Editor’s Note: Guest article from David Popovici of FIRE School of Ministry: Chicago.
“Christ in you the hope of glory.”
We are deeply entrenched in sin, within the chaos of this present evil age, to the extent that our minds and hearts are dominated by the pleasures of life and desires for other things. All the while, the devil sees no distinction between the sinful-wasteful son, who despises his inheritance (while on his knees in the midst of the pig trough) and the religious-biblical scholar whose head is vastly larger than his heart.
What has been the desire of God from ages past?
What is the triumph of this Gospel that has kept joyous smiles on the faces of men while facing their death?
I believe the answer to both of these questions the same, namely, Christ in you the hope of glory.
Both sin and religion keep us from knowing God. From garments made of fig leaves to towers built to the heavens, mankind’s attempts to reach and please God have fallen miserably short.
The reason we are in famine on this side of the cross and the New Covenant, is simply because we have not looked upon Him deeply enough. God’s plan for man far exceeds the bettering of our lives now. God is not interested in making you a better person, seeing that you are predisposed to self-centered humanistic living, but rather, He is pleased in filling you with Himself.
Whether the arrogant and pompous or the depressed and suicidal, the issue is this: man can’t get past himself. He is born with his back to God, and is merely breathing to death.
Jesus said to Peter, “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven (Matt 16).”
It was only after Peter had eyes to see Jesus, that he could see himself as God had called him to be, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom….”
In order to truly understand anything, we have to have a revelation of God. God has fully revealed Himself for all to see in the Man Christ-Jesus. He is the exact representation and express image of God and His nature.
“Jesus Christ is perfect theology (Bill Johnson, Bethel Church in Redding, CA.).”
All arguments and debates on God are met at the roadblock of the Gospels. Throughout time God had revealed Himself by His mighty acts, through His holy prophets and even the revelation of His names, yet never before has He fully revealed Himself as He has today in His Son Jesus. All other faiths deviate from Full Gospel preaching at the same point, “Who do you say that I Am?”
I am convinced that God dwelling in man was and is the greatest miracle of all time. The Word of God calls Jesus the last Adam. The man who came to reverse the curse placed on us because of the first Adam, by becoming a curse for us to bring us back to God.
He is not just the Savior from sins; he has forever become the perfect mediator and prototype man.
Jesus Christ is the prototype man!
The Incarnation was never meant to be a one-time event, but to be perpetuated in the lives of all who would repent and receive His Holy Spirit by faith.
We need a radical change of our definition and perception of God and ourselves! Jesus said, “unless a man is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven.” Paul, when praying for the Ephesian believers, prays that God would give to them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation and open the eyes of their heart, in order to know Him better and consequently, to know what they have been called to be (Ephesians 1.18); a revelation of God and in turn a revelation of what God has made us. “Jesus doesn’t call us for what we are. But because of what He makes from us (Reinhard Bonnke).”
God will not just hold us accountable for what we were, but for what we could have been in light of the Cross and Pentecost.
“…There exists a draft by the hand of God of what our lives could have been…find and live near to that divine original (D.M.Panton).”
It is these two events that divide the New Testament from the Old.
The Cross forever separates you from your own will and this world. Paul said, “I am crucified to the world and the world to me…”
Pentecost imparts Him into you like nothing else can. Madame Guyon said, “the more we posses Him the more we posses His traits.”
Jesus said when speaking on the parable of the Sower, “Do you not understand this parable, how will you understand any of the parables.”
The parable of the Sower, sowing the word of God, is the most radically fundamental parable of all parables. Its end goal is seen in the parable of the mustard seed, which is small until it uproots all other plants/trees that challenge its pre-eminence.
What does that mean?
The Word of God when applied by radical obedience and single-mindedness will put to death in our hearts all that challenges His Lordship. All this is in view of God’s predetermined plan to produce in us the image of His Son (Romans 8.29). Paul travailed in prayer for it.
“My children with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (Galatians).”
Martha was distracted and bothered by so many things and all the while, the Creator was in the room. But Mary sat listening to the Resurrection and the Life. We stop the process of growth when we disconnect from the vine, and we disconnect from the vine when we no longer come to Him and allow His Words to abide within us and ultimately rule us.
We become what we behold. It is as we behold (as in a mirror) the glory of the Lord that we are transformed into that same image, and from glory to glory (1 Cor. 3.18)!
God did not sow His Son to reap servants. He sowed His Son to reap sons.
