“Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” -Mic. 4.4
The picture of the world, after being set aright by the judgments and mercies of God at the end of the age, is one of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Micah 4 is one of the most remarkable statements of that renovated order of reality, when God Himself dwells amongst men, and His ways become the prevailing government.
There is something about our consumeristic society- the pervasive addictions to entertainment and food, the rat races of the corporate world, the machinic and often heartless nature of industry, the radical mixture of truth and untruth in politics, and the overall nature of a me-first, ‘take care of number one’ culture- that is totally antithetical to the eschatological vision given in the Scriptures.
We are consumers to the hilt, from the nature of our eating and shopping to the whole tenor of our egomaniacal and inconsiderate customs, and they even find frequent expression in the best of our militaristic endeavors and political agendas. Everyone is wanting to be seen and recognized as the greatest and biggest, and this is even prevalent in American ministry. We are willing to step on the backs of others to consume what we desire, and to secure a place of prominence and prosperity for ourselves. The reality of the cross- which is the revelation of God’s self-sacrificial character- has become ‘old hat’, and we have fallen under the waves of an all-too-often noisy, glittery, violent, and irreverent culture.
When at once we are touched by the Spirit of God and brought into contact with His nature, we see that His way and His Kingdom are totally incompatible with the busy-headed spirit of this age.
Everything is calculated to trample the inner-man these days, and if we would come into the rest and sabbath reality of the Gospel, it will require us shutting the door on the world, entering the place of prayer, and “tasting of the powers of the age to come.” If we give in to this consumeristic age we will consume the wine of this world, and consequently, our inner-man will be consumed by the fires of sin and the debilitating values of the powers of darkness. But if we turn from the crookedness of this age, and abide in the reality of God by the Spirit, we will walk in a transcendent peace, humility, and righteousness.
Have you an awareness that the same Spirit and glory that the prophets foresaw in visions of the coming age have been shed abroad in your own heart, if indeed you have believed upon Christ? You need only to surrender your own heart daily, receive the life of the Spirit, and abide in the wisdom and power of that life. It is not in trying, but in dying, that the new life issues. Authentic kingdom living is not an issue of performing religious feats or exerting moral audacity, but abiding in the Man, Christ Jesus. As it will be in the age to come, when the Divine dew of His government permeates the earth, so will it be for the believer in the present age, who surrenders to His governance and luxuriates in His fellowship.
Hear this scholar’s description of the age to come as it is set forth in Micah 4; namely, the ending of war and the destruction of consumeristic values:
As a result of disarmament, every individual enjoys the fruit of his own labor in security (4.4). The rewards of righteousness on the international level work themselves out to peace for everyone. Instead of having to flee to the narrow confines of fortified cities as in times of war, in the new era of peace everyone can sit peacefully ‘under his own vine and under his own fig tree.’ The concrete image depicts the full enjoyment of God’s abiding peace and prosperity without fear of danger. The new age will re-experience the joy and happiness of Solomon’s golden days (1 Kgs 4.20; 5.5 [4.25]; 1 Macc 14.11-12). Zech 3.10 speaks of neighborly fellowship. In fact, there is a flip side to Micah’s vision: by sitting under their own vines and fig trees they show that they have also disciplined their swollen appetites. The dreams of disarmament and of agrarian well-being are inseparable. Those who live by war will die in war (Matt 26.52), and those with ‘swollen appetites’ cannot anticipate peace. W. Brueggemann wrote: ‘The prophecy anticipates lowered economic expectations. It anticipates a modest life-style of not having more than one’s produce and therefore a respect for the produce of others…. Thus this radical vision understands that a dismantling of the military machine carries with it a break with consumeristic values.”
(Micah, Bruce Waltke; Eerdman’s, 2007; p. 212)
If we are dominated by “swollen appetites”, moved by fashion and entertainment, delighting in violence and war, or gripped with fear of danger or poverty, we can be sure that we are neglecting the high calling of the saints; namely, to “taste of the powers of the age to come,” and to drink deeply of the knowledge of God in the place of prayer.
