Category: The Kingdom of God
The debate about cessationism vs. continuism—meaning, whether all the gifts of the Spirit are still in operation today—is not just an abstract theological debate. It is often a matter of life and death, and as I heard some testimonies during a recent ministry trip to Canada, I was reminded of how critically important it is to have the manifest presence of God in our midst.
But before anyone misunderstands me, I’m not talking about specific manifestations, nor am I talking about how we respond outwardly to the Spirit’s presence. I’m talking about people having a life-changing encounter with the living God as He moves in our midst.
The first testimony I heard involved a Jewish man in his late 30s or early 40s. Although his mother, brother and sister were believers in Yeshua, he was totally lost and heavily addicted to drugs. In fact, when he showed up one night at a summer tent meeting in Ontario, he was near death.
The pastor leading the meeting was a graduate of our ministry school, and he deeply values the presence of God and the moving of the Spirit. When he saw this drug-addicted young man, he said to himself, “If he makes it to the end of the week, that will be a miracle.”
The man was gaunt and weak, with death in his eyes, the result of years of heavy drug abuse, and no program had been able to help him. But people were praying for his salvation.
That night, the man encountered the risen Lord in power, and he was instantly delivered from drugs.
Now, more than two years later, he is burning bright with passion for the Lord, and a result of hisdeliverance, his father, the son and grandson of Polish Holocaust survivors, became a believer. In fact, it was his father who shared the story of how the Lord set his son free.
The second testimony was from a young woman about 20 years old, full of joy and glowing with enthusiasm for Jesus.
As a little girl, she witnessed her father having a seizure, and she became so traumatized that from that day on, she suffered from deep depression.
On numerous occasions she tried to take her own life, sometimes accumulating pills with a plan to put an end to her pain, at other times cutting herself as an expression of her torment.
But people were praying for her as well, and one year ago, under that same tent, she encountered the same risen Lord. Her depression vanished instantly, and she has not had another suicidal thought.
That is the power of the gospel! That is the power of the Spirit! And that is why it is so important that we welcome God’s Spirit in our midst, however He wants to move and whenever He wants to move.
Yes, it is absolutely true that we are called to be disciples and make disciples, and that requires day-to-day obedience in big things and little things. It requires ongoing submission to the Word of God and the continual conforming of our character to the image of Jesus by the grace and help of God. It calls for careful and prayerful study of the Word, solid relationships with other believers and a consistent outreach to a dying world.
Without these important foundations, we will not bear lasting fruit for the glory of God.
But this is not the whole picture, and throughout Scripture, we see God coming suddenly and bringing radical, dramatic change, most famously in Acts 2, when the Spirit was poured out on the 120, Peter preached his powerful message, and 3,000 Jews were added to the body in a moment of time. Nothing like that had ever happened before.
Over the course of my years in the Lord, there have been times when a personal breakthrough seemed so difficult, whether it was a besetting sin that seemed so hard to resist or a step of obedience that seemed so impossible to take. And then, during a glorious worship service where the Spirit of Godbegan to move in power or while praying at home alone, the Lord’s presence took hold of me in a profound way, and suddenly that sin was gone or that seemingly impossible step was taken—and it wasn’t hard at all.
At other times, I have witnessed breakthroughs in public gatherings where repentance or healing were suddenly poured out and lives were instantly changed. This is what happens when the presence of God is manifest in our midst.
Moses understood this well, saying to the Lord, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” (Ex. 33:15-16, NIV).
Yes, we must love one another so the world will see Jesus in us (John 13:35), and yes, it is by our acts of kindness and compassion that people will glorify our Father (Matt. 5:16).
But that is not all. We serve a risen Lord who has ascended to heaven and poured out His Spirit, and He desires to be glorified in our midst by a demonstration of that divine power. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power” (1 Cor. 4:20).
And that is why, when he brought the gospel to them, he explained, “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Cor. 2:4-5).
Where is the demonstration of the power of God in our midst?
Michael Brown is author of The Real Kosher Jesus and host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network. He is also president of FIRE School of Ministry and director of the Coalition of Conscience. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.
Posted in Evangelism & Missions, Lead Article, Revival & Prayer, The Kingdom of God
I was at the grocery store the other day when I was unexpectedly confronted with an adult-oriented magazine located right next to the vitamin section. I immediately had to look away from the front cover, which featured a scantily-clad, seductively-posed, sex symbol. Yet it was only a few weeks ago that I read an article about how this same sex symbol loves to speak in tongues and has to restrain herself from outbursts in tongues while attending church services. What?
This is actually a perfect illustration of American Charismatic Christianity, where you can say you love Jesus (like the rapper “The Game” claims to do) and still frequent strip clubs (as “The Game” still does), or where you can flow in the gifts of the Spirit and become a made-for-TV preaching sensation, only to announce that God told you that you married the wrong woman, leading to a quick divorce and remarriage.
Yes, this is the “gospel” of the 21st century, “Spirit-filled” Church of America, where the cross is bypassed, denial of the flesh is scorned, purity is called legalism, and anything goes if it feels good.
It is the “gospel” of self, in which Jesus dies to make you into a bigger and better you, a “gospel” in which God is here to serve you and help you fulfill your dreams, and where the measure of all things is not how God feels about it but how you feel about it (or how it makes you feel).
Back in the late 1950’s (as I recounted in my 1990 book How Saved Are We?) there was a notorious gangster named Mickey Cohen. He attended a Billy Graham meeting in Beverly Hills, and although he expressed some interest in the message, as revival historian J. Edwin Orr explained, Cohen “made no commitment until some time later when another friend urged him, using Revelation 3:20 as a warrant, to invite Jesus Christ into his life. This he professed to do, but his life susbsequently gave no evidence of repentance, ‘that mighty change of mind, heart and life’ [as defined by Richard Trench]. He rebuked [his] friend, telling him: ‘You did not tell me that I would have to give up my work,’ meaning his rackets; ‘You did not tell me that I would have to give up my friends,’ meaning his gangster associates. He had heard that so-and-so was a Christian football player, so-and-so a Christian cowboy, so-and-so a Christian actress, so-and-so a Christian senator, and he really thought that he could be a Christian gangster.”
