“…. according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” -Rom. 2.16b
Is it remarkable to us that Paul conveys the reality of God’s judgment as a crucial component of his “gospel”? Do we see it as “good news” that “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?
Paul is addressing the issues of Law and conscience in Romans 2, and he swings his subject back around to the inward reality, as apostles always do. He declares that even if all seems to be intact externally with the saint, the real issue of judgment has to do with “the secrets of men,” for the Lord is ever and always concerned with reality, and not with the mere appearance of things.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. -Jn. 7.24
Have I been refined a thousand times over in the inner-man, or have I upheld an image of spirituality in public that conflicts with the secret thoughts and motives of my heart? Have I been willing for the work of the cross in my soul, or have I sought to circumvent the word of truth, and clung to a foundation-less reputation that has been applauded by men, but will be found wanting on the day when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?
If there is duplicity and hypocrisy in my life, if I am still laboring for approval from men, if I am gripped inwardly with greed, pride, lust, envy and fear, the apostle has a word for me, and it is part and parcel with his Gospel. A Day of judgment is coming, when the light of God’s countenance will shine so penetratingly upon my life that every despicable thought, motive, and deed will be exposed. If I have held forth an impressive religious image before men, but have harbored ungodly “secrets” until that Day, they will be revealed in shocking transparency and with exacting clarity.
We may squirm to hear such a thing, but it is Paul’s Gospel. If we have an inadequate consciousness of the Day of judgment, we have not been apprehended by the Gospel of Paul. The gospel of some other man or angel has intruded, and we have been hooked into a lie.
The fact of this coming Day of exposure is Gospel (good news), for we are hearing it now, before that Day dawns. We have the privilege- painful as it may be- of bringing our duplicity and mixtures to Him today, while it is yet day. We have opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel afresh, and when at once we are sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, everything is made new. When He purges our secret lives, which have harbored all kinds of dark ambitions and shameful musings, and makes us carriers of His own thoughts and desires, only glory remains. We have the remarkable privilege of moving away from a life of bondage and into the joy of becoming stewards of heavenly mysteries.
That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in the Man, Christ Jesus. He cleanses, refines, and heals us from all the corruption and disease that our souls have carried, and grafts us into His own purpose and way. It is no wonder that the Day of judgment was for Paul a necessary element of the Gospel. That Day will once and for all expose and destroy the sins of the world and the hypocrisies of men, and the mysteries of God will become the Government of the entire cosmos. Why should the Church live in hypocrisy and hidden sin when the Gospel has come to deliver us from darkness, both now and in the age to come?
Are you living a double-life, dear saint? Have you some underlying bitterness, anger, lust, rage, or fear still dominating your thoughts? In Light of the Day to come, allow the Father to bring judgment against your duplicity today, and when He burns out your soul-illnesses and makes you true, the exposure of your “secrets” will be Gospel to you, indeed. You will walk in the liberty of the Gospel, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him. -Ps. 25.14
The Gospel is not an alterable message that can be shifted and redefined by men in their particular customs, preferences, and societies. The Gospel of Paul, which is the Gospel of God, raises a question mark against all that man has been, all that man is, and all that man ever will be within himself. It calls to task the kings of the earth, all who boast against God, and even all those who purport to be spiritual. Only His very mercy can cleanse, only His truth is true, and only His Light illumines our souls to the degree that our secrets are judged, and that judgment is itself a mercy. The Gospel judges not only our external acts of sin, but the secrets of our hearts, and it is a great mercy that He is touching our secret lives now, instead of being exposed when it is too late.
Oh, how jealous He is for His glory, and how jealous He is over our lives. The jealousy of the Lamb is the expression of His great love, in that He will not let us go until we have come into an unhindered union with God Himself.
“Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it; yet the Lord set his affection to love your fathers and chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as at this day.” -Deut. 10.14-15a
The subject of God’s love is not a syrupy, flighty, or hollow subject. It is not the stuff of spiritual lightweights, nor is it a distraction from the weightier matters of Scripture. His love is not merely an attribute to be considered, nor is it a mere compartment among His many traits. It is not a cheap and fluffy revelation, but the very essence of who the Lord of history is.
