3. The New Testament Dynamics of the Apostolic Ministry.
We have seen the first use of the term ‘apostle’, and we have considered the OT and NT prophetic significance of this ministry, that of missions, pioneering, foundational building for the new temple of God. But what does it look like practically? To answer this question we need to evaluate some key lives, which manifest such a calling and ministry.
A: Jesus – the Chief Apostle.
Hebrews 3 says:
1Therefore, holy brothers, who share in the heavenly calling, fix your thoughts on Jesus, the apostle and high priest whom we confess. 2He was faithful to the one who appointed him, just as Moses was faithful in all God’s house. 3Jesus has been found worthy of greater honor than Moses, just as the builder of a house has greater honor than the house itself. 4For every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything. 5Moses was faithful as a servant in all God’s house, testifying to what would be said in the future. 6But Christ is faithful as a son over God’s house. And we are his house, if we hold on to our courage and the hope of which we boast.
Firstly, in this scripture Jesus is compared to Moses. It is evident in this scripture that Moses carried an OT type of apostolic ministry, as well as priestly. However, Moses was a faithful servant in God’s house, but Christ was the builder and the Son over it! Moses rescued God’s people, but also led them, formed the structure of their national identity in obedience to God’s commands, and he was supposed to lead them into the land of promise, and see them planted by God in that place, after disarming the nations and their powers. He was a ‘Kingdom missionary’ in an OT type of way. His calling was very apostolic!
So too do we see Jesus in a greater way. We must look at the example of He who appoints, sends, gives and perfectly manifests the apostolic ministry – Jesus Christ. If he is the apostle, then there must be something in His life here on earth that demonstrates that in His life & mission. I’d like to suggest the following:
i. He was chosen & sent by God to this world on a Divine mission. (John 3: 16; 8: 16 – 18, plus many more)
ii. His actual physical presence on earth carried the authority of God’s Kingdom as an apostolic representative. The ancient Jewish law says. ‘The one sent, is as the one who sent him…’ We will see that this carries through to present ministry, though Jesus is more than that, as He is the ‘word made flesh, dwelling among us’.
iii. His apostolic ministry has at its heart, mission. Just as Moses not only delivered God’s people but also was commissioned to take them in to promise, so was the apostolic ministry in Jesus one of a ‘NT Exodus’. That was Christ’s mission! It has been said that an evangelist takes people out from bondage, but an apostle takes out, in order to take people into something. Jesus not only manifested a ‘rescue ministry’ but also a purposeful ministry of the Kingdom. He disarmed the powers over the peoples, to bring them into His inheritance, planted in a place of fulfilment, that they may become an apostolic Kingdom people. That was His apostolic mission!
iv. The parables of Mark 4 and the account of Jesus’ ministry in Mark 5, really beautifully demonstrate how the Kingdom of God works. It is my belief that this account carries tones of the apostolic about it, and how Jesus brings Kingdom advancement into new regions. Here the Lord goes on a mission to the ‘other side’ of the lake to deliver a man possessed by demons. In chapter four he has taught on the work of the Kingdom, especially how in seed form it becomes large and spreads. He then goes on to illustrate practically what that looks like in the 5th chapter. Yes, there was a tormented man needing deliverance, but as we study this account we find the region was oppressed also, and that Christ had gone to reach a people, through a man. We see initially, that Christ and the disciples encounter a violent storm en route to the other side. The Lord rebukes the storm in a manner only attributed to demonic powers. I believe the Lord was going to touch a region, as well as a man. On encountering the tormented man, the Word says that they (the demons) begged to stay in the region, hence why they desired to be allowed to enter the pigs. Jesus actually permits them but only for casting them into the sea! Upon his deliverance the man begs to follow Jesus, and the people beg Jesus to leave the region! (Interesting!) The man is not permitted to leave with Christ but to stay and tell all of God’s goodness. The region must be transformed. As the parable of the mustard seed had illustrated, from seed form the Kingdom would grow into something grand and glorious! So it was the case in this region. Kingdom advancement, and planting of Kingdom seed is apostolic ministry.
v. Consider another account in Mark 1. Jesus heals masses out of His great mercy and compassion. He delivers a man from demons with authority. Many from the region of Galilee see, hear & follow, as they have never seen this authority before. After resting in the home of Simon and Andrew, and healing the mother in law, He goes to pray alone the next morning. Again the crowds are waiting at the house, and Simon summons Jesus to come and minister to the crowds. Surely this is the beginning of a ‘great’ ministry. National fame could lead to global magnitude! The world’s first great healing evangelist! (Not that there is anything wrong with that kind of ministry.) Yet the Lord is mindful of the Father’s apostolic purposes, and must visit other towns and villages also. He says in another Gospel account of this story, that this is why He has been ‘sent’. It is one thing to minister to great crowds, and see God move and bring release, but it is quite another to see the mission beyond evangelism. It is apostolic to bring a penetration of God’s rule into physical locations. God wants a representation of His Kingdom, through peoples, in locations. A divine deposit in each location visited. Christ’s apostolic ministry was one of Kingdom advancement, through mission pioneering, penetration of the powers of darkness, and forming a people / disciples to bear witness to that in every location.
vi. The text earlier quoted in Mark 3, where Jesus chooses the 12 to be apostles, is also a key part of His apostolic ministry. He knows that He alone cannot fully perform this ministry, and so designates the same authority of the Kingdom upon them, that they may multiply the apostolic work of the Kingdom. The one ‘sent’ also must be a ‘sender’. This too is apostolic. W.A.C Rowe , a man greatly used of God in the apostolic church UK, which was birthed in the Welsh Revival once said, ‘the apostolic ministry is not a flash of brilliant individualism. It is always glorious team work.’ It is apostolic to raise up others with the same DNA and send them out. This leads us into the next example of 12 apostle’s ministry.
B: The 12 Apostles of the lamb, in particular Peter.
Having chosen the 12, it is not sufficient to place a title upon them alone. It has been rightly said that the ministry gifts are not prescriptive but descriptive of ministry in lives. Therefore, Jesus gives the 12 clear apostolic instructions, which He has embodied and demonstrated for them to carry forth. We must heed to these instructions, because they surely must have played a foundational role in the thinking & activities of the 12, 70 and Church in Acts in their mission to the nations.
We will look at Matthew 10 and examine the elements of this ministry.
i. Verse 5. Here specifics of geographical locations are given. Jesus is the sender. George Ladd says: ‘The Kingdom creates the Church, not vice versa. The Church bears witness to the Kingdom’s activities.’ Therefore, those sent are obeying a call and commission to something / somewhere. Oswald Sanders says: “Missions are to be based on the passion of obedience, not the pathos of pity” So we can see the absolute centrality of the Lord Jesus in the apostolic ministry from the outset, in that He as the Head of the Church is the One from whom all apostolic specifics come. One Scripture says, He sent them (the disciples) where He Himself was about to go. He knows the spiritual dynamics of the nations, and therefore where we would not choose to go, He would often choose, knowing what the key to unlocking a place would be! This takes a unique apostolic dependency by the vessel upon God.
ii. Verse 7. Secondly, their first act in their mission is to proclaim the presence of the Kingdom as good news. They are to announce the Lord’s redemption, power and free grace, based upon repentant lives and faith. What we see in this is God’s ambassadors announcing the ‘invasion’ of God’s rule into the house of the enemy. This is evidenced also in Paul & Barnabus’ ministry in the cities they visited (and the subsequent upheaval!)
iii. Verse 1 & 8. Authority is given for the driving out of powers of the Kingdom of darkness. This is essential in apostolic mission, as one cannot progress to rescue and build something of Kingdom value until the ground is free, so to speak. The spiritual governs the earthly (as with Mark 5 and Luke 11: 14 – 28) and therefore the 12 had to be instructed in this. This ministry of deliverance and healing was evidence that what they proclaimed was fact!
iv. Verse 11 – 16. Apostolic ministry is not only to rescue but also to appropriate God’s rule on earth for a location and people. Therefore, Jesus instructs the apostles to find a house for the ‘shalom of God’ to rest there. Apostolic ministry as demonstrated in Christ, leaves something behind, which produces the fruits of righteousness, peace and joy, in lives and in homes. It is a ministry of reconciliation and restoration of God’s order. What was once previously owned by the powers of the air is now a place of dominion for God and His people. If a house receives this, it knows of grace and peace in the Holy Spirit. From there, the Kingdom, like leaven can spread to the other houses in that place. From this a community of the King is formed that constitutes the congregation / Church of Jesus Christ. A house is the foundation of a community. When a house received the Good news, the men are instructed to stay and make it a base for operations in their mission.
