There is something so special about the burning heart on fire with the words of God. Such a speaking cannot come from any other place than the secret place where a man has chosen to thrust himself into God to be burned away! Let these men call us deeper into the flame. Maybe you are near the fire and you can feel the heat, or maybe you can see the fire from far away. Brother, jump in to the fire by casting your life aside and allow the flames of heaven to eat your life away, so that there remains nothing but God!
Editor’s Note: Guest article from David Popovici of FIRE School of Ministry: Chicago
Brethren, can I briefly share some things very dear to my heart?
As always, this short essay is in no way meant to be an apologetic defense or debate; time does not permit, nor do I is this the venue for such an endeavor. If by the Lord’s grace, it becomes a trumpet call to even one saint, that is enough. In one of the most climactic events in our Lords earthly mission, after surveying what His hearers said of Him, He asks His disciples the chief question, “who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). It is safe to say if were to ask 100 people who God is, you might get 90 or even 100 different answers. Nonetheless, Peter responds rightly. In fact, Jesus makes it clear in this gospel passage that there is no way he (Peter) could of come up with it on his own. It came by revelation from the Father.
Revelation, throughout history, has been progressive in regards to the one true God. Faith can only be based on God’s revelation of Himself. From revealing Himself as Creator, the God of “Covenant and Promise” (to Abraham), to the “Great I Am” (to Moses) the scripture builds revelation upon revelation. This is something hidden about God and His plan that comes to light through God’s own initiative in His perfect time. The revelation or appearing of Jesus Christ became the paramount revelation of all. Jesus is the face of God. John Lake, apostle to South Africa said this concerning the three major dispensations of God revealing Himself…
1. Patriarchal-God revealed to man
2. Mosaic-God revealed with man
3. Christ, (and later) Spirit-God revealed in man.
As I heard one man of God once say, “God wants to be known for who He is and not who we have made Him to be”. Jesus said, “if your eye is clear, then your whole body will be full of light.” The truth is that the god of this world, our adversary, deceitfully blinds the minds of unbelievers and seeks to lift up, through our thinking, strongholds that would keep us blind to the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus. One of the main ministries of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to men. Paul, as well as all the other Biblical writers, was able to pen truth as a result of revelation from the Holy Spirit. The point being is that God seeks to, and loves to reveal Himself. If God were seeking to hide from His creation He would have never have sent His Son, nor followed it up with the sending Holy Spirit, the Divine agent behind revealing truth.
Jesus was and always will be the supreme revelation of God the Father. Remember in Matthew 16, Jesus commends Peter’s revelation and then begins to build upon it by attaching to His Identity as Messiah; the cross. Peter however, aligning himself with the influence of Satan, saw it fitting to correct the Lords Theology. The Lord rebukes him, for setting his mind on things from below-mans interests as opposed to Gods. To think according to the lower order of things was equivalent to Jesus as demonically inspired. All revelation must by definition be attached to Gods ultimate revelation, Christ on the cross. Jews seek for a sign and Greeks for wisdom yet only the cross of Christ can properly reveal Him, as He is. If Christ is the ultimate revelation and the cross was His ultimate mission, it would do us good to make it a life-long point of meditation, pursuit and prayer. As Julian of Norwich said, “give us a burning attraction to thy passion.” These realities cannot be grasped by simply reading the text, or the latest commentary. At best, we only see in part, this must be revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Paul makes it plain in 1Corinthians 1, the cross makes no sense to the logical mind, only to the renewed mind. Jesus came neither as political military leader or religious philosopher. He came as the conqueror of sin and death. The atonement for mans sins as the perfect sacrifice to God. The Chief representative of a Kingdom not of earthly origin; which only the cross could illuminate. The content of the cross is the filter through which everything is revealed from heaven. Heavens highest wisdom and greatest power demonstration is the cross. To quote biblical scholar Gregory Boyd “God flexes His muscle by dying on a Cross”.
God is in no way indebted to men, He does not feel insecure, nor does He need to defend Himself. The cross offends the twin idolatries of the human-race; the desire for power and knowledge/wisdom. He makes it so that only the humble can see. The cross is both the power and wisdom of God to us. It is not foolish or weak per se, only in regards to being understood according to the spirit of this age. This revelation is the ultimate one that all others bow to and get filtered by. Whether a teaching by Paul, Peter, Apollos, or Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, no matter the stream, so to speak, the cross trumps all.
Now for the reality of this stamp of God we must contend. It is not enough to give mental assent. We do not have to choose, the cross is both wisdom and power towards us who believe and anyone else who will place their trust in Jesus. A cross that holds claim to save a man’s soul but cannot set him free from bondage and sin is either has not been truly preached or believed and applied. And the same goes for giving man an eternal hope in the face of persecution and suffering, or healing a man in the pangs of disease and infirmity, or for that matter changing the composition of a man’s life, purpose and meaning. Where instead of wasting his life, he instead gives it to the joys of loving and knowing God and saving souls. Brothers, we must have revelation, and it must lead us to the cross!
Take a listen to this audio compilation by Art Katz on “The Cross.”
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” -Heb. 6.19-20
If our lives are being tossed to-and-fro by the spirit of this age, if the opinions of others are swaying our thoughts and decisions, and if we are lagging in spirit and falling prey to discouragement and purposelessness, the chances are that we have lost or neglected our vital contact with the One who has entered “within the veil….. as a forerunner for us.”