If our hearts have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are abiding in Him and giving Him pre-eminence in all things, the evidence of that reality will be a grace-charged discipline in areas of appetite, a transcendent rest and peace, and a grace to love and forgive all men, even our enemies.
There is a remarkable kind of Kingdom modesty that we are lacking in this sensational age; a modesty in speech, attitude, appetite, and philosophy, and a bumptious, consumeristic value system has even been the basis for many of our church and ministry methodologies and paradigms. “Brethren, this ought not to be…”
The reason the prophets can describe this most beautiful version of the earth is that their visions are yet future. They predict a time when the earth, the remnant of Israel, and the nations have been purged with the fires of judgment, and after the smoke of that time has cleared, all that remains is a wonderfully God-centric existence.
Yet even now, if we have been touched by the “power” of that future age through the Gospel, and we are in fact abiding in a God-centric manner, our lives will exhibit the same qualitative majesty. Weak clay vessels that we are, a heavenly wisdom, character, and power will be demonstrated through us that will put the Kingdom of our God on display in the present age. We will go from living as consumers, and being puppets in the hands of a self-obsessed society, to “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” who “desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11)
“…. and you shall be witnesses to Mein Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8b)
It behooves us then to abide in Him, not merely to toss around theories about what the faith is, and what the future age will entail. “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” have been brought nigh to us by the Blood of the Lamb.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. -Jn. 15.5
“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)
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
“They loved not their lives unto death…”(Revelation 12.11)
What is it about that rare kind of Christian, who in the core of his being burns with the desire to impact his generation with the power of the Holy Spirit and leave a legacy that will haunt the complacent till they breathe their last? As if he has genuinely been issued a divine call, he chooses to live it, breathe it and empty every ounce of his life upon that which he has directed his heart toward.
What happened to him to cause him to exchange his natural desires of governing his own path, creating his own reputation and living in the common self-preservation current of life, for a courageous, relentless zeal that drives him to seek God with all his heart and pour his life out for the gospel? He lives to maintain a steady, uncompromising stance and continual pursuit of God and souls.
Why is it that this is so attractive, so inspiring and challenging? Is it not because all of us Christians have tucked away inside of ourselves such an abandonment no matter how hidden, yet no less real?
Is it not that you desire to live wholeheartedly set on such a fixed end, so that in your last moments having apprehended it or facing death for it, you know deep inside you have invested sincerely, truthfully and completely in the only thing worthy to live and die for?
The most dangerous men are those whose lives are lost in the abyss of absolute surrender!
Is this not the mentality of the martyr, looked on at the time of his death as a fool, but honored in the future as a man who has chosen not to hide that abandonment that every Christian has inside?
Here I am, you as well, with the opportunity before us to choose to continue to be haunted by the lives of those who gave themselves for their cause, or to choose as they have, to give our lives to the only thing worth the liquid soul in our veins. Every man will one day have his final thoughts; he will turn around on life’s path and see where his blood has been spent. There, in that moment will undoubtedly be the true test of a man’s soul.
We all only have one life.
One life made up of time, consisting of moments, and even as you read this now, your life heads toward its end.
So, as the martyr smiles at the axe, for in its shine he sees his legacy, the coward weeps at his past, for in his tears he sees his lethargy, complacency and decadence. He sees a weak, lost life, blown away in the wind and eternally worthless.
Why write such thoughts? To what end or conclusion do such sobering thoughts bring us to?
Well read them well and let them resound with an ever-lasting echo which walks by your side down a crowded road or haunts you in the silence of solitude.
Who are you, dear reader, today?
Will you stay that way?
Think on this.
2 Corinthians 5:9-11 Therefore also we have as our ambition…to be pleasing to Him. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad. Therefore knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade men.