Today, in some charismatic circles, you can be a Christian gangster – or, at least, a tongue-talking, seductive starlet, or a Christian lingerie model, or a strip-club attending, Jesus-speaking rapper, just to mention a few. After all, as we are reminded day and night, “Who are you to judge?”
Actually, what Jesus taught was that we should not judge hypocritically or superficially or unjustly and that we should not condemn. But Jesus also said, “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). The Lord commands us to judge, as long as we do it rightly.
Paul taught the very same thing, writing to the Corinthians, “not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler–not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge?” (1 Corinthian 5:11-12)
Why is it that everyone seems to know the words, “Judge not” (Matthew 7:1), but very few seem to know – or care about – the divine call to judge those “inside the church” (meaning those who profess to be followers of Jesus)?
Without a doubt, only the Lord knows who is saved and who is not. But the Word make things very simple for us, outlining God’s part and our part: “But God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his,’ and, ‘Let everyone who names the name of the Lord depart from iniquity.’” (2 Timothy 2:19) There you have it! To quote the words of John, “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God” (1 John 3:9). Could God make himself any more clear?
Unfortunately, as Orr noted years ago, “Many have sadly forgotten that the only evidence of the new birth is the new life,” and the Scriptures make perfectly clear that if we profess to follow Jesus with our lips but do not follow Him with our lives, we do not belong to Him. (I’m not talking about momentary lapses in our walks with the Lord or about serious mistakes that we make, only to reject and renounce them. God’s mercy and forgiveness are great. I’m talking about the consistent, willful pattern of our lives. Are we following Jesus or not?)
It’s time to say goodbye to this watered-down, sin-excusing, so-called gospel that offers everything and calls for nothing. It’s time to get back to the cross and back to the truth. Otherwise, as America collapses in a heap of amoral ruin, the soft preachers of America will be largely to blame.
Dr. Michael Brown is the author of The Real Kosher Jesus and the host of the nationally syndicated talk radio show The Line of Fire on the Salem Radio Network.
Posted in Culture, Lead Article, The Kingdom of God
The sacred text refers to Israel as “the fig tree” in Joel 1:7 and again in Hosea 9:10, among other places. Knowing that this metaphor for Israel was established by Scripture in ancient times clarifies Jesus’ apparently out-of-character “cursing” of the fig tree — and also His revelation about key signs of the last days of this age. The Hosea reference is particularly clear:
“I discovered Israel
like grapes in the wilderness.
I saw your fathers
like the first fruit of the fig tree in its first season.”
In these lines God reveals His rejoicing over Israel. Certainly the Tanakh or Old Testament details Israel’s repeatedly falling into idolatry and various other sinful practices that greatly grieved God. Yet we see His great delight and hope in the people of Israel as well; His keeping His side of the covenant even when Israel repeatedly did not. More importantly, we remember Paul’s words to the effect that Israel had not stumbled, through her leaders of Jesus’ time, so badly as to be lost. “God forbid,” as he expressed it.
We know that Jesus wept over the Holy City shortly before the crucifixion. He recalled Israel’s long history of stoning the prophets who had been sent. He sadly predicted Israel’s misfortune as a result of her not knowing “the time of your visitation.” He undoubtedly saw Israel’s singular suffering down the centuries — right up to the present time. He alone knows “the end from the beginning.” Yeshua never stopped loving Israel.
Knowing that from ancient times the symbol of the fig tree had been used by God to represent Israel, we can understand the metaphor of Yeshua’s cursing the literal fig tree that failed to meet his personal hunger needs shortly before the crucifixion. The nation that God had painstakingly cultivated, in keeping His covenant to Abraham, had failed to recognize its long-prophesied Messiah. Her religious leaders had repeatedly tried to use Scripture to trip Jesus up — and to find an excuse to execute Him. He reminded them that it was these very Scriptures “that testify of Me.” Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22 are prominent cases in point.
In Luke 13:6-8 we find Jesus’ informative “parable of the barren fig tree.”
“A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ But he replied to him, ‘Sir, leave it this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. Perhaps it will bear fruit next year, but if not, you can cut it down.’ ” (my italics)
As we consider this earlier parable and His later weeping over Jerusalem because of the blind arrogance of its religious leaders, there can be little doubt about the figurative meaning of His uncharacteristic act of “cursing” the literal fig tree. For three years He had “come seeking fruit” from the religious leaders of Israel — and found none. Not only did they not rejoice in and work alongside of their long-desired Messiah — they sought to murder Him!
But in His parable we see as well His reassurance to Israel that — unlike the literal fig tree that He cursed — the “vinedresser,” Yeshua, intercedes for the “fig tree” with its “owner,” Yahweh — in the hope that at a later time, or as Scripture often puts it, “in that day,” with increased “fertilizing and cultivation,” a reference to the Holy Spirit, Israel would indeed recognize her Messiah and “bear fruit.”
In considering the uncharacteristic nature of Jesus’ cursing anything, we remember the disciples’ having asked Him if they should retaliate against those who had prohibited their evangelism. He responded that their question revealed that they didn’t understand His mission or His nature. His mission was and is not to destroy, but to save the lost; his nature is Love. We see His clear signal against anger and violence again as we consider His reaching up to restore the ear of the high priest’s servant, Malchus, who was among those who had come to Gethsemane to take Jesus captive. Peter had impulsively cut off Malchus’ right ear. We recall “the Prince of peace” admonishing Peter to put his sword away even as He restored the ear of His own “captor.”
Jesus didn’t come to curse, to criticize, or to destroy. He came to love, to forgive, to restore, and to save.
But He had repeatedly assailed the values of Israel’s religious leaders. Their regard for money, for esteem in the marketplace. Their willingness to “devour widows’ households,” and their hypocrisy. Their arrogant pride in and attention to every jot and tittle of “the law.” He had continually worked to get through to the leaders of Israel — and to obtain the “fruit” of His centuries-long husbandry of them — over the course of His three-year ministry.
After the cursing of the fig tree, when the disciples marveled to see that it had withered from its roots, Yeshua reminded them to “Have faith in God.” Perhaps He also intended that the fig tree, representative of what “religion” had come to be among the proud Jewish leaders of His day, deserved to be withered. That the emphasis was to be on faith, on the spirit of the law, which gives life — rather than on a belabored legal mindset and the letter of the law, which had been misused for personal aggrandizement to the extent of blinding its proponents to their own Messiah!
