How many sermons have you heard in your life? How many have you heard in the last year? How many were memorable? How many left an eternal mark inside of you adding to the very make up of your being? Leonard Ravenhill said to his son, “Be careful when you preach, because if you don’t have a word from God, you are not only wasting your hour but as many hours that are sitting in the pews.”
I have had the privilege to hear some of the greatest sermons ever preached. I also have been in meetings where I felt like life was being sucked out of me. I know that you know the feeling of the latter, hopefully you have had the experience of the former. Leonard Ravenhill said, “When was the last time you tip toed out of the sanctuary because you met God.” In Titus Paul said that the, “Word was made manifest through…preaching.” A living word from the throne has that much power, it brings men face to face with Jesus. A word from heaven can sweep one up by the wind of the Spirit into the reforming gaze of God.
I have noticed a few things about these messages. I have noticed that they all seem to have some undeniable and inescapable qualities. After I noticed these things, I made a mental note to weigh each word that I am hearing by this Spiritual scale. I submit to you that this is a very good way to test the spirits. A solid factor in hearing God. A distinguishing maker to determine the origin of a preached word. Maybe this falls short, maybe it is spot on. I have seen it to help me. So humbly I share it with you, to take a piece of paper and mark down how many times in a month that you hear these themes selected by your Pastor. If you find them lacking, I suggest to sensitively share it with him so that he might take it back to God in prayer. There are 5 points. I believe the first is most important but the following four are not in order of importance.
The first and foremost is CHRIST. Listen closely to note how much is Jesus the emphasis. Not just the historical Jesus, but the person. Notice how challenged you are to know Him more and how personally He is referred to. Note in your heart if you genuinely and undeniably see Jesus as the centerpiece.
The second is the CROSS. Are you challenged to take up your cross? Are you able to see the evidence of the cross in your life or lack there of? Note if the doorway into the resurrected life is proclaimed to your soul.
Have you a constant Spiritual remembrance of God’s suffering punctured into your heart? Does the preacher cause you to see the dripping blood of God?
Is there any encouragement to take up your cross in relation to one another? Is the cross the heart of all wisdom presented to you and the universal solution to the problem of man?
The third is how does the things being spoken to you relate to those in CHAINS? We in America often forget that Paul told us to, “Remember those in chains.” Not just to pray for them but that the constant meditation upon the fact that our brothers are suffering throughout the world will effect the very fabric of our thinking. It is not a just balance to weigh a prosperity message next the Father who has just been ripped away from his children for the gospel. I mean, how foolish would a man feel to stand before Richard Wurmbrand, who suffered 14 years in Romanian prisons for Jesus and tell him about his best life now? Or that there is a rich blessing of material things coming his way as he gazes from the floor with a bleeding back unable to walk from his last beating and shivering from eating only one slice of bread a week? We need to remember those in chains when we speak. I am all for being provided for, but if the preaching doesn’t ring true for those in chains, we have forgotten them. If we are giving a revelation of Jesus to the inner man, it will ring to to all men. Not just a select portion of the world.
The fourth is CONVICTION. Paul said that his words came with…”conviction.” Conviction is being convinced inwardly beyond intellectual reason. Conviction is the influence of the Holy Spirit on the soul. Conviction is the power to arrest a man not just about sin but about God. I am moved in the core of my being by words from another world entering into my soul. Prophets burn with this gift. Ravenhill said, “you want to meet a prophet? You probably want to see one but not hear one. Because he will leave blisters on your soul.” Though not all men will carry such a deepness of conviction there must be a sense that this man speaking to me has been with God. Some people describe honey and others dispense honey.
The last is INCENTIVES. What are the incentives that are being laid down in front of you? Is it eternal? Is it a vision of eternity? Has the essence of eternal significance been injected into you? Is there a negative incentive rooted in eternity? That to disobey will have consequences? We cannot preach an emasculated word. It must carry the essence of a positive eternal incentive and a negative incentive as well or it will create a loose generation no matter how great their gifting, their calling or their power – without the fear of God, we will create an emasculated Christianity that cannot overcome the devil.
So these things are very important to me. You may add some or disagree with some, but I feel that it is a crucial layout for weighing a word that is claiming to be from God. If we have failed in these areas, God will have mercy on us. And He will move in spite of us, but to have these qualities is a great indication that you are standing before a man that you can be assured has come forth from the counsel of the Most High.
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
“Nothing in my hands I bring, simply to the cross I cling.”
Turning in the core of my heart is a fire, not a fire for “power” or “passion,” but for the restoration of internal poverty in the Christian life. I extend to you the case of internal poverty; without which a man is locked away in the cell of self. He is chained in the irons of worth. He is fixed progressing in the wrong direction. As Dietrich Bonheoffer said, “if you board the wrong train, it makes no sense to sprint down the corridor in the right direction.” Internal poverty is the dethroning of self that clears the throne of our lives for the King to have His rightful place. Have you wondered why the Kingdom is given to the poor? The rule of God, the King’s domain and the power of Kingdom life is ignited by poverty alone. The spiritual man is bound to internal poverty. He has fastened himself to poverty by his own will, having learned its attractiveness to God. He is gripped by the total freedom of bondage to Jesus Christ. Without internal poverty a man rejects such binding, attractiveness and consequently forfeits true liberty.