Also, Matthew 16 gives us further insight into the apostolic ministry of the 12, and particularly Peter.
16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
17Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. 18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. 19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” 20Then he warned his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Christ.
Here we see the type of authority expressed in the apostolic church. Upon her revelation of the Son of God, given by the Father, she is built by Jesus, as a stronghold of the Kingdom against the powers of hell. Peter, as a foundational part and representative of this apostolic body of God’s people, is symbolically given the keys of the Kingdom, to bind and loose. Again, the heavenly realities are connected to the earthly manifestations. Acts tells clearly of Peter’s administration of this in chapter 2, 3, 4, 5, 8 & 10.
In Acts 8, we see a good demonstration of the apostolic ministry in Peter. Upon Phillip’s evangelistic success in Samaria, Peter with John goes to affirm what is happening and bring authority and order to that revival. It is not two governmental Apostles bringing things ‘under their control’ but rather it is a distinct function at work. Evangelistic success is great, but without something remaining in that region it is wasted. New wine needs a new wineskin. Apostolic insight also brings out any satanic infection in the new work quickly (as we see with Peter and Simon the sorcerer). This is important so that the new house is built without foundational weakness and is fitting dwelling place for the Spirit. It is worth comment also that they upon their return visit other places in Samaria to preach the Gospel. Both Gospel proclamation, and setting things in place for continuation of God’s work are key parts of the apostolic ministry.
So then we see, that apostolic ministry is not a hierarchal governmental office that sits around presiding over everything. No! Rather it is a functioning ministry in harmony with the work of God, yet distinct from the other ministries. It is a powerful ministry, which brings Kingdom authority with it in evangelism and administering God’s work in mission, for the building of His Church. ‘Going’ is a vital part of the ministry, that’s what ‘sent’ means. Nowhere is presiding mentioned or seen. Rather, as WAC Rowe says, apostles should be those who ‘breakthrough’ & ‘blaze a trail’ for the Kingdom, and should be the most progressive of ministries in the Church.
Apostolic ministry in Peter was foundational. No builder can lay a foundation unless he ‘goes’ to the place of choosing. (We cannot build from out of an office, right?) That’s part of the mission – to go!
It is worth here mentioning, James’ role in Acts 15. He is also mentioned in apostolic terms in Galatians 1 & 2. It is apparent here that His apostolic ministry was more to Jews in Jerusalem, rather than the Gentile nations. So was this a ‘presiding kind’ of apostolic ministry? I do not believe so. I believe one can be ‘sent’ to a city, as well as a people or nation / nations. I know of such ministries today, such as Colin Dye in London, or Jackie Pullinger in Hong Kong. These ministries are far from presiding bishops (in our understanding); rather they are God’s pioneers and builders for that city. In as much as others plant and do mission in a plurality of locations, so too do these servants reach an entire city by planting a plurality of faith communities in different suburbs or areas of the city. If there is any form of remaining after the initial work it is for the purpose of aftercare with the elders for those churches.
Finally, Acts 10, again we see Peter’s apostolic ministry at work. He is mysteriously apprehended by a vision for the house of Cornelius. Supernatural ministry accompanies the apostolic function due to its Kingdom advancing nature; as does the evangelistic ministry also demonstrate. Peter uses the ‘keys’ to open the door of the Good news of the Kingdom to the gentiles, and the Spirit falls upon the house! Notice the house as a key ingredient to this story. How many missions have failed or been partially successful because we have not taken the Kingdom to a house and remained there! This is apostolic.
In conclusion, from Peter, with John, and indeed Paul, we see that part of the foundation building is the laying on of hands for healing, Baptism in the Holy Spirit and ordination. These are foundational aspects of a foundational ministry that are vital to the ongoing building work of the community of faith.
In the next and final installment will conclude this series by taking a look at Paul, and how the Lord through him has given us a glorious pattern to follow.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostle, Apostolic Church, art katz, Jesus, Kingdom, Paul, prophets, the church, the Gospel
In the first installment of this series on the apostolic ministry (see earlier post), we took a look at the original meaning of the theme ‘apostolic’ as given by the Lord to the 12; that of ‘sent ones’. In this next part we will look at Christ’s Apostolic ministry in particular, and the significance of it then and now.
2. Prophetic significance from OT history & prophets; fulfilled in Jesus.
Mark 11, 12 & 13 capture a remarkable sequence of events in the life of Jesus. It is a time when Jesus is open about His Messianic status like no other point in His life. He did this in the final week before His atoning death and triumph. This was a moment like no other in that He was now declaring Himself as the pioneer of a new day, a new foundation, a new building and a greater glory! This statement of truth about Himself was the ‘Rock of offense’! Thus, because the ‘grace of apostleship’ is the grace of Christ through a vessel, in a smaller but important way, apostolic ministry due to its pioneering and foundational nature causes a great disturbance, but also great glory! Let’s look at why.
Throughout the Gospels & Epistles, Jesus is referred to as the ‘Stone’. (Acts 4, Ephesians 2, 1 Peter 2) This is in prophetic fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecies in Isaiah ch 28, and Zechariah’s words in his book – ch 4 & 10. It is also wonderfully foretold in Psalm 118.
The overall picture presented in the OT prophecies is that Jesus is both the foundational stone in the beginning of the building process, and Capstone / consummator of God’s house at the end. With Him in the NT teaching, Apostles and Prophets both historically (Eph 2: 20) and now by their present function (Eph 3: 5) fulfil a foundational role in what God is building for His glory, and the Spirit’s dwelling.
We see in Mark’s Gospel 11, 12 & 13 something of the fulfilment of the OT prophetic word conveyed. Jesus arrives in Jerusalem one week before His death and resurrection, and begins ‘ministering’ for a week at the temple. As he enters Jerusalem, the crowds cry ‘blessed is He…’ in fulfilment of Psalm 118: 15 – 29. It is significant because the cry of ‘blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord’ is directly related to the Psalmist’s prophetic declaration of the Capstone being rejected and it being the Day that the Lord has made.
After this event in Ch 11: 12 – 19 – the Lord clears the temple, and declares God’s intention for His people – that it is His house of prayer for all nations! The next day Jesus speaks of speaking to mountains, after cursing the fig tree, and using true faith in God. And then in ch 11: 27 – 33 – His authority is questioned. In other words to build something new, must require a fresh ground to work with; every obstacle removed and persistent standing in the face of opposition. What Christ has come to do is lay a new foundation stone in His mission and message. This is apostolic.
In Mark 12 He tells a parable of Tenants who reject the Son, and He quotes the Psalm 118 in fulfilment of the rejection of Him – the Stone, by the Jewish religious leaders. He then teaches in the temple for a few days. God has suddenly come to His temple!
Ch 13, the disciples marvel at the ‘stones’ of the temple, and the Lord tells them it will be destroyed.
It is evident that Jesus Christ, the Stone, is clearing the way, so to speak, for a rebuilding of God’s house, based upon Himself. It will demand a new understanding of what God is doing in the earth. What God is doing to a physical temple by destroying it, He will perform the opposite by building a new spiritual temple built upon His Son. This is in fulfilment of Zechariah 3 & 4 where the Stone would be laid to shouts of ‘grace / blessings’. Interestingly, Zechariah prophesies to the mountain of opposition that stands before Zerrubbabel and Joshua’s building work, by saying ‘What are you O mountain… you will become level ground.’
Zerrubbabel and Joshua were the commissioned builders against the will of the enemies of Judah (Ezra 4) and yet the prophet brings encouragement to build in the face of opposition. This historic account in the OT is also prophetic of the Lord’s glorious NT work.
So the OT prophetic type is the builder working with the watchman in the building of God’s house. In the NT, the apostle and prophet are foundation ministries for the NT people of God, built upon Jesus! In the both examples it is not by might, nor by power but by the Spirit of the Lord!