Israel, the covenanted, chosen people and nation, the figurative fig tree, had not “been there” for Him when He came to them in fulfillment of His covenant promise and their own Scriptures. Just as the literal fig tree that should have been in season was “without fruit” when He went to it in hunger, only a few days before the crucifixion that He clearly foresaw.
The fig tree figures again in the sacred text in the Gospel of Mark, where we find Jesus describing the dark passage at the end of the age, in answer to a question asked privately by Peter, James, and John, along with Peter’s brother, Andrew. This conversation is known as the Olivet Discourse because it took place on the Mount of Olives. Speaking of the last days, their question was, “Tell us, when will these things happen? And what will be the sign when all these things are about to take place?”
In replying Jesus describes false messiahs, wars and rumors of wars. He urges us not to be alarmed because “these things must take place, but the end is not yet.” He tells his disciples that nation will rise against nation, that there will be earthquakes and famines in “diverse” places, and that these are only “the beginning of birth pains.”
He describes persecution of Christians for their faith. He tells them — and us — not to worry about how we will respond to questioning in these difficult circumstances, because the Holy Spirit will speak through us. He indicates that family members will even betray one another “to death.” That Christians will be “hated by everyone because of My name,” adding, “But the one who endures to the end will be delivered.”
He describes an “abomination that causes desolation standing where it should not,” after which the text parenthetically admonishes “the reader” to understand. He warns people in Judea to flee immediately when this abomination occurs — without even going back to their homes to get extra clothing or important possessions. He tells us that unless God had “limited those days no one would survive. But He limited those days because of the elect, whom He chose.”
He speaks a second time of false messiahs, but reminds us that He has told us everything in advance. He describes a time after this tribulation when the sun, moon, and stars will be shaken. Speaking immediately to His four disciples and through them, down the centuries, to us, He reminds us that He tells us these things in advance so that we will be alert, so that we will be watching.
And then these most-beautiful words: “Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. He will send out the angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the end of the earth to the end of the sky.”
He then provides the clear “sign” that the four disciples had requested:
“Learn this parable from the fig tree: As soon as its branch becomes tender and sprouts leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things happening, know that He is near — at the door! I assure you: This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things take place.” (Mark 13:28,29)
In addition to providing signals we can read in world events, He links them to Israel with the unmistakable “figure” of the fig tree. Israel has been described as “God’s prophetic time-clock.”
As we recall the passages from Joel and Hosea, and Yeshua’s own parable of the fig tree — subsequently illustrated by His actual cursing of the fruitless, literal fig tree, the meaning of His fig-tree reference in His answer to His disciples here becomes unmistakable. He was building on a well-established metaphor. The greening of the fig tree speaks of Israel’s having returned to its ancient homeland; of its having transformed a barren, desert place into an oasis growing bountiful crops, including tropical fruit and roses. We recall the scriptural verse to the effect that “the desert will blossom as the rose.” Israel, whose land for centuries had lain desolate, has become a leading exporter of roses to Europe.
Yeshua was following God’s long tradition of alerting his servants before He did anything significant. He told us the developments to be watching for; He encouraged us to be alert. He told us what we would need to know as we begin to experience perilous times.
Prophecy teachers perceive that Jesus was speaking of the generation that would see Jerusalem come under Israel’s control again after more than 2,000 years, which occurred in 1967, with His time-reference to “This generation” in Mark 13:29.
Are we watching?
Posted in The Kingdom of God
The creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to decay and death into the freedom of the glory of the children of God. Romans 8:21
Our online dictionary includes this definition for the word “Hebrew”:
ORIGIN: from Old French Ebreu, via Latin from late Greek Hebraios, from Aramaic ‛i b ray, based on Hebrew ‛i b rî — understood to mean ‘one from the other side (of the river).’
Abraham’s descendants’ escaping from Egypt and, with divine Providence, rushing across the “parted” Red Sea certainly do come to mind. Hebrew = one from the other side — or, as this is sometimes expressed, “one who crossed over.” The Red Sea is a long, narrow, land-locked sea; in some ways it is more like a river. Further, Joshua would much later lead the Israelis into the Land by crossing the Jordan River near Jericho.
When we visited Israel a couple of years back, we learned that “Bethlehem” means in Hebrew “house of bread.” He who has been referred to as “Panis Angelicus,” Bread of Angels, the ultimate “manna,” the one who illustrated His “body, broken for you” with bread — was born in the House of Bread!
Yeshua’s kind of “bread” differs from the ordinary kind, however. When we eat ordinary bread, it becomes us, so to speak. But when we appropriate Christ, we become increasingly like Him through the new birth.
Jesus spoke of the importance of being “born again” to Nicodemus, who was a Pharisee and had come to Him at night in the hope of not being seen by his own colleagues. When we think about the definition of “Hebrew” meaning essentially “one who crossed over,” the word itself seems to speak of this new birth — in addition to Israel’s exodus. Consider Abraham, Rahab, and Ruth. They left their very different former lives to become Israelis — to “cross over” to a new and unknown life; they somehow summoned the faith to move toward this new life in preference to what was familiar. They sensed something better; they crossed over.
In Isaiah we find the stirring words, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; can you not perceive it?” We find a paraphrase of the first part of this statement in Revelation: “Behold, I make all things new.”
Astrophysicists tell us that more than 200 finely-tuned characteristics of Earth reveal that the universal stage was set in advance for us — for billions of years. And that Earth is in a unique place and time parameter that enables us to observe these exquisite elements of design. A personal Creator had you and me in mind.
Scientists who have also studied Scripture recognize in it a setting forth in several texts — not only in those in Genesis 1 — of the astonishingly-unique process of setting the stage for our world for the very purpose of creating — not suns, but sons.
When He was physically present with us, Jesus often referred to Himself as “the Son of man.” He is described this way in the fiery-furnace story in the book of Daniel in the Old Testament as well. But after the resurrection His description, in the epistles for example, consistently becomes “the Son of God.”
“Dear friends, we are already God’s children, but He has not yet shown us what we will be like when Christ appears. But we do know that we will be like Him, because we will see Him as He really is. And all who have this hope will keep themselves pure, just as He is pure.” (1 John 3:2,3)
The goal that Jesus put before Nicodemus is the same one He puts before you and me — to become citizens of the newer creation that “eye has not seen and ear has not heard.” The one in which weapons will have been transformed into garden tools that facilitate life. In which there will be no more killing or evil or death. No animal predation. No sickness or sorrow or night. The perfect creation — as God would design it.