If we have been instructed in the Scriptures to “abide in love,” to “walk in the Spirit,” and to “be holy just as God in heaven is holy,” how shall fallen and weak souls like us engage such realities, much less “live, move, and have our being” in them? The answer is both majestic and within reach, both transcendent and simple, both awe-striking and intensely practical. It touches the dust of who we are, waking us up to the glory of what we have become through the work of our great High Priest.
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest…. -Heb. 4.9-11
There is a Sabbath rest for the saints, but abiding in that rest is not the automatic result of the new birth. He crashes into our world when we are born from above, introducing us to “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit,” but it is our own precious responsibility to “be diligent to enter that rest” day by day. We’ve got to take up our crosses and follow the Lamb daily, not relying on a weekly spiritual injection on Sundays, but resisting the “world, the flesh and the devil,” and entering into communion with the Lord as an abiding reality.
There is no entry into “that rest” without diligent pursuit, and there is no diligent pursuit of the holy until we have have learned to love and live in the holiest place of all, where God Himself is, and where the Son of Man has made mediation on our behalf.
We are not struggling to perform nice services. We are not falling short in organizational excellence and programmatic expertise. But scarcely do we see men who are walking with God; men who are accessing the holy place, abiding in the life of God, and leading others into that great life. No ministry is valid before God unless it first comes from the holy place, where the glory of God is the central and chief reality.
How shall we abide in the presence of God? How shall we walk with God as Enoch of old? How shall we dwell with “everlasting burnings”? Christ Himself has made the way for us!
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
…. let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” -Heb. 4.14, 16
This is the “anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.” How can fallen vessels live, move and have our being in God? Though we’ve been redeemed by the blood, though we’ve become new creatures, we are still cognizant of our weaknesses and immaturities. How shall we ascend the hill of the Lord? Through Jesus Christ Himself. It is not through a mere profession, it is not only by articulating the doctrine of justification, but by literally entering into communion with the living God through faith in the finished work of the Lamb of God.
We enter through prayer and active relationship to the Son of God. Prayer is higher than any other ministry or calling, and any activity established in His name that has not come from this place of entry into His rest will invariably lead us further from the Holy Place. It will have the tone and feel of the world all over it. It will not sound that heavenly note that the true works of God convey. Abiding in Him is our great business, and Jesus is not just the Way in a categorical manner. He is literally the only One who lifts our souls into a life submerged in the knowledge of God.
There is no pastor or prophet, no program or plan, no song or book that can escort us to that place. They may stir or point us toward the Lamb, but they cannot escort us. We can only enter the rest of God through the Door that He has provided. We can only enter, in this age or in the age to come, through the Son of glory.
I suspect our faith is going to be tested. It is one thing to read what we now have before us to consider, but the real issue is whether we have the faith to believe it for ourselves. God has opened a new and living way by His blood; the veil is rent, and we are bidden to come and to enter because He has made a way once-and-for-all. We can come into the holiest place, and there He will meet with us. We can live out from that place because a High Priest has gone in before us to make a new and living way by which we can also enter and abide. Have we a faith to believe for that? That is to say, to actually enter in. A whole generation perished in the wilderness who could not enter for their unbelief. Yet God bids us enter, that is to say, appropriate and come into this place. The veil that kept the people out was rent from the top to the bottom. Are we accessing? (Art Katz, The Melchizedek Priesthood, transcribed spoken message, www.artkatzministries.org)
Paul is about to tell us what the intent is, and the purpose, for which reason, God has created all things. So how dare you just sit there, as if you’re hearing a mere sermon? How is it you’re not leaning forward in your seat, with your hand cupped at your ear, that you should not miss any syllable of this answer from the apostle who was given such grace to preach these riches?
— Art Katz, ‘Recognize the Influence’
On a Thursday night in January of 2001, an elderly Jewish man got up to speak a message out of the book of Ephesians to a small school of ministry and fellowship in Pensacola, Florida. As the night unfolded, the speaker (who some consider to be a modern-day prophet) delivered a message on the purpose for creating all things, and how that purpose (which, you’ll hear in the audio, has little to do with any direct benefit to man) affects every minute detail in our lives, not only with regard to what we do, but why we do it. The message would end up being disrupted multiple times by people that had to be escorted out of the building (one person claimed Art was ‘preaching his message’), and unfold in a manner that kept even those that had heard him speak hundreds of times before on the edge of their seat, sensing the weightiness of what was coming forth.
The message was entitled ‘Recognize the Influence’, and was brought forth by Art Katz ten years ago at FIRE School of Ministry & Fellowship. The message is below in audio form, but before you listen to it, I’d like to set the stage with the following accounts from those that were either there that night, or were impacted by it later upon hearing it.
I recall being quite focused and almost pent-up with expectation; I remember having my eye on one guy, feeling that he might be disruptive, and sure enough, during a time of worship when I told everyone that we were going to wait before the Lord and be quiet, this guy tried to prophesy, ignoring my exhortation to be quiet twice before, the third time, I had the ushers deal with him.
Then, during Art’s message, which was one of his life messages, of profound spiritual import, yet one which he stumbled to deliver that night — another guy, whom Bob Gladstone had his eye on — just stood up while Art was preaching and asked if he could share his testimony, and I jumped off the platform and ran over to him telling him this was not the time to do so.
The first guy yelled out at one point, “Touch not mine anointed, and do my prophets no harm!” because his buddy the second guy was told to be quiet. This of course was after the worship period during which Michael Brown’s story of the first guy occurred.
