“…. you are still fleshly. For since there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not fleshly, and are you not walking like mere men?” -1 Cor. 3.3
Paul received word from a messenger that there were all kinds of divisions and unhealthy comparisons seething in the church at Corinth. The schisms were rampant, and men were identifying with different apostles as their source, thinking themselves more spiritual because of that supposed identification. Some were even naive enough to make themselves superior to all the others because they were “of Jesus” Himself, hoping perhaps that this would put them in a more spiritual category than all!
All of this jealousy and comparison stems from an inadequate revelation of the supremacy of Christ, and the fact that in Him we have all been justified and “accepted in the Beloved.” We need oft to be reminded that His kingdom is not of this world. Paul went on to address this foolishness by declaring:
“So then let no one boast in men. For all things belong to you, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you, and you belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” (vv. 21-23)
The jealousy and strife that most believers deal with is not the overt kind we see in the Corinthian church, though even that is all too common today. The jealousy most saints are gripped and paralyzed by is more subtle and inward. We see someone in a more esteemed position than ourselves and we are gripped with a sense of inferiority. We hear of men who do great exploits, exploits of the kind that we’ve never come close to experiencing, and immediately we are seized with insecurity and depressions.
This is a pitiful state to live in, yet because of it’s subtlety most believers are fixed in a place where the inner-man is walled in on every side, kept from the experience of the love of God, and set into a mode of dullness. Insecurity and the sense of inferiority give way to poisonous lies, and before we know it, we are harboring secret bitternesses toward others, though they have done nothing to offend or injure us. The only cure for self-consciousness, the sense of inferiority, and the subtle jealousies that bind is a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ, who is the Head of the Church, which is His Body.
When at once we realize that “all things” and all believers belong to us, that they are gifts to us, our eyes are removed from our own plight and brought into an awareness of the marvelous generosity of God. When we realize that He is coming with recompense and reward, and that His glory and light will permeate the entire cosmos, what is a little petty comparison? When we see His glory and majesty, these jealousies are exposed as demonic and anti-christ. When we are washed thoroughly in mind and heart by the revelation of Christ, all things are made new. We have liberty to bless all men, even if we differ with them, and to have an authentic desire for their spirits to prosper. After all, we “belong to Christ; and Christ belongs to God.” Is there any greater identification than that?
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostles, corinthian church, foolishness, jealousy, Jesus, Jesus Christ, love, love of God, Paul, Revelation, the church, visions
“For we know in part and we prophesy in part.” -1 Cor. 13.9
It was Smith Wigglesworth who stated:
Most people seem to have discernment, or think they have, and if they would turn it on themselves for twelve months they would never want to discern again. The gift of discernment is not criticism. I am satisfied that our paramount need is more perfect love.
One thing that still seems prevalent in the Church today is an “either it’s God or it’s not” mentality. Truth is, all of us see in part, and every movement, ministry, and individual believer is in the process of growth in the knowledge of God. The easiest thing to do in this process is to recognize the gaps and inconsistencies in other saints, and to write them off on account of those gaps.
This is terribly antithetical to the Pauline view of the Church. Do we know of anyone besides Jesus Himself who was more jealous than Paul for the salvation of Israel, the maturation of the Church, and the glorification of God in the earth? Paul is, aside from Christ, the great NT prototype for foundational leadership, and his disposition toward the churches (even the most immature communities) was quite the opposite as that of the critical soul who sees himself as superior those who are in need of doctrinal or ethical correction.
The situation at Corinth was the clearest example of this. Paul was dealing with a community of believers who had immorality in their midst, who were fraught with jealousies, divisions and schisms, who had very disorderly gatherings, whose meetings were doing “more harm than good,” who were questioning his own apostleship, and who were spreading confusion and doubts regarding the reality of the resurrection. Have you ever run into a community of believers in that rough of a condition?
In Chapter 11 of 1 Cor. Paul even states that sickness and premature death have broken out in their midst as a judgment from the Father for their lack of value for the Body in the context of the meal of the Lord. Divine chastisement is breaking out in their midst, and yet, Paul has the audacity (or should it be called an apostolic faith and sight?) to address them as “saints” and “holy ones” in the opening of the epistle.
I often hear comments along these lines with regard to certain movements within the Church:
“I have not taken the time to listen or read any of the teachings for myself, but I’ve heard all about them, so I just categorize them with the other counterfeits and all the hype that is out there.”
Often the sharpest criticisms come from those who have taken little time to hear from those they are criticizing. Yet it doesn’t matter how much certain expressions of Christendom “get under our skin”, even those that bear true issues of concern. If we cannot go to the cross in intercession, even on behalf of those who are “deceivers” and “white-washed tombs”, we are not expressing the wisdom of Christ. We are called to express the same reality in the present that Jesus revealed at the cross.
Indeed, there are radical mixtures out there, and those mixtures need to be addressed with the clear word of the Lord. Still, it must be asked of the critical soul, “Is your life not a mixture? Is there nothing to be addressed in your own life? If your secret life was to be examined as you are examining others, what would be revealed in that examination?”