The love of God is a vast reality, and it has ever and always been bound to His personality and purposes. A Biblical understanding of the love of God is absolutely foundational to the life of the Church, and if we have yet to know Him as the One who “sets His affections to love” us, we have yet to know Him as He is.
The Deuteronomic writer paints with a broad brush in these two verses, and I wonder if they strike our hearts as they must have struck his.
Verse 14 tells of the greatness of God as Creator and Ruler of the entire created order, and of heaven itself. He is high and lifted up, far above the peak of the highest mountain, transcending in every way the greatest of earthly kings and the most powerful of angelic beings. The earth belongs to Him, and “all that is in it.” We cannot wrap our minds around His greatness and glory, we can only ascribe the honor to Him in worship, and be swallowed up in wonder at His Person.
But in that great sweep of awe and transcendence, the writer reminds the children of Israel that the Lord has “set His affection to love” their forefathers, and that the chosenness of the fathers was also upon them as a nation. In that chosenness, it was not only the commandments that applied to them, but the setting of His very affection and love as well.
Could they believe, in the trial of the wilderness, with blisteringly hot winds against them, that the concentrated affections of God Himself had been directed toward them? Unfortunately, most of them could not. But He remains the same, and His heart is still set towards the sons of men, with desire to cleanse, redeem, and show His love to them in remarkable ways.
There are notes of His pure and fervent love sounded throughout the Scriptures, from the patriarchal times right through to the prophets, most notably Hosea, and it reaches a climax in the revelation of Jesus Christ in the New Covenant. Israel, as a people, has a great bulls-eye on it’s chest, and the arrow of His affections will one day hit it’s mark in an everlasting way, when all at once she has been purged and redeemed in the Day of the Lord.
Remarkable for the Church, which is mostly made up of Gentiles, is that we have been “grafted” into the same covenantal glory with God. Through Israel, most pointedly through a Jewish Man called Jesus, we have been inducted and adopted into the understanding that God has set His affections to love us. Do we believe it? Have we a consciousness, in the midst of emotional collapses, failures, and wilderness times, that He has set His affections to love us?
Have we an awareness that it is not only the great heroes of the faith that He loves, but that His heart is set toward us as well, not only to command and call us, but to love? Dear saint, you are indeed a “wild olive shoot,” a vessel not yet totally formed, but you have been grafted into the full revelation of God’s affections and love, and this has always been His intention and desire. Ask the Lord for a greater perception of His set affections towards you.
From that tender place, the mighty light of His love will shine in your soul, and you will “circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” You will fear and love the Lord God of Israel with all your heart, and everything will be made new.
Many generations ago, He set His affections to love the fathers of Israel, and in this generation, He has set His affections to love you. This is no small thing, and to come into this understanding is to “taste of the powers of the age to come.” Bask in that reality, and you will walk in “newness of life.”
“…. and they took note that these men had been with Jesus.” Acts 4.13b
The true Christian life is not a life of spiritual hand-me-downs in terms of experience. We can be encouraged by other saints, but we cannot live off of their testimonies and stories. We can receive insight from the brethren but we cannot ride their cloaks unto maturity. We can be quickened and challenged by their communion with the Lord but we cannot walk into the holy place by hiding behind their frames. The true life of faith is marked by the presence of God, and a believer’s walk with the Lord is founded upon the reality of actual experience with God in prayer and holy fellowship.
The Lord grants especial manifestations of Himself to the believer who seeks Him. He lavishly gives a freshness of faith, a vibrant love, and a sense of holy awe to the one who pursues Him. Charles Spurgeon gives us the real marks of a manifestation of Christ to the soul:
The Lord Jesus gives special revelations of Himself to His people.