Here we see an OT prophetic view & NT fulfilment of what the great apostle Jesus did in His ministry. He destroyed the temple, and rebuilt it in 3 days! Now we can understand why apostolic & prophetic ministry working together brings great disturbance to the powers of darkness, because it is the taring down of satan’s kingdom, and the laying of a foundation Stone – the message of the Kingdom of God, in Christ. It is a building of a new spiritual temple upon Jesus, the Chief cornerstone. Apostleship is front line ministry, rather than ‘managerial status’. It is rooted in the Man, Christ Jesus, and because of this it will bring commotion but come with great glory from God and to God! Upon Himself, with apostolic ‘building’ ministry and prophetic ‘watchman’ ministry, we can see God’s house built for God’s glory to dwell in by His Spirit.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostle, Apostolic Church, art katz, Jesus, Kingdom, Paul, prophets, the church, the Gospel
Author’s Note: Over the next few weeks I’d like to talk about the apostolic ministry in today’s Church, and how I believe Scriptures reveal it works in the Kingdom of God. I will publish four parts, including looking at Christ, OT prophetic significance, the original 12 including Peter, & Paul.
May God speak to us in regard to these things in a deeper and more precious way!
We are all well acquainted with the Scripture in Ephesians 4: 11,
‘it was He who gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors & teachers…’
It has become a well quoted Scripture in many circles around the world, and thank God that many in the Body of Christ are now embracing it as a present reality in the Church! However, it still produces much disagreement, debate and confusion. And even if many agree with its present truth, much confusion, speculation and even abuse in applying these truths have come.
It is even more so in regard to the apostolic ministry itself, that the truths have become very clouded of late. Not that the Word of God is cloudy on the issue but what men make of the precious word ‘apostolic’ has become cloudy. Thus, abuses abound; who are these people? Men, women, or even both? Are they bishops or spiritual CEOs, or neither? Who has the right to choose or name them? Are there different grades of apostles? Is it an office or a function? Does the ‘apostle’ have the right to ‘make the calls’ and ‘pull rank’ if others disagree?
It is my view that we have to come away from answering these questions, and quarrels in endless debates, and go back to the Scriptures. From there we can see the clear picture the Scriptures portray. (Please be aware that I will not get into the debate of ‘if they are valid ministries for today’, as that question has been answered thousands of times, and I am taking it for granted that the readers will believe it to be so.)
I quote Art Katz in regard to this theme of ‘Apostolic’:
“Like every Biblical word, we will not find the definition in a dictionary. We need rather to be apprehended by the genius of what the word represents… Probably one of the greatest failures of the Church is to be satisfied with verbal statements and creedal affirmations but without the corresponding actuality.”
1. Back to basics. The Apostle as ‘sent one’.
Mark 3: 13 – 15.
Jesus went up on a mountainside and called to him those he wanted, and they came to him. 14He appointed twelve—designating them apostles — that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach 15and to have authority to drive out demons.
The scripture above carries some foundational elements to understanding the apostolic ministry, which are in keeping with Ephesians 4: 11 & 1 Corinthians 12: 28. It is that ‘He’ – Jesus Christ has appointed these ministries. In this Scripture in Mark 3 we see the following:
Firstly, there is a Pattern. While on the mountain in prayer (Also see Luke 6: 12 -13) – Jesus calls and man responds / Jesus appoints & designates – His servants ‘go’. This shows that initiative is God’s, not man’s, in the raising up of this ministry. He by the Spirit imparts the gifts and graces needed. He calls and anoints His servants for such a task. Man’s duty is to respond.
There is also a Meaning. Mark 3 (Also read Luke 6) is the first time in the life of Christ and the disciples that the word ‘apostle’ is used to define a ministry. That means that this initial use of the word should be deemed as key to any future understanding of its meaning. For example, the meaning of the word ‘apostle’ and how that meaning relates to its function today, is to be understood in terms of what we then go on to see evidenced in the life of Jesus and these 12 men in the Gospels from this point. It is also from this significant point that the Lord Jesus delegates the authority and power of this ministry upon the 12 ordinary men; it is from this key moment that this ministry begins to be seen in their lives. We will discuss this more later on, when examining the 12’s particular ministry.
The word ‘apostle’ means ‘sent one’. That is, one commissioned with a Divine mission or message by God to a people. Think of a ship, bearing special cargo, on a mission to take it to a specific destination.
So then, the word ‘sent’ carries a missionary call & dynamic to it. It is a word of action and commissioning; it is also a word of authority and representation from the sender. It is a ‘go-ing’ word! If we remember this, we will rightly understand the spiritual dynamic contained in this ministry.
In the OT, Exodus 3: 10 & 12, God calls and meets with Moses in the Burning Bush encounter. We again see the Apostolic God revealing Himself, calling His servant, commissioning him to His purposes, sending His servant to a particular mission with the sender’s authority and message. It is worthy to note, Stephen in Acts 7 gives an account of Moses calling at the bush, uses the word ‘send’, which is an apostolic word. Moses really fulfils an OT type of apostolic ministry.
There is a message. The Scripture in Mark 3 specifically says that the sending was in connection to them preaching. Preaching is a vital ingredient in the apostolic ministry, but not just any preaching. I believe there is a kind of ‘apostolic preaching’ that brings the authority of the Gospel of the Kingdom to bear in virgin territory, and establishes God’s rule through the building of new communities of faith. This preaching is one of tearing down in order to raise up. It is an appropriating ministry accompanied by signs and wonders that can change a region. This preaching also carries a foundational grace that reveals Jesus Christ both theologically and experientially to the newly formed community. It takes the newest of believers to the depths of discipleship in such a way that, ‘Christ is formed in them…’ and they in turn become a Christ centred apostolic people.
In part 2 of this article we will look at how Jesus Christ began to fulfill Old Testament prophecies as the Great Apostle of our Faith.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: apostle, Apostolic Church, art katz, Jesus, Kingdom, Paul, prophets, the church, the Gospel
“O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters,
Or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul…” -Ps. 131.1-2a
In our society, which moves at breakneck speed in a multitude of directions and pursuits, there is a remarkable temptation to involve our minds and hearts with matters too great and difficult for us. It is a rare thing to run into souls who have learned the art of quieting the soul before God.
In the world, men make success, promotion and knowledge the aim of all things, and if you would advance in those realms you’ve got to be a “go-getter,” an active mind, an ambitious, almost machinic person. Promotion and advancement have got to mean more to you than truth, family, and life itself, and you must be willing to climb the ladder of success by walking over the backs of others.
In the Church, the same kind of wisdom often festers and spreads. If we are not pursuing the same toys and statuses that the world pursues, we are often trampling our own souls with religious pursuits, ministerial striving, or other “Kingdom matters” which are too difficult for us. We ought never to engage our hearts in matters which remove us from a vital communion with Him, even if they are topics or ministries that appear valid and noteworthy. It is one thing to wrestle with a matter the Lord Himself sets before you, and to go along the trying pilgrimage hand in hand with the Great Shepherd. In those cases, there will be trial, stretching, and enlargement, but the whole journey will be marked by His nearness.
It is quite another thing to take up matters prematurely, and engage in thoughts and situations that the Lord never called us to touch. Are you being overwhelmed by fast-moving thoughts and anxieties? Are you looking in a multitude of directions to find the answers to the matters of life and spirituality? The Psalmist gives us the key to eternal liberty from the powers that influence us negatively. “Surely I have composed and quieted my soul…”
Thank God that Moses waited on the back side of the desert until the bush was inflamed.
Thank God that David received the word of the prophet Nathan, and waited in repentance until the heavenly “hyssop” cleaned his soul.
Thank God that Simeon was waiting for the true consolation of Israel, and was not satisfied with anything less than the appearance of the Son of God Himself.
Thank God that John the Baptist didn’t try to move into public ministry prematurely, and that he was willing to quiet his soul in the wilderness until the day of his showing forth.
Thank God that Jesus shot down the attempts of Satan to stir his humanity in the wilderness, overlooked the desires of His kinsmen to appoint Him King before the proper time, and pressed through the piercing pain of Gethsemane and Calvary for the “joy set before Him.”
Thank God that the 120 quieted their souls in the upper room, rather than raising funds for a new building and starting a campaign for Christianity.
What would have happened if all of these saints had chosen expedience over obedience? What would have happened if they would have looked to the world for help, or listened to the multitudinous streams of opinion and thought in their day? The revelation of God has broken into history upon the shoulders of weak men and women who have quieted their souls enough to hear what God Himself is speaking. The Lord chooses to reveal Himself by those means alone, and the fact that we have busied our minds and hearts rather than quieting our souls before Him is the primary reason our cities have seen so little of Him.