Poverty is greater than power. A man may posses miracles and healing, yet be disconnected from the disposition that draws God’s heart to Him; “I am poor and needy (Psalm 86.1;40.17;70.5;109.22).” The poor man understands that he doesn’t have what he most severely needs and without aid from the outside he will most definitely perish. Are you as poor today, as that day you first called upon His name to save you from your sins?
Poverty is greater than prayer. A man may pray hours upon hours and yet posses not that quality that bestows Grace on his being. “God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble (James 4.6; 1 Peter 5.5).” Once, two men came to the same place to pray. Oh how two individuals can perform the same actions from widely different motives! One man came to boast of his right living and the other to cry out for mercy (Luke 18.13). Hearts are seen by the King (1 Samuel 16.7;Prov. 16.2). Internal poverty is His delight.
Poverty is greater than passion. A man may impress many in the assembly with volume and fervor, yet be inwardly bankrupt, because he finds great value in himself. He far removed from the riches of the Kingdom being bestowed in his soul through poverty alone. For the Kingdom is the possession of the poor. Francis De Sales said, “Nothing can so effectually humble us as the consideration of what He has done for us and what we have done against Him.” Oh brothers, poverty is that for which their exists no substitute.
Poverty is that ingredient without which there exists no potential for rise in God. Poverty is the daily and constant reaching for mercy by revelation of our inability and nothingness without His presence. Poverty is united with dependency. We are never exempt from poverty’s dependency. As David Ravenhill Said, “we never graduate from dependency.”
Lust we for GLORY? “That faculty of the soul that pants for glory is implanted of God (R. Govet).” Have you an inward burning attraction to be absorbed up into your God? Poverty is the only route, dependency the only way and humility the only foundation. For this trinity there exists no substitute. Poverty is the recognition of our wicked state without God’s presence, which thrusts us into dependency on His presence and manifests itself in humble hearts and lives. David Popovici said to me on the phone the other day, “the day we wake up without a casting of ourselves upon His mercy, we are finished.” I would add, the moment that we cease to cast ourselves upon His mercy we are finished. Temptation is a reminder of what we are apart from His presence in our lives. How many times have we all failed in some way and disappointed ourselves and God? After 14 years of following JESUS, I see more than ever, that every failure in my life was first a failure to depend upon Him.
As the rain rests upon the ground after the storm, it yearns to return back to the high place from which it has fallen. It can only long for such a return, till the sun shines down upon its humble state causing it to rise again through evaporation into its desired residence. So we as men, have fallen from a height of glory. “For all…fall short of the glory of God (Romans 3.23).” We all, as redeemed men, long to live in the heights from which we have fallen. Man is burning internally for Glory to be restored. I submit to you today, that without internal poverty there is no identification with the positional restored glory now and no promise of its fullness in the age to come. And most certainly, there is no connection with its transforming reality in our daily life. For His humble dying must be met by the sinner humbling himself to ever produce a humble life.
Cerebral arguments and superstar – superhero preaching all stem from a lack of poverty. Poverty alone ensures the Glory to God. A value in ourselves robs Him. He takes the beggar from the dunghill. Not the prince from the palace or the theologian from the seminary. All we see as holy acts and ways in men are empty without poverty as its heart beat.
I am well aware of the fact that I as one man do not posses a full picture of God and my heart is longing for the church to take her fullness again. And though there are many camps that have different emphasis in God, in receiving as much as I can from each camp, I believe that arrogance is heightened when a man claims now that which God has set for the future. There is no fullness now. There exists no sinless perfection now. There is no full seeing now. Just as much as there exists no reigning King JESUS in Jerusalem now. And anyone who wishes to preach “fullness now” or boasts in their intellectualism is missing the heart of a risen life, namely, poverty. Anyone finding the slightest satisfaction or interest in the failures and judgment of others knows nothing of poverty. For the value of themselves has blinded them to nakedness of their own soul.
We do not posses independently anything of value and that which we do posses in Him is a deposit of a fullness to come. And that which is possessed is penetrated into us by humility alone. “Beloved, if you have ever seen yourself, you will know that you are never going to be anything other than what you were (Paris R.).” Paul the apostle, who was closer than anyone alive today to a fullness of the image of Christ released in a human life said, “…as for me and my flesh there is no good thing (Romans 7).” He understood His nothingness as God’s power. Seeing strength perfected in weakness. Seeing a treasure in an earthen vessel, so that, the greatness of God’s power would be of Himself and not from us (2 Cor 4). This is in no way an advocating of sin, but rather, the way to true holiness of heart. Poverty blesses man with the riches of God’s grace that makes men truly holy from the inside out. For in the poor soul alone does the Holy Spirit find a resting place. The otherwise man is occupying the whole of the throne himself.
Listen, I fear that educated Christians in America like us will educate ourselves out of poverty and into a delusion of “fullness now,” intellectual know-it-all-ness and deceive ourselves into a mindset that is far from the current divine situation concerning God, man, mercy, power and redemption. Our power is not found in the cerebral realm. It is found in death. It is not found in a new vision of ourselves or in a puffed up identity that changes the way we carry ourselves. It is found in His mercy. It is His mercy that works everyday in us; His mercy that quickens us back to life from the death of truly understanding that we cannot ever in own ourselves please Him or move toward Him. If we know anything, let it be our continual sins forgiven and our personal poverty coming face to face with His boundless love and His timeless mercy, restoring and keeping us in the power of His presence.