During Art’s speech, the second guy stood up and said, “You’re preaching my message!” Art did not hear him at first and stopped to try to hear what he said, trying to repeat what he said to understand him. I’m sure that’s on the audio. Other dialog occurred I don’t recall. When the ushers escorted guy #2 out, he was praying in a fervent, persecuted sort of way. Art made some comments about the powers getting stirred up (I think) which of course would be on the recording also.
Art’s message was a trademark, definitive prophetic piece from a foundational man to the church. Simultaneously constructive and devastating. A gift for us from the Lord from a key voice of his generation just 5 1/2 years before he died.
It was at least a year after this message was preached that Mike Brown labeled it as ‘the most important message ever given at FIRE.’ I remember sitting at the edge of my seat through this entire message as I felt it penetrating me to my core. I’ve heard Art speak hundreds of messages live and this one had, by far, the most impact on me. There was enough going on in the room that evening to totally distract folks, however, the message was delivered fully and still affects me today! … I will never forget that night as long as I live!
I was in a mainline denominational church as a youth pastor at the time and, before this message, had been to conferences for the kids as well as the pastors. I had been feeling chafed inwardly by these meetings and couldn’t piece together what was causing me to ache so badly. When I heard this word…BOOM, it all just exploded in me. “OH GOD, that’s what wrong with me!!” I felt as if I had been behind a curtain and suddenly saw it lift and saw the puppet masters behind the machines and dolls. I understood so much of what was operating and motivating the strivings of this organization. I saw words on my eyelids like, “status, prestige, power, honor” with the smug smiles and fake back pats that go with it.
This message ruined me. … To this day, this message remains as a stain on my mind, heart and soul. It has colored the way I view everything. I can’t look on the mere appearance of a thing anymore, I’m always painfully aware in certain places and circumstances of what lies beneath so many words and deeds and ministries. I’m always checking my own soul as a result.
I can see why Satan would try so hard to derail this word.
I will say that it had a profound impact on my life, and to this day it is one of the top ten most memorable messages I’ve heard. Years ago I played the whole message for a close friend of mine, and his response was something like this:
“Before this message I felt like my faith and my view of God were a factory where all the equipment was dormant, and all the gears were rusty or out of alignment. When I heard Art’s statement about the Church’s call to demonstrate God’s wisdom to the powers of the air, the gears were forced into alignment, and the power came on. It all made sense in a new and fresh way.”
He still refers back to the hearing of that cassette as constituting a major turning point in his life of faith.
I still go back once every year or two and listen to the message again, and each time I feel commissioned afresh to come into the simple, ultimate, whole-hearted reality that was expressed in the early apostolic church. “To God be glory in the Church…..”
The message is below. For those that may not be familiar with Art, who died in 2007, make sure to check out www.artkatzministries.org. You can also check out this article in the Washington Times, which ended with a great line: “He made many such statements that no doubt cost him dearly. As I stood in that grassy field, I realized why some men, like the Rev. Billy Graham, are lionized by the Christian world and others, like Art Katz, have a silent grave in the middle of the north woods.”
Below is the audio of ‘Recognize the Influence.’ As you listen, remember that you’re hearing a man of significant depth deliver his life message, unpacking, quite literally, the purpose of everything that exists, and the ultimate destiny of the church.
Editor’s Note: Be advised that there is mild profanity in this article, as quoted from a booklet from a well-known and respected missionary of the early 20th Century.
It is the “Little foxes” that spoil the vine. The vine is where fruit is produced. It is not noon-day elephants, but little foxes in the night that slip in to spoil fruit. Maybe you are not looking at porn on the computer, but your heart takes a deep interest in football and it causes you to lose time in God’s presence, amongst God’s people and in God’s purpose in your life. This is a spoiling of the vine. Maybe it isn’t sports. Maybe it is business. Corrie Ten Boom said, “beware of the bareness of a busy life.” Most little foxes are known only by you and God.
Benny Hinn said, “when you wholly belong to Him, you hunger only for His kingdom.”
To be honest about this, I have been on both sides of this fence. When I got cold, the volume of other things increased in my life. But when I got lit on fire again, they were all eaten up by the Holy Ghost. Smith Wigglesworth said, his life was “eaten away by the Holy Spirit.” Psalm 39 tells us that, “God eats away like a moth the things that are precious to man.”
He is FIRE. He consumes everything just by being present.
This is the only real understanding of the Christian life that I have. All else is compromise.
Tolerance is compromise. If you watch something that is not clean by tolerance, you have compromised. We must smash these things for purity’s sake. There is a fight for purity because “purity of heart affects all seeing (Art Katz).” Many people lose sight of things that are wrong in their lives because their eyes are dim from impurities tolerated in their lives. Lay the axe to the root and clear the way for the vision of Jesus!
Beware of little foxes. Time stealers. Sinful compromises. They are after your fruit. Jesus said that fruit is what Glorifies God (John 15). The little foxes want to steal the Glory of God out of your life.
“Fashion, entertainment, sports, materialism–we are idol worshipers (Dr. Michael L. Brown).” These are the Gods of this country. Beware of the seduction message that mixes the truths of Christ with a tolerant life. It is an attempt to give you enough of God to satisfy your religious desires and also make way for your heart to find fulfillment in the things of this world simultaneously. You will be rendered powerless. Seduction has slain many mighty men (Prov. 7.26). Seduction makes you as a loaf of bread, mindless and left only to be devoured. Seduction is the play upon your desires. It is an appealing message to the best of both worlds. You can have your idols and God too. No. In God’s view, He is first, or He is forgotten. The throne of your heart that rules your whole life is His and only His. He will not share it with another. Just ask Abraham.