1 Peter 1:17 And if you address as Father the One who impartially judges according to each man’s work, conduct yourselves in fear during the time of your stay upon earth;
Romans 14:12 So then each one of us shall give account of himself to God.
Matthew 16:24-27 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it. “For what will a man be profited, if he gains the whole world, and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? “For the Son of Man is going to come in the glory of His Father with His angels; and will then recompense every man according to his deeds.
I issue a challenge to you, in light of such a coming day, fearfully conduct yourselves as Christians heading toward an impartial day of judgment. It will not be a day to take a written examination to test your knowledge nor a day to look over your resume’ of service, but a day in which God will contrast your image with the image of His Son.
Take a serious look at your… Mind (thought life) Motives (the why behind your actions) Mouth (the idle words/preaching) Money (stewardship of substance) Ministry (what is God doing through you?) Message (what you are teaching) Marriage (what your spouse has to say about you) Minutes (how you spend your time?)
Seriously ask yourself if they are worthy of the call (1 Thess. 2.12).
Now is not the time to sit back and coast, now is the time to press in!
“Now is the time where we either seize the moment, or look back with everlasting shame that we missed it.”
~Dr. Michael L. Brown
Surrender everything! Go After Him!
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” -Gal. 2.20
The real fruit of the Gospel in a man’s life has nothing to do with what title he bears religiously, what reputation he has maintained among colleagues, or how successful he has been ministerially speaking. A man may receive accolades from saint and sinner, he may have a great following, and he may be recognized as a great spiritual leader, but this is not the sure evidence of grace on his life.
The only proof of the validity of a man’s faith is that great foundational declaration of Paul:
“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me….”
Have I really been crucified with Christ? Can I say with Paul that I no longer live? Can I walk through the slopes and valleys and storms of this life with a burning consciousness that Christ lives in me?
There is an awful lot of boasting in the Church, but it is all too rare for us to find fellowship with those who “no longer live,” and in whom the Life of Christ Himself is being demonstrated. There is too much preaching that is devoid of the resonance of Christ’s life, too much ministry being carried out with mere machinery and sweat, too much religious performance by saints who know how to smile in a meeting, but who lack the kindness and purity and humility of God in the realm of day-to-day life.
Could it be that we are seeing the ill-formed fruit of too many years of un-apostolic preaching? Philip the evangelist preached Christ Himself. Paul preached Christ, and him crucified. There is no higher form of preaching than preaching Jesus Himself. True preaching calls us to lay down our own lives, and to receive the Life of the Lamb Who was slain. If we are not hearing of the glory of this Man from our preachers, our foundations are themselves faulty and dubious. Years ago, in a letter to a friend, Leonard Ravenhill wrote:
I find many evangelists are getting concerned about the lack of permanence in the so-called conversions of people they minister to in their meetings. The fact is that most preachers preach only a half gospel. All they preach is forgiveness, but a man needs more than forgiveness. He needs regeneration and his conscience purged by the blood of Christ from dead works to serve the living God. A man is not a Christian until God takes up residence in him.
A miracle must take place. We should quit asking people if they are saved. Everyone thinks somehow they are saved. Why not look them in the eye and say, “Does Christ live in you?” If Christ is not in a person, they are not born again.
(In Light of Eternity: The Life of Leonard Ravenhill, Free Grace Press; 2010, p. 356)
May the Lord raise up a host of men with the fire of God in their souls, and a revelation of Christ in their hearts, to set forth the glory of Jesus Christ, to call men back to the cross, and to preach again the everlasting Gospel as a piercing Light in the darkest places. That the Lamb Who was slain would receive the reward of His suffering ….
You know one thing about a man carrying a cross outside the city…. He’s not coming back. -A.W. Tozer
Bryan Purtle is an author that carries a jealousy for historical revival, the salvation of Israel, and the recovery of apostolic proclamation and living through the revelation of Jesus Christ. Visit his website at thoughtsuponrising.com.