Christ is the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8.29). God is bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2.10).
And the tragedy in the church today is that His bride is either disqualifying herself by her wasteful and selfish living, or by the fact that she has educated herself into unbelief. Both are blind, wretched, poor and naked in the eyes of Him with whom we have to give an account.
We must return to the Cross and Pentecost, everything else is humanism!
When a man is confronted by the cross, he is exposed and naked, because in front of Him lies The Perfect One. It is because of sin He remains unrecognizable, but when that man repents and receives The Savior, he receives the right to become a son of God (John 1:12). In turn, it is when this man looks deep upon the Resurrected and Victorious Lord that he meets Him, in His occupation, as the one who “will baptize in the Holy Spirit and Fire”.
And then that same man now receives the ability to act like a son (by the Holy Spirit).
Adam came and produced a race of sinners; Jesus came and produces a race of sons (Romans 8.11).
The separation between the first Adam and the last Adam is the dripping cross and a flame of fire.
The Question I ask you is this…where do you currently stand?
The answer to your question is exactly what your heart is staring at.
The Spirit of God in a human body is what makes you a Christian; and in your pilgrimage on earth you are to become like the Son, and to whatever degree that you become like Jesus, to that degree you are glorified and remain forever.
The eyes of the heart see best in prayer, fasting and the meditation of His Word, and still these things cannot become a substitute for obedience.
Jesus calls all His disciples to be fishers of men. He never called unto Himself a monastic movement but men who find their purpose in Luke 4:18-22.
Today we have perfect programs but pathetic people. God never asked for our towers of Babel, they impress only man. He said, “I am the light of the world” and then told His disciple that they were to be also.
“God did not call us to merely reflect the light, but to be light.” (Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, Redding CA)
The world is not in need of better or more educated preachers who have relevant messages, but men who have become the message.
God called Ezekiel to be a prophet, which by definition means “a borrowed mouth.” In Ezekiel 3:1-4, God feeds Ezekiel the scroll that was to define his life and calling, and after he eats it, it fills his inner man and then, he is commissioned to “go, stand and speak!”
Jesus, in the same way, tells the crowds that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood they cannot be His disciples. A more offensive picture might not be possible to a religious Jew, especially since the Law clearly states that the life lies in the blood. But it is clear, that offending people was the least concern of Jesus, since He knew what mans greatest need was; the Life of God. He said I came to give you Life and Life in abundance, not mere human existence as they knew it, but (Zoë: Greek) the God-Life.
The Angel in Revelation gives John a scroll to eat which in turn becomes his calling and message to the church. Jeremiah could not hold in the word, which burned in him like a fire. So we know that Jesus calls all of His disciples to follow Him and it is He that makes them fishers of men. He makes us, fishers of men.
The command remains to GO, and to give Jesus to the world. But a man can never “go” until he has first “come” unto Jesus in fullness.
The Great Commission remains the stewardship of the Church of God. Christ likeness is utmost devotion to the Father and the laying of your life down for men.
The last thing this world needs is more professional preachers. The world needs living epistles written by the Spirit of God and read and known by all men. This is the divine outcry of our generation.
Christian extremism that is marked by radical and holy obedience to God, supernatural love and demonstrations of power, signs and wonders is the only product that God will stamp as “SPIRIT FILLED.”
Anything else is a joke and only provokes the world to more mockery. Let everything else burn, I want to know JESUS and become like JESUS!
It is easy to ask the question…
“Where is the God of Elijah?”
It is harder to answer…
“Where are the Elijah’s of God?”
Where are they? I am not talking about echoes that merely parrot doctrinal truths, but men who have been absorbed into Him and now are His message in the earth.
What separates us from every other faith in the world?
It is the living, tangible presence of God. If we lose that, we lose everything!
Men with no fish are not fishermen; you can call them something else, but don’t call them fishermen. Whatever office you might be called to or gifted in, it is to set the captives free. Freely you have received; freely give.
“Beloved for the sake of a lost and dying world, pay any price get God’s power and set the prisoners free.” ~John G. Lake
Man must swallow the message. It is not until it goes through your insides, that it can take effect on you. Only then will you start to look and sound like that which you ate. Ministry is no longer a burden; but the outflow of the inflow of God into your life.
God’s will remains the same; His union with you is His goal. When He comes and increases in you, then you decrease and die. And it is only then that He can be lifted up in you so that He might draw all men unto Himself.