The holes through which men are infected with the virus of powerlessness, unbelief and compromise are nothing other than the additions to Jesus in their hearts.
Christians are not to be Jesus, AND… We are to be Jesus ALONE. What other testimony is more in keeping with the claim that the Creator of the universe is really enjoyed and known by us?
Athlete turned missionary C.T. Studd wrote a great booklet entitled “The D.C.D.,” which was as controversial in its day as it would be in ours (for reasons that will be readily apparent, read it here for context). In the booklet, “D.C.D.” stands for “Don’t Care a Damn,” and he describes a new order of “D.C.D. Soldiers of the Lord Jesus.” According to Studd, “a ‘D.C.D.’ doesn’t care a damn what happens to himself so long as our Lord Jesus Christ is glorified.” In our modern vernacular, we would call them “followers of Jesus that don’t give a damn,” or, more politely “followers of Jesus that could care less.” As is stated in the Studd booklet, God is looking for men who could could care less about anything but Christ Himself and His gospel.
The leaven in Matthew 13 is a wonderful picture of what happens to a life that chooses the rule of God. It spreads to the consuming of the whole life. If this is not the picture of your life, than the leaven of an absolute submission to the Kings dominion has yet to be applied to your life. The last verse of the book of 1st John says, “Keep yourselves from idols.” You don’t have to look for things to fill your life with, they are looking for you and you must guard against them.
A boxer must keep his guard up in a fight. Why? Because the guy in front of him is trying to swing, is swinging and will swing to knock him out. If he is lazy with that guard, he will pay for it. We must guard our hearts above all for from it flows our life.
All the foxes start in the mind, to influence your body, to tip your will over in sin. The mind of man is the shipping and receiving center of life. Whatever you want to give out has got to go through the mind and whatever is going to come in must go in through the mind. Yet, “there are thoughts of evil and evil thoughts.” Thoughts of evil come from the outside and evil thoughts come from the inside. One grasps at your mind and the other your mind grasps for. The devils come to your mind. “He will keep you in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him (Isa. 26.3).” “The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8.6).”
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
“The end time demands upon the church will require a community situation.”
The cultivation of a community situation is crucial for the growth of an individual. The safety net of deeply spiritual relationships and honest love for one another is essential. Ephesians tell us that “Speaking the truth in love” is the way to maturity. “Love is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3.14)” and our unity is to be “of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4.3).” The Holy Spirit wants us connected to others in selfless love, speaking the truth to one another and bound in peace together by Him.
One person said, “you don’t gossip about the people you pray for.” I would go further and say, when you really pray for someone you are melting into them. We melt together in the presence of God. “God Himself is a sweet company (Bonheoffer)” so He reproduces the same. Jesus taught us to “love one another (John 13.34).”
It is my experience that when two individuals, that are flowing with God’s love, come together-they automatically love one another. The Church should be longing to be together. “The fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5).” In the Revival in Pensacola I got right with God and was immediately connected with others who were right with God and we gravitated toward each other, burning for Jesus and one another. This is the product of Revival. Which is to say, the product of the Holy Ghost.
There was a brotherhood deeper than blood. Jesus said, “my…brother is He who does the will of God (Marl 3.35).” Those born of God are now the children of God, born of His Spirit and washed in His blood. We have an eternal connection with each other. Because of this we are in one another, needing one another so we should never neglect getting together (Hebrews 10.25). Actually, something is wrong if we do neglect Spiritual fellowship. Proverbs tells us that the man who “isolates himself seeks his own desire and quarrels against all sound wisdom (Proverbs 18.1).”
We should desire each other and what each one brings to the puzzle. We should never get so earthly with each other that we encourage each others flesh, but seeing one another after the Spirit, lift one another up to God encouraging each others gifts, even if they are not like our own.
The Church is not a building or place of worship. It is the new race (1 Cor. 10.32). They are the only other people in the world who share your mind. The church is a race and not a place; a people and not a steeple. Church isn’t somewhere we go but what we are.
The fullness of the expression of Christ will not come into the world any other way. It is to come through a community of born again individuals who love God and each other. We are a family with the most wonderful Father. Community is a people of common union, sharing spiritual communion keeping a common unity. Pastor Andrew Lamb from Acts 2 Church in Altamonte Springs, Florida always says, “the word of God never tells us to make unity but to keep it.” It other words, Jesus made us one at the cross. The rejection of the cross will cause a rejection of each other. Ephesians 3.10 show us that all things were created in order that the Church would have a platform through which to communicate a wisdom to the principalities of the air. That wisdom is namely, love. “The church is to perfect our wisdom and knowledge on how to live with each other (Art Katz, “True Fellowship”).”
Prayer with each other is the heat of the presence of God that melts us together in purpose, focus, heart and burden. We must pray together. We must tackle issue of life together. We must break things open together in prayer. Fasting together is such a powerful thing, we need to live this way. We should be so connected together in prayer, fasting and strengthening each other with Spiritual gifts, that the only other thing we have time to do together is preach the gospel in the world. Besides seasons of rest to regain physical strength there is no time for foolishness.
The problem that I am seeing is that the church is playing video games together instead of praying together. They play sports or watch sports together instead of preaching the gospel together. They would much rather call a poker night than a season of extended prayer and fasting.