Jesus’ soul was quieted in the secret place, where He listened intently to the Voice of His Father. Because of this, He had an inward stillness and clarity in the home of Jairus, though his daughter had died, and He was surrounded by relatives whose emotions were in earthquake-mode. He brought a whole new reality into the midst of the instability of that home, and resurrection glory resulted.
The Lord means for His own people to manifest the same stillness and authority in these last days, and it’s only by quieting our souls and hearing the Voice of the Lord that we have the capacity for that kind of an expression. We have a calling to come into the holy place of stillness and communion, that our children may see His wonders, and that Israel and the nations would see in the Church “the glory of God in the face of Christ.” Only a people which has “composed and quieted” its soul will have the love and authority to speak to a bewildered nation:
“O Israel, hope in the Lord,
From this time forth and forever.” (v. 3)
Have you quieted your soul today, dear saint? If you have not consciously quieted your soul, it will immediately be swept up in the tide of this age. You can be assured that the thoughts and fears and confusions which plague the nations will soon enwrap your soul, for it is only in the conscious decision to quiet your soul that you are enabled to hear the Voice of the Lord. Lay down that which is too great and difficult for your soul. “Be still,” and know that He is God. There is a wisdom, peace, and grace which rests on the quieted soul, and you have unobstructed access to this blessed reality through the Blood of Jesus Christ. You need only to compose and quiet your soul before Him.
Then, as a precious 80-year old intercessor once charged me in regard to coming into the holy place, “You have to enter!”
The community of saints which comes into this kind of soul-quietude before God will become a resounding voice in the cities of the earth, whose words are as His, “spirit and life.”
(Jn. 6.63b) Remarkably, the souls who have quieted their hearts are the same ones permitted and privileged to speak in the time of their showing forth. Those who have consciously quieted their own souls are the ones to hear His voice, thereby becoming more than an echo of other men.
The Lord is wanting to form a holy community in the earth, who can with one voice proclaim, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!'” (Mt. 3.3)
For this, His voice must increase, and the activity of my soul and the varying voices in the world must decrease.
The quieting of the soul is not for the timid, dainty and cowardly. It is not simply a syrupy sweet journey through flat plains, highlighted by cloudless skies and warm breezes. It requires an inward violence to shut the gate against the hustle and bustle of this age and the distractions and pressures which will invariably strike our hearts when we set out to seek His face. We’ve got to come boldly, making every effort to enter His rest, and to quiet our souls before the Throne. John the Immerser “took it by force” (Mt. 11.12) in the wilderness, and so must we. Shut out the other voices, saints. If it requires shutting off the computer, unplugging the television, and taking the phone off of the hook, let it be done. Let your soul be composed and quieted before the Lord. There you will hear His voice, and Christ will be all in all to your soul.
Isn’t this what your spirit cries out for, after all?
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: Be still, God, hope, Jesus Christ, John the Baptist, listen, quiet, rest, the church, wait for the Lord
Note from the Author: I have taken it upon myself to share with you a part of a booklet I put together entitled ‘Jesus Ministry’. It was written especially for young people, who have perhaps been going through the motions of church life without knowing ‘the reason for existence’ and the reality of the Kingdom of God. This is not a ‘plug’ for the book, rather it is an appeal to you, in as much as it has been God’s appeal to me in recent years. Whether young or old, God wants all of you; a Divine possession that will not only consume your life, but manifest His life through you in an unprecedented way!
Malachi 3 (NAB)
17 And they shall be mine, says the LORD of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action. And I will have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him.
1 Peter 2 (1890 Darby Bible)
9 But ye are a chosen race, a kingly priesthood, a holy nation, a people for a possession, that ye might set forth the excellencies of him who has called you out of darkness to his wonderful light…
The term ‘possessed’ brings up all sorts of uncomfortable thoughts in our minds, especially when we read in the Scripture of those who were ‘possessed’ by evil spirits. In the Old Testament we read that the Spirit clothed Himself with Gideon. We do not hear enough today of the reason Christ died and shed His blood for us; that is the gift of His Spirit, poured out upon those who repent and believe. For this reason our God did this – that the Spirit may clothe Himself with a people! This is why Christ came into this world… to get for Himself a people for His own possession!
All New Testament teaching has its basis ultimately in the mission and message of Jesus – the focus being on Jesus – the Messiah and Son of God, who through His death and resurrection brought about salvation for God’s New Testament people. They would comprise of Jew and Gentile to form a last days community of disciples, living in the present time by the Spirit, as they awaited the final triumph of that salvation in the return of Christ. The first followers of Christ knew that the time of the Kingdom had been fulfilled and would be completed when Jesus returned. These men and women lived like all the issues of Jesus Christ dominated their very being. They were consumed with Him… possessed by Him and His realities. They knew that they existed as God’s people for that time – chosen, redeemed, possessed by God – as His end time people. There are a few things the early church lived out and are of vital importance to the present day disciple:
Though our bodies still await that awesome time when Christ will return to perfect His work concerning us and make us like Him, our spirits have already been, and continue to be transformed (transfigured) toward perfection in Jesus. (Romans 8: 11). God is working His life into us today!
God’s people are to live in the sense that the glory of the future is already at work within them, both for the transformation of the person and for the preparing of the whole people of God. Heavenly eternity has been set in their hearts by the Spirit.
Ephesians 1 (NAS)
13 In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised holy Spirit, 14 which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God’s possession, to the praise of his glory.
Listen to these words of revelation from Matthew Henry:
All who are designed for heaven hereafter are wrought or prepared for heaven while they are here; the stones of that spiritual building and temple above are squared and fashioned here below. And he that hath wrought us for this is God, because nothing less than a divine power can make a soul partaker of a divine nature; no hand less than the hand of God can work us for this thing. A great deal is to be done to prepare our souls for heaven, and that preparation of the heart is from the Lord.
So then, what does this have to do with me, I hear you ask. Well, this generation has no sense of ownership and being. It has been said by one man that the present generation of young people in Europe are living in a vacuum, and that they are waiting for something or someone to come along and fill that vacuum. Young people want a cause with which they can align themselves (and give themselves to.) All we have to do is watch the present situation on the news to see that young men are giving themselves to false ideals and putting their hope and identity in a god who always demands yet never communes, who hides and never reveals himself.
When we, the emerging generation in the Church catch a glimpse of, and take a look into what Christ has done and is working in us, then we will begin to understand that we are His, and His for a purpose. That purpose is to call others to obedience to the Gospel and to being a part of His people, His own possession. It is to see those who are possessed by anything other than Him, come to know of the freedom that comes by the possession of His Kingdom as it enters their hearts. That’s true identity, that’s true fellowship and that’s freedom!
There is an inner heart, there is an inner being, that can reach out, and you not only see the Lord Jesus but you feel the Lord Jesus… and you are one with Christ in an indissoluble union… you are part of Jesus Christ… you are one in Christ and with Him heirs of God.
Hugh Black – Scotland.
Posted in The Kingdom of God Tagged with: God, Jesus, Jesus Ministry, New Testament, Old Testament, Scripture, the church, VOR Series: Divine Possession
Acts 7: 37 – 45 (Stephen’s address)
This is that Moses who told the Israelites, ‘God will send you a prophet like me from your own people.’ He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us.
But our fathers refused to obey him. Instead, they rejected him and in their hearts turned back to Egypt. They told Aaron, ‘Make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who led us out of Egypt—we don’t know what has happened to him!’ That was the time they made an idol in the form of a calf. They brought sacrifices to it and held a celebration in honor of what their hands had made. But God turned away and gave them over to the worship of the heavenly bodies. This agrees with what is written in the book of the prophets:
‘Did you bring me sacrifices and offerings
forty years in the desert, O house of Israel?
You have lifted up the shrine of Molech
and the star of your god Rephan,
the idols you made to worship.
Therefore I will send you into exile’ beyond Babylon.’
Our forefathers had the tabernacle of the Testimony with them in the desert. It had been made as God directed Moses, according to the pattern he had seen. Having received the tabernacle, our fathers under Joshua brought it with them when they took the land from the nations God drove out before them.
To begin with in this article, I am going to make a controversial statement: ‘The Western Church today is struggling in many areas of its ministry because it does not understand its Jewish roots!’