“…. thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and manifests through us the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.” -2 Cor. 3.14
The greatest triumph is not in the establishment of an impressive organization, the saving of my reputation, or the performance of some great spiritual feat before men. The greatest triumph is led by God Himself, and it has to do with wringing out my personality and aura until I am a broken vessel through whom He shows forth “the sweet aroma of the knowledge of Him in every place.”
Though I have adapted to the niceties and expected behaviors of Christian culture, though I know how to act around the right people, though I have “stopped doing what I used to do, because now I’m a Christian,” I may yet be bound by self-conscious spirituality. The life of faith does not have to do with conforming to external expectations in relation to the Christian subculture that I’ve been inducted into. It has to do with an ultimate inward surrender to the Lord of history, “who always leads us in triumph in Christ,” over every earthly influence and power. When we are so conscious of the Lord that we are able to love our enemies, resist the lusts of the flesh, and we are no longer moved inwardly to seek glory from men, only then is it evident that we are following the Lamb of God in His holy triumph.
If I am not emanating the fragrance of Jesus Christ, I must still be bound by self-consciousness in some way or another. When the light of heaven shines upon me, it may yet be seen that I am still concerned for my own glorification. The evidence of this is that I am not yet “broken bread and poured out wine”; I am failing to emit the “sweet aroma” of Jesus Christ. When “the least of these” come into contact with me, are they coming into contact with the vitality of the Son of God, or something that smells too much like the work of man?
When we have soulish ties to men, to this earth, or to our own religious ideals and presumptions, rather than a total jealousy for God’s glory, it becomes impossible for us to “triumph in Christ,” and we are incapable of manifesting His “sweet aroma,” which is His very character and nature. His fragrance is always antithetical to our self-conscious attempts at spirituality. I may need to ask myself some questions along these lines.
When challenging or rebuking another saint, am I abiding in the kindness of Jesus Christ? Would the Lamb of God deal as abrasively as I have when addressing that child or that struggling brother? When complimenting or encouraging someone, am I using flattery to gain some end myself, or am I actually expressing His own encouragement? When correcting some faulty doctrine in another brother, am I exhibiting my own knowledge and correctness, or am I speaking out of a true jealousy for the glory of God and the good of that soul?
I may claim to be radical for the Lord, carrying the cross and going against the tide of this age, but am I emitting the very fragrance of Jesus Christ in the process? If I am not, it may well be that the “tide of this age” is still sweeping me away, except that I am blanketed in Christian phraseologies and ideas. The only solution to self-conscious spirituality is God-conscious living, and Jesus has rent the veil that we might abide with Him in that holy place. From there we triumph in Christ, and manifest the sweet aroma of the knowledge of God “in every place.”
You are not required to pass through a religious maze to “manifest” the fragrance of the Lord. There is no puzzle involved, no trick up His sleeve, no riddle to unpack. To experience the depths of Christ, you need only to go down into death, taking up your cross and following the Lamb wheresoever He goes. He will inevitably lead you on paths that will wring out your personality and press His glorious image into your person. You will still be unique as an individual, but you will exhibit the wisdom and power of the age to come, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
We do not triumph in Christ by boasting in a meeting, seeking favor from men, or finding our way onto some platform of religious fame. We triumph in Christ when the power of self is broken from our lives, and the very fragrance of Jesus flows from our being. When He leads us in triumph, we will bring to bear the knowledge of God Himself upon a world that is perishing for want of that great Light.
“…. let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak….” -Jacob 1.19
“…. Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God….” -1 Pet. 4.11a
We are far too verbose of a people, and this is one of the characteristic signs that we have not been living as priests in the household of God. When we are quick to speak and always wanting to be heard by men there is little or no room for hearing the voice of God, and this affects the manner in which we hear men as well. Hearing is a great pastoral quality, but in our blabbing generation where everyone feels entitled to opinions and sees it as their self-serving right to make themselves known, we are suffering from a real famine of true hearing.