Along those lines, is there any denominational, missionary, revival, or seminary history that can be recounted without a mixture? The fellowship that you are a part of, is it pristine and clear in every way? Is there any church or work that is expressing the fullness of Jesus Christ?
“Aren’t these movements polluted wells, though?” you ask.
Indeed, there are issues that could greatly harm the believer’s heart within certain movements. In the right spirit and context they need to be addressed. But the question must still be asked, ‘Was Corinth a polluted well?’ It was full of error and even sin, yet Paul never doubted the validity of their spiritual gifts, did he? He never questioned their salvation either. Instead, he challenged them to get things in order before the Lord, and I believe they were missing the mark in a lot more ways than many of the movements that are often criticized.
I want to look at all of the saints through the lens of Paul in the context of Corinth. Did he address issues that needed challenging? Yes, as one sent to them, he did. He addressed those with whom he had immediate responsibility and relationship as an apostle, and aside from that he was occupied with seeing the Gospel revealed to hearts who were bound in darkness.
Does this mean we have to be an apostle to raise concerns? Certainly not. But to categorize other believers (no matter how immature, or incomplete in doctrine or practice) as mere counterfeits is simply the opposite of what the apostle demonstrated.
The Body of Jesus is mangled at present, and there is not much in that Body that we may look upon with a sense of completion. We need the sight of Joseph of Arimathea, a man of “high-position” who was able to go against the tide of bitterness, self-righteousness, and unbelief which flowed so powerfully through his religious colleagues. He was able to look upon the Body of Jesus, mangled though it was, and to value it, though it had not yet appeared in resurrection glory, and despite the fact that the masses had no anticipation of that resurrection.
“It takes half a man to criticize,” said Sankey, who was Moody’s worship leader. It takes the resurrection life within to look upon the Body of Christ with merciful identification, as Jesus presently is from the right hand of the Father.
Shall we be jealous for the fullness of God in the Church? For a purging of bad teachings and doctrines? For a maturity to come to the Church again? Most assuredly. We must. But the only way for that maturity and depth to be restored in the last analysis is for us to go to the cross ourselves. To walk out the reality of the Gospel is the chief thing. To give ourselves to intercession on behalf of the Church is the central calling with regard to moving toward the corporate reality He is jealous for.
The mystery of Israel is the revelation that God is a God of mercy, and that His people are simply those who have received the grace to come under the rod of His Fatherhood and governance. When we think we’ve earned anything, we’ve removed ourselves from the grounds of the Gospel. If I realize that I haven’t earned anything (including insight into Scriptures or maturity of vision), I have the grace to look at the Church- in all of its various deficiencies- and to thank God for it, while crying out for mercy on Her behalf.
“Then how shall I know when these heresies need to be addressed? Didn’t Paul call out heretics and correct false doctrines?!”
You will know in the same way that Jesus did: When you are willing to go to the cross on their behalf. You will know in the same way that Paul did: When you have given yourself in prayer and intercession for their souls, and any correction you deliver will flow mercifully and boldly out of that place, when you have dwelt in the counsel of the Lord. It will not come in a reactionary manner, or as a result of fellowshipping with vulturous, gossiping men. We need to abide in the most holy place, to be jealous chiefly for His glory, and to come into His own truth and love for men.
I want to be found in the counsel of the Lord, friends. He’s more jealous for the fullness of Christ than any of us. He’s wanting to raise up foundational servants, who will proclaim His heart to Israel and the nations. The Church does need to be called to repentance. The Church does need a higher vision of the standards of God. Ultimately, we need “the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of God” Himself. That Word will only come from broken-hearted vessels who have been united with Him in the Holy Place.
Jesus Himself is the ultimate revelation of this. There is no one more jealous for truth, purity, reality, and fullness than Him. And the way He set out to establish that was by laying His own life down for the very ones who were crucifying Him. He continues to demonstrate that today, interceding from the right hand of Majesty. Shall we follow Him, or shall we strut around with a presumptuous and embittered collection of opinions and ideals?
When I stand before the judgment seat of Christ, what will be His assessment of the thoughts I have carried and the words I have spoken about others? Will they be seen as pure, true, and merciful as He Himself is, or will they be revealed as arrogant, spiteful, and serving my own exaltation? “Every idle word” shall be examined in that great day.
Oh, for the Spirit and nature of Christ Himself to permeate our lives today.
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: discernment, doctrine, Joseph of Arimathea, judgment, Paul, Pauline, prophecy, smith wigglesworth
“For while I was with you I resolved to know nothing except Jesus the Messiah, and Him crucified.” -1 Cor. 2.2
“Then Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them.” -Acts 8.5
Every true preaching will lead its hearers to a higher vision of Jesus Christ, and the centrality and supremacy of His cross. When we set up camp around superfluities or even biblical doctrines, however crucial they may be, yet fail to proclaim them in a manner that points the hearer Christ-ward, we fail in the high calling of true proclamation.