This is not community. This is a bunch of friends that profess Christ. There is no spiritual union or divine melting through hours of movie nights or football. Community is spiritual union as we deliver Christ to each other and to the world together. A pizza night with two movies and a prayer will lead to the disaster of an apathetic complacency that eventually spiral into sin and death to the unity.
Lastly, we tend to gravitate only toward those who are as fleshly as we are or as gifted as we are. May God destroy partiality and bring in a flood of divine love for one another, connecting us as brothers who do the will of God, reaching to this world in prayer, fasting, true spiritual fellowship and preaching the gospel.
“There is no other way, for the way, to be the way, than the way, the way was, when it was the way.”
The first Church was not perfect but they shared their lives together. The first fruits of the Holy Spirit outpouring show us the heart of God for His people. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit upon our lives will create the same today.
We must allow the Spirit of God to move us in love for one another beyond our natural tendency. We need a close life. Many men of God have fallen because there was no brother doing the will of God next to him who could look into his eyes on a regular basis and see if his heart was compromising.
Most church systems in America today are an environment where men can satisfy a religious itch, get an ounce of God and hide from any real dealing with issues. This was never the oneness that Jesus wanted amongst His own (John 17).
Practically we should have at least one strong (preferably stronger than you) brother to talk to everyday if not see every day. We need a core group of people to look at face to face and share Jesus with and receive Jesus from. The fullest picture of Christ is released in the assembly when every member brings from his heart that which the Holy Spirit is impressing upon him.
We love the open participatory place of house to house, but must never substitute it for the devotion to the Apostles teaching in Solomon’s temple.
System churches in America are important to have; the structure, the leadership, the service. It is all good and to a degree necessary. But it cannot be a substitute from authentic Christian love or community as I have above defined it.
The Scriptures tell us that there is one body but many members; the hand and the eye, the foot and the knee. We are fitly joined together and have a part of the whole. We must not look down on the gifts or emphasis of others. We must respect them and let them grow in their area. When a person who is evangelistic meets with him who is pastoral, they need the love of Jesus to see each other’s sides.
It is like two blind men on either side of an elephant. One is holding the trunk and describing it to the one holding the elephants small tale. They must trust each other and hear each other to be able to put together what animal it is. If they insist on their side of feeling alone, they will divide. They must simply feel their side and listen to the other.
Robert Gladstone told me that when two men pray for bread, God may give one man two loaves and the other none. The man with two says, “God why didn’t you give him one of these loaves?” And God says, “I did, when I gave it to you.”
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9
Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a kind of preaching and proclamation that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His love. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:
The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”
So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of the favor and love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their plan to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.
Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty, commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes, and the options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even in the religious world, many are jockeying for a position in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries. Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating so many souls who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that fallen desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to give.
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is fromthe one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)
Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.
Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?
We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us that a theological category; rather, an abiding experience as our hearts are more and more surrendered to His.
The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.
(D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as quoted in God’s True Love by David Harwood; 2008, p. 22)
The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you still your heart before the Lord, and learn to receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”
Dear believer, you need not to be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not to be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice and receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. And from that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”
Last night’s message was a call to authenticity, to reality, because God is the God of truth, and when we move off and away from that place, and come to unreality, His Spirit is not there, and we therefore compensate for it by turning up the dials, which further deepens the unreality, and puts the church in a lamentable place and condition.
This is the final part of this particular article on the theme of ‘Apostolic ministry’. I realize that we have only scratched the surface of this theme. However, hopefully we have now begun to take a new look at the term ‘apostolic’, and may it help bring about a fresh move of the Spirit in the day in which we live. We have looked at Jesus, the sending of the 12, OT and NT theology of these ministries, but it would be a culpable omission if we did not take a brief look at Paul, who was a giant amoung apostles, and was ‘sent’ post the ascension of Jesus.
Part 4 – Paul, apostle to the Gentiles.
The great thing about Paul is that he never calls himself ‘the Apostle Paul’ but rather ‘Paul, an apostle…’ For him the name is descriptive of His ministry but never prescriptive, demanding an ecclesiastical credence.
Another, thing about him is that we not only see this apostolic function in his life and mission, but we read insights by virtue of his epistles. Due to the huge scope of His teaching, it is better for me to just state some of the key activities of his which are in keeping with the above, and also some key statements of his in relation to this ministry.
·Chosen / Sent. He was chosen by God from birth, to this ministry – Galatians 1: 11 – 24
·Recognised not promoted / Released not restricted. He was initially found by Barnabus probably with seeds of Apostolic gifting beginning to bare early on; then recognised and sent out by the local church at Antioch, then at a later time acknowledged by Jerusalem / Wider Church body. (Acts 12, 13 & Galatians 1) Therefore, he probably began manifesting this gift before full recognition came later on. Thus it is important that an apostolic ministry must be revealed to the man first with his immediate peers by the Holy Spirit. This enables him to function as part of a team in that ministry without restriction but with covering (Acts 12: 25.) As that ministry develops and widens, it is then recognised among the wider body of Christ, as with Paul at Jerusalem. NOTE: The later recognition should be recognition of what already exists in function. It is not to prescribe a promotion to higher office, which only then allows such ministry to take place. However, it is obvious that Paul’s initial freedom was borne out of an acceptance of his ministry in Antioch, and carried into the communities he planted rather than those he did not – i.e. Jerusalem. (See 1 Corinthians 9: 1 – 2) His wider recognition came later, and would have enabled other churches that had little to do with him or his ministry to accept him as such.