You may wonder how I can make such a statement, especially against statistics of unprecedented Church growth in the last 100 years or so. (Which even if it is the case, doesn’t validate or invalidate everything we do.) And what do I mean by Jewish roots? I do not mean becoming Jewish per se, or taking on another culture when you are not of Jewish decent. Rather, I mean the ways of God revealed to those key men and women of faith in Israel in Biblical history, of whom Jesus is the pinnacle in every way.
The Church can continue to be used by God, because His heart is gracious and wanting ALL to come to repentance. But His plan of salvation is more than access to heaven. It is about becoming a Kingdom people. That is why Christ came. There is a text, which demonstrates something of the difference between seeing God’s power, as opposed to those that go deeper to see His ways as well as His power.
Psalm 103: 7 – He made known his ways unto Moses, his acts unto the children of Israel.
This for me is an interesting Scripture. God’s people can know His power without knowing His ways. It takes a unique person to find out God’s ways. Moses was such a man. He not only found out what God could do for the people of Israel, but what God wanted to do for them in terms of purpose and strategy. How we could benefit from doing such a thing!
It is my firm belief that with every reformation, revival, renewal and outpouring of any kind comes not only an intensifying of God’s power and presence, but a revelation of God’s ways. The same Lord who came to Abraham, Isaac & Jacob; the One who visited Moses at the Bush & Sinai; the One who led the people of God into the land of promise; the One who revealed Himself to David, Daniel and all the other prophets and kings – this God came in flesh and met with humanity. In particular, this God met with a people, and revealed His Son according to the flesh through and to a Jewish people, that through His death and resurrection Israel might reveal His Kingdom to men of every Nation. This was Israel’s unique call and destiny! This is why 12 uneducated men saw themselves as the beginning of that fulfillment. From them, and other early disciples, the people of ‘the Way’ continued to minister Jesus Christ according to a unique understanding. They saw themselves as an ‘eschatological people.’ They were a newly formed people of the age to come, foreseen in OT prophecy, living in the present and carrying the Kingdom because of the visitation of Jesus Christ and the Spirit of God. Yet they knew that it was not yet all consummated as the prophets had also foretold. Israel as a nation had not yet fully turned (many had rejected Jesus) and all the nations had yet to experience the Gospel of this inaugurated Kingdom. These things would have been central to the early Jewish believers and their mission. So was their understanding of the gospel and the Kingdom of God on the earth, which was steeped in Jewish history and Scriptures, even if Christ came to redefine what some of that would look like. It was a very Jewish thing to be a follower of King Jesus.
So when the same Spirit of God of the early Church visits today by outpourings of various kinds, He comes to restore the NT faith as prescribed by Jesus and then the 12. This can often be startling, even offensive, and bring a great shock to the system if God’s people today do not allow His Spirit to enlarge their spirit during such a season of visitation. You see, we westerners have put the faith into a mold and we view it through a certain western shade. Hence, Church history has known its fair share of turmoil. Yes, there have been splits due to the division of the enemy, or the spirit of rebellion in a people, or even an abuse by a key leader. But not all schism has come because of this. Some have come, because God has revealed who He really is, and a return to the NT faith & practice is required, and reformation has had to come as a return to His ways – it’s the only wineskin that will hold the new wine!
The theme of Jewish roots is a big subject and thus I will not have time to even scratch the surface of it. So with the above issues in mind, I would like to look at one particular theme, which I believe is absolutely crucial in the ongoing purpose of the Church. I believe if the Western Church grasps this in the near future (as I believe the Chinese Church has), we could be hearing of powerful transformation coming to people, houses, communities and nations. It is what I call the New Testament Exodus.
Recently, I wrote these words in a booklet I put together:
I am convinced that to understand the true meaning of the Gospel disclosed by the New Testament writers, we have to get a grasp and revelation of the account of Israel’s Exodus. Even more so, I believe the Exodus will have special spiritual significance in the life of the Church in these early years of this new millennium. Perhaps the Exodus is the key moment in all of Israel’s history. It is central to their existence and understanding of the one true God and their role as His chosen people. I am a deep believer that it was with the Exodus in mind, the Gospel writers understood the emergence of Christ and His powerful victory on earth. In fact on the mount where He was transfigured and the disciples saw His glory, it is recorded that He spoke with Moses and Elijah regarding His ‘departure’ or ‘exodus.’
I believe that there are vital revelations deeply ingrained in the Exodus for the New Testament people of God. And to add to that, they will bear special significance and power in the imminent move of God that is about to break into the Western nations.
Getting back to the basics.
You see, we have to believe that when Jesus came to this earth, and when the early Jewish disciples ministered before and after His resurrection / ascension, they saw everything in a particular light. All their words, actions and perception, were deeply grounded in the revelation of God and His Kingdom, progressively promised in the prophets, shown in glimpses through types and shadows, revealed and fulfilled in Jesus! Matthew really seems eager to lay hold of this theme. In chapter 2: 15 in quoting Hosea, Matthew says:
‘Out of Egypt I called My Son…’
Already here Jesus is being described in ways pertaining to Israel as a whole. Even as Israel, as a son, was called out of Egypt into the Land of Promise, Jesus – the Son fulfills and embodies Israel and fulfills her destiny. (Even Isaiah’s prophecies use the terms ‘son’ & ‘servant’ and they hold double meaning in the light of the NT.)
Then to add to that Jesus is baptized in Matthew 3. Why did the Pharisees get offended at such a thing? Because ‘washings’ were an important part of Jewish practice. To receive the ceremonial washings in Israel was to identify with the Nation; and even Gentiles, if wanting to become a part of the Nation, had to go through such strict washings. Yet Jesus, identifies not with the traditions of men but rather John the Baptist’s baptism, and with all those of a humble heart – sinners, poor, weak and those without hope. Luke records in his Gospel narrative that Jesus was baptized, ‘…when all the people were being baptized…’ What a gracious & merciful Master!
He goes through a true baptism, not one of hypocrisy. He does it to fulfill righteousness. And what’s more, he is identifying with the people of God and the Exodus of the OT, and He is introducing a new Exodus. Paul, a Jew of Jews, in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 & 2 says:
‘For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.’
And later in verse 11:
‘These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come.’
So, even in the act of Baptism Jesus is identifying with a people, ‘called out of Egypt’, and going through the waters, which signifies the cutting off of the old life, and entering to the new as a fulfillment people. Jesus really is making big statements even with His actions! How many times do we perceive in the West today, Baptism as just symbolic of an inward change? When whilst it carries that symbolism, it also has deeper significance in terms of our identifying with this glorious God-man Jesus and His end-time people. So then this was a very Jewish thing and an understanding of the early Jewish ‘Jesus -sect’ (as some would have called them) would have added a weightier meaning to this important act in response to faith. We as a NT people joined in union by Jesus, our Sacrificial Lamb, Deliverer and Apostle, have left Egypt (the world and its hold) and have become heirs of the promise – the Kingdom now and to come.
Now add to this Exodus viewpoint, there is also this thought coming through: Jesus is being baptized in the river Jordan, quite a dirty river, and indeed forbidden as a place of purification by early rabbinic tradition. Jordan was the second major body of water that the children of Israel crossed by miraculous intervention. After their crossing into the Land, 12 men were chosen to take 12 stones from the river and place them as a memorial for the 12 tribes of Israel. (Joshua 4: 1 – 9) The Gospel’s closely link the choosing of the 12 disciples / apostles in their narrative shortly after the Baptism & wilderness accounts. God is speaking in a significant way!
Now regarding the wilderness account in Matthew 4, Matthew then carries the Exodus theme further with these words:
‘Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights…’
Recorded here is how the Spirit leads the Lord into the wilderness (a place of significance for Israel.) There He is tried and tested, yet triumphs in weakness. He is there for a symbolic number of 40 days, without food, in comparison to the children of Israel who complained for lack of food. So the fulfillment of Israel’s existence and role is now starting to really take shape. Where a generation of the children of Israel under Moses did not go into promise because of unbelief and disobedience in the wilderness, this glorious Leader is different: He defeats the testing of satan in that wilderness and comes out filled with power of the Spirit! He has demonstrated that ‘man will not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ He did this in the power of God, and is making up for Israel’s unbelief in the God of their fathers. Israel’s glory and victory is in this glorious Man!