In 1 Thessalonians chapter 1, Paul is thanking God for the Church’s “labor of love, works of faith and steadfastness of hope…in the presence of God.” The presence of God is the ground for faith that works, love that labors and hope that is steadfast. I can’t help but see it as a scene from an old UFO movie where the powerful UFO activates and charges all the power tools, lights, cars and everything electric as it flies over the old Farmer’s house in the middle of Nebraska fields. That is the activation of the presence of God. As He draws near, our love, which was otherwise frozen, comes alive. Our faith, which was otherwise dead, is working and our hope, which was otherwise forgotten, is realized. Internal poverty is the landing pad for the kingdom, which is to say the King. Dependency sustains the kingdoms rule in which a humble character is the inevitable product. And such a way to such a presence is the activation of a Christ like life. Poverty gives the kingdom, humility receives exaltation and dependency bears forth fruit which glorifies the Father.
Finally, I encourage a meditation upon Luke chapter 21 vs 1-4. This simple, yet moving, short story reveals the severity of poverty like none other. Without poverty there is no totality. Without poverty there is only partiality. The reason that most Christians in the West do not give all that they are over to God is due to the missing element of poverty of soul. The reason why most Christians in the West give partially to God is because they give out of their surplus. God return us to the poverty that brings totality and save us from giving to you partially!
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
Editor’s Note: Guest article from David Popovici of FIRE School of Ministry: Chicago
Brethren, can I briefly share some things very dear to my heart?
As always, this short essay is in no way meant to be an apologetic defense or debate; time does not permit, nor do I is this the venue for such an endeavor. If by the Lord’s grace, it becomes a trumpet call to even one saint, that is enough. In one of the most climactic events in our Lords earthly mission, after surveying what His hearers said of Him, He asks His disciples the chief question, “who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). It is safe to say if were to ask 100 people who God is, you might get 90 or even 100 different answers. Nonetheless, Peter responds rightly. In fact, Jesus makes it clear in this gospel passage that there is no way he (Peter) could of come up with it on his own. It came by revelation from the Father.
Revelation, throughout history, has been progressive in regards to the one true God. Faith can only be based on God’s revelation of Himself. From revealing Himself as Creator, the God of “Covenant and Promise” (to Abraham), to the “Great I Am” (to Moses) the scripture builds revelation upon revelation. This is something hidden about God and His plan that comes to light through God’s own initiative in His perfect time. The revelation or appearing of Jesus Christ became the paramount revelation of all. Jesus is the face of God. John Lake, apostle to South Africa said this concerning the three major dispensations of God revealing Himself…
1. Patriarchal-God revealed to man
2. Mosaic-God revealed with man
3. Christ, (and later) Spirit-God revealed in man.
As I heard one man of God once say, “God wants to be known for who He is and not who we have made Him to be”. Jesus said, “if your eye is clear, then your whole body will be full of light.” The truth is that the god of this world, our adversary, deceitfully blinds the minds of unbelievers and seeks to lift up, through our thinking, strongholds that would keep us blind to the knowledge of God in Christ Jesus. One of the main ministries of the Holy Spirit is to reveal Jesus to men. Paul, as well as all the other Biblical writers, was able to pen truth as a result of revelation from the Holy Spirit. The point being is that God seeks to, and loves to reveal Himself. If God were seeking to hide from His creation He would have never have sent His Son, nor followed it up with the sending Holy Spirit, the Divine agent behind revealing truth.
Jesus was and always will be the supreme revelation of God the Father. Remember in Matthew 16, Jesus commends Peter’s revelation and then begins to build upon it by attaching to His Identity as Messiah; the cross. Peter however, aligning himself with the influence of Satan, saw it fitting to correct the Lords Theology. The Lord rebukes him, for setting his mind on things from below-mans interests as opposed to Gods. To think according to the lower order of things was equivalent to Jesus as demonically inspired. All revelation must by definition be attached to Gods ultimate revelation, Christ on the cross. Jews seek for a sign and Greeks for wisdom yet only the cross of Christ can properly reveal Him, as He is. If Christ is the ultimate revelation and the cross was His ultimate mission, it would do us good to make it a life-long point of meditation, pursuit and prayer. As Julian of Norwich said, “give us a burning attraction to thy passion.” These realities cannot be grasped by simply reading the text, or the latest commentary. At best, we only see in part, this must be revealed by the Holy Spirit.
Paul makes it plain in 1Corinthians 1, the cross makes no sense to the logical mind, only to the renewed mind. Jesus came neither as political military leader or religious philosopher. He came as the conqueror of sin and death. The atonement for mans sins as the perfect sacrifice to God. The Chief representative of a Kingdom not of earthly origin; which only the cross could illuminate. The content of the cross is the filter through which everything is revealed from heaven. Heavens highest wisdom and greatest power demonstration is the cross. To quote biblical scholar Gregory Boyd “God flexes His muscle by dying on a Cross”.