“You must be born again,” Jesus told Nicodemus, the apparently wise, older man.
“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness — without it no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews 12:14)
God’s love and mercy are freely extended to all. He waits as long as He can. His desire is that as many as possible will enter the Kingdom of all things new.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, bridegroom, children, Christ, creation, daniel, death, egypt, evil, Exodus, freedom, God, Hebrew, holiness, hope, Jesus, Jordan, Kingdom, life, Old Testament, Red Sea, resurrection, Revelation, Scripture, Son of God, yeshua
The events of the week that began with Jesus’ humble-but-triumphant entry into Jerusalem and culminated with the crucifixion are unspeakably precious.
The overturning of the moneychangers’ tables in the Temple apparently followed His arrival in Jerusalem. Every one of His recorded acts during this pivotal week is spotlighted by the world-changing events that would subsequently unfold. This story of the cleansing of the Temple comes to our ears and hearts on its surface as revealing Jesus’ desire to re-establish God’s sacred intent for the Temple. To put the emphasis back on prayer and take it away from financial gain. “It is written: ‘My house shall be a house of prayer.’ — but you have turned it into a den of thieves.”
This level of purpose comes across clearly. Perhaps nothing is more important in this world than prayer. But Yeshua was accomplishing more than this with His decisive and fearless disruption of the status quo.
He knew that He would fulfill the Passover later that week, once and for all, as the sacrificial Lamb for whom God had been preparing the way through the Temple’s sacrificial system. God had instructed Abraham to sacrifice animals. And the specific practice of sacrificing a spotless lamb at Passover had been divinely instructed as the Israelites prepared to depart from captivity in Egypt for the Promised Land. We remember John the Baptist’s clarion announcement: “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world!” And Revelation’s describing Yeshua as “the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world.”
His overturning the tables that had been used for the business of selling doves and pigeons to Jews wanting to make ritual sacrifices signaled the end of the centuries-old sacrificial system. Fully knowing the price He would very soon pay to deliver Himself up to redeem lost humanity and restore us to His Father and our Father, no one was more appropriately qualified to upset these tables — notwithstanding the indignation of the Temple elites who stood by. This was His way of signaling the new and better covenant; the new dispensation of grace that He, the spotless Lamb, would provide through His voluntary sacrifice of His own sinless blood. He showed us in a way that we cannot forever miss how profoundly God loves every one of us. “For God so loved the world . . .”
Matthew 9:13 is a wonderful, instructive verse. The Torah teachers or scribes had just asked Jesus’ disciples why their teacher ate with marginal people like tax collectors and sinners. Yeshua the great communicator replied, “Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: ‘I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.’ For I have come to call not those who think they are righteous, but those who know they are sinners.” (NLT; italics added) This is a direct reference to Hosea 6:6, among other passages. Jesus revealed that God never liked the idea of killing animals to sacrifice their blood. But He instituted this practice to paint a picture of Yeshua’s ultimate atonement. Down the long centuries God had worked through a concrete example that He hoped would provide the clear insight to enable Israel, forever the beloved seed of Abraham, to recognize Yeshua.
In Dr. Brown’s The Real Kosher Jesus, he provides several rabbinic texts that speak of the atoning sacrifice of a tsadik (righteous one) as a means of saving the people. He points out that this concept is not a Christian construct; it had for centuries been part of Judaism. As one example, “. . . the Zohar states, ‘As long as Israel dwelt in the Holy Land, the rituals and the sacrifices they performed [in the Temple] removed all . . . diseases from the world; now the Messiah removes them from the children of the world.’ ”
In addition to providing several rabbinic sources for this fundamental Jewish teaching, Dr. Brown details discussions from rabbinic literature associating the deaths of righteous people with atonement. Miriam and the sons of Aaron are examples.
These insights help to clarify the initially-opaque John 18:14, among other verses, which indicates that Caiphas, because he was “high priest that year,” explained the need for one person to die for the people — as the dark events surrounding Jesus’ illegal trials unfolded. While Caiphas undoubtedly had his own misguided reasons for citing this Jewish teaching in support of the outcome of the bogus hearing that was perfunctorily extended to Jesus, Caiphas’ doing so clearly reflects that an understanding of the power of the death of a single person to benefit all the people was present in Temple instruction.
Dr. Brown’s life-long focus on sacred content that matters is deeply appreciated. Its power to enlighten our understanding is considerable.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, blood, Christian, covenant, event, freedom, God, grace, hearing, heart, house of prayer, israel, Jerusalem, Jesus, jewish, judaism, lamb, life, love, mercy, yeshua
One of the most compelling narratives in Scripture is the retelling of the last supper. A lasting image has been the picture of Jesus, the Son of God, washing his disciples feet. Let’s take a closer look at where John introduces this act, Jesus’ final instructions, and his prayer for the Apostles, starting in John 13:1-5:
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.
During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself.
Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded. (John 13:1-5)
Notice the timing. Jesus did not wash their feet before the meal. It is written that He “got up from supper”. They were already reclining. Most likely their feet were already clean, after all, they were in the midst of their meal. Take a look:
(Jesus) got up from supper, and laid aside His garments … (John 13:4a)
In the past I taught that this was a great demonstration of love (because that is what the Scriptures teach). Yet, what I really thought was this: the virtue most clearly exhibited was humility. How was Jesus washing their feet an incredible demonstration of love? Take a look at this lineup of the demonstrations of the love of Jesus.
The incarnation… incredible love!
The cross… incredible love!
Washing feet… incredible love. … Really? Yes.
If Jesus didn’t wash their feet to prepare them for the Seder, then what provoked this? Why this abrupt change? Why did Jesus get up from the supper? Something more foul than the stench of dirty feet pervaded that room. The seeds of the Apostolic community’s destruction had germinated and needed to be uprooted.
Dining with the Devil
During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him (John 13:2)
The devil had left an imprint in the heart of Judas Iscariot. The word “devil” translates “diabolos.” Properly, the word means “slanderer.” That spirit was actively at work.