…. Especial manifestations of Christ exercise a holy influence on the believer’s heart. One effect will be humility. If a man says, ‘I have had such-and-such spiritual communications, I am a great man’, he has never had any communion with Jesus at all; for ‘God hath respect unto the lowly: but the proud He knoweth afar off’. He does not need to come near them to know them, and will never give them any visits of love.
Another effect will be happiness; for in God’s presence there are pleasures for evermore.
Holiness will be sure to follow. A man who has no holiness has never had this manifestation.
…. Thus there will be three effects of nearness to Jesus- humility, happiness, and holiness. May God give them to thee, Christian!
(Charles Spurgeon, Morning and Evening, May 12th entry)
This threefold mark upon the life of a Christian is evidence that his soul has enjoyed new and fresh transactions of communion with the Lord. May we forego a stale and categorical Christianity, and seek daily the newness of life that comes from seeing the Lamb of God afresh! And may our lives be marked with His distinctive presence- the sublime realities of humility, happiness, and holiness! Amen!
“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.
“…. while I was by the river Chebar among the exiles, the heavens were opened and I saw visions of God.” -Ez. 1.1b
For Ezekiel, who functioned as a young priest of Judah, the bank of the river Chebar was hardly the ministry opportunity he would’ve had in mind when he laid his life down for service in the temple. The river Chebar was the territory of Babylon, and he was laboring among a people who had been exiled, and who were under the judgment of God.
It would’ve been a remarkably trying time for him, where all his expectations and ideals for God’s people had been shattered, and his own priestly desires had been walled in and suffocated by the cold reality of exilic experience. He was not where he had hoped to have been, and his people had totally fallen short of that for which he had prayed and labored.
…. the young priest had to pass through a waiting period of agonizing tension in which hope and fear alternated.
(Walther Eichrodt, EZEKIEL; Westminster Press, p. 54)
Ezekiel was likely being tossed to and fro by encouraging days, when a few of his kinsmen would come alive to the Law, and radically discouraging days, when others would curse him and the word he presented. Had God forsaken he and his people altogether? Was there any way to live as His people in the midst of Babylon? Could he bear the light of God in the soul-chilling surrounding of such darkness? Little did Ezekiel know that his own presence by the river Chebar would be the very extension of God Himself to a people in radical need of prophetic reality. Little did Ezekiel know what was coming. God Himself would break into the maze of questions and struggles to reveal the glory of His enthronement. And this is just what Ezekiel needed in such a time of shaking.
The coming of Yahweh to Ezekiel and the sending of the prophet to Israel show that God was still concerned with His mysterious and special purpose for the ‘house of Israel.’
…. God’s coming to keep faith with His people knew no barriers. In the full splendor of His regal glory God met His people in the midst of a heathen land.
(EZEKIEL 1, Walther Zimmerli; Hermeneia, Fortress Press; 1979, p. 140)
Perhaps you are reckoning with the same alternating emotions, going from hope to fear, from encouragement to discouragement. Perhaps you feel trapped in a type of Babylon, and you are wondering if there is any sense to your life and calling. Know this, dear saint: Just as the Lord was “still concerned” for His “special purpose for the house of Israel,” He is intensely concerned for you. He will “keep faith with His people.” Indeed, “He who began a good work in you will complete it, unto the day of Jesus Christ.”
You may be in the midst of a heathen land, but God will meet you even there. He will wash your feet, your hands, and your heart. He will be the balm of healing to your cracked soul. He will purify your lips and restore the praises of God to your mouth. He will mold and commission you, in the unique way He has appointed, to make you a voice in this generation. You need only to lift your eyes away from alternating emotions and distracting thoughts, and to see Him enthroned on high, “in the full splendor of His regal glory.” When the breakers are rolling over you and there seems to be no possibility of breathing, He is still enthroned, and extending His hand to you. He calls you today, even now, to come up above the tossing waves, and into the clear air of fellowship with Him.