Nearly every religion on the earth has some measure of light and truth; some paradigm or thought that could be beneficial for living. But they all fall short of the glory of God, they do not impart life, and not one of them can deliver a salvational reality. Only the proclamation of “Christ, and Him crucified” brings to bear the truth of God, for “there is no other name given under heaven by which men can be saved.”
No other supposed faith can hold a candle to the glory of the Man, Christ Jesus, and none of them can answer the ancient problem of mankind; namely, the universal dilemma of depravity and sin. To preach Jesus in the apostolic sense is not merely to give a “Roman’s Road to Salvation” presentation. It is to declare things which “angels long to look into,” the mystery of God as the merciful Judge, and the remarkable desire of Jesus Christ to be reconciled and related to those who believe. Only the Gospel reveals the eternal God as He is, and only the Gospel deals with the issue of sin.
The missionary message is the limitless significance of Jesus Christ as the propitiation for our sins, and a missionary is one who is soaked in that revelation.
The key to the missionary message is the remissionary aspect of Christ’s life, not His kindness and His goodness, and His revealing of the Fatherhood of God; the great limitless significance is that He is the propitiation for our sins.
A missionary is one who is wedded to the charter of His Lord and Master, he has not to proclaim his own point of view, but to proclaim the Lamb of God.
(Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest, October 15th selection)
Missionary work, ministries, movements, or “revivals” that stray from the proclamation of “Christ, and Him crucified” will ultimately fade into nullity. Even if they flourish numerically, they will fade in the age to come. “That which is born of flesh is flesh,” and only the foundation of Jesus Himself will endure to the glory of God. He must be the center, the nexus, the capstone of our proclamation and vision. Even other necessary biblical views will fade into nothingness unless they are postured in such a way as to lead us to “Christ, and Him crucified.” We need not to set forth our “own view, but to proclaim the Lamb of God.”
We are struggling back to God, and that is the peculiar thing that characterizes our own ministry. Instead of being occupied with the formalisms and superfluities, our endeavor is to come back under the light of the Spirit of God, to the real truths of God; to have them settled down in our hearts, branded upon our souls, and stamped upon our conscience, that we may walk in truth and power and strength as servants of God.
-John G. Lake
A man may preach about eschatology, the issue of Israel, divine healing, or even the cross itself, without preaching Jesus Christ. If it is only categorical and canned as a message, he may even expound on 1 Corinthians 2.2 without actually preaching “Christ, and Him crucified.”
In turn, a man sent by the Lord will expound on the same subjects in such a way that it leads to the centrality and glorification of Jesus Christ in the heart of the Church. Everything depends on whether or not the proclaimer is ascribing the glory to God in his own soul. If we are puffed up about knowledge, wanting to be clever, hoping to receive a certain calculated response from our hearers, we are disqualified from preaching Jesus Christ. Our own souls must be ever and always ascribing glory to the Lamb of God, or all our speech becomes suspect and dubious.
Thus, a radical and total jealousy for Christ Himself to be glorified is at the heart of true proclamation. Philip preached Jesus; which is to say, he didn’t only speak of Him, but his proclamation was an actual conveyance of the Person and work of Christ Himself. Something of the substance of the Lord was transmitted to the hearers, and salvation ensued immediately. For Paul it was the same reality, and even the prophets of old preached Christ in this manner, though their subject matter was not as descriptive.
We need to see to the restoration of preaching Christ Himself, and not merely speaking of Him in a superficial or skin-deep manner. Down to the “marrow” of the soul, we must be infused with an active jealousy for the glory of Jesus Christ. Preaching and living from that place is preaching Christ indeed.
Have I “resolved to know nothing except Jesus the Messiah, and Him crucified,” or am I frolicking on the periphery of Christian theology and thought? He must be the center, dear saints. The world shall be in want of a true proclamation of the Gospel unless we give Him the preeminent place.
The more the Church holds to its central message- Jesus Christ Himself- the more effective it is.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Acts, Jesus, John G. Lake, Oswald Chambers, Paul, proclamation, prophets, restoration
“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near.” -Phil. 4.5
This is a unique verse, and it opens up a panoramic view of the apostolic heart of Paul. What is this “gentle spirit” that he is encouraging, and why does he tell us that the Lord is near in this context?
Philippians is Paul’s great call to a life of rejoicing in the midst of trial, and he was writing to a church that was facing great opposition from persecutors. He repeatedly exhorts the saints to rejoice in the midst of the suffering, and this verse provides for us a concentrated stream of thought from the apostle along these lines.
What is a “gentle spirit” then? To be sure, it is not cowardice, shyness, or any attempt at looking humble or sounding modest. A “gentle spirit” is not something that can be conjured by a self-conscious attempt at meekness. This “gentle spirit” imperative, following Paul’s exhortation to “rejoice in the Lord always,” must be the God-breathed result of delighting in Him in the midst of great pressure and trial.