God is in no way indebted to men, He does not feel insecure, nor does He need to defend Himself. The cross offends the twin idolatries of the human-race; the desire for power and knowledge/wisdom. He makes it so that only the humble can see. The cross is both the power and wisdom of God to us. It is not foolish or weak per se, only in regards to being understood according to the spirit of this age. This revelation is the ultimate one that all others bow to and get filtered by. Whether a teaching by Paul, Peter, Apollos, or Pentecostals, Baptists, Lutherans, no matter the stream, so to speak, the cross trumps all.
Now for the reality of this stamp of God we must contend. It is not enough to give mental assent. We do not have to choose, the cross is both wisdom and power towards us who believe and anyone else who will place their trust in Jesus. A cross that holds claim to save a man’s soul but cannot set him free from bondage and sin is either has not been truly preached or believed and applied. And the same goes for giving man an eternal hope in the face of persecution and suffering, or healing a man in the pangs of disease and infirmity, or for that matter changing the composition of a man’s life, purpose and meaning. Where instead of wasting his life, he instead gives it to the joys of loving and knowing God and saving souls. Brothers, we must have revelation, and it must lead us to the cross!
Take a listen to this audio compilation by Art Katz on “The Cross.”
“Then Bildad the Shuhite answered, ‘Dominion and awe belong to Him….’
Then Job responded….. ‘To whom have you uttered words? And whose spirit was expressed through you?'” -Job 25.1-2a, 26.1a, 4
In Job 25, Bildad the Shuhite gave a theological statement that was basically true in form and content, but it was only a categorical burst of words, and for his hearer, it was an ill-fitted word that was totally out of season.
In a culture that has drowned in multi-colored billboards and ads, 24-hour newscasting, and other flagrant profusions of excessive speech, there is a radical need for God-infused speaking. It can only come forth through the Church, for we are the only ones who have been touched by mercy and truth, but “woe unto the world” when the house of God itself has slipped into a categorical mode of speaking and a mechanical mode of living.
It is little wonder that our “small talk” is often laced with gossip and slander. It is little wonder that our meticulous theological conversations and debates often lack the reverence and joy that mark a man who is abiding in a true knowledge of God. It is little wonder that the proclamation of the Gospel has often been reduced to an attempt at “relevance” or a robotic delivery of “logical” Christian truth, devoid of authority and unction from above. It’s no wonder that our casual conversations often slip into sin, for we have diminished our distinctive calling to prayer, and thereby lost the ability to speak rightly of God.
We have been busy speaking and doing, but we have failed to be found in the place of prayer, and this has been the seedbed for all our hollowness. We have run to-and-fro in various works to the neglect of prayer, and we have therefore been unconscious of His present love and untouched by the fear of the Lord. We are not leading the saints into a life of brokenness before God. Failing here, we open the gate for failure everywhere. If we have not gazed upon His majesty in prayer, we will not be able to speak of Him rightly. And if we fail to speak of Him rightly, we cannot speak of anything rightly, for He is the source and essence of truth itself. When He is diminished, all else is distorted. What then can be said of this “Bildadic” mode of ministry and life?
We are like the Shuhite, even using language of “awe,” but falling short of a true proclamation, for we have been unwilling or too busy to give ourselves to the counsel of the Lord Himself. It is in prayer where His truth becomes true in our souls, and His reality is made real in our hearts. We can trot out our doctrinal persuasions, our clever and catchy sermons, or our views in counseling, but the question must be asked:
“To whom have you uttered words? And whose spirit was expressed through you?”
Bildad expressed the “awe” of God, and the doctrine that He alone “establishes peace.” (v. 1) In verse 3 of Ch. 25 he declared the might of God, raising the rhetorical question, “Is there any number to His troops?” He declared the holiness of God and the depravity of man in vv. 5-6: “If even the moon has no brightness and the stars are not pure in His sight, how much less man, that maggot, and the son of man, that worm!” In a word, he gave a theological statement that left little to be corrected or added to. It was commendable in many ways. But is was not the word of God Himself, for it failed to set forth the present testimony of Jesus Christ, and Job detected it. The apostle speaks to us today:
“Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.” -Eph. 4.29
Edification is not always given by a happy-go-lucky word. It is given by the present testimony of Jesus Christ, which is the “Spirit of prophecy.” It may be the most encouraging and joy-inducing word we’ve ever heard, or it may be a word calculated by the Lord to devastate our illusions, and shake us from the false comfort of delusion and slumber. Whatever it may be, the present testimony of Jesus is what we ought to covet.
We have the propensity for missing it along these lines, for our hearts are often dull and we see only in part. We are apt, usually based on our personalities, to lean in one direction or the other.
If we are bubbly souls naturally, or have a strong itch to please men and be accepted by them, we are more prone to flattering and complimenting others, and often we can do this without any counsel or anointing from the Holy Spirit.
I might call myself a “Barnabas” and think of my calling to encourage others, but I need to be sure that it is the encouragement of the Holy Spirit Himself, lest I find that I am only feeding my reputation as a nice guy, and even subtly manipulating others to think highly of myself.