I have been in countless church services throughout my life. I grew up in the church. Mainly, the ‘charismatic/Pentecostal’ circles. So believe me when I say I have experienced many different things. I’ve been on foreign missions trips and ministered in various churches in the region where I currently live (Charlotte, NC) and growing up (Lancaster, PA). During these services, I’ve experienced some really awesome things like prodigals coming ‘back home’, the sick healed, the lost finding Jesus. I’ve experienced a lot of interesting ‘manifestations of the Holy Spirit’. Some quite bazaar to your natural mind. All that to say that I’ve been around the proverbial block.
And can you believe that all that stuff really doesn’t satisfy? I mean, all the above is really neat and interesting and it gives you some awesome stories to tell around the dinner table or some awesome conversation pieces. But I don’t think that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, He’s going to be asking about that. I don’t think that it’s something that is of importance to God. Yeah, He’s proud of me for being a son and pursuing Him. But it’s more about a relationship between me and Him that He’s concerned about.
A number of years ago, I was asked to speak at a youth retreat. So in the time leading up to it, I was praying and asking the Lord what was on HIS heart for this event. I wanted to preach a good “revolution” message, rally the troops, that sort of thing. But during the prep time, it just wasn’t coming together. I had a few notes and some awesome compilations I thought would be neat to share. But it still wasn’t coming together. The morning of, I was sitting in a room with two of my friends who came to help minister and the speaker from the previous night, Steve Hoffman. Steve looked at me at one point in time and said “Shawn, these kids have grown up in church. They know all the right things, they know all the rules. But most of them have never had an encounter with God Himself to make a difference in their life.” Those words went like a dart right into my heart.
That morning, the Lord gave me John 15. I quickly read it and knew somewhat of where I was going. We can have all the services we want; you can do all the conferences you want. But when there is no intimacy with the Lord, I wonder at how much of a difference all that is going to make. People nowadays are crying out to be heard. They’re crying out to feel needed and wanted. They’re crying out for relationships! They’re crying out for a depth of a reality! They’re open to the supernatural and wanting to see if the church has anything to offer more than just meetings and hype and a whole lot of talk. I think that many people want to see if we as the church can put actions to our words.
Let me take a step back here really quickly. There is nothing wrong with church services and meetings and programs necessarily. But when that is replacing a true intimacy with the Lord, it gets scary. Whether you attend a small house church or a community church or a mega church, that isn’t the point here. My question to you is do you know the Lord in a deeply personal way? Do you have a life giving relationship with Him? I know that at times its hard to pray and hard to read the Bible. Sometimes you may have those times where you feel like all the prayers you pray and the Bible reading you’re doing isn’t amounting to anything. But it does make a difference. Remember, a relationship takes work. There really is no cookie cutter way for it. There are emotions and feelings involved.
A number of years ago while in Bible school, the leaders decided to shut the school down for a couple days and just have a time of prayer and fasting. I was noticing a difference in the direction of the school and it was starting to concern me just a bit. This school was known for its revolutionary mentality and it seemed like we were getting soft. And then it dawned on me: maintaining intimacy in the church truly is a revolutionary idea! As I said earlier, being in different churches I have seen a lot. All these programs that were in effect didn’t seem that productive. The church was being more influenced by the world rather than the other way around. The saints weren’t being equipped for the work of the ministry. It seemed like a lot of it was a one man show done by the pastor or leader of the church.
I remember one time, I was having ice cream with an elder in a church. I simply looked this gentleman in the eyes and asked “Can you name me one time when you had a life changing encounter with the presence of God?” He sat there for a bit and eventually just shook his head no. My heart broke for this guy. You can have all the proper theology and it’s important to know the Word of God! But is it coming out of a heart attitude that says “I NEED to do this” rather than “I WANT to do this”? Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is take a theological truth and turn it into an experiential reality.
Take this as an encouragement to develop and maintain true intimacy with the Lord. The Bible says that we’ll be known by our fruits. One of the best ways, if not the best, is to spend that time with Him. Since each person is different, it’s going to look different for each and every person. Dig into the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to cultivate that intimacy with Him.
“Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….” -Rom. 12.10-11
From the nation of India decades ago, Amy Carmichael gives us this staggering story:
It was convention week in a hill station in India. The afternoon meeting was just over. A few Christian station-people, some English-speaking Indian friends and the sixty or seventy missionaries who had been listening to the Bible reading were hurrying out to get a cup of tea before the evening meeting. An Indian lady lingered in the empty hall, and the writer, seeing her alone and thinking perhaps she had no friend at hand and might be feeling lonely, sat down beside her. Conversation turned to Bible reading. The Indian lady’s face darkened and she said bitterly, “What is the use of such meetings? You missionaries say one thing and do another!’ It was easy to see she had been wounded and soured, but not knowing her history, I could only urge that meetings were held just because we recognized our need….
But this did not satisfy her, and in quick, eager sentences she began to explain herself. She said that her people had noticed that when a missionary first came out, he was usually warm and loving and keen to win souls. Then gradually, she said, it was noticed that he cooled.
“And who can say,” she concluded, with an intensity that went through the hearer, “…. who can say you missionaries live specially holy lives? We Indian Christians observe. We observe you not only when you are at work but when you are off work too. Is there anything remarkable about you? Are you burning-hot people? We look to you to show us patterns and you are showing us crooked patterns.”
The words scorched. Discount what we may because of some inward hurt or warp; and granted, thank God, that the picture painted thus is not wholly true, there was enough truth left to lay at least the one who listened low down in the dust.
I believe this story is intimately applicable to most American believers. We need to hear the questions of the little Indian woman:
“Do you lead specially holy lives?”
“Is there anything remarkable about you?”
“Are you burning-hot people?”
We sell the our lives short by reducing the faith to a cute and dainty religion that we practice a few times a week. We are supposed to be a burning-hot people, fervent in Spirit, serving the Lord! Our lives are supposed to be separate from the world in a manner sufficient to raise questions in the hearts of our neighbors and relatives, “What is it about those people? There’s a humility…. there’s a moral clarity…. there’s a joy…. there’s a no-nonsense mode of living…. there’s a wisdom…. there’s a reality in their eyes that I have found nowhere else, and their lives testify to it.”
Let us consider the tear-stained exhortation that Amy gives to follow up her story:
Comrades in this solemn fight- this awful conflict with awful powers- let us settle it as something that cannot be shaken: We are here to live holy, loving, lowly lives. We cannot do this unless we walk very, very close to the Lord Jesus. Anything that would hinder us from the closest walk that is possible to us till we see Him face to face is not for us. We need to be sensitive to the first approach of the hindering thing. For the sake of the souls that may be stumbled if we turn even ever so little aside, for the sake of our Master’s glory- dearer surely to us than all else- let us ask Him not to show us whether in anywise we have been showing “crooked patterns.”
Dear reader, what is the temperature of your life? Have you settled into a cool spirituality that is unconsecrated and casual? Have you more passion for entertainment than you have for the Scriptures? Has the Spirit of prayer become foreign to you? Have you left your “first love” and latched onto idols that now sap all of your affections for Christ, and leave you barren and numb at heart? We must return to Him with whole hearts, forsaking the “crooked patterns” that have too long marked the Church in our nation. Let us cry out from a place of brokenness, that He may have for Himself a people no longer “lagging behind in diligence.” A people who are “fervent in spirit, serving the Lord….”
He is faithful to respond to the heart that hungers and thirsts after Him! He will fill your heart with new life, and cause His heart to be expressed through you. He will kindle a flame in our hearts that all the schemes of hell cannot begin to quench. He will have for Himself a people.
A people leading specially holy lives, empowered by His Spirit. A remarkable people. A burning-hot people. Amen!