The Synoptic Gospels report Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. John’s Gospel does not. The matters addressed in the Temptation are settled in John. He wrote that Jesus knew His origin, authority, direction, destiny and the timing of that destiny’s fulfillment (John 13:1a,3). Yet present at the Seder was a heart conformed to the Slanderer’s corrupt perspective. The meal’s ambiance was tainted with a satanic attitude.
Certainly the Messiah was aware of Judas’ heart and the power of such satanic influence. Earlier that week Judas’ “compassionate” complaints were contagious.
Now when Jesus was at Bethany in the house of Simon the leper, a woman came up to him with an alabaster flask of very expensive ointment, and she poured it on his head as he reclined at table. (Matthew 26:6-7)
But Judas Iscariot, one of his disciples (he who was about to betray him), said, “Why was this ointment not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” (John 12:4-5)
And when the disciples saw it, they were indignant, saying, “Why this waste? For this could have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.” (Matthew 26:8-9)
Judas’ polluted heart (John 12:6) produced an atmosphere of diabolic challenge and temptation. In the wilderness Satan tempted Jesus: “Who are you? What are you? Prove it. Worship me, Your reign can begin right now!” This attitude was present at the table.
The Messiah was aware of Judas’ identity from the beginning:
Jesus answered them, “Did I Myself not choose you, the twelve, and yet one of you is a devil?” Now He meant Judas the son of Simon Iscariot, for he, one of the twelve, was going to betray Him. (John 6:70-71)
There, partaking of the covenant meal, about to have his feet washed(!), was the malevolent slanderer. He played innocent (John 13:21-22), but his calculating enmity and hate-filled hypocrisy could not be concealed. Jesus knew Judas and the traitor’s true intentions.
Judas’ presence was not the only problem at this banquet. One thing John charitably omitted was what may have been the immediate background to the Messiah washing their feet: the ludicrous argument mentioned in Luke’s Gospel. It happened right after Jesus instituted what is known as “the Lord’s Table”.
[Jesus said,] “But behold, the hand of the one betraying Me is with Mine on the table. For indeed, the Son of Man is going as it has been determined; but woe to that man by whom He is betrayed!”
And they began to discuss among themselves which one of them it might be who was going to do this thing. And there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest.
And He said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who have authority over them are called ‘Benefactors.’ But it is not this way with you, but the one who is the greatest among you must become like the youngest, and the leader like the servant. “For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table?
But I am among you as the one who serves. (Luke 22:21-27)
Perhaps it was then that (Jesus) got up from supper, and laid aside His garments (John 13:4a).
Why did Jesus demonstrate humility?
In the light of Luke’s report it is evident that the apostolic community had no small difficulty with pride, position seeking and the resultant mutual animosity. They argued with one another about who was most important. That was extremely bad behavior. It was also ironic; they were some of the most important people who ever lived. They had an extraordinary destiny and they needed one another to fulfill their calling.
Why did Jesus wash their feet?
The Messiah was guarding their destiny. He was preserving them as a community. He loved them as individuals, and He loved them corporately, as a body. He loved their present. He loved their future. He loved what they were and what they were about to become. He loved them as the nucleus of mission, as preservers of the Word of the Kingdom and as the earthly nexus of Heaven’s activity amongst Israel and the nations.
He loved them enough to call them to be the foundational people of the Messianic Community. Their relationships would become the pattern for the Church throughout the ages – and they were being derailed! It was as if all their training was for nothing. Jesus had discerned Judas as he schemed. With dismay He watched the disciples argue. Things were going downhill fast. Would His purposes for them be defeated? He would not give up on them; He loved them “to the end”. What was He to do? I can imagine His grieved heart calling out to Father for wisdom.
Then, in a moment of prophetic insight, Jesus “got up from supper” and through the most humiliating, least skilled, “taken for granted” labor, he changed the dynamic of the meal. This was direct divine intervention. It was a shocking prophetic act that would help form them forever. He did not love them by washing dusty feet. The Lord loved them through washing their feet, preserving God’s purposes for their lives.
When one reads John 13-17 one is struck by the reality Jesus saw. He had His eyes on the disciples’ future life together. They were to be the dwelling place of the Spirit and were about to confront the spiritually enhanced wrath of the satanic world system. How could they stand if they were motivated by the “boastful pride of life” (1 John 2:16b)?
They were called, like Jesus, to be the dwelling place of the Spirit. What type of community might sustain the active and abiding Presence of Holiness? Only a group thus branded. They would remember what Jesus did for the rest of their lives. It became the pattern of their relationships.
Also, they would model it. They would disciple others. They would walk in the fullness of who they were, but would lay aside their dignity to preserve the Messianic community. The Apostles would lay down their lives, not because they highly valued humility, but because of the great love with which they loved one another.
The Messiah did not want the community He was forming to fall apart. He could not sit by and allow these men to be disqualified because of their pride and position seeking. He “got up” and intervened. When He washed their feet Jesus loved them by giving them a foundation for their future relationships.
Jesus Demonstrated Humility Because He Loved Them
Through washing their feet, Jesus brought the crucifixion into every day interaction. He demonstrated a fundamental motive of true leadership: sincere love for the Body and the individuals who comprise it.
The Apostles were faced with a choice and didn’t know it. Would they be like Judas or Jesus? Would they be fixated on self-interest (maneuvering for status, authority, hierarchy, worldly advantage), or would they be discipled by the Messiah? By washing their feet here’s what I hear Jesus saying to these men:
“I love you so much and want the best for you. I don’t want rancor, selfish ambition, position seeking, cynicism or bitterness in your corporate life. That will destroy you. It is best for you if you love one another so much that you’re willing to humbly serve one another. That will preserve you.
“Just in case there is any confusion about what I want, look to My example. You ask, “What is love?” Let this be the demonstration of the type of love which preserves community. Look at what I did. You can do this. You can do this continually.
“Don’t be offended. Don’t give up on one another. Don’t throw in the towel; take up the towel.
“Get up from supper.”
There were two opposing spiritual influences present at the Last Supper. There was an undercurrent of conflict as the adversary viciously sought his opportunity. Jesus alone really knew what was going on. The Messiah saw the state of the disciples and looked beyond His resurrection and ascension to the time the community would no longer have His physical presence. With inspired strategic love He washed their feet. Then Jesus said, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (John 13:34). Let’s “get up”.