Likewise, if I am a somber type, serious and critical toward all that is opposed to my personal preference, I may not flatter others too often, but I may also be in error. I may find it easy to correct or rebuke men, or to speak out against doctrines that I presume to be false, but I may just as well be totally devoid of the life of God. I may consider myself a “straight shooter”, and I may not feel as if I am pursuing the approval of men, but I might be guilty of self-glorification just the same.
Not many have been willing to come into this radical circumcision of the heart, though it is the call upon every saint. We have a mandate to speak as a prophetic people who have “tamed the tongue,” who are not consumed with our own opinions and the blab of our subjective ideas (even religious ideas), but whose speech is God-suffused, and leads men to the knowledge of Jesus Christ. It was said of Spurgeon that men who came to hear a sermon from the famed preacher, often left the meeting declaring, “O, how glorious is the Man, Christ Jesus!” They went to hear from the prince of preachers, and left consumed with a new vision of the Prince of Peace. Are our words and lives having that effect on the souls of men?
“…. where can wisdom be found? And where is the place of understanding? Man does not know its value, Nor is it found in the land of the living.” -Job 28.12-13
The answer is not in leaning to one side or the other, nor is it to look for that “happy medium.” The word of the Lord is not found in what we can calculate as nice and encouraging or bold and confrontational. The word of the Lord transcends our wisdom. It is not one side or the other, it is fromabove; it is “that which proceeds from the mouth of God.” It is “spirit and life.” Do not look on the earthly plain, or weigh out the possible effects of your speech. We must instead allow the Lord to lay the axe to the root of our self-glorification, and go to prayer and to the Scriptures for the present testimony of Jesus Christ.
It is only found when we, in the temple of prayer like Isaiah, “see the Lord high and lifted up,” and the fiery coal is taken from the altar and put to our lips. When Uzziah dies, namely, when we stop seeking the approval of men and our own self-glorification, only then are we permitted to see the exalted Lamb. And when we see Him in His present exalted reality, we realize the uncleanness of our lips, and He is ever-willing to purge and send us. It is set into motion when we are willing to come to Him on that holy ground. This is His mercy.
And when the coal comes from that altar, since it is not initiated and performed by our wisdom but is a holy work of God, our speech will not only be singed or improved upon. Our high opinions will be torched, and our whole view of life and truth will be totally reforged. And seeing the Lord high and lifted up, being jealous only for His glory, we will be granted the authority and power to speak “as one who is speaking the utterances of God.”
The world is perishing and the Church is languishing for want of a true knowledge of God. The voices that will convey the present testimony of the Lord will be those who have given themselves to prayer, shutting down all other activity until they have met with the Lord in reality. The world needs desperately to hear that which is “of Him, through Him, and to Him,” and it will only hear that note sounded by those who have prostrated themselves on the heavenly threshold, eager only for God Himself, and the word which proceeds from Him.
“Behold, these are the fringes of His ways; And how faint a word we hear of Him!” (Job 26.14a)
O God, set Your people apart in this late hour. Deliver us from hollow living and shallow speaking. In Your boundless mercy, bring us into the present testimony of Jesus Christ, that we might live and speak as true voices, and not mere echoes. Confront us in our smug categorization of the faith, and let us be marked as those who “live, move, and have our being” in You, and You only. Give us earnestness after You, and a deep-seated jealousy for Your glory. Amen.
“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil, where Jesus has entered as a forerunner for us, having become a high priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” -Heb. 6.19-20
If our lives are being tossed to-and-fro by the spirit of this age, if the opinions of others are swaying our thoughts and decisions, and if we are lagging in spirit and falling prey to discouragement and purposelessness, the chances are that we have lost or neglected our vital contact with the One who has entered “within the veil….. as a forerunner for us.”
If we have been instructed in the Scriptures to “abide in love,” to “walk in the Spirit,” and to “be holy just as God in heaven is holy,” how shall fallen and weak souls like us engage such realities, much less “live, move, and have our being” in them? The answer is both majestic and within reach, both transcendent and simple, both awe-striking and intensely practical. It touches the dust of who we are, waking us up to the glory of what we have become through the work of our great High Priest.
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. For the one who has entered His rest has himself also rested from his works, as God did from His. Therefore let us be diligent to enter that rest…. -Heb. 4.9-11
There is a Sabbath rest for the saints, but abiding in that rest is not the automatic result of the new birth. He crashes into our world when we are born from above, introducing us to “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit,” but it is our own precious responsibility to “be diligent to enter that rest” day by day. We’ve got to take up our crosses and follow the Lamb daily, not relying on a weekly spiritual injection on Sundays, but resisting the “world, the flesh and the devil,” and entering into communion with the Lord as an abiding reality.
There is no entry into “that rest” without diligent pursuit, and there is no diligent pursuit of the holy until we have have learned to love and live in the holiest place of all, where God Himself is, and where the Son of Man has made mediation on our behalf.
We are not struggling to perform nice services. We are not falling short in organizational excellence and programmatic expertise. But scarcely do we see men who are walking with God; men who are accessing the holy place, abiding in the life of God, and leading others into that great life. No ministry is valid before God unless it first comes from the holy place, where the glory of God is the central and chief reality.
How shall we abide in the presence of God? How shall we walk with God as Enoch of old? How shall we dwell with “everlasting burnings”? Christ Himself has made the way for us!