·Missions. The heart of his ministry was apostolic missionary (1 Timothy 2: 7), in proclamation to the Gentiles of the Good news, teaching, debating, demonstrating the power of the Kingdom of God, discipling believers, ordaining elders and church fatherly aftercare.
·Team. He worked in a team. Barnabus, Silas, John Mark, Timothy, Titus (Plus 20 others at least at different times) It is evident that as well as working in harmony with other 5 fold ministry gifting, he also saw and worked with other apostolic ministries beyond himself. (Romans 16: 7) No ‘apostle’ should display a ‘sanctified independence’. Whilst this distinct ministry is in its nature ‘first’ in function, it is not first in importance. (Romans 12) It is better to think of it ‘first’ in terms of its foundational nature, but rightly related to other ministry.
·He built with prophetic ministry in harmony with the apostolic ministry. His explanation of this in Ephesians 2 and 3, gives us theological understanding in light of the OT explanation in the previous installments. Also, we see His work with Silas, and Acts 16 highlighting such ministry. The prophets with the team would bring revelation of God’s purposes and strategy for mission.
·Fathers & Sons. He trained other apostolic ministries in Timothy and Titus, instructing them in Church aftercare and to ordain elders in every city.
·Builder. He worked as a wise master builder and foundation layer (1 Corinthians 3) after the pattern of His Lord and Saviour – Jesus. That which the Lord had demonstrated, Paul would have copied and put into practice through preaching and teaching.
·Suffering and authority. Due to the foundational nature of pioneering and missions for the Kingdom, great authority would have been manifest, yet for Paul death and the cross life was also a part of both Jesus and his own life.(1 Corinthians 4: 9& 2 Corinthians 10 & 11) For him, apostles were like those in the procession of death and persecution in their warfare type role. Jesus had foretold this. Kingdom authority – yes, but with Cross like sacrifice. Servant/ slave was a word Paul often used about himself. Without death to self and suffering, he would not continue to rely only on God’s grace and power in ministry. The Cross was the source of authority for him.
·Apostolic revelation. Another dynamic aspect of Paul’s ministry (which we also see in the preaching and teaching of Jesus) is that of bringing apostolic revelation. The Word says that the revelation of the mystery of Christ has ‘now been made known’ by apostles and prophets (Eph 3: 4 &5). Part of the apostolic function is to bring out by the Spirit the deep revelatory truths of God, which will in turn build the people into Christ-likeness, and prepare them for works of service (Eph 4). The apostle as ‘sent one’ is actually bringing an incarnational ministry of Jesus to the people in a small way. When this happens it puts into the people an apostolic DNA which causes body growth, or an apostolic seed which bears fruit. Paul says, ‘Imitate me, as I imitate Christ..’ The more apostolic and prophetic revelation comes to a people, the more a community looks like their King in possession and practice. This kind of revelation is not weird or flaky but it is deep, and Christocentric in substance, nature and power. This then makes a mature body, which in turn prepares men for eldership, and people for service. Then God is glorified through His Son, by the Spirit in His Body!
It goes without saying that Paul won thousands to the Lord; transformed cities or regions; planted many churches by discipleship, laying on of hands for impartation and ordination.Yet, He also was a humble man, a servant, slave and a soldier not counting his life worth anything but obeying every command from Heaven. His one goal was to bring ALL men into the fellowship of the revelation of Jesus Christ. Jesus was Paul’s apostolic vision for the nations (Romans 1) Without claiming such a Pauline status ourselves, should we not be looking for similar hallmarks today in apostolic ministry?
In Conclusion, it is my conviction today many apostolic ministries are to be found in the unknown places on the front line on the mission field among the nations, although that is not exclusively so. Some are called to mission at home. These ministries often are breaking new ground in diverse Kingdom ways and building according to the pattern. There are those who administer with elders in building God’s people. Others having gone through the missional stage of ministry are now ‘fathers’. They have gone through the ‘giving birth to new works’ stage and now provide a fatherly role in care and counsel, as Paul to Timothy. Both ends of the apostolic ministry spectrum are different stages of the same apostolic gifting, but both equally as valid – sons and fathers. I believe there are different kinds of apostolic ministries, according to the variety that is in God’s heart. Some encouragers like Barnabus, some exhorters like Peter, some edifiers like Paul, but all apostles with the distinct features of apostolic commission, calling and fruitfulness.
Ultimately, Jesus Christ is the great Apostle. Let us do as the original 12, 70 and early church did – and make known the revelation of the Son of God until He comes! Amen
3. The New Testament Dynamics of the Apostolic Ministry.
We have seen the first use of the term ‘apostle’, and we have considered the OT and NT prophetic significance of this ministry, that of missions, pioneering, foundational building for the new temple of God. But what does it look like practically? To answer this question we need to evaluate some key lives, which manifest such a calling and ministry.
A: Jesus – the Chief Apostle.
Hebrews 3 says:
1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithfulin all God’s house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
Firstly, in this scripture Jesus is compared to Moses. It is evident in this scripture that Moses carried an OT type of apostolic ministry, as well as priestly. However, Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house, but Christ was the builder and the Son over it! Moses rescued God’s people, but also led them, formed the structure of their national identity in obedience to God’s commands, and he was supposed to lead them into the land of promise, and see them planted by God in that place, after disarming the nations and their powers. He was a ‘Kingdom missionary’ in an OT type of way. His calling was very apostolic!