David Harwood is a prophetic teacher and worship leader, and author of the book God’s True Love.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God
“‘A son honors his father, and a servant his master. Then if I am a father, where is My honor? And if I am a master, where is My respect [fear]?’ says the Lord of hosts to you, ‘O priests who despise My name.’ But you say, ‘How have we despised Your name?'” -Mal. 1.6
We need to be leery of any view of the Fatherhood of God that does not lead us into a holy esteem for the Lord. In the same way that our view of His Lordship ought always to be accompanied with a sense of His kindness, lest it become stoic and lifeless, our view of His Fatherhood must necessarily be attended by the quintessential reality of His holiness, lest we find that we are engaged headlong in activities supposedly performed “in His name,” but altogether devoid of His honor.
The prophet commences with an “oracle of the word of the Lord,” declaring, “I have loved you.”
How did Israel requite the Lord for His gracious love? From the love of God the prophet now turns to the ingratitude of His people. God has treated the people of Israel as a son; have they honored Him as Father? They have retained the relationship of servant to Him as Master; have they rendered Him due reverence? The rightful respect due God has been withheld, due mainly to the ungodliness of the priests against whom the charge is directed.
(Charles Feinberg, The Minor Prophets; Moody Press, 1990 ed. pp. 251-252)
It is becoming a rarity for the “rightful respect due God” to have a place in the consideration of modern saints. With the advent of smart phones, instant internet access, and a thousand other forms of entertainment and distraction, the idea of being “still” and knowing that He is God is taking on an archaic character to most minds. The common bustling believer is being (or has already been) reduced to a brand of humanity that can only respond to and receive from that which is quick, easy, and colorful, and the priestly distinctive of waiting and honoring and revering the One on the throne has reached the status of taboo, even if we would refuse to admit it.
We have learned to live with the offering up of blind, lame, and sickly sacrifices, and the robust faith of the apostles and prophets of old is near extinction, particularly in the Western Christian experience. We need daily to be reminded that:
The precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart;
The commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes.
The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever;
The judgments of the LORD are true; they are righteous altogether. -Ps. 19.8-9
Many now have been raised with an idea of God as Father that is tragically bereft of the kind of honor that the prophets and the old Levites bore before the people. There is something tinpot and cheap about our hurried ministries and perfunctory thoughts of God. They do not ring with the life-giving note of the fear of the Lord, and unless we attain that, we can be sure that however busy we might be with work, play, or some ostensible expression of ministry, we will not bear the necessary priestly distinctive, “holiness unto to the Lord.” Our witness will be reduced to humanism and our ministry to mere religion.
Our great task is not first to perform externals, but to bear the knowledge of God as He is before the people, and that knowledge cannot be obtained by a people who are not in earnest pursuit of the One Who is worthy of the totality of our honor. If we give slipshod attention to Him, however feverishly engaged in ministry we might be, He will be as a Father without our honor, and we need to be arrested by the reality that He will have nothing to do with those kinds of garbled definitions of priestliness and sonship.
Oh that there were one among you who would shut the gates, that you might not uselessly kindle fire on My altar! I am not not pleased with you,” says the Lord of hosts, “nor will I accept an offering from you.” -Mal. 1.10
We need to be acutely aware of the fact that it is possible to be found functioning in a distorted kind of faith that somehow stimulates our spiritual preferences, but that is not pleasing to the Lord, and it is even possible for this infringement and offense to be committed “on My altar” or under the auspices of Christian ministry.
Leon Morris wrote that Malachi gives attention to “laxity among the priests,” and this may well be the characteristic condition of believers in modern times, whether the expression is Evangelical or Charismatic. The laxity is not in activity, but in earnestness after God, and such is the case today. The Levites had deviated from the priestly covenant, and in like manner, the Church has largely deviated from “faith which was once for all handed down to the saints.”
‘My covenant with him [Levi] was one of life and peace, and I gave them to him as an object of reverence; so he revered Me and stood in awe of My name. True instruction was in his mouth and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.
But as for you, you have turned aside from the way; you have caused many to stumble by the instruction; you have corrupted the covenant of Levi,’ says the Lord of hosts. So I also have made you despised and abased before all the people, just as your are not keeping My ways but are showing partiality in the instruction. -Mal. 2.5-9
We need to peer long and hard into the Levitic call, especially at its heart, for it is not unlike the call of every saint. We have the distinct privilege and responsibility to walk with God “in peace and uprightness,” and to turn “many back from iniquity.” If we fail to grow in the knowledge of God as God, and if we fail to recognize Him as holy “before the people,” we have deviated from the essence of priesthood. Let us see to the recovery of His honor in our own hearts and in His house, that Israel and the nations might see Him in all His glory and worth.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God
“Now there was a certain man from Ramathaim-zophim from the hill country of Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah…He had two wives: the name of one was Hannah and the name of the other Peninnah; and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children.
Now this man would go up from his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice to the LORD of hosts in Shiloh…When the day came that Elkanah sacrificed, he would give portions to Peninnah his wife and to all her sons and her daughters; but to Hannah he would give a double portion, for he loved Hannah, but the LORD had closed her womb. Her rival, however, would provoke her bitterly to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. It happened year after year, as often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she would provoke her; so she wept and would not eat. Then Elkanah her husband said to her, “Hannah, why do you weep and why do you not eat and why is your heart sad? Am I not better to you than ten sons?”
Then Hannah rose after eating and drinking in Shiloh. Now Eli the priest was sitting on the seat by the doorpost of the temple of the LORD. She, greatly distressed, prayed to the LORD and wept bitterly. She made a vow and said, “O LORD of hosts, if You will indeed look on the affliction of Your maidservant and remember me, and not forget Your maidservant, but will give Your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the LORD all the days of his life, and a razor shall never come on his head.” (1 Samuel 1.1-11)
In this day and culture, the woman found her identity and dignity in the bearing of Children. A main part of her role was to give children to her husband, the greatest of which was a son. The fruitfulness of a woman’s womb was the culture’s language of success. The pattern of thinking of this culture and time required the women to produce for the man- especially, a son.
