“Just as the Father has loved Me, so I have loved you. Abide in My love.” -Jn. 15.9
Some years ago, I was in the home of a beloved servant of God by the name of Art Katz. We were discussing the need for a kind of preaching and proclamation that would not merely inform the people of God, but lift them into a greater inner-awareness of His love. He made a comment that struck my heart, and I am feeling it’s reverberations especially today. This is what he said:
The Church is suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority, and they need to be built up in the reality of His love. We need to come into the realization that we’ve been “accepted in the Beloved.”
So many believers are “suffering from a chronic sense of inferiority,” and the opportunities for insecurity, self-consciousness, and anxiety are around every corner, particularly in a Western culture that is so status-driven. The powers of darkness have always worked overtime to keep the saints from a sustained and abiding experience of the favor and love of God. They have worked thousands of years at mastering the art of destroying the lives of men, and nowhere have they been more successful than in their plan to bind men in strife after worldly acceptance, while robbing them of the awareness of God’s desire to secure them in His love.
Billboards and magazines pin women into the corner of striving for external beauty, commercials and other media venues trap men in the pursuit after bigger trucks and better homes, and the options are voluminous for all types of searching after acceptance from others. Even in the religious world, many are jockeying for a position in ministry that would feed their ‘spiritual’ egos, and so many leaders are eaten up by a desire for numerical growth in their congregations and the popularity of their ministries. Individual strife for a spiritual reputation is also common in the Body, with jealousy and envy dominating so many souls who are wanting to establish a “form of godliness” without the reality of His power and love. We are comparing ourselves to others, living in an earthbound manner, and our vision of Jesus Christ is suffering as a result of it. We want approval from men, and it is that fallen desire that robs us from experiencing the heavenly approval that the Father longs to give.
“How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?” (Jn. 5.44)
Across the board, we humans are being consumed by a sense of inferiority to someone or something, and it all stems back to the fact that we have not adequately received and abided in the love of God Himself.
Can we fathom that He does not regret having brought us into the Kingdom? That we are not a part of some “inferior” segment of the Body of Christ? That we have nothing to prove to Him, nothing to perform in the aim of earning His love, and that He is kind and compassionate toward us not because of our spiritual performance, but because that is who He is?
We need to commit the rest of our days to pursuing a greater understanding and awareness of His love toward us. He has declared that He loves us “just as” the Father loves Him. Hear Him, dear saint! His affections are no less profound toward you than they were toward Moses, Paul, Brainerd, Whitefield, or any other great soul. Oh, that we would be awakened to the reality of His constant and unfading love, and that it would be more for us that a theological category; rather, an abiding experience as our hearts are more and more surrendered to His.
The more I study the New Testament and live the Christian life, the more convinced I am that our fundamental difficulty, our fundamental lack, is the lack of seeing the love of God. It is not so much our knowledge that is defective but our vision of the love of God. Thus our greatest object and endeavor should be to know Him better, and thus we will love Him more truly.
(D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, as quoted in God’s True Love by David Harwood; 2008, p. 22)
The pursuit after acceptance from men is a deathly roller-coaster ride, and it will not end until you still your heart before the Lord, and learn to receive the love of God Himself. Jesus Christ has already declared that He loves you just as the Father has loved Him, but your reception of that love is not automatic. You must push your way past the multitudinous voices that press for your attention, “be still and know” that a much profounder love is being poured from heaven. All other voices lead to the fading glory of self, but the voice of the Lord is “above the waters,” and it leads to His eternal glory, which is “life forevermore.”
Dear believer, you need not to be jerked and pulled by the opinions, compliments, and criticisms of men. You need not to be plagued with a sense of inferiority and a burning desire to be accepted by others. The undying and unwavering love of God Himself is available to you, for the cross of Jesus Christ has torn the veil of separation on your behalf. Turn from sin and strife for acceptance, and let your heart be stilled in the place of prayer. There you will hear His voice and receive from the well of His love, and your joy will be made full. And from that holy place, He will give you grace to live amongst men with a whole new consciousness, abiding in the love of God Himself, “accepted in the Beloved One.”
Posted in Featured Articles, The Kingdom of God Tagged with: art katz, beauty, David Harwood, inferiority, love, love of God, Ministry, proclamation, the church
“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
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” -Jn. 6.63
In comparison with the nature of preaching in centuries past, I would say that truly anointed proclamation is at an all-time low. Many fellowships have little value for true preaching and teaching, and the saints as a whole have mostly lost touch with the preciousness of speech to one another. New movements arise, encouraging more entertaining modes of proclamation, and the Church is inundated with programs, pre-packaged sermon illustrations, and a host of mere opinions. Scarcely do we hear a true voice which quickens the heart of the Church, creating and effecting, through grace-charged proclamation, a fuller vision of Jesus Christ.
Consider this story from David Ravenhill:
“Some of you are familiar with one of the great revivals: the revival in the Hebrides. Back in the late 1940s-early 1950s, this little group of islands experienced a powerful move of the Spirit of God, one of the purest revivals that we have seen, at least in my generation. Seventy-five percent of the people who were saved were converted outside the walls of the church.
In other words, God came down and saturated the community with His presence. People were up all night getting right with God. People would walk on the road and come under conviction of sin and fall down at the side of the road, repenting of their sin. They weren’t exposed to any preaching, just the Spirit of God that suddenly invaded the area. The revival was preceded by the earnest praying of several young men as well as two elderly women. Their cry was that God ‘would rend the heavens and come down.’
The people reported that five years after that revival you could count on one hand the number of people who had drifted away from God. Bars closed down; saloons closed down; dance halls closed down. The entire community was changed as a result of that revival.
One man whom God greatly used was a Presbyterian minister by the name of Duncan Campbell. Duncan Campbell was the key figure really. One night he had a dream, and in this dream he was walking into one of the small towns on the islands. As he approached the town, he noticed that there was a large crowd of people listening to somebody preaching the Word of God. As he got closer, he could hear the Word of God being proclaimed, but he didn’t recognize the preacher. After a while it dawned on him that this was no ordinary preacher; this was the devil.
Finally the crowd dispersed, and in his dream he went up to the devil and said, ‘You’re the devil, aren’t you?’
‘Yes I am,’ he replied.
Duncan Campbell then asked, ‘Why are you preaching the gospel? Why are you preaching the Word of God?’
And the devil responded, saying, ‘Duncan Campbell, don’t you know that the greatest weapon I have is the preaching of the Word of God without the anointing of the Spirit? You see, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ (Surviving the Anointing, pp.70-71; Destiny Image, 2007)
In the first months of the Hebrides Revival there was little preaching, but the Lord eventually raised Campbell up (among others) to proclaim the Word with a true anointing, and many communities were transformed by the power of the Gospel.
The gift of proclamation has been given to every saint on one level or another, for we all have the capacity to speak. Some will preach in larger settings, some will not. But we all have a calling to bear witness to the lost, and to speak the truth to one another in love. The question is not, “Where shall I speak,” or “What shall I speak,” but “How shall I speak?” We need a recovery of a true value for the gift of speech. Jesus’ words were spirit and life, which is something far beyond soulish talk or religious opinion. Dear saint, what is the substance of your speaking? I’m not asking if all of your conversation is religious or biblical. I’m asking what your source is. Is it you? your spiritual opinions? your personal paradigms?
Or is it “spirit and life?” The future of those listening to you may well depend on the answer to these questions.
“Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God…” -1 Pet. 4.11a
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: Church, david ravenhill, Duncan Campbell, hebrides revival, Jesus, preaching, proclamation, Revival, the Gospel