“One of these days we will get sick and tired of the spiritual bankruptcy that we live in and the joke that our lives often are and we will get serious with God.” ~John G. Lake
Idolatry in the West is often subtle, taking the form of addictions, money, power, etc… but in some parts of the world, the ancient forms of idolatry spoken of by the Old Testament prophets are still being practiced, and as people come to the Lord, they literally cast their idols and ritual instruments away from them to be burned!
Daniel Kolenda described for us the atmosphere of curses and idolatry in Afikpo, Nigeria, where he and Reinhard Bonnke preached in October:
We were in a city called Afikpo in Nigeria. It is a remote African village that has been steeped in idolatry, occultism and witchcraft for many generations. The Animists were really the most powerful contingent in the region and also very violent. They had many bizarre and superstitious beliefs that led them to bury and burn people alive for various reasons as well as extremely brutal puberty rites. The witchdoctors kept the people in fear and manipulated and extorted from them through fear. They also were known to kill missionaries, including one top Nigerian bishop who recently came to Afikpo and was killed by the animists who cut him into little cubes.
During five different meetings, Evangelists Reinhard Bonnke and Daniel Kolenda preached the blood of Jesus, repentance, redemption, and actively confronted and broke the curses and idols of the region. Here is part of Kolenda’s account of what happened and its significance:
Every night I called for the people to bring any items associated with idolatry, witchcraft, or occultism to be burned. It’s hard to explain the significance of this. The people are morbidly afraid of the witch-doctors. They believe that if they disrespect these “sacred” items, they will come under a curse or even drop dead. To bring them to be burned publicly is an incredible statement of defiance towards their traditional beliefs and faith towards God. That is what it really is more than anything… a statement; to the people, to the witch-doctors, to the principalities, to God and to themselves, that they are through with these occultic beliefs and practices. It is powerful. This same thing was done in Acts 19 by Paul.
Every night the people brought piles of these items to be burned. The flames would leap 15 feet and higher into the air as these things went up in smoke and then the people would dance until the dust from the field filled the air like a thick fog. The people were rejoicing with great joy that freedom had come to their city.
Following are a picture and video of this momentous event taken by Daniel Kolenda:
The unparalleled freedom that comes through casting aside and even destroying the idols that stand between us and an uninhibited heart-connection to Messiah comes with a joy and lightness that is difficult to imagine until we follow through on our commitment to having no other gods before Him. Is there anything that we have been holding onto that steals our hearts away from devotion to the Lord? Is living wholly for God and receiving true satisfaction and freedom something which is worth exchanging for the bondage and addictions of the idols in our lives? May we take courage from our African brothers and sisters in the Lord, and burn the idols in our lives.
The Angel in Acts 11 told Cornelius to send for Peter “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”There is an incredible power in words.James says that “Life and death are in the power of the tongue…” and in no context is this more explicit then in the preaching of the Gospel. On Peter’s words hung the eternal destinies of Cornelius and his entire family.What a solemn and most severe responsibility we have to communicate the Gospel with clarity and irresistible persuasion.
In Matthew 13:19, Jesus is telling the parable of the sower.He says, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.This is the one on whom the seed was sown by the way side.”This is what I call, “Way-Side Evangelism”.Some preachers preach to hear themselves talk.Paul said that the time would come when people would want their ears tickled, but I think some preachers only care about tickling their own ears.These “Way-Side” preachers are infatuated with their own brilliance and charmed by their own eloquence.They love to impress people with their deep insight and advanced theological understanding.Meanwhile those listening to their message are as confused as a rabbit at an Easter egg hunt.What good is a message like that!?Preacher – save your cacophony of hermeneutical mendacity for the elephant-waxing tournament!We want to understand The Message!
Jesus said that when a person hears our message, but cannot understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.The Gospel is salvation articulated.If the world could only understand it, I am sure that they would find it utterly irresistible.But if we don’t make it plain someone listening to our message might walk right past the narrow gate to eternal life and never know that they missed it!It happens everyday…what a crime. We must not give the Devil an opportunity to snatch the seed away by preaching a Gospel that is confusing or hard to understand.When we preach with clarity, with poignancy and with precision, we stomp on the Devil’s grubby, pilfering fingers, the sown Word takes root and produces fruit that will remain in the lives of those to whom we minister.