Hear Watchman Nee:
No worker of the Lord can do a good job if he can only speak to others but cannot listen to them. A worker is of little use to God if he can only speak to others, if he can only blast incessantly at others like a firecracker. No worker of the Lord can be an incessant talker. If he can only speak to others, but cannot listen to them and realize their problems through conversation, his usefulness is very limited.
….. This is a serious problem among many people; they simply cannot listen to others. They cannot discern what others have kept within themselves because they are too insensitive. It is impossible to expect such ones to “give…. food at the proper time” (Matt. 24.45).
…. If we cannot understand the audible words from men, how can we understand the words that God speaks to us in our spirit?
(Watchman Nee, The Character of the Lord’s Worker; Living Stream Ministry, pp. 2-5)
It is unfortunately the case that many saints simply talk too much. We need to remove our souls from the busy and boisterous tenor of this age, and to crucify our thoughts and our tongues. We need to clear the way for the voice of the Lord, that we might stand as priests in His house, sounding forth notes that ascend as worship unto Him, and witness unto men. Our innermost parts need to be stilled and our excessive speech truncated, that we might hear His voice, and thus rightly listen to those who are so in need of true bread from heaven.
We cannot speak from heaven unless we have circumcised our hearts and learned to listen to the Lord, and if we are hyper and opinionated rather than speaking with the life and authority of God, it has everything to do with the fact that we have yet to come into a life of authentic surrender and circumspection before Him. This soul sickness will inevitably manifest itself through an inability to listen to others, for if we cannot honor and hear those whom we can see, how can we live as priests before the invisible God?
The measure of holy power in our speaking is intricately linked to the quality of our hearing.
Our opinions may be correct, but they cannot produce life in men. For that holy dynamic to take place, we have got to be priests before God, standing single-eyed in the holy place, with hearts unmoved by the winds of this age. We have got to see Him high and lifted up, recognizing the uncleanness of our own lips- even our correct religious jargon- that He might purge our hearts, tame our tongues, and make us into servants who are fit to preach and bear witness to the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
Editor’s Note: Originally published on TownHall.com prior to the November election, used with permission. Frank Turek is a speaker and author, and a leading Christian apologist. Learn more at his website www.CrossExamined.org.
The United States Congress was in a rare joint session. All 435 representatives and 100 senators were in attendance, and the C-SPAN-TV cameras were rolling. The members were gathered together to hear a speech by a descendant of George Washington. But what they thought would be a polite speech of patriotic historical reflections quickly turned into a televised tongue-lashing. With a wagging finger and stern looks, Washington’s seventh-generation grandson declared,
Woe to you, egotistical hypocrites! You are full of greed and self-indulgence. Everything you do is done for appearances: You make pompous speeches and grandstand before these TV cameras. You demand the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats wherever you go. You love to be greeted in your districts and have everyone call you “Senator” or “Congressman.” On the outside you appear to people as righteous, but on the inside you are full of hypocrisy and wickedness! You say you want to clean up Washington, but as soon as you get here you become twice as much a son of hell as the one you replaced!
Woe to you, makers of the law, you hypocrites! You do not practice what you preach. You put heavy burdens on the citizens, but then opt out of your own laws!
Woe to you, federal fools! You take an oath to support and defend the Constitution, but then you nullify the Constitution by confirming judges who make up their own laws.
Woe to you, blind hypocrites! You say that if you had lived in the days of the Founding Fathers, you never would have taken part with them in slavery. You say you never would have agreed that slaves were the property of their masters but would have insisted that they were human beings with unalienable rights. But you testify against yourselves because today you say that unborn children are the property of their mothers and have no rights at all! Upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed in this country. You snakes! You brood of vipers! You have left this great chamber desolate! How will you escape being condemned to hell!
Of course such an address never really took place. Who would be so blunt and rude to address the nation’s leaders that way? Certainly no one claiming to be a Christian. Are you sure?