Anyone can look gentle and meek in a contrived way when men are watching and some religious reward is at stake. But when the rubber hits the road, when the turbulence of life picks up, when the ground begins to shake beneath our feet, the depth of our foundations in God is revealed for what it actually is. It takes a certain kind of soul to demonstrate the gentleness and kindness of God Himself in an atmosphere that is inhospitable and difficult, but this is the privilege and calling of every saint. This “gentle spirit” is not something calculated and performed, but rather received and demonstrated, through the very life of Jesus Himself.
The “gentle spirit” Paul speaks of denotes a disposition that can hardly be rendered in translation by a single word. It is your quite specifically grounded benevolence, gentleness, considerateness, openness, vitality, and at the same time moderation that must be manifest to all men. Luther’s “lenity” well expresses the source of this disposition: Christians are men who have been made lenis, lenient, mellow, “beaten to pulp,” as opposed to the nonrecipients of grace, who can still be stiff and bristly.
(Epistle to the Philippians, Karl Barth; WJK Publications, 2002; p. 121)
It is not in the flighty and jolly moments of positive religious experience that this is proven out, but rather in the hum-drum, grinding, pressing moments of day-to-day life. Our “gentle spirit” is not mainly displayed from a pulpit, at a conference, or at some overt spiritual function. It is in the way we approach others from our innermost being. Have we a tinge of self-righteousness toward them? Have we a hint of superiority toward them? Have we a smidgeon of stiffness or coldness toward them?
What about our spouses or children? Have we a bit of disdain or bitterness toward them? Have we a shade of impatience or anxiety regarding them? Have we any hardness, brashness, or brazenness toward them?
Paul called the church to rejoice in the Lord always, and to allow the gentle and kind Spirit of Jesus Himself to flow through our lives and unto others in an effectual way. It will not happen in some magical and automatic way without our cooperation, for He is looking for co-laborers. We’ve got to allow the Potter to “beat to a pulp” all our anxiety, arrogance, and self-glorification, until we are wrung out souls, ready to be revivified and powered by His own resurrection life. Then shall His own gentleness and kindness flow from us, in the high places and in the low places.
He follows this call with that most striking note, “The Lord is near.”
Paul’s thought is two-fold here:
1. The Lord is near, literally at hand, and as the great coming Judge, He will not be pleased if we have walked in our own stiff-hearted dispositions. He calls us to a higher reality, namely His own gentleness, and if we have treated others unjustly or been hard-hearted toward them, it will not be well for us on the day of His return. “…. to the extent that you did it to one of the least of these…. “
2. Secondly, and most encouraging for the believer, is that the Lord, who is our great help, is not only near in the sense of His soon coming. For the soul that has been redeemed and transformed through the Gospel, He is as near as the inner-man. He is near to us in every plight and every challenge, and He is fervent and eager in His desire to walk us through the tumultuous seasons of life. We do not need to remain in a place of stiffness, arrogance, or brashness towards others. We need only to cry out to Him, and He will break up the hardened ground of our hearts, oil the dry places, and make us tender and loving and gentle towards all men. His own vibrant love and kindness will flow through us like a mighty rushing river.
So turn from your self and unto the Chief Shepherd. He is near to you, dear saint, and His gentle Spirit is ever and always our great good.
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: demons, God, Karl Barth, Paul, Philippians, Reality, righteousness, suffering, the Gospel
Blameless On That Day
Holiness and Love
Justified believers are urged to pursue holiness. We are promised that the pure in heart shall see God. (Matthew 5:8) We are warned that without holiness no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14) In the hope of seeing Him as He is we are exhorted to purify ourselves as He is pure. (1 John 3:3) Our hearts’ holiness is analogous to God’s heart: we are commanded to be holy as He is holy. (1 Peter 1:16) This pursuit of holiness is really a response to the wooing of God. He is seriously courting us and looking for our commensurate, loving, consecrated commitment. (James 4:5)
Remember, our holiness doesn’t save; the blood of the incarnate Holy One saves. (Romans 5:9) Our consecration is a result of His atoning blood purifying us so we may, with open hearts, encounter God as He is. (Hebrews 1:3, 9:14) The Bible relates many instances of people who came face to Face with true holiness. Practically every occurrence of this happened to someone who was already in a relationship with God. For example, Isaiah and John were in covenant and communion with their creator before they heard heaven’s courts cry out, “Holy! Holy! Holy!” (Isaiah 6:3; Revelation 4:8)
I believe there will always be increasing revelatory light which exposes the motives and works of every growing believer. Yet, for us this light has a red tinge. It is “light through the blood.” It is life giving light. (John 1:4) God desires to give a deep rooted security which absolutely rests upon the work of Calvary. (Ephesians 3:17) As this happens, He brings us into increasingly frequent, deeper, lasting encounters with His purity. Lest we shrink back, to avoid feeling “undone” and falling at His feet like a dead man (Isaiah 6:5, Revelation 1:17), we must consider that we are not saved through our response. We are saved through Calvary. (John 3:16) It is in the light of Calvary that we must bring to mind that the Messiah is going to judge every soul who ever lived.