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
…. let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” -Heb. 4.14, 16
This is the “anchor of the soul, a hope both sure and steadfast and one which enters within the veil.” How can fallen vessels live, move and have our being in God? Though we’ve been redeemed by the blood, though we’ve become new creatures, we are still cognizant of our weaknesses and immaturities. How shall we ascend the hill of the Lord? Through Jesus Christ Himself. It is not through a mere profession, it is not only by articulating the doctrine of justification, but by literally entering into communion with the living God through faith in the finished work of the Lamb of God.
We enter through prayer and active relationship to the Son of God. Prayer is higher than any other ministry or calling, and any activity established in His name that has not come from this place of entry into His rest will invariably lead us further from the Holy Place. It will have the tone and feel of the world all over it. It will not sound that heavenly note that the true works of God convey. Abiding in Him is our great business, and Jesus is not just the Way in a categorical manner. He is literally the only One who lifts our souls into a life submerged in the knowledge of God.
There is no pastor or prophet, no program or plan, no song or book that can escort us to that place. They may stir or point us toward the Lamb, but they cannot escort us. We can only enter the rest of God through the Door that He has provided. We can only enter, in this age or in the age to come, through the Son of glory.
I suspect our faith is going to be tested. It is one thing to read what we now have before us to consider, but the real issue is whether we have the faith to believe it for ourselves. God has opened a new and living way by His blood; the veil is rent, and we are bidden to come and to enter because He has made a way once-and-for-all. We can come into the holiest place, and there He will meet with us. We can live out from that place because a High Priest has gone in before us to make a new and living way by which we can also enter and abide. Have we a faith to believe for that? That is to say, to actually enter in. A whole generation perished in the wilderness who could not enter for their unbelief. Yet God bids us enter, that is to say, appropriate and come into this place. The veil that kept the people out was rent from the top to the bottom. Are we accessing? (Art Katz, The Melchizedek Priesthood, transcribed spoken message, www.artkatzministries.org)
Editor’s Note: Be advised that there is mild profanity in this article, as quoted from a booklet from a well-known and respected missionary of the early 20th Century.
It is the “Little foxes” that spoil the vine. The vine is where fruit is produced. It is not noon-day elephants, but little foxes in the night that slip in to spoil fruit. Maybe you are not looking at porn on the computer, but your heart takes a deep interest in football and it causes you to lose time in God’s presence, amongst God’s people and in God’s purpose in your life. This is a spoiling of the vine. Maybe it isn’t sports. Maybe it is business. Corrie Ten Boom said, “beware of the bareness of a busy life.” Most little foxes are known only by you and God.
Benny Hinn said, “when you wholly belong to Him, you hunger only for His kingdom.”
To be honest about this, I have been on both sides of this fence. When I got cold, the volume of other things increased in my life. But when I got lit on fire again, they were all eaten up by the Holy Ghost. Smith Wigglesworth said, his life was “eaten away by the Holy Spirit.” Psalm 39 tells us that, “God eats away like a moth the things that are precious to man.”
He is FIRE. He consumes everything just by being present.
This is the only real understanding of the Christian life that I have. All else is compromise.
Tolerance is compromise. If you watch something that is not clean by tolerance, you have compromised. We must smash these things for purity’s sake. There is a fight for purity because “purity of heart affects all seeing (Art Katz).” Many people lose sight of things that are wrong in their lives because their eyes are dim from impurities tolerated in their lives. Lay the axe to the root and clear the way for the vision of Jesus!
Beware of little foxes. Time stealers. Sinful compromises. They are after your fruit. Jesus said that fruit is what Glorifies God (John 15). The little foxes want to steal the Glory of God out of your life.
“Fashion, entertainment, sports, materialism–we are idol worshipers (Dr. Michael L. Brown).” These are the Gods of this country. Beware of the seduction message that mixes the truths of Christ with a tolerant life. It is an attempt to give you enough of God to satisfy your religious desires and also make way for your heart to find fulfillment in the things of this world simultaneously. You will be rendered powerless. Seduction has slain many mighty men (Prov. 7.26). Seduction makes you as a loaf of bread, mindless and left only to be devoured. Seduction is the play upon your desires. It is an appealing message to the best of both worlds. You can have your idols and God too. No. In God’s view, He is first, or He is forgotten. The throne of your heart that rules your whole life is His and only His. He will not share it with another. Just ask Abraham.
The holes through which men are infected with the virus of powerlessness, unbelief and compromise are nothing other than the additions to Jesus in their hearts.
Christians are not to be Jesus, AND… We are to be Jesus ALONE. What other testimony is more in keeping with the claim that the Creator of the universe is really enjoyed and known by us?
Athlete turned missionary C.T. Studd wrote a great booklet entitled “The D.C.D.,” which was as controversial in its day as it would be in ours (for reasons that will be readily apparent, read it here for context). In the booklet, “D.C.D.” stands for “Don’t Care a Damn,” and he describes a new order of “D.C.D. Soldiers of the Lord Jesus.” According to Studd, “a ‘D.C.D.’ doesn’t care a damn what happens to himself so long as our Lord Jesus Christ is glorified.” In our modern vernacular, we would call them “followers of Jesus that don’t give a damn,” or, more politely “followers of Jesus that could care less.” As is stated in the Studd booklet, God is looking for men who could could care less about anything but Christ Himself and His gospel.