Jesus said something very similar. What? Sweet and gentle Jesus? Absolutely. If you read the twenty-third chapter of Matthew you’ll see that much of my fictitious speech is adapted from the real speech Jesus made to the Pharisees. Contrary to the spineless Jesus invented today by those who want an excuse to be spineless themselves, the real Jesus taught with authority and did not tolerate error. When people were wrong, Jesus corrected them and sometimes he got in their faces to do so.
While Jesus was often more diplomatic, he knew that sometimes you need to be blunt with people. Sometimes you need to be direct instead of dancing around the issues. In fact, if you fail to be direct, you risk enabling people, allowing them to continue on their merry way, destroying themselves and the nation.
“Oh, but Jesus wouldn’t say that kind of thing to politicians,” you say. “He wouldn’t get involved in politics.”
Who were the Pharisees? They were not just the religious leaders but also the political leaders of Israel! You mean Jesus was involved in politics? Yes! Paul was too. He addressed the political leaders of his day and even used the privileges of his Roman citizenship to protect himself and advance the Gospel.
But didn’t Jesus say, “Give unto Caesar.” Yes. So what? We all ought to pay taxes. But that doesn’t mean we ought not get involved in politics. In our country, you can not only elect “Caesar,” you can be “Caesar!”
Jesus told us to be “salt” and “light,” and he didn’t say be salt and light in everything but politics. Christians are to be salt and light in everything they do, be it in their church, in their business, in their school, or in their government.
That doesn’t mean establishing a “Theocracy.” Christians should be great protectors of liberty, including freedom of (not from) religion. In fact, having Christians involved in government happens to be advantageous for even non-Christians. How so?
It is only the Christian worldview that secures the unalienable rights of the individual in God— rights that include the right to life, liberty, equal treatment, and religious freedom. Islam won’t do it. Islam means submission to Allah and Sharia law. It doesn’t protect individual rights. Neither will Hinduism (the Caste system) or outright secularism, which offers no means to ground rights in anything other than the whims of a dictator. Only Christianity grounds the rights of the individual in God, and also realizes that since God doesn’t force anyone to adhere to one set of religious beliefs, neither should the government.
I often hear Christians claiming that we ought to just “preach the Gospel” and not get involved in politics. This is not only a false dilemma; it’s stupid (how’s that for direct?). If you think “preaching the Gospel” is important like I do, then you ought to think that politics is important too. Why? Because politics and law affects your ability to preach the Gospel! If you don’t think so, go to some of the countries I’ve visited—Iran, Saudi Arabia, China. You can’t legally “preach the Gospel” in those countries—or practice other aspects of your religion freely—because politically they’ve ruled it out.
It’s already happening here. There are several examples where religious freedoms were usurped by homosexual orthodoxy. This summer a Christian student was removed from Eastern Michigan University’s (a public school) counseling program because, due to her religious convictions, she would not affirm homosexuality to potential clients. A Judge agreed (a similar case is pending in Georgia). In Massachusetts, Catholic charities closed their adoption agency rather than give children to homosexual couples as the state mandated. In Ohio, University of Toledo HR Director Crystal Dixon was fired for writing a letter to the editor in her local newspaper that disagreed with homosexual practice.
More violations of religious liberty are on the way from the people currently in charge. Lesbian activist Chai Feldbaum, who is a recess appointment by President Obama to the EEOC, recently said regarding the inevitable conflict between homosexuality and religious liberty, “I’m having a hard time coming up with any case in which religious liberty should win.” So much for tolerance. The people who say they’re fighting for tolerance are the most intolerant, totalitarian people in politics.
Getting involved in politics is necessary if for no other reason to protect your religious liberty, and the liberties of us all. So if you’re a Christian, follow the example of Christ—call out hypocrites and fools, and vote them out on Tuesday!
Oh, I almost forgot. If you’re a pastor and you’re worried about your tax-exempt status, please remember two things: 1) you have more freedom than you think to speak on political and moral issues from the pulpit, and 2) more importantly, you’re called to be salt and light, not tax-exempt.