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: (2 Timothy 4:1)
Here are two pictures of this awesome Day:
A stream of fire issued and came out from before him; a thousand thousands served him, and ten thousand times ten thousand stood before him; the court sat in judgment, and the books were opened. (Daniel 7:10)
And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. (Revelation 20:12)
One day every justified believer “will give an account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:12b) This does not have to be a threat. In 1 Corinthians Paul writes a lot about the Lord’s return and coming judgment. (3:11-15; 4:1-5; 5:5; 6:2,3; 11:26-32; 13:10; 15:24-28) Please read the following verse and find a surprising promise:
… the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive his commendation from God. (1 Corinthians 4:5b)
Many live with fear of coming condemn-ation. How can we live in a way that we are assured of coming commend-ation? Paul was not insecure about the coming judgment. He looked forward to a “crown.” (2 Timothy 4:8) I believe Paul employed a key which opened a door to anticipatory confidence. This key is not a mystery. Look:
And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ (Philippians 1:9-10)
and may the Lord cause you to increase and abound in love for one another, and for all people, just as we also do for you; so that He may establish your hearts without blame in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His saints. (1 Thessalonians 3:12-13)
In these prayers it is revealed that our love for others is a key to being established, “blameless in holiness.” Holiness looks like the fulfillment of the two great commandments. (Matthew 22:37-40) Lest we forget, Jesus added another:
A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you (John 13:34a)
In the same way we must consistently enter into the experience of God’s love for ourselves, so we should cultivate and consistently express our love for other believers. This love, fulfilling every moral standard, is the heart of holiness. (Romans 13:8-10) We will love because He loved us first.
So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have from him: whoever loves God must also love his brother. (1 John 4:16-21)
Let us set ourselves apart and highly prioritize loving the brethren. (1 Peter 1:22) As we abide in Jesus’ love (John 15:9) we will be transformed by His perspective and love others in a way that glorifies Him in the day of visitation. (1 Peter 2:12) We will be blameless, holy, in the presence of the living God.
Jesus commanded this. Paul prayed for its fulfillment. Let us confidently ask the Lord to perfect this love in our lives.
Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen. (Ephesians 3:20-21)
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: consecration, David Harwood, holiness, Jesus, judgment, Knowledge, Matthew, Paul
“…. he that has seen Me has seen the Father….” -John 14.9
In the October 30th selection of My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers gives us this awesome thought:
Until we know Jesus, God is a mere abstraction, we cannot have faith in Him; but immediately we hear Jesus say- “he that hath seen Me hath seen the Father,” we have something that is real, and faith is boundless. Faith is the whole man rightly related to God by the power of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.
The darkness that marks ‘god-seeking’ cultures is profounder and more tragic than we know. Even in modern evangelicalism, there is enough of a measure of humanistic thought that in most cases believers remain unbroken over the condition of mankind. If one were to survey the nation of India, for instance, and the number of gods or goddesses men pursue there, it would become clear that the whole of the nation is pursuing “God” as a mere abstraction.
Men will spend weeks standing on one leg, days and sometimes months in fasting, whole nights in meditation and reading of ancient texts, or cut and pierce their bodies in numerous ways, just for the positive sense it gives them in knowing that their souls are bent in a spiritual direction. From one village to the next, their deities change name and form, and most of the time there are multiple gods to worship in each household. There is no spiritual stability, no answer to the problem of sin, no consciousness of God’s holiness and love, but instead the bewildering pursuit of the divine in mere abstractions. Paul did not see these kinds of religious pursuits as valid in any way, stating that they were literally worshiping “demons” whether they knew it or not. (1 Cor. 10.20)
We cannot have faith in God until we have seen His Son for who He is, and believed in Him unto salvation. The nations are groping in darkness, incapable of finding anything but false and fading lights, and not until the Church has penetrated their darkness with the light of truth in Christ will they have any hope at all. The darkness is not bound to idolatry in India, but is the plight of mankind in every culture and in every form of life where Christ has not become the center. Across the board men are seeking their gods in abstraction, be they wooden statues or cars, homes and big screen T.V.’s, and only those who have come into communion with the One true God through the Gospel have the unfading hope of true Light. Only we have stability and certitude about eternity, for it has been shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and it is founded upon the revelation that God has given in the Scriptures. Do we dare keep this great light to ourselves?
They must know of His great love. They must know of His power to break the stranglehold of sin and shame. They must know that He has come in the flesh, died, raised, and ascended, and that He’s coming again. They are groping about after “mere abstractions,” when the revelation of God the Father has already been given. They must hear of the Man, Christ Jesus!