Arriving on the Battlefield
I would be remiss, if I failed to address the other, equally significant side of this coin.It is not only the message that is important, but also the medium.For much of the world’s history the major medium for communicating thoughts and ideas was verbal transmission; anecdotes and parables passed down from one generation to another.This began to change however around time of the Protestant Reformation.Neil Postman points out that, 1“Beginning In the sixteenth century, a great epistemological shift had taken place in which knowledge of every kind was transferred to, and made manifest through the printed page.‘More than any other device,’ Lewis Mumford wrote of this shift, ‘the printed book released people from the domination of the immediate and the local;…print made a greater impression than actual events…To exist was to exist in print…’ 2” The Church was on the cutting edge of this shift with the very first printed book being the Gutenberg Bible.The following generations would see the Bible translated into more than 1,000 different languages and become the best selling book of all time.
In our generation there is another shift occurring.Today, electronic forms of communication are the dominant voice in the world.In the U.S. nearly 100% of households have a television and on average each dwelling has more than 2.More than a trillion Internet URLs are in indexed with Google alone, which performs over 2 billion searches daily.Consider that if Facebook were a nation, it would be the 8th largest in the world with over 150 million members.Everyday over 100 million videos are viewed on You Tube and the list goes on.In America we have seen a striking example of the power of electronic media in our recent presidential election.It has been said that President Obama won the election, 3“because he understood new media.”
A couple of years ago the Lord spoke to me and said, “Every generation has a battlefield.If the Church fails to arrive on that battlefield, she will loose that generation.Your generation’s battlefield is the world of media.”President Obama showed up in that battlefield and won because his opponent didn’t even know what the battlefield was. Francis Schaeffer said, “Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.”Our responsibility of making the Gospel understandable goes beyond simply saying the right words…it demands that we show up in the right forum.As a street preacher I used to look for the most populated place in town to go preach…a park or a street corner, anywhere the people were.I would have been an idiot to set my soap-box up in an deserted parking lot.
Not only must we communicate in a way that the people can understand. We must also take the Gospel to where the people are!Can I tell you where they are?They are in front of the Television and the radio and the computer. But for too long we have downplayed and even demonized these electronic communication mediums.And even those who have taken advantage of them, for the most part, have done so poorly (don’t get me started on Christian television).How can we win the battle, if we are not on the battlefield?How can we reap a harvest if we are not on the harvest field? Reinhard Bonnke says, “If you want to catch fish, don’t throw your net into the bathtub.” The seed of the Gospel is too consequential to be cast by the way side.
In the days of oral tradition, many generations faithfully communicated, with solemn commitment, the scriptures that we still cherish today.In fact it is evident that Biblical oral tradition has been among the most enduring in history. In the sixteenth century, the new world of printed literature was dominated by Christians who seized this medium for God’s glory.Now it’s our turn and I fear that we are not doing as well as our predecessors.We must trouble ourselves to communicate the Gospel with clarity to our generation where they are that we “…may by all means win some.”
1 Postman, Neil.Amusing Ourselves to Death.New York: Penguin Group 1986
2 Mumford, Lewis.Technics and Civilization.New York: Harcourt, Brace and World 1934
3 Lewin, James. http://www.podcastingnews.com/2009/04/16/
Unbelief often infiltrates our hearts in the most covert ways. Sometimes we don’t even realize that it’s there. It is good from time to time to take stock of our own belief system to see what is based on God’s Word and what is simply something that we have heard repeated, even by godly leaders, and accepted as fact.
One of the most common questions that people ask me is, “Why do these incredible miracles happen in Africa but not in the western world?” I have heard very well known and well-intentioned ministers give entire teachings about why God doesn’t do it here. I have even heard one use Reinhard Bonnke’s crusades (where I preach) as an example. Some of the explanations I have heard are actually very rational and really explain in detail why it works this way. I must admit, for a long time I also had various answers to this question. And then one day, it occurred to me…the problem is revealed by the question itself.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “…He that cometh unto God MUST BELIEVE.” Anyone who approaches God with the preconception that God heals there but not here (wherever “here” and “there” may be), has already prophesied the outcome of there own request. You cannot approach God like that. Faith is the fundamental basis upon we can and must approach the Almighty.
Where did we get the idea that God does greater miracles in third-world countries than he does in the west? Many people, in asking this question, have just accepted this notion as fact, but what data is it based on? There is certainly nothing in scripture to support it. I can tell you from my own anecdotal experience, as one who ministers all over the world, that THE POWER OF GOD IS THE SAME in the Western world as it is in Africa, Asia or any third-world country. I just returned a couple weeks ago from a tour in the United Kingdom. We saw incredible miracles in every single service. Tumors were disappearing, deaf ears opening, arms, legs and eyes instantly healed. In fact, given the relative numbers, I would say that in many places in the west I have seen more healings then even in Africa – you can’t tell me that miracles don’t happen in the west!