Elkanah’s wife Peninnah had a fruitful womb. She was “productive” in the relationship. Her life testified to the world that she was a successful wife. Her dignity and identity were awarded the relief and praise of having borne children. The pressure of the system of thinking in this culture was off her shoulders. Her identity was established because she had productivity. Her fruitfulness spoke for her and stood at her side as a prideful witness that she had proven herself in the language of culture and time.
Hannah, on the other hand, had the pressure of the culture and time endlessly pressing on her shoulders. Her identity and dignity were in question in the eyes of her peers. She was barren. She had no fruit. She had nothing to show for herself and the provocative testimony of Peninnah was an internally vexing, degrading and humiliating thing fueled by the weighty cultural demand upon the her shoulders. This was such an emotional pressure and humiliation to her that she was sick to her stomach and could not eat. She would cry deeply and sorrow would pour out of her face. She was distraught and oppressed by Peninnah, who was very fruitful. But Peninnah’s power over her was not Peninnah herself, but rather the power was the pattern of thinking in the culture of man. It was the world’s view of what success looked like. So ultimately, Hannah is oppressed by a voice that is behind Peninnah’s provoking words. It is the voice of human demand of the culture of man and the system of the world. It is the voice of a success that is based on what was is perceived to be fruitful, successful and productive. Are you depressed and frustrated in your ministry because you are judging your ministry’s success by numbers of salvations, healings or any other perceivable quantity or lack thereof?
When Hannah comes to her husband, he says the greatest portrayal of the heart and person of Jesus Christ that there could ever be, “Am I not more to you than 10 sons?” Ten is a great number because it represents completion. And as earlier stated, sons are the greatest fruit a woman can have. Elkanah says to his oppressed wife, Jesus says to you, “Am I not more to you than all the fruit in the world?” Are you not fulfilled in me? Am I not enough? Am I not all sufficient? Am I not I AM? Do you need something more than me to be happy, satisfied or delighted?
Hannah approached by such a shocking love from her husband; a love that is outside of the system of thinking of man; a love that finds value in her without a demand for fruitfulness as the culture may see it; a love that wants her to be only satisfied with him. He is after a love that needs nothing more than each other.
She found her appetite again and she communes with her husband at the table. And though she returns to tears again for fruitfulness in the next verse, her cry is different this time. It is for a son, the best fruit, now for a totally different reason. Her first cry was from the painful weight of the system of man that wrapped her identity and dignity up in her productivity and her fruitfulness, while her second was to have fruit to be able to give to God. She wanted good fruit to be able to offer at the feet of God Himself. No longer bound by the thinking of her own face and the testimony of her life being in accordance with the system of the culture and time, speaking man’s language of success, she is free to find all her joy in her husband. No longer worried that he will leave her because she is unable to produce, she now cries to God for the right reason. She now lifts up her tears in purity. She now weeps bitterly out of selflessness. She wants fruit to give to God.
But one may say, “the scripture earlier stated that ‘God had closed her womb. So her fruitlessness was because of God.’ And to this I say, “Exactly. Sometimes God prevents us from seeing the fruit that we want to see so that he can look dead into our eyes and say, ‘Am I not more to you than ten sons?’”
Preacher who is looking for more signs and wonders; Pastor who wants a building; Evangelist who desires to see more numbers; Teacher who wants more committed students: In your frustration, listen to the heart of your Bridegroom, “Am I not enough for you? Am I not more to you than a building. Am I not more to you than miracles? Am I not more to you than souls being saved? Am I not more to you than fruit?”
This issue must be settled first if we are to ever cry out with a pure cry. If we are ever to find purity enough to simply desire to lay fruit at His feet. This issue of being satisfied with God alone will open up the heart to a real burden that is focused upon offering to Jesus a wonderful gift. Hannah says, “I will give him to you all the days of his life.” This fruit is not for my name, no one will even see me with him. This fruit is not to remove my disgrace and shame or for me to find dignity or identity…it is all for you and only you. We will be forever set free from the oppressive production demand when we settle in our hearts that Jesus alone in my life and daily experience is enough to satisfy everything that I could ever desire. He is enough!
Brothers and sisters, we have got to return to first love. Love that is solely set upon Him alone and satisfied with Him alone, so that fruit can be exactly what it is supposed to be, an offering to God for Him to keep. May we never fall into the trap of finding our identity and dignity in how much we have done and can do for the Lord, or how much God has used us. Because the real issue is this: If He Himself is not enough, not only will your fruit be tainted because it was not brought out of the purity of satisfaction with God alone – He Himself being your identity- but you will never birth a Samuel into the world. Penninah’s kids were just regular kids that you never hear any thing about. But Samuel was a loyal prophet and burning priest with God unlike any other. There is no other prophet/priest like Samuel, but Jesus Himself. And in Hebrews the writer says, “…Samuel and the prophets…”, indicating Samuel stood out in all the records of time.
Such fruit is born only after the question is settled and we can say with all our hearts, “You yourself are more to me than all the fruit and success in the world. If I have everything and I don’t have you, I have nothing. But If I have You and nothing else in the world, I have everything.” Say this with me, “JESUS, YOU ARE MORE THAN ENOUGH FOR ME, AND MY DESIRE FOR FRUIT IS ONLY TO HAVE AN OFFERING TO LAY AT YOUR FEET.”
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God
“For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” -Neh. 6.9
If we would have anything to do with the enlargement of God’s purposes in the earth, we must be anchored in the understanding that quite frequently, we will experience severe and exacting conflicts.
There is a form of discouragement that feeds the self-life and nurtures cowardice. It might better be called self-pity. Oswald Chambers addresses this ill brand of discouragement like this:
“…. discouragement is disenchanted self-love.”
“…. self-pity is Satanic.”
When we have not adequately launched out with reckless trust in the Lord, we will be repeatedly overcome with self-pity until a deathblow is dealt to our egotism, and if we pass through that death rightly, our illusions of life and ministry will have been pulverized. This is the work of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and it is a mercy from the Lord. Not until the axe has been laid to this root can we even commence to participate in the building of His house.
“If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified.” -Chambers
If behooves us to discern if we are bound by self-pity, for if we are, it is likely that we are stubbornly moving forward in something that He has not ordained, even if we are purportedly doing it ‘in His name.’ Our “strange fire” must be quenched, our self-initiated ventures must be crushed, and we must be wrung out entirely of the mirky waters of human ambition. It is a necessary pulverization, and once we get familiar with the good hand of the Lord that effects it, we learn to welcome that holy inward work.