Now something quite phenomenal begins to take shape in the account of Matthew. From there he tells of Jesus going into the region of Galilee, or as quoted by Matthew from Isaiah – ‘Galilee of the Gentiles.’ In the OT, Israel when led out was given a unique mandate from heaven in Deuteronomy 7: 1 – 6, that they were to ‘drive out the nations… and burn their idols…’ and they were to then possess the land of inheritance. Jesus begins to demonstrate a whole new meaning to this. As mentioned earlier, He then gathers twelve young men to Himself (remember the symbolism.) However now, He begins to preach the Kingdom as drawing near, and it is recorded, ‘healed every disease and sickness… news spread all over Syria, and people brought to Him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering with pain, the demon possessed…He healed them ALL. ’
Jesus is redefining to the Jewish people what their calling really is all about. It is to be a light to nations covered in darkness. As He drives out all the affects of darkness on a poor and helpless people, so too are they called to bring Light to the Nations. As He is delivering them from idolatry, which culminates in demon possession, so are they to reveal the One true God in His Son – Jesus, and a possession of His Spirit. As He deals with the tyranny of satan, so too are they to preach release to the captive and an entrance into a new Kingdom which is not of this world. They – the people of Israel, in Jesus, are to be a people who fulfill what their ‘Moses / Joshua led ancestors’ foreshadowed – drive out the works of evil, inherit the promise of God, bless the nations, and enter the rest of God.
Later on in Matthew, Jesus teaches ‘the sermon on the mount,’ (which is itself symbolic of Moses & Israel receiving the OT law on Sinai) He comes down from the mountain and does powerful signs of the Kingdom, even to a gentile centurion with great faith. Make no mistake, Jesus really is moving and fulfilling things in an unmistakable way to the early disciples, and the nation at large.
I believe what is being portrayed is powerful and glorious. Because it is then the 12 disciples, after Jesus demonstrating to them and teaching them His law and His ways, who are then ‘sent’ or ‘apostlized’ to do the very same thing – take the Kingdom message and power, drive out demons and proclaim ‘peace’ to the house that receives them. They are embodying Israel’s rediscovered calling. Initially, they are to go only to the lost sheep of Israel for it is firstly a matter of fulfillment and significance to them as a historic covenant people. But Luke later records, that the 12 were to become a group of 70, and no such geographical or racial boundary is given at that time of sending. Thus the prophetic call to Israel as God’s son and servant is fulfilled in the Messiah – Jesus Christ, and all those who attach themselves to Him. Therefore, it is a VERY Jewish thing for a Jew to embrace this glorious God-Man; it is a very Jewish thing to be a missionary for God; in fact it is very Jewish to be Apostolic, and it is a very awesome thing for a Gentile to be accepted as part of the people and share in that calling!
As I quoted earlier from my book, in Luke 9, Jesus speaks of ‘His exodus’ later on when on the mount of transfiguration. He is to die a terrible death and become Israel’s Passover Lamb, as well as their deliverer in leading the people out of bondage. But His death is not final, rather it is a doorway. He is to go to the depths of the grave, as Psalm 68: 15 – 18 & Ephesians 4 says, and lead captivity captive. And He is to lead that formerly sinful idolatrous people, (Jews & Gentiles alike) into His rest, through death, resurrection, reigning and granting us access and peace with God, through Himself! Hebrews 3 even likens the greater ministry of Jesus to the lesser one of Moses. In fact the whole of that epistle is about this theme. It really is awesome, this New Testament Exodus!
This is another mountain experience with God, as was the Sermon on the Mount. Again, God is alluding to the Sinai experience. This time it is not only about His law entering the heart of men, but rather Jesus now being the fulfillment of the Law & Prophets. His Jewish disciples were not to see the preparatory types and shadows as an end in themselves. God thus hides the two OT figures away after Peter’s desire to build tabernacles for them. God centers His will and revelation in His Son. After this powerful experience on the mountaintop with the inner circle of Peter, James & John, (not forgetting Moses & Elijah) Jesus goes down and finds a mess. The disciples cannot cast out a demonic spirit from a boy. There is a large crowd watching. Jesus gives a startling indictment against that generation (not just the apostles) that they are ‘unbelieving and perverse!’ He subsequently casts out the demon and the people are amazed.
This carries with it tones of what Moses faced upon his coming down from the ‘mount of God’ after receiving the law. He came face to face with demonic activity in the form of worship of a golden calf. He too faced an ‘unbelieving and perverse generation.’
The difference now with Jesus, as opposed to the day of Moses, is that our Lord has not failed to deal with the powers of the darkness that affect the nations. Moses may have destroyed the golden calf, but later on he is himself disobedient and filled with unbelief over the use of the rod of God. Moses did not go in to inherit. Jesus, full of faith and the Holy Spirit has overcome! He was perfectly obedient to the Father’s will. (Phil 2: 8 / Romans 5: 19 / Hebrews 5: 8 -9) He has inherited and will possess the Nations. The decisive victory at the Cross has been accomplished! He now has entered the rest for us, and we are to know of this inheritance also, now and in the ages to come.
The book of Acts shows how seriously the early Church took the words, mission and methods of Jesus, and how they perceived them. They carried on in that pilgrim spirit, exporting and sending, dispossessing and inheriting. Jewish disciples and apostles bringing people of all tribes into Israel’s inheritance of the Kingdom, through the message of Jesus Christ. God had revealed His New Testament Exodus to His people – how could they do anything but respond!
Now because of God’s grace revealed in His Son, we have inherited a Kingdom! We must pray much and examine the early Jewish Church life and practice. Pray for the same understanding of God’s ways, grace and power to be upon us. The first Jewish disciples saw everything in this light (as well as much more), and so too must we! We are a chosen race, as Peter declares, to declare the praises of God, who called us out of darkness. That’s Exodus type language. Paul says in Ephesians 3, the Church is called to ‘make known the manifold wisdom of God to principalities and powers…’ – that’s Exodus understanding!
So then people of God, Jew and Gentile alike, through faith in Jesus Christ, let us rediscover our Jewish roots. If we do, it will affect our understanding of who we are, and where we are heading, in this age and in the age to come. I thank God for the Jews, chosen and elect of God to a unique destiny. I thank God for the early band of Jewish disciples – holy radicals for Jesus who turned the world upside down. I thank God mostly for Jesus. Who by His grace brought me – ‘an alien’ by natural birth, and adopted me as a son. So that with the faithful remnant of Jewish brothers we can see an Apostolic witness of ‘sent ones’ taking the Kingdom of God, through the message of Christ to the Nations and the Nation of Israel.
Finally, I believe that as we see the day of the Lord approaching, the Church will more and more understand her origins and identity. In that moment she will become by the Spirit, all that God has called her to be. Israel needs to witness an authentic apostolic expression of Jesus Christ today, as prescribed in the early Church of the 1st Century. Only then can a jealous Israel, like Moses, turn aside and ‘see God’ in us earthen vessels – a type of burning bush, and come closer and believe. My prayer with Paul is for ALL of Israel to be saved, and for the Nations to join with her to form a ‘Jesus-people’. When such a ‘New Man’ is formed we will see Christ’s return. May I encourage you to pray for revival in the Nations, including the Middle East. And pray for revival in Israel, for as Paul says in Romans 9: 1 – ‘…my conscience confirms it in the Holy Spirit…’ – it is God’s desire!
May God do it in our day! Amen & Marantha!
Posted in Scripture Tagged with: Exodus, israel, Jesus, Jewish roots of Christianity, jews, Kingdom of God, Moses, New Testament, Old Testament, the church
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.
Posted in Life & Family Tagged with: change, hope, Reality, the church
Editor’s Note: A previously published article from Dr. Brown that is just as relevant today as it was then.
Stephen stood before the Sanhedrin. The appointed Jewish leadership confronted this anointed Jewish believer. They glared; he glowed. They were enraged; he was enraptured. Their faces were contorted with anger; his was like the countenance of an angel. “Men and brothers,” he said, “listen to me.”
He rehearsed the history of Israel, from Abraham to Moses to David, the faithfulness of God in spite of the unfaithfulness of the people. But Stephen was not there that day merely to recite the lessons of history. He was there to be a witness, and as a faithful witness he spoke. His words turned to piercing rebuke:
You stiff-necked people, with uncircumcised hearts and ears! You are just like your fathers: You always resist the Holy Spirit! Was there ever a prophet your fathers did not persecute? They even killed those who predicted the coming of the Righteous One. And now you have betrayed and murdered Him — you who have received the law that was put into effect through angels but have not obeyed it (7:51-53).