How can we live so indifferently, so numbly, so stingily. Have we failed to realize that unless the nations see God through the revelation of the Gospel they will only pursue Him through abstractions, and will fall totally short of the glory of grace altogether? Do we really believe that unless they come into the Gospel they will perish, forever?
We need to be freed from humanistic mixtures and hollow hopes for their progressive improvement, and brought onto the grounds of apostolic certitude. Paul shed blood and tears, took stones in the face and lashes on the back, for the singular purpose of setting forth the Man Christ Jesus to those who were seeking God in mere abstractions. We need the same sight, the same courage, the same burden, the same faith, and the same missionary spirit, or else they perish forever. It’s time to wake up, saints. It’s not a dream. It’s not an option. Woe unto us if we preach not the Gospel.
“If sinners be damned at least let them leap to Hell over our bodies. Let them go with our arms around their knees. Let no one go there unwarned or unprayed for.” -Charles Spurgeon
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Charles Spurgeon, Church, demons, holiness, Holy Spirit, India, Jesus Christ, Oswald Chambers, Paul
“If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.” -1 Cor. 13.1-3
Of all the passages of Scripture that have been heavily quoted and inadequately considered, 1 Corinthians 13 must rank in the top ten. Of all the subjects that have been watered down, cheapened, and reduced to humanistic wisdom, the subject of love must be at the top of the list.
What do we know of the kind of love that Paul was calling the saints to pursue, and to what degree are we actually walking in it?
Some time ago, I read through a short biography on a man named Robert C. Chapman (1803-1902). Charles Spurgeon called him “the saintliest man I ever knew,” and his life had a profound effect on many souls, not the least of which was the great pioneer missionary Hudson Taylor.
Though I have been engaged in various forms of ministry for more than a dozen years, I was “knocked off of my chair” when I saw the measure of holy love and compassion that was expressed through his life. The man was immersed in a purity and devotion that was heavenly, and the love that burned in his spirit was evident to all who came into contact with him.
Early in his life, he announced that the Lord had called him to proclaim the Gospel, and many of his friends said, “Robert will never make a preacher.” In response, he exclaimed, “There are many who preach, but not so many who live Christ. My aim shall be to live Christ.”
Chapman grew into a remarkable demonstration of the nature of God, expressing the most supernatural kind of hospitality and kindness, even to religious antagonists in his own congregation. Though many were gripped with prejudices, foul attitudes, and a lack of respect when he took up the pastorate at Ebenezer Chapel, they would be won over to humility and love by the selfless example set forth in the man, R.C. Chapman.
He would regularly house guests in his home, though he was a lifelong bachelor. Visiting missionaries, new converts, or extremely poor souls, would be graced by his Spirit-empowered hospitality. They testified that his house was simple, without excessive furniture and trinkets, but immaculately clean. He esteemed that which God had given him, and took care of it in honor of the Lord and esteem for his guests. He would rise daily at 4:00 a.m. to engage in prayer, adoration, and Scripture meditation. He would say, “It is one thing to read the Bible, choosing something that suits me, and another thing to search it that I may become acquainted with God in Christ.” The fruit of his life showed that he had become intensely “acquainted with God in Christ.”
In later years he would have breakfast ready for his house guests at 7:00 a.m., following his daily devotional time. The joy that marked his life was contagious, and more than once people testified that after spending only a day with the man, they felt as if they had encountered the Son of God Himself.
What do people encounter in me? What have I really learned of His love? Dear saints, I yearn to come into the same reality that was Chapman’s experience.
Paul said that we may speak skillfully with the tongues of men. We may be supernaturally gifted to speak with the tongues of angels. We may have the gift of prophecy, or know all mysteries and knowledge. We may have enough faith to remove mountains. We may give all of our possessions to the poor. We may even give ourselves to martyrdom for an ethical cause. But according to the apostle, we may have or engage in any of these things and still be totally devoid of the love of God which is in Christ Jesus. This is both astounding and frightening.
I don’t want to be a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal,” friends. I want to commune with the One whose zeal burns like an unquenchable fire. I want to be touched and singed and transformed by the heat of His selfless love.
In Hosea 11.8, the Lord says to Israel, “My heart is turned over within Me, All My compassions are kindled.”
O, that our hearts would be turned over, that our lovelessness would be toppled, our hard-heartedness shattered, and our coldness melted by the compassions of God Himself!