When the Lord has permitted the pulverization of our brazen presumption, as was the case in the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem (for Judah had not heeded to the real prophetic view), He gives vision to to men like Nehemiah. Such servants are required for the building of that which the Lord has envisaged in His great heart.
As with Moses, Paul, Nehemiah, or any other man authentically formed and sent by the Lord, the mountain of fulfilled vision is shown as off in the distance, and a great valley lies between the “Here am I, send me” and the “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Most men faint along the way, having been inspired by the distant mountain, but unwilling to brave the valley of obedience. We delight in the fragrance of the rose but are unwilling to await its growth, and we wilt when touched from time to time with an unexpected thorn. Yet every seasoned florist has felt the thorn from time to time. It is intrinsic to dealing with the genuinely precious things.
We need to come to grips with the fact that the principalities and powers of darkness will press against the true work of the Kingdom until the day that they are cast into the lake of fire. There is no such thing as coasting into the fullness of Jesus Christ. The Scripture says we “wrestle“ and struggle and battle against evil powers in this age.
We will necessarily be met with tumult and our categories will be jostled. This pilgrimage is not a vacation. It is, as one author has written, “a long obedience in the same direction.” Along with all the joys, we must be aware that there will be resistance.
“It is costly to go on to the heavenlies, it is painful; but it is the way of the pioneer, and it has to be settled that that is how it is.” -T. Austin Sparks
Nehemiah would not be discouraged. He turned to the One Who has ever and always been secure and enthroned above every power, for he was cognizant of the fact that he was not building a wall unto himself, nor even a wall within which his people could experience a padded life. It was “from Him, through Him, and to Him,” therefore the servant cannot succumb to self-pity, for that would not be in keeping with the pilgrimage or the work. It would not be in keeping with his calling as a man who walks circumspectly before the heavenly King.
This understanding is in the ‘DNA’ of the apostolic faith. Paul’s own calling was infused from the beginning with the idea that he would meet with serious hostility from men and devils.
“…. he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” -Acts 9.15b-16
But the line of his obedience held because he was also conscious from the beginning that the call did not have to do with anything that issued to his ego or his self-glorification.
“….he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name….”
Dear saint, get your eyes off of yourself, pierce through the influence of the powers of darkness in prayer, and behold again the Lamb of God on the throne. Wisdom and strength for the pilgrimage are realized when we behold “the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Not only is equipment available, but He will nourish, enliven, and hydrate your soul when you let go of self-pity and delight in His Person. “Thou preparest a table before me” in the wilderness, “in the presence of my enemies.”
He is worthy of the totality of your heart, He will fill “everything in every way,” and He will make clear that holy work to which He has called you. Whatever that simple and glorious work might be, let your preoccupation be the glory of Christ, and every bump, hurdle, and wind in the valley will be a privileged occasion for demonstrating His wisdom to the same powers that had previously incapacitated your pilgrimage.
“The evangelization of the world [and every other true obedience] is a desperate struggle against the prince of darkness, and everything his rage can stir up in the shape of obstacles, vexation, and opposition, whether by circumstance or by the hand of man.” -W.C. Burns
“…. in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” -Acts 20.23
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God….” -Acts 14.22
“Therefore…. I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” -Acts 26.19
Bryan Purtle is the founder of the Antioch Prayer Society in Kansas City, MO.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: cross of jesus, discouragement, Holy Spirit, human ambition, illusions of life, Jerusalem, obedience, Oswald Chambers, self pity, wilderness
“…. the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple….” -Mal. 3.1a
A friend and teacher of mine once gave a remarkable definition of man-made traditions with regard to spirituality:
Religion is man’s attempt at making God something he can manage.
This has long been the egotistical disposition of mankind: seeking to create God in an image we prefer, rather than receiving and loving Him as He is.
The prophets of Israel were commissioned by the Lord to shake His complacent and sleepy-hearted people away from their preconceived notions and traditions, and to usher them into a revelation of God’s true nature and purpose.
The false prophets of Judah in Jeremiah’s day, for instance, leaned hard on age-old traditions, and used them as a blanket of false security. They claimed that judgement could not befall Jerusalem, for the tradition declares that God Himself is in the land and that it is therefore protected and covered. The moral conduct of the priests and prophets, the lifestyles of the people in the land, and the nature of Judah’s political activities were not to be discussed. Israel was protected because of Abraham’s faithfulness, and no trouble could overtake them. Or so they assumed.
Tradition says that Yahweh lives in the midst of the people. This is interpreted as Israel’s great security against all danger. In contrast to this, the prophet discerns the freedom of Yahweh in His coming. Yahweh cannot be domesticated by knowledge oriented toward the past, nor can He be attached, like some predictable element, to a pious view of existence. Rather, He shatters the fixed conception that Israel developed in her tradition, and in this, His new and terrifying coming, He proves Himself to be Yahweh….
…. the name of Yahweh cannot in its true content be considered neutrally as tradition. It is the suggestive appellation of the One who, for all that is said about Him, remains a personal subject and decides Himself, in His freedom, what He will do when He comes. And as certainly as He once came to Israel, as tradition tells of Him in Israel’s worship and apart from this, He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.
(The Fiery Throne: The Prophets and OT Theology, Walther Zimmerli; Fortress Press, 2003; p. 4)
He never contradicts His own character, but He does obliterate our definitions and categories, especially when we are seeking to utilize Him for our own purposes. “He is never at the disposal of humans like earthly property.”
His radical mercy will shatter our self-righteous assumptions and ideas. His fierce wrath will burn up our moral lightness and our loose views toward sin. He cannot be confined to our tidy theological definitions and traditions. The prophets remind us that we cannot fit the Lord into our schedules, plans, and dreams. If we would have anything to do with Him, we’ve got to cast our lives- lock, stock and barrel- into His Kingdom. After all, by nature, only God Himself is free.
We experience the glorious freedom of love, righteousness, peace, and truth only as we sink our souls into Him.
Bryan Purtle is the founder of the Antioch Prayer Society in Kansas City, MO.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, Bryan Purtle, false prophets, freedom, jeremiah, Jerusalem, judgement, Kingdom, prophets of israel, Revelation, Walther Zimmerli