A group of Christians praying for random people to experience the supernatural presence of the living God on network television? That seems to be the goal of a group affiliated with Randy Clark’s Global Awakening Ministry. They explain their idea for the potential show entitled “The God Squad Show” below:
…through relationship with God being able to see future events in peoples lives… being able to paint and show future events or unlock mysteries and draw the viewer into a greater understanding of life…with the laying on of hands restoring life to the recently deceased…
Sounds like a great conference! It’s not. It’s descriptions from some of the 6 Primetime dramas on the 3 Major Networks! We can’t get enough of the supernatural… because innately we know, there has to be more…
It’s time for us to give the viewing public more. It’s time for a reality show that doesn’t highlight our greed, fickle hearts or ability to withstand pain and hardship, but a reality show that shows His ability to provide, restore and heal our pains and hardships.
God Squad is a half hour reality show that takes us to city streets all over America and allows us a front row seat to individuals experiencing encounters with the supernatural in a way that has never been seen on secular television. We follow our cast members as they encounter random individuals in daily life and bring them into a supernatural experience.
In our travels we will see sight restored, aches and pain relieved, people healed by art drawn for them, about them before we even met them… broken lives restored to peace and love… watch people feel the supernatural Presence on their bodies in a physical and undeniable way.
In each episode we will visit several cities and go from story to story of supernatural encounters taking place in peoples daily lives right in front of us… in real time.
Reality is often just a lie agreed upon, its time to bring the truth to reality and to confirm what we know in our hearts… that just like we imagine in our weekly fictional dramas on TV, the truth is… there is more.
Below is a clip of someone from the group praying for a woman with no cartilage in her knee. While we cannot verify the long term results of the prayer on the woman’s knee, she does say to the crew that though she is not a “religious person,” she found that as she was being prayed for, her knee felt progressively better, and she felt a strange feeling rush through her body (I found one of the comments on the youtube page for the video amusing: “r there more video’s like this?? and how the **** is it so possible…. i dont ****** get it “): [Link to Video]
People were made to experience the supernatural. Let’s hope that this and similar projects succeed in displaying the power of God to the world.
“…. no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, for no prophecy was ever made by an act of the human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” -2 Pet. 1.20-21
Please hear this remarkable word from Nathaniel West:
In the hour of affliction we learn more of God’s word, and God’s way, than in a whole age of sunshine and prosperity, and it is well to remember that the prophecies were spoken first in that moment when Israel’s night was the darkest. Paradoxical indeed, it was then that the light was the brightest, the promise the sweetest, and the devotion the deepest. So will it be again. Israel will be able to say, when emerging from the last great tribulation, as when returning from Exile to build the Temple:
“The Lord hath chastened me sore,
But not abandoned me to death.
The Lord is God. He hath given us light;
Bind the sacrifice with cords, Even to the horns of the altar!”
Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.
(Nathaniel West, The Thousand Year Reign of Christ; Kregel Publications, p. XVI)
It is often said that we form our theologies and interpret the Scriptures based on the lens through which we look. Depending on the stream of our religious upbringing and our experiences in life, we often interpret passages with our own particular presumption and bias.
It is also said that we often interpret the Scriptures based on the level of willingness we possess to truly hear what they require and promise. In other words, we find in the Word what we want to find, and discard that which demands a higher call to the death of the self-life. We see what we want to see, and no more.
Nathaniel West wrote that “Affliction, Light, and Consecration” are the greatest and most necessary helpers for a true interpretation of the Scriptures.
What do we know of affliction? West is speaking of Israel’s affliction under judgment and exile, but is there an affliction that we willingly give ourselves to, and that would make way for a better interpretation of Scripture? I believe, in at least one aspect, that our self-made value systems, bumptiousness from familiarity, and “know-it-all” attitudes must be afflicted before the Light of interpretation can be opened. We’ve got to crucify our own wisdom, and lay our souls low before the same Spirit that moved the prophets. Are you reading the Scriptures categorically and robotically, or are you turning away from your own frozen knowledge and facing the burning bush that the Scriptures constitute?