O, to love You as you are, to love righteousness, justice, and compassion, and to love human souls as You do! Give us Your own love, Lord. Catch us up in Your heart, and enable us to be an expression of Your Son in this generation, that our sons and daughters might see your majesty.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Charles Spurgeon, Christ, God, Jesus, love, Paul, purity, Robert C. Chapman, the bible, the Gospel
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
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostle, Apostolic Church, art katz, Jesus, Kingdom, Paul, prophets, the church, the Gospel
In Charles Finney’s account of his baptism into the Holy Spirit, he said, “As I went in and shut the door after me, it seemed as if I met the Lord Jesus Christ face to face. It did not occur to me then, nor did it for some time afterward, that it was wholly a mental state. …He said nothing, but looked at me in such a manner as to break me right down at his feet. …I fell down at his feet and poured out my soul to him. I wept aloud like a child, and made such confessions as I could with my choked utterance. It seemed to me that I bathed his feet with my tears…”
I think that this description is characteristic of a genuine Holy Spirit encounter…our love for and revelation of the Son will grow and blossom. I don’t understand people who have “revivals” and conferences where they are obsessed with the Holy Spirit, but don’t even acknowledge Jesus. They sing songs about glory, power, anointing and never mention the name of Jesus. They talk about angels and miracles, visions, encounters and third Heaven experiences, but never talk about Jesus. How can this be? The Holy Spirit does not come to speak of Himself…He points away from himself to another – Jesus!
John 16:13,14 says, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for HE SHALL NOT SPEAK OF HIMSELF…HE SHALL GLORIFY ME: for he shall receive of mine and shall show it unto you.”
It is impossible to have a genuine encounter with the Holy Spirit and not have an encounter with Jesus. If you ever see this happening be very careful, because while there are many spirits in the world, there is only ONE HOLY SPIRIT!
In Genesis Chapter 24 we read the story of Abraham sending his servant Eliazar to find a wife for His son; Isaac. It is Eliazar who brings Isaac and Rebekah, his bride, together. In this story we see so many types. Abraham is a type of God the Father. Isaac is a type of Jesus. Eliazar is a type of the Holy Spirit, and Rebekah is a type of the Church. There are many spiritual truths that can be drawn out of this story, but there is one that jumped out at me as I just read this verse recently.
Even though Rebekah had never seen Isaac, she seemed to love him greatly. She chose to leave her father, mother and family to be with him. As soon as she saw Isaac, she jumped off her camel and went to meet him. When they met face to face there was an instantaneous bonding between them. There were no dates, no courting, no prenuptial agreements or arrangements…they went straight to the honeymoon.
How is it that Rebekah loved Isaac even though she had never seen him? I think you can blame this on Eliazer. I think that from the moment he met Rebekah, he began to talk about his master and brag about him telling Rebekah how wonderful he was, how handsome, kind and gentle. On the entire camel ride back to the south country, Eliazer told Rebekah stories about Isaac and described him in detail. Rebekah was infatuated with this incredible man and could not wait to meet him face to face.
1Peter. 1:8 says, “and though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory…”
Verse 53 says that Eliazer, “…brought forth jewels of silver, and jewels of gold and raiment and gave them to Rebekah…” These gifts that Eliazer lavished on Rebekah are types of the gifts of the Spirit. They were not Eliazer’s, they were Isaac’s and were a sign of Isaac’s love. Of course they made Rebekah look beautiful as well, but the real purpose was to cause Rebekah to fall more in love with her groom…and it worked! When the Holy Spirit is moving and the Gifts of the Spirit are in operation we can expect to find people falling more in love with Jesus.
But consider this: what if Eliazer had flirted with Rebekah and tried to attract her with is own charm? What if Eliazer had given her his own gifts and told stories about his own life to win her over? What if Rebekah had become infatuated with and fallen in love with Eliazer instead of Isaac? He would have been a wicked, unfaithful and seductive servant.
Paul warns us that in the last days there will also be “seducing spirits” in operation. A seducing spirit is one that would seek to divert attention from Jesus and unto itself. Where people love the gifts more than the groom there are seductive spirits in operation. Where people seek manifestations more than “the man,” there are seductive spirits at work. Any time Jesus is not the main focus, the supreme attraction, the ultimate fascination, the crowning prize and the preeminent desire – WATCH OUT! The Holy Spirit has nothing to do with it!
The Holy Spirit will always speak about JESUS, reveal JESUS, exalt JESUS, promote JESUS and magnify JESUS…nothing else and nothing less than JESUS!
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceeded from the Father, he shall testify of me” (John 15:26).
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Abraham, Charles Finney, Church, conference, Genesis, Holy Spirit, Isaac, Jesus, Paul, Rebekah, Revival
Editor’s Note: Cross-posted as an AskDrBrown question.
Actually, one of the foundations of our non-violent faith is the understanding that the Bible’s often “violent” language is not to be applied literally but spiritually. That’s why Christians around the world are almost always the persecuted rather than the persecutors, and it is only when Christians completely abandon their faith – and so are Christians in name only – that they commit atrocities like the Crusades and Inquisitions.
Jesus is our pattern and our model: When He was reviled He did not revile in return, and when He was physically attacked He did not fight back. “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. ‘He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.’ When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:21-23).
At the same time, Jesus, along with others in the New Testament, often used “violent” language. Consider the following sayings of our Lord:
“Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
“From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force” (Matthew 11:12, ESV).
“When a strong man, fully armed, guards his own house, his possessions are safe. But when someone stronger attacks and overpowers him, he takes away the armor in which the man trusted and divides up the spoils” (Luke 11:21-22).