The leaven in Matthew 13 is a wonderful picture of what happens to a life that chooses the rule of God. It spreads to the consuming of the whole life. If this is not the picture of your life, than the leaven of an absolute submission to the Kings dominion has yet to be applied to your life. The last verse of the book of 1st John says, “Keep yourselves from idols.” You don’t have to look for things to fill your life with, they are looking for you and you must guard against them.
A boxer must keep his guard up in a fight. Why? Because the guy in front of him is trying to swing, is swinging and will swing to knock him out. If he is lazy with that guard, he will pay for it. We must guard our hearts above all for from it flows our life.
All the foxes start in the mind, to influence your body, to tip your will over in sin. The mind of man is the shipping and receiving center of life. Whatever you want to give out has got to go through the mind and whatever is going to come in must go in through the mind. Yet, “there are thoughts of evil and evil thoughts.” Thoughts of evil come from the outside and evil thoughts come from the inside. One grasps at your mind and the other your mind grasps for. The devils come to your mind. “He will keep you in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him (Isa. 26.3).” “The mind set on the Spirit is life and peace (Romans 8.6).”
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
Editor’s Note: Guest article from David Popovici of FIRE School of Ministry: Chicago.
“But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ”.
After a recent ministry trip to the Middle East, I came back both encouraged and stirred with an urgent sobriety. I was encouraged by what God is doing in the region; there is a lot more happening on the ground than what your local news channel is broadcasting, you can be assured of that. As a matter of fact, God has His own “news” channel, namely the born-again, Spirit-filled believers that are both living out and propagating His gospel in the midst of an unfriendly world. I am excited by the fact that, in spite of the coming persecution and the tribulation, the world has not yet seen, nor can it even conceive what God has in store in these last days. To quote Mike Bickle “In the last days God is going to pour upon His Church both the miracles of the Exodus and the book of Acts.” Not just healings and miracles backing the message but even nature-defying acts that will distinguish us from all others, just as He did for the nation of Israel during their liberation. This definitely gives us a lot to anticipate with excitement, and at the same time a lot for which to prepare.
Yet while so many are losing their lives for their testimony of Christ, often we find in our Western circles so many deviant pursuits. Not necessarily malicious or sinful ones, but secondary. I often wonder how much of our “gospel,” the things we stress as “the epicenter” of the Kingdom, are actually relevant to our brothers and sisters all over the world. Many of these persecuted, wonder-working, Christ-like ones of which I speak, who are leading Churches, are not good readers, properly educated or even sufficiently financed. Nonetheless they are childlike and meek, filled with faith and courage and declaring the message of Christ with love and power as they invest their lives into saving the lost and building Christ’s Church. I submit that to our own detriment, it seems we in America have graduated from simplicity. I am not saying anything against theological schools; I graduated from one, nor against credentials or ordinations; I myself am ordained. Yet at the foundation of the faith, namely the one that is built upon Christ the Chief Cornerstone, lie the building blocks that God hand picked to build His church; fishermen and tax-collectors. I am in no way proposing that to be in a lower class in life, that you are more spiritual. Like Dr. Brown used to tell us in school, “you’re not more spiritual for driving an old Pinto or less for driving a new Toyota.” However, it seems as if simplicity is something that often eludes us in the more “mature” circles. The reason I put “mature” in quotations is because it is often our own estimation of maturity. Proverbs 11:30 states that those truly wise “win souls.” Paul said to the Corinthians that the highest wisdom is in fact the Cross of Christ; a message of weakness and foolishness.
We need a fresh encounter with God, and the only kind I know of are the ones marked by the Cross and that flame from Pentecost. This God who entered our world and the Holy Spirit, who infuses the life of God within like nothing else. I submit that it is time for many of our more learned brethren to come down from their ivory towers of “maturity” and become practitioners of that which they critique and interpret. I would not go to the Sahara desert to learn about gardening or vegetation, so why would I turn to a critical and dried out brother to tell me anything of Christ, His Kingdom or the Holy Ghost? And with all humility dear brothers, if that last statement offended you, you might be one.
Paul tells the Ephesians to “not be drunk with wine, but be filled with the Spirit.”
That says a couple of things to me; this is a negative command and a positive command. Something to avoid and something to do. I believe we can and should stay continually filled with Him who is Divine Life. This, my dear brothers, is MORE than just a positional truth. You can say “I AM FILLED” all you want and not be, just like a man can say “I AM DRUNK” and not be until he actually drinks in excess.
The Cross-gives us the right and privilege of partaking, it doesn’t force it down our throats.
A grape needs a wine press to produce wine and a Christian needs the Cross-to show forth the Spirit Life. I believe in drinking of the presence of God in order to stay filled with His life, joy, peace, power, love, righteousness, etc. However, some of our brethren, claim to drink continually of Christ, yet by no means seem affected by the potency of what they claim to ingest. As a man who was saved from a wickedly sinful life, I know what it’s like to be physically drunk. Alcohol changes your perception, affects judgment, emotions and even gives you a reckless courage to do what you otherwise would not have done. After a life devoted to substance abuse, you are rewarded with a wrecked liver at the least. I wonder how one might drink of the Spirit and not adopt Christ’s eternal perspective, the Cross’ value system and partake of the emotions of God. Or perhaps a boldness to preach the Gospel to a world on its way to hell or to take hold of a paralytic and command him to walk in Jesus name. Or how about our insides being ruined by God, for the Kingdoms sake. If not, I question what you’re drinking or what you’re mixing it with.