Next, there is the element of light. When our own wisdom has been afflicted and set aside, then we are postured inwardly to receive the Light of God through the Scriptures. We must receive Light from the Spirit of God, or else the Bible is an impossible book to engage, enjoy, and receive from. If the same Spirit who rested on and moved the prophets does not rest on us, we will not gather from the Scriptures what the Lord has desired to give. We must ask the Spirit to come with His own Light, otherwise we will not be reading rightly. Therefore, dear saint, we ought to pant for the presence of the Spirit in the midst of our reading, so that Light may come, and our reading may itself become an act of Communion with God.
Lastly, the element of consecration. If we come to the Scriptures with no true intention of consecrating our lives to the Light that He gives us, we are not likely to come into a true interpretation. The Scriptures were not merely given for the formulation of eschatological ideas, the constructing of Doctrinal charts, or any such thing. They were given so that the Eternal God, and His great purpose, would be exposed to Israel and the nations, and that men would come into the reality of what He has always intended; namely, the revelation of Himself, and the glorification of His ways.
If we are unwilling to consecrate our lives to the Light that He gives, we will invariably miss what He is speaking. But if we come to the Scriptures in the same Spirit by which they were written, all the glories of His nature and will become intensely available to us.
“Affliction, Light, and Consecration, these are the best handmaids of a true interpretation.”
As I ponder this new year and all the changes that it will bring, I can’t help but wonder what lies ahead for the Church at large. There is no doubt as we look around that people are hungry for something real. Modern day music lyrics strain with the weight of a cry for change, and truth, and something to ease the pain or fear that living in this world can bring. Television reality shows flood the media industry: everyone is looking to remodel something, as though changing a house, or wardrobe, or image can bring about the necessary relief from the struggle to find some form of happiness.
In the midst of it all, the Church is on the brink of a destiny waiting to be fulfilled. Looking back through history, in Moses’ day when the magicians in Pharoah’s court appeared to be able to copy Moses’ signs up to a point and then had to admit defeat, or when Elijah was able to call down fire on Mount Carmel after the prophets of Baal tried and failed to imitate the miracle, or when Queen Esther was able to go before the king and save the people of Israel from destruction at Haman’s hand (who pretended to love the king until he was exposed), God is trying, again, to raise up people who can stand in the gap to bring freedom and change. With uncertainty in the economy; a collapse in the foundation of families (and the attempt of certain groups to undermine the very definition of covenant marriages); the rise in teen-age suicide, and violent crimes, and drug trafficking, there has never been a greater need for hope.
As I look around at the Church, today, I see two things taking place. One, there is a shift in some towards works and superficiality…a vain attempt to control through one’s own efforts the changes taking place in the world. There is a shift, as in the world, to be THE deliverer…the one that rescues the “poor, down-trodden from the changes taking place.” The problem with this is that no one person can carry the destiny that was meant for a Church to fulfill (by Church, I mean that group of people world-wide who were meant to know Jesus intimately and reflect His heart to a frustrated, hurting world in a way that no other religion or man-made organization can carry out…a Body of people that can only fulfill this destiny as Christ, as the Head, gives them strength and strategy).
At the same time, there is a people rising up who are willing to humble themselves and lose everything to see the world the way Christ sees. They are willing to walk as Jesus walked…to die to their very reputations and be humiliated if needs-be to have just one opportunity to show the world the love of Christ. They are not superstars or fast-talkers with a misguided attempt to carry out strategies of their own design or steps for change: rather, they are willing to wait, and live out their daily lives in submission to Christ seeing daily the fruit that comes from letting His love shine through. In the midst of the darkness, they don’t curse, or grow angry, or bitter, or manipulative, or proud, but they shine a light that slowly burns and cannot be extinguished. They are a remant…a world-wide family that recognizes one another by the heart of Christ that glows on the inside. God is opening a door for them that cannot be shut…an open heaven where they daily seek His Presence and walk and talk with Him, and they, in turn, open the door to their hearts. May we be part of this remnant…may we let God make of 2009 a year that will mark a difference in our hearts through a courage in knowing, as we follow Him, that He is with us, and that, in the darkness, He will forever be our light.