So too do we see Jesus in a greater way. We must look at the example of He who appoints, sends, gives and perfectly manifests the apostolic ministry – Jesus Christ. If he is the apostle, then there must be something in His life here on earth that demonstrates that in His life & mission. I’d like to suggest the following:
i.He was chosen & sent by God to this world on a Divine mission. (John 3: 16; 8: 16 – 18, plus many more)
ii.His actual physical presence on earth carried the authority of God’s Kingdom as an apostolic representative. The ancient Jewish law says. ‘The one sent, is as the one who sent him…’ We will see that this carries through to present ministry, though Jesus is more than that, as He is the ‘word made flesh, dwelling among us’.
iii.His apostolic ministry has at its heart, mission. Just as Moses not only delivered God’s people but also was commissioned to take them in to promise, so was the apostolic ministry in Jesus one of a ‘NT Exodus’. That was Christ’s mission! It has been said that an evangelist takes people out from bondage, but an apostle takes out, in order to take people into something. Jesus not only manifested a ‘rescue ministry’ but also a purposeful ministry of the Kingdom. He disarmed the powers over the peoples, to bring them into His inheritance, planted in a place of fulfilment, that they may become an apostolic Kingdom people. That was His apostolic mission!
iv.The parables of Mark 4 and the account of Jesus’ ministry in Mark5, really beautifully demonstrate how the Kingdom of God works. It is my belief that this account carries tones of the apostolic about it, and how Jesus brings Kingdom advancement into new regions. Here the Lord goes on a mission to the ‘other side’ of the lake to deliver a man possessed by demons. In chapter four he has taught on the work of the Kingdom, especially how in seed form it becomes large and spreads. He then goes on to illustrate practically what that looks like in the 5th chapter. Yes, there was a tormented man needing deliverance, but as we study this account we find the region was oppressed also, and that Christ had gone to reach a people, through a man. We see initially, that Christ and the disciples encounter a violent storm en route to the other side. The Lord rebukes the storm in a manner only attributed to demonic powers. I believe the Lord was going to touch a region, as well as a man. On encountering the tormented man, the Word says that they (the demons) begged to stay in the region, hence why they desired to be allowed to enter the pigs. Jesus actually permits them but only for casting them into the sea! Upon his deliverance the man begs to follow Jesus, and the people beg Jesus to leave the region! (Interesting!) The man is not permitted to leave with Christ but to stay and tell all of God’s goodness. The region must be transformed. As the parable of the mustard seed had illustrated, from seed form the Kingdom would grow into something grand and glorious! So it was the case in this region. Kingdom advancement, and planting of Kingdom seed is apostolic ministry.
v.Consider another account in Mark 1. Jesus heals masses out of His great mercy and compassion. He delivers a man from demons with authority. Many from the region of Galilee see, hear & follow, as they have never seen this authority before. After resting in the home of Simon and Andrew, and healing the mother in law, He goes to pray alone the next morning. Again the crowds are waiting at the house, and Simon summons Jesus to come and minister to the crowds. Surely this is the beginning of a ‘great’ ministry. National fame could lead to global magnitude! The world’s first great healing evangelist! (Not that there is anything wrong with that kind of ministry.) Yet the Lord is mindful of the Father’s apostolic purposes, and must visit other towns and villages also. He says in another Gospel account of this story, that this is why He has been ‘sent’. It is one thing to minister to great crowds, and see God move and bring release, but it is quite another to see the mission beyond evangelism. It is apostolic to bring a penetration of God’s rule into physical locations. God wants a representation of His Kingdom, through peoples, in locations. A divine deposit in each location visited. Christ’s apostolic ministry was one of Kingdom advancement, through mission pioneering, penetration of the powers of darkness, and forming a people / disciples to bear witness to that in every location.
vi.The text earlier quoted in Mark 3, where Jesus chooses the 12 to be apostles, is also a key part of His apostolic ministry. He knows that He alone cannot fully perform this ministry, and so designates the same authority of the Kingdom upon them, that they may multiply the apostolic work of the Kingdom. The one ‘sent’ also must be a ‘sender’. This too is apostolic. W.A.C Rowe , a man greatly used of God in the apostolic church UK, which was birthed in the Welsh Revival once said, ‘the apostolic ministry is not a flash of brilliant individualism. It is always glorious team work.’ It is apostolic to raise up others with the same DNA and send them out. This leads us into the next example of 12 apostle’s ministry.
B:The 12 Apostles of the lamb, in particular Peter.
Having chosen the 12, it is not sufficient to place a title upon them alone. It has been rightly said that the ministry gifts are not prescriptive but descriptive of ministry in lives. Therefore, Jesus gives the 12 clear apostolic instructions, which He has embodied and demonstrated for them to carry forth. We must heed to these instructions, because they surely must have played a foundational role in the thinking & activities of the 12, 70 and Church in Acts in their mission to the nations.