Soon his body lay battered and bloody, a mangled, motionless mass. He had not backed down. He had not compromised. He had not omitted a word. He was a witness and a prophetic voice. And that day he became the Church’s first martyr — the first, but not the last. Hundreds of thousands have followed in his path. Being a witness for Jesus could cost you your life.
In the early Church, witnessing and martyrdom quickly became associated: The Greek word for “witness” is martus. Witnesses testify with their lives and often seal their words with their own blood. Have you done any “witnessing” lately?
It’s one thing to read the Word and be stirred by the examples of men like Stephen. But this was real life! He was probably a young man with a wife and children. His whole future lay before him. His family was dependent on him. There may have been a toddler waiting to greet him that day when he came home. But he never came home!
And then there was his ministry. He was a powerful preacher, anointed to heal the sick and perform miracles. Think of all the lives he could touch! Think of all the good he could do for the kingdom of God.
Why didn’t Stephen simply deny the false charges? “Men and brothers, the accusations are not true.” Why didn’t he politely dismiss their questions and calm their anger? Why did he continue to stand up and speak out? The answer challenges us all: He was not seeking to save his life; he was seeking to be a witness.
For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for Me will find it (Matt 16:25).
This is the story of the true Church in every nation and in every age:
You did not renounce your faith in Me, even in the days of Antipas, My faithful witness, who was put to death in your city — where Satan lives (Rev 2:13b).
This is the gospel of martyrdom, the gospel of Jesus. It is the gospel that Paul preached and lived:
I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God’s grace (Acts 20:24).
That is why he could say:
I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Phil 1:20-21).
As Leonard Ravenhill observed, Paul didn’t mind if the cost of his obedience was prison,
for it were better that he should be “the prisoner of the Lord for a few years than that his fellow men should be the devil’s prisoners in hell forever (Why Revival Tarries, 118).
How different this is from the philosophy that rules in today’s luxury-soaked America. How different this is from the modern gospel of success! Jesus cut to the very core of the issue. When Peter told the Lord in no uncertain terms that He was not to go the way of suffering, rejection, and death (“Never, Lord!” he said.” This shall never happen to you!”), Jesus identified Peter’s words as satanic.
Get behind Me, Satan! [Jesus said to Peter.] You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men. (Matt 16:23)
What was at the root of this satanically inspired theology? What fueled Peter’s opposition to the cross? It was a different set of values, a different perspective, a different viewpoint, a different understanding: “you do not have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.” Now we’re getting down to the basics!
One “gospel” is interested in the things of this world, the things of men. The other gospel is interested in eternal things, the things of God. One message cultivates preservation of self; the other cultivates denial of self. One says, “Add to your life!” The other says, “Lose your life!” One message encourages self-satisfaction, the other encourages self-denial. One message tells carnally minded people “what their itching ears want to ear” (2 Tim 4:3); the other message tells the truth.
Whether or not we have much in this world is not the central issue. (Most of us in America have an incredible abundance, dozens of times what we actually need to live.) What matters is our attitude towards our what we have. And we who have an abundance must guard our hearts. Riches are deceitful!
Jesus rebuked the church of Laodicea:,
You say, “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.” But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful poor, blind and naked (Rev 3:17).
But Jesus commended the church of Smyrna:
I know your afflictions and your poverty — yet you are rich. . . . Do not be afraid of what you are about to suffer. I tell you, the devil will put some of you into prison to test you, and you will suffer persecution ten days. Be faithful to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life (Rev 2:9-10).
We must see how tragically earthly the gospel of success really is. It still stands in the way of the cross. It still rebukes Jesus for promising suffering and death. In fact, it actually calls the path to Calvary “religious” — meaning traditional, unanointed, and fruitless.
It is no overstatement to say that there is no cross in the gospel of success. In its most extreme modern forms, it originates from the pit. (Remember, it was Satan whom Jesus rebuked for trying to keep Him from going to the cross.)
The gospel of success criticizes the message of the cross because it leads to “death.” But the true gospel must lead to death — death to the flesh, death to the will of man, death to this world’s priorities. Only through death can there be resurrection. Only through the cross can there be abundant life. In fact, if you want what some teachers call “the God kind of life” you’re going to have to experience “the Jesus kind of death.” Which path will you take?
The last generation taught what is often called “pie in the sky” theology — and this theology certainly had its problems! There were plenty of negative distortions in the message. But we have substituted something worse. We now have the theology of “have your cake and eat it too.” The first message starved its hearers, depriving them of the blessings of life in the Spirit in this world. The second message engorges them, robbing them of the light of eternity.
People of God, we are not to center our lives around eating and drinking, gaining and possessing, having more and being merry, because tomorrow we do not die. No. We live forever! How foolish that we conduct ourselves as if this world were our lasting home. We’re just passing through!
When Jacob was a frail old man he said to Pharaoh:
The years of my pilgrimage are a hundred and thirty. My years have been few and difficult, and they do not equal the years of pilgrimage of my fathers (Gen 47:9).
King David, in spite of the equivalent of billions of dollars of riches, could say at the end of his life:
We are aliens and strangers in Your sight, as were all our forefathers. Our days on earth are like a shadow, without hope (1 Chr 29:15).
Hebrews 11 commends Abraham — certainly a prosperous and influential man — because,
By faith he made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God. . . . [All of them] admitted that they were aliens and strangers on earth. People who say such things show that they are looking for a country of their own . . . a heavenly one (11:9-10, 13-14, 16).
How much more does the New Testament call us to live in the light of eternity!
Jesus told His disciples to rejoice when they were persecuted and rejected, “because great is your reward in heaven . . .” (Matt 5:12). He told them — and us! — to store up treasures in heaven (Matt 6:19-21), and Peter reminds us that we have a heavenly inheritance “that can never perish, spoil or fade” (1 Pet 1:4). That’s why we who suffer for Jesus now will be “overjoyed” when His glory will be revealed at His return (1 Pet 4:13). There is great joy now because there will be endless joy then!
You sympathized with those in prison [for the faith] and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions (Heb 10:34).
Consider the example of C. T. Studd. Raised in a wealthy, aristocratic home in England last century, he became a national celebrity as a sensational cricket player at Cambridge. (He could have become the “Michael Jordan” of his generation.) But through the preaching of D. L. Moody, he experienced a deep transformation and left everything to go to the mission field.
Was he wrong for abandoning a phenomenal sports career in England in order to preach the Word in China and Africa? Was he “religious” because he chose to forsake fame, fortune, and comfort to live sacrificically among the heathen? The decisions he made and the path he chose make one thing perfectly clear: He was not seeking to get ahead in this world. He was seeking to please the Lord. There is a difference!
On judgment day, and throughout eternity, men and women like C. T. Studd will be accounted wise. They will have our admiration and God’s commendation. Does anything stop us from following their lead? It will mean going against the grain!
Our country is saturated with a “save your life, improve your life” mentality — from health clubs to exercise videos, from savings plans to retirement funds, from insurance policies to computer programs guaranteed to put you “in control of your life.” Be successful! Live in greater security and ease! Enjoy the American dream! Jesus says, “Follow Me — even to the point of death.”
After His resurrection, He told Peter the kind of death by which he would glorify God (John 21:19). What a concept! Think of a discussion among the first eleven disciples: “Matthew, Bartholomew, Thomas, by what kind of death are you going to glorify Him?”
For these men, this would not have been idle talk: According to tradition, all the first apostles, with the exception of John, died a martyr’s death. (John was reportedly boiled in oil twice — and survived.) For them, the issue was not, “Will we be called to die for the glory of God?” But rather, “By what kind of death will we glorify Him?”
What about us? Is the call any different today? By what kind of death are we called to glorify God? Death to our reputation? Death to human opinion? Death to our careers? Death to our plans and goals? Or maybe the literal death of a martyr?
Savonarola, the prophetic priest in the fifteenth century Catholic Church understood the cost of fidelity to the Lord. When offered the red hat of a cardinal, he replied:
No hat will I have but that of a martyr, reddened with my own blood.
The fatal flaw of the modern, carnal prosperity message is that it encourages us to set our eyes on the things of this world. It makes it harder for us to leave all, lose self, and follow Jesus. It eliminates the call to take up our cross. (Remember, Jesus was not the only One called to carry the cross. Read Luke 9:23 several times out loud, and digest each word slowly: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.”)