How about these sayings of Paul?
“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. . . . Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Ephesians 6:10-11, 17).
“For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ, being ready to punish every disobedience, when your obedience is complete” (2 Corinthians 10:3-6, ESV).
And what do we make of the fact that Paul sometimes addressed his fellow-workers as “soldiers”? He wrote of “Epaphroditus, my brother, fellow worker and fellow soldier” and “Archippus our fellow soldier,” also urging Timothy to, “Endure hardship with us like a good soldier of Christ Jesus” (Phil 2:25; Phm 2; 2 Tim 2:3).
And what we do make of the “violent” imagery of the Book of Revelation? “Then there was war in heaven. Michael and his angels fought against the dragon and his angels. And the dragon lost the battle, and he and his angels were forced out of heaven. This great dragon– the ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, the one deceiving the whole world– was thrown down to the earth with all his angels. Then I heard a loud voice shouting across the heavens, “It has come at last– salvation and power and the Kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Christ. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters has been thrown down to earth– the one who accuses them before our God day and night. And they have defeated him by the blood of the Lamb and by their testimony. And they did not love their lives so much that they were afraid to die.” (Rev 12:7-11)
How do we reconcile the fact that the New Testament has so many “violent” references with the fact that Christians through the centuries have been persecuted and martyred for their faith (rather than persecuting and martyring others), turning the other cheek and refusing to retaliate? It’s all quite simple: As I said before, Jesus is our example! He was the one who asked the Heavenly Father to forgive those who were crucifying Him (Luke 23:34), telling Pilate that He was not an earthly king, otherwise His servants would have fought for Him (John 18:36), and ordering His disciples to put down their swords in His defense, since those who live by the sword also die by the sword (Matt 26:52).
As I wrote in my book Revolution: The Call to Holy War, as followers of Jesus, we are called to put down our swords – meaning all physical violence in His name and allegedly for His cause – and take up our crosses, laying down our lives rather than taking the lives of others. That is part of the very essence of the gospel!
That’s why we have Christian classics like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs, not Foxe’s Book of Murderers. And that’s why some of the great Puritan authors like John Bunyan and William Gurnall could write books with titles like Holy War and The Christian in Complete Armor without anyone ever thinking that they were calling for violent Christian acts. And that’s why William and Catherine Booth could found The Salvation Army without anyone thinking they needed to buy a gun to join. This really is self-evident.
In fact, the non-violent nature of the gospel (meaning, non-physically-violent) is so clearly spelled out that Christians can also use the parts of the Old Testament that were, originally, written with physical violence in mind – like Joshua taking the city of Jericho (Josh 5) or like David writing that the Lord trained his hands for war and his fingers for battle (Ps 144:1) – and apply them in an entirely spiritual, non-physically-violent fashion.
To repeat: We understand that as followers of Jesus, we put down our sword and we take up our cross, willing to lay our lives down for a lost and dying world but refusing to take up even a stone to hurt those who oppose us.
Is it possible to misunderstand the biblical imagery and become physically violent “for the gospel”? Only if the Word of God is willfully misused and abused; only if the entire example of Jesus and His New Testament followers is completely ignored; only if the testimony of hundreds of thousands of persecuted and martyred Christians through the centuries is systematically scorned. But to do so would be to call the ocean dry or fire cold or a mountain flat, and that’s why there are so few examples of “physical violence in Jesus’ name” despite the presence of hundreds of millions of Christians worldwide.
And that’s why, despite the tremendous passion against abortion that exists in our Bible-believing, Christian communities, when an abortion doctor is killed by a professing Christian, this is the rarest exception to the non-violent rule. It is, to be a sure, a very terrible exception, but the reason it stands out with such glaring clarity is because it is so contrary or our whole spirit and philosophy. We are pro-life, not pro-death, otherwise, rather than four abortion doctors killed in more than three decades of pro-life activism – this, of course, is four too many – there would have been 400 or 4,000 dead by now. The very thought of this is at complete odds with the message and method of Jesus, and the idea of killing people for the sake of the gospel is utterly revolting.
In a future article, I’ll address the question of why I and others often use the terminology of martyrdom – the willingness to glorify Jesus by life or by death – but I’ll close this here by restating the obvious: It is our use of “violent” biblical language in a non-violent way that helps us focus our energies on spiritual battles rather than physical battles, using the weapons of love and self-discipline and longsuffering, overcoming evil with good. We know that our fight is not with people but with spiritual forces (Eph 6:12), and we understand that we overcome evil with good and hatred with love (Rom 12:17-21). It is only those who willfully misconstrue this message – and therefore who do not truly know Jesus – who could possibly misunderstand it.
For further insights on this, see Revolution: The Call to Holy War, especially chapter ten, “Take Up Your Cross, Put Down Your Sword: The Jesus Way to Revolution.”
Posted in Revolution & Justice Tagged with: armor, christians, demons, language, Paul, spiritual warfare, violence