We will look at Matthew 10 and examine the elements of this ministry.
i.Verse 5. Here specifics of geographical locations are given. Jesus is the sender. George Ladd says: ‘The Kingdom creates the Church, not vice versa. The Church bears witness to the Kingdom’s activities.’ Therefore, those sent are obeying a call and commission to something / somewhere. Oswald Sanders says: “Missions are to be based on the passion of obedience, not the pathos of pity” So we can see the absolute centrality of the Lord Jesus in the apostolic ministry from the outset, in that He as the Head of the Church is the One from whom all apostolic specifics come. One Scripture says, He sent them (the disciples) where He Himself was about to go. He knows the spiritual dynamics of the nations, and therefore where we would not choose to go, He would often choose, knowing what the key to unlocking a place would be! This takes a unique apostolic dependency by the vessel upon God.
ii.Verse 7. Secondly, their first act in their mission is to proclaim the presence of the Kingdom as good news. They are to announce the Lord’s redemption, power and free grace, based upon repentant lives and faith. What we see in this is God’s ambassadors announcing the ‘invasion’ of God’s rule into the house of the enemy. This is evidenced also in Paul & Barnabus’ ministry in the cities they visited (and the subsequent upheaval!)
iii.Verse 1 & 8. Authority is given for the driving out of powers of the Kingdom of darkness. This is essential in apostolic mission, as one cannot progress to rescue and build something of Kingdom value until the ground is free, so to speak. The spiritual governs the earthly (as with Mark 5 and Luke 11: 14 – 28) and therefore the 12 had to be instructed in this. This ministry of deliverance and healing was evidence that what they proclaimed was fact!
iv.Verse 11 – 16. Apostolic ministry is not only to rescue but also to appropriate God’s rule on earth for a location and people. Therefore, Jesus instructs the apostles to find a house for the ‘shalom of God’ to rest there. Apostolic ministry as demonstrated in Christ, leaves something behind, which produces the fruits of righteousness, peace and joy, in lives and in homes. It is a ministry of reconciliation and restoration of God’s order. What was once previously owned by the powers of the air is now a place of dominion for God and His people. If a house receives this, it knows of grace and peace in the Holy Spirit. From there, the Kingdom, like leaven can spread to the other houses in that place. From this a community of the King is formed that constitutes the congregation / Church of Jesus Christ. A house is the foundation of a community. When a house received the Good news, the men are instructed to stay and make it a base for operations in their mission.
Also, Matthew 16 gives us further insight into the apostolic ministry of the 12, and particularly Peter.
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter,and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadeswill not overcome it.19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will bebound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will beloosed in heaven.” 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Here we see the type of authority expressed in the apostolic church. Upon her revelation of the Son of God, given by the Father, she is built by Jesus, as a stronghold of the Kingdom against the powers of hell. Peter, as a foundational part and representative of this apostolic body of God’s people, is symbolically given the keys of the Kingdom, to bind and loose. Again, the heavenly realities are connected to the earthly manifestations. Acts tells clearly of Peter’s administration of this in chapter 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 & 10.
In Acts 8, we see a good demonstration of the apostolic ministry in Peter. Upon Phillip’s evangelistic success in Samaria, Peter with John goes to affirm what is happening and bring authority and order to that revival. It is not two governmental Apostles bringing things ‘under their control’ but rather it is a distinct function at work. Evangelistic success is great, but without something remaining in that region it is wasted. New wine needs a new wineskin. Apostolic insight also brings out any satanic infection in the new work quickly (as we see with Peter and Simon the sorcerer). This is important so that the new house is built without foundational weakness and is fitting dwelling place for the Spirit. It is worth comment also that they upon their return visit other places in Samaria to preach the Gospel. Both Gospel proclamation, and setting things in place for continuation of God’s work are key parts of the apostolic ministry.
So then we see, that apostolic ministry is not a hierarchal governmental office that sits around presiding over everything. No! Rather it is a functioning ministry in harmony with the work of God, yet distinct from the other ministries. It is a powerful ministry, which brings Kingdom authority with it in evangelism and administering God’s work in mission, for the building of His Church. ‘Going’ is a vital part of the ministry, that’s what ‘sent’ means. Nowhere is presiding mentioned or seen. Rather, as WAC Rowe says, apostles should be those who ‘breakthrough’& ‘blaze a trail’ for the Kingdom, and should be the most progressive of ministries in the Church.
Apostolic ministry in Peter was foundational. No builder can lay a foundation unless he ‘goes’ to the place of choosing. (We cannot build from out of an office, right?) That’s part of the mission – to go!
It is worth here mentioning, James’ role in Acts 15. He is also mentioned in apostolic terms in Galatians 1 & 2. It is apparent here that His apostolic ministry was more to Jews in Jerusalem, rather than the Gentile nations. So was this a ‘presiding kind’ of apostolic ministry? I do not believe so. I believe one can be ‘sent’ to a city, as well as a people or nation / nations. I know of such ministries today, such as Colin Dye in London, or Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong. These ministries are far from presiding bishops (in our understanding); rather they are God’s pioneers and builders for that city. In as much as others plant and do mission in a plurality of locations, so too do these servants reach an entire city by planting a plurality of faith communities in different suburbs or areas of the city. If there is any form of remaining after the initial work it is for the purpose of aftercare with the elders for those churches.
Finally, Acts 10, again we see Peter’s apostolic ministry at work. He is mysteriously apprehended by a vision for the house of Cornelius.Supernatural ministry accompanies the apostolic function due to its Kingdom advancing nature; as does the evangelistic ministry also demonstrate. Peter uses the ‘keys’ to open the door of the Good news of the Kingdom to the gentiles, and the Spirit falls upon the house! Notice the house as a key ingredient to this story. How many missions have failed or been partially successful because we have not taken the Kingdom to a house and remained there! This is apostolic.
In conclusion, from Peter, with John, and indeed Paul, we see that part of the foundation building is the laying on of hands for healing, Baptism in the Holy Spirit and ordination. These are foundational aspects of a foundational ministry that are vital to the ongoing building work of the community of faith.
In the next and final installment will conclude this series by taking a look at Paul, and how the Lord through him has given us a glorious pattern to follow.