The gospel of success says, “Jesus died for you so you could prosper and succeed in this world.” (Of course, there is some truth to the prosperity message, but its emphasis is way off.) The biblical message says, “Live so as to lose your life for the Lord” — meaning go anywhere, do anything, make any sacrifice — as long as souls are saved, lives are changed, the kingdom is extended, and Jesus is exalted. As children of God, we now make our decisions based on entirely different priorities. We are already subjects of the heavenly kingdom. We have already died to this world!
Of course, there are things in this present age that are important. Justice in our society is important. Compassionate action on behalf of the poor and hurting is important. Righteousness and integrity are important. Morality and family values are important. But only those whose lives are given over to a higher — and eternal — purpose can radically change things here. As C. S. Lewis said:
It is since Christians have largely ceased to think of the other world that they have become so ineffective in this one.
Can we be honest with ourselves? A major reason why we don’t take a stand against godless laws is because we don’t want to risk our lives. We’re not willing to suffer the consequences.
A key reason why we don’t share our faith more clearly and — in love — more aggressively is because we don’t want to experience rejection. We don’t want to lose our friends, or our jobs, or our ease.
One major factor that keeps many of us from the mission field is that we’re too comfortable here and now. (Let’s face it: Here and now is where it’s at for most of us. There’s only one way you can prove me wrong: Live differently!)
It’s time for the old spirit of martyrdom to enter the church of America. (Much of the Church worldwide has no choice in the matter. Christianity for them is synonymous with suffering. Just ask the families of the Christian men in Sudan or Ethiopia who were crucified for their faith — in the last few months.) It’s time that we do God’s will, and God’s will alone.
I once heard Richard Wurmbrand ask why, when the Supreme Court passed the law removing public prayer from our schools, American Christians chose to comply. What would have happened if we simply refused to obey? The whole thing probably would have been turned around overnight. And if it wasn’t turned around? Then at least the church, through her biblical obedience, would have been turned around!
If only we would value obedience to the Lord more highly than we value self-preservation! If only the favor of God were more meaningful to us than the opinions of people! If only we would count suffering for Jesus to be a privilege! What could stop us then? This country boasts of fifty-seventy million born-again Christians. (Of course, that figure is preposterous.) But what if just one million true believers here (just twenty thousand from each state!) decided to obey God and stand up for what is right, regardless of the cost? Our nation would be absolutely shaken. Now is the time to awake!
In 1984, after hearing K. P. Yohannan of Gospel for Asia preach a challenging message, a Christian man named Samuel gave up his good job in South India and moved with his family to the region of Karnataka. There he began preaching to unreached Hindus, known for their hostility to the gospel. The Lord blessed the work, and even a Hindu priest was born again.
This was more than the extremists could take. They burst into a meeting one Sunday and severely beat Samuel with iron rods, breaking his hand, arm, leg, and collar bone. When his seven year old son ran up and cried out, “Please don’t kill our daddy!” they struck the boy on the spine, breaking his back. Then they left, warning Samuel that if he ever preached there again, they would kill him. The beating was so severe that Samuel and his son were hospitalized for several months.
After his release, Samuel attended a workers’ meeting with K. P. Yohannan. The first night, during a time of prayer, his arm was supernaturally healed of paralysis he was suffering as a result of his beating. The next night he testified of the things he had recently experienced for the Lord.
K. P. asked Samuel, “What are you going to do now?” With a peaceful determination, the young man replied:
I am going back. Even if I am killed, my blood will be the foundation for many more churches.
He returned and has continued to preach. His son is back in school and is also doing well. And Samuel has baptized many more converts — and has been beaten again.
Would we have gone back and preached? K. P. was honest enough to admit that his own reaction might have been different. First he would have come up with lots of good scriptures to justify not going back. And then he would have used his best argument:
I’m only forty-some years old! God wants me to use my brain for His kingdom. With all the investment He has made in my life since I was sixteen, would it be right for me to be killed by some fanatics next week? Don’t be stupid! I am going to leave this place so I will have another forty years of my life to invest in and build God’s kingdom (Living in the Light of Eternity, 159-60).
Samuel thought differently. He was not out to save his life, he was out to save sinners. With such resolve how could he be defeated? His life is not his own! In past centuries, missionaries endued with the same spirit sailed off to far away lands with their belongings packed in caskets. They were making a one way trip!
A few years ago, a young evangelist moved into an area in Asia famous for its violent resistance to Jesus. The radical religious opposition immediately came to his apartment, making their intentions clear: “We’ll kill you if you stay here and preach!” The evangelist only smiled. “I came to die,” he replied. Today his church has 200 members. That is the power of the gospel of martyrdom. That is true success.
Posted in Revolution & Justice Tagged with: Dr. Michael Brown, Martyrdom, money, prosperity gospel, success, the church
Voice of Revolution posted an article several weeks ago about an Iranian law that has passed its first draft in parliament, which would mandate the death penalty for male converts from Islam, and a life prison sentence for female converts. The law is currently before a committee and may undergo some changes before it comes before the parliament to be passed into actual law. It passed in its original form with an overwhelming majority, 196 to 7, with two absent members, which makes it appear that it will almost certainly be passed, unless major international pressure is brought to bear on the situation. If this law is passed, Iran will have taken another step toward nationally legislating the Sharia laws of Islam. Up until now in Iran, the death penalty for converting from Islam has been left to judicial discretion, solely based upon the writings of Islamic law, but has not been nationalized.
This law has ramifications not only for non-Muslims and converts living in Iran, but also may affect converts to other religions internationally. One clause of the law as it stands right now states that converts from Islam living outside the borders of Iran may be tried by the Iranian courts in their absence and condemned, if they are seen to jeopardize Iranian national security. Men whose parents were Muslim and who convert to another religion as adults would be subject to immediate execution, whereas men whose parents were NOT Muslim, but who had converted initially to Islam before changing their minds would be given three days to “repent” and return to the Muslim faith. Women are given the opportunity to convert back to Islam at any point during their life imprisonment. Other sins punishable by death according to this law are witchcraft, heresy, fortune-telling, and swearing against/insulting Mohammad, Fatima, or the Shi’ite Imams.
According to an online British Newspaper called The Telegraph, very little attention has been given to the passing of this law from either media or international public figures. Here is an excerpt from the October 11th article discussing this:
David Miliband, Britain’s Foreign Secretary, stands out as one of the few politicians from any Western country who has put on record his opposition to making apostasy a crime punishable by death. The protest from the EU has been distinctly muted; meanwhile, Germany, Iran’s largest foreign trading partner, has just increased its business deals with Iran by more than half. Characteristically, the United Nations has said nothing.
It is a sign of how little interest there is in Iran’s intention to launch a campaign of religious persecution that its parliamentary vote has still not been reported in the mainstream media.
The vast majority of the information or discussions available on this law is found on Christian sites focusing on the persecuted church, or other types of religion-themed sites and blogs. The fact that the passing of the Iranian Penal Law, which infringes on the international human rights agreements Iran has officially made in the past, fails to have made widespread international news is a solemn indication of the unofficial ‘blind eye’ to the persecution of the Christian Church and other people groups in many countries across the world.
Friends, we are the Church, and many of our Iranian brothers and sisters will come under harsher persecution now than they ever have in the past! We must join with them now in prayer, that their faith would remain unshaken, and that the Kingdom of God will come in a great outpouring in Iran! Pray that the Spirit would fill the saints in Iran with power and boldness, that they would be able to proclaim the name of Messiah Jesus until He comes! Pray that God will bring swift justice for His people in Iran, work in the hearts of those in the parliament when this law comes back for a vote, and bring this issue to international public attention.
Father, let our hearts be consumed with the Spirit of prayer and love for all the saints! Let us bear the weight with our brothers and sisters in Iran, and be filled with courage to stand up for truth and manifest the Kingdom of God on the earth, as we have been called to do! Pour out Your love and strength on those who suffer for the sake of Your name, and let them abound richly in the power and the joy of the Holy Spirit! Confound the work of the enemy and let your church abound still more and more in the knowledge of the love of Christ and support those who are faithful to Your name even unto death! Praise Him!
Sources: Telegraph.co.uk, Religious Intelligence, Global Exploits Ministries
Posted in News, Persecution Tagged with: death penalty, Iran, Islam, Martyrdom, Persecution, prison, Sharia Law, the church