. Abraham struggles in lonely obedience up the slopes of Mount Moriah to slaughter Isaac. Job wrestles to resolve the tension between his blamelessness [Job 1:1] the faithfulness of his Creator through family tragedy, economic disaster and physical illness.
↑ 2. Ps 75:9; Isa 51:17; Jer 25:15-16,28; Jer 51:7; Lam 4:21; Hab 2:16.
↑ 3. Teresa of Avila famous 16th century Christian mystic: “The angel appeared to me to be thrusting the spear of fire into my heart and piercing my very entrails; when he drew it out, he seemed to draw them out also, and left me all on fire with a great love of God.”