Brothers, though a physician’s goal is the same for all patients, the medicine he prescribes is not always the same. To quote Dr. Brown again, “It’s never wise to major on the minors or minor on the majors.” How much of what we major on and pursue, build and fight for, will actually last in eternity? How much of it reflects the Gospel and the life of the early Church? I don’t think it’s a complex question, rather a simple one. Simple enough for even a child to understand.
“… He awoke from his sleep and thought, ‘I’ll go out as before and shake myself free,’ but he did not know that the Lord had left him. It’s a picture of so much of the charismatic church of America. It’s a picture of so much of the ministry that is going on, ‘we’re going to go on with our show, just as we have done it in the past … but we don’t realize that God’s left us…”
I have been in countless church services throughout my life. I grew up in the church. Mainly, the ‘charismatic/Pentecostal’ circles. So believe me when I say I have experienced many different things. I’ve been on foreign missions trips and ministered in various churches in the region where I currently live (Charlotte, NC) and growing up (Lancaster, PA). During these services, I’ve experienced some really awesome things like prodigals coming ‘back home’, the sick healed, the lost finding Jesus. I’ve experienced a lot of interesting ‘manifestations of the Holy Spirit’. Some quite bazaar to your natural mind. All that to say that I’ve been around the proverbial block.
And can you believe that all that stuff really doesn’t satisfy? I mean, all the above is really neat and interesting and it gives you some awesome stories to tell around the dinner table or some awesome conversation pieces. But I don’t think that when I stand before God on Judgment Day, He’s going to be asking about that. I don’t think that it’s something that is of importance to God. Yeah, He’s proud of me for being a son and pursuing Him. But it’s more about a relationship between me and Him that He’s concerned about.
A number of years ago, I was asked to speak at a youth retreat. So in the time leading up to it, I was praying and asking the Lord what was on HIS heart for this event. I wanted to preach a good “revolution” message, rally the troops, that sort of thing. But during the prep time, it just wasn’t coming together. I had a few notes and some awesome compilations I thought would be neat to share. But it still wasn’t coming together. The morning of, I was sitting in a room with two of my friends who came to help minister and the speaker from the previous night, Steve Hoffman. Steve looked at me at one point in time and said “Shawn, these kids have grown up in church. They know all the right things, they know all the rules. But most of them have never had an encounter with God Himself to make a difference in their life.” Those words went like a dart right into my heart.
That morning, the Lord gave me John 15. I quickly read it and knew somewhat of where I was going. We can have all the services we want; you can do all the conferences you want. But when there is no intimacy with the Lord, I wonder at how much of a difference all that is going to make. People nowadays are crying out to be heard. They’re crying out to feel needed and wanted. They’re crying out for relationships! They’re crying out for a depth of a reality! They’re open to the supernatural and wanting to see if the church has anything to offer more than just meetings and hype and a whole lot of talk. I think that many people want to see if we as the church can put actions to our words.
Let me take a step back here really quickly. There is nothing wrong with church services and meetings and programs necessarily. But when that is replacing a true intimacy with the Lord, it gets scary. Whether you attend a small house church or a community church or a mega church, that isn’t the point here. My question to you is do you know the Lord in a deeply personal way? Do you have a life giving relationship with Him? I know that at times its hard to pray and hard to read the Bible. Sometimes you may have those times where you feel like all the prayers you pray and the Bible reading you’re doing isn’t amounting to anything. But it does make a difference. Remember, a relationship takes work. There really is no cookie cutter way for it. There are emotions and feelings involved.
A number of years ago while in Bible school, the leaders decided to shut the school down for a couple days and just have a time of prayer and fasting. I was noticing a difference in the direction of the school and it was starting to concern me just a bit. This school was known for its revolutionary mentality and it seemed like we were getting soft. And then it dawned on me: maintaining intimacy in the church truly is a revolutionary idea! As I said earlier, being in different churches I have seen a lot. All these programs that were in effect didn’t seem that productive. The church was being more influenced by the world rather than the other way around. The saints weren’t being equipped for the work of the ministry. It seemed like a lot of it was a one man show done by the pastor or leader of the church.
I remember one time, I was having ice cream with an elder in a church. I simply looked this gentleman in the eyes and asked “Can you name me one time when you had a life changing encounter with the presence of God?” He sat there for a bit and eventually just shook his head no. My heart broke for this guy. You can have all the proper theology and it’s important to know the Word of God! But is it coming out of a heart attitude that says “I NEED to do this” rather than “I WANT to do this”? Sometimes, the hardest thing to do is take a theological truth and turn it into an experiential reality.
Take this as an encouragement to develop and maintain true intimacy with the Lord. The Bible says that we’ll be known by our fruits. One of the best ways, if not the best, is to spend that time with Him. Since each person is different, it’s going to look different for each and every person. Dig into the Bible and ask the Holy Spirit to show you how to cultivate that intimacy with Him.