Psalms 78:40, 41 gives us some fascinating insight on God’s frustration with the Children of Israel in the wilderness. It says, “How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, AND LIMITED THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL.”
Of course the Children of Israel had seen great wonders and signs unlike any generation of human beings before them. They knew that God was powerful, but they subjected Him to a set of parameters and constraints based on their own experiences. God was provoked and grieved by their limitations and allowed their doubt to become a self-fulfilling prophecy (ie. Ex. 14:11 the Israelites say, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” – Num. 26:65, God says, “They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.”)
Even Jesus had a taste of this in His own ministry. When He returned to His hometown Mark 6:5 says, that He was not able to do any miracles there. I can just hear the locals asking each other, “Why do miracles happen in Jerusalem and not in Nazareth?” Their unbelief was literally enough to limit what He was able to do in their midst. Their unbelief had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The philosophy that God doesn’t do it here, is nothing more than an insidious, demonic doctrine of unbelief, and I, for one, refuse to humor the bogus assumption discretely tucked into the question any longer. How has Satan managed to get us to buy into this baseless lie wholesale? It was in the west that the Great Awakenings took place. It was in the west that people like Smith Wigglesworth, Kathryn Kuhlman, William Branham and all of the great healing evangelists of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s witnessed some of the greatest miracles in recorded history. It was in the west that the Holy Spirit was poured out in Wales and Azusa Street and the Hebrides. The Charismatic movement, the Jesus People movement, the Toronto outpouring and the Brownsville Revival, all happened in the west.
It’s worth mentioning that this is not a uniquely western problem…it is a human problem, a problem of unbelief, a problem of limiting God. You see, for some reason, many have subconsciously bought into a philosophy that says miracles can happen everywhere except here. Those in the west find it easy to accept that something miraculous can happen far away like Africa or Asia. But I have also heard those in Africa and Asia talk about the wonderful things happening in America. The voice of unbelief says that anything can happen…somewhere else. This is not faith and it does not please God.
What other notions have we adopted into our belief system that limit God? Maybe we will find that some of our great questions have a very simple solution, one that we have actually known all along, “He that cometh to God must believe…”
One man told me recently, “I consider myself a ‘Chari-skeptic’.” He apparently took great pride in his unbelief – two sins for the price of one. I know people who feel it is somehow noble and a great service to the Body of Christ to question everything that God does. Every healing has to be verified by a doctor, every manifestation needs a logical explanation, and every miracle must be approached with skepticism and cynicism. Their default setting is to doubt their “beliefs”.
While I am certainly not one who endorses mindlessly swallowing everything that comes down the line, I would like to see a new breed of skeptics arise; skeptics that question uncertainty, doubt doubts and are cynical about unbelief.
Jesus was this kind of skeptic. In Mark 6:6, we read that Jesus “…marveled because of their unbelief.” Jesus couldn’t believe that they couldn’t believe. Why are the unbelievers always on the offense and those with faith always on the defense? Isn’t it more logical to trust an all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present God rather than the six inches of grey matter between our ears? I say we should be skeptical of anything that hints of unbelief.
As mentioned earlier, many people ask, “Why do more miracles happen in Africa than in the west?” My response, “Who says that more miracles happen in Africa?” I’m skeptical about the premise of that question.
Here’s another question I get asked often; “Why doesn’t everyone get healed?” My response to that is the same as the one above: “Who says everyone doesn’t get healed?” A valid question might be, “Why didn’t everyone get healed in that particular setting?” But to just assume, based on your own experience or something you have heard, that in every instance, only a percentage of those sick receive a healing, is in my opinion, founded in unbelief.
Another question I often hear is, “Why don’t miracles happen like they used to?” You see, just like it’s easy to believe that miracles can happen…somewhere else, it’s also easy to believe that something miraculous happened in the past, or can happen sometime in the future. The only thing people have difficulty believing is that God can do it right here, right now…but here and now is all we have.
I think that often these questions, and others like them, are really nothing more than a subconscious attempt to let ourselves off the hook. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Word, His power and His promises are the same. What’s more, there are plenty of people who are seeing God’s mighty power demonstrated here and now. Bottom line: there is no excuse.