Category Archives: Apostolic

Beyond Forgiveness

More than Forgiveness

I was made aware some years ago that my mannerisms, the way I speak or approach others can be intimidating and/or discourteous. Though this is not my conscious intent it does not change the fact that I can produce in others a defensive or retaliatory response, especially from those who do not know me well. This means that I may find myself in a place of enmity from which I need to repent and rectify.

If the result of my ‘inadvertent’ aggression produces a need to apologise and repent then it is a pattern of sin that needs to be overcome. I know that I have forgiveness through Christ (1 John 1:7-9) but I also realised that it is better to not cause offense than rest in forgiveness. So, my prayer does not end with “I am a sinner Lord, please forgive me”, but moves on to a plea for deliverance from the power of sin. A prayer that says, “Holy Spirit, deliver me through the power of the cross from this obnoxious flesh, that I may not cause offense through my sin-nature. Let my human interactions be to the praise of your glory”. If I cause offense let it be the offense of the cross and not the offense of my sinful self.

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Space: A Vision of Total Discipleship

Written by John Yates

Introduction

In the midst of a conversation dealing with the contemporary discipleship crisis, I sensed forcefully the Spirit saying that every space is holy and created for the making of disciples. This teaching is a call for disciple-making in a global context, for this is where the wisdom of God has confronted Western Christianity with two movements that expose its impotency. The first of these is radical Islam.

The power of Islam is that it offers a unified vision of all of life: religion, politics, culture, economics, family and so on are a seamless whole. An Islamic theocracy sees no need to allow its citizens “space to choose”1; the all embracing requirements of Allah require only submission. Lacking the power of genuine religion (2 Tim 3:5) most Western Christians either pretend that true Islam is a “peaceful religion” or resort to political rhetoric. This is because mainstream affluent Christian culture has succumbed to foundational influences emanating from the other global movement of today, postmodernism.

Postmodernism is a complete socio-cultural phenomenon2 which absolutises the place of the individual. A postmodern worldview3 is deeply suspicious of any ideology or institution that impinges upon their personal right to choose. Others can live how they wish, as long as it does not impinge upon my chosen lifestyle4. In the postmodern view God is reduced to a means to a more comfortable lifestyle.

Without a new and total vision of reality, free from both the constraints of exterior authoritarianism, as in Islam, and rampant individualism, as in postmodernism, the Western church is doomed to continuing powerlessness. This paper is an attempt to outline such a vision.

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My Dark Night of the Soul

Psalm 13:1–2 (NIV)
1 How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?
2 How long must I wrestle with my thoughts
and every day have sorrow in my heart?
How long will my enemy triumph over me?

I have always been a strong minded and self-reliant person, but the last six months (Nov 2009 – April 2010) have been the most difficult – the worst ever – that I have experienced. It began earlier than this I guess near the end of 2008 when I spent the night at Fremantle Hospital emergency with severe pain. This became a regular occurrence over 2009 along with two major kidney operations and a few exploratory procedures.

Around the time of the latest and most painful/difficult operation I entered into what became a six-month spiritual crisis. Having emerged from it now I am in a position to reflect and hear what the Spirit is saying about this experience. I describe it as “the experience of the absence of the presence of God”. I refer to it as an experience because the reality is that God never did nor does He leave. I know that now, I look back and see His hand keeping me in His love despite ‘feeling’ totally alone.

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The Resurrection

The culmination of the Easter event is the resurrection of Jesus Christ, which reveals the future hope of salvation. By His death we receive the “washing of rebirth” so that we “might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:5-7)

It is this hope of eternal life that is revealed by the resurrection. It is the culmination of God’s plan for creation.  His plan is that at the return of Christ there will be a new heaven and a new earth (Rev 21:1-2) indeed all things will be made new. Corruption – the current state of all creation (Rom 8:20) – and mortality will be replaced by immortality; death swallowed up in victorious life. (1Cor 15:53-54)

For the redeemed, this future hope is that “Through the Spirit’s life-giving presence God will raise us to full participation as embodied creatures in the divine relationship shared between the Father and the Son”. God’s ultimate plan for creation has always been to bring into the divine relationship a people from every tribe and language (1Pt 2:9,10; Rev 7:9) upon the earth to share together in His divine nature (2Pt 1:4) in eternal community.

God’s purpose is divine and eternal life for humanity but man’s sin destroys this purpose bringing death into the world.

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It is time…

As the Kingdom of God advances the challenge for those who are ‘sons of God’ is to become God-followers in an age of men-pleasing religion. In fact the creation is waiting in eager anticipation for the emergence of genuine sons of God. We are living in an age when God is preparing to reveal to principalities and powers, to all creation, a people who live on this earth as His Sons. This calls for a radical change of priorities for all who are called by His name, which will be expressed in a radical lifestyle; no longer unwittingly following teachings that produce ambulatory centres of selfishness but a people who choose to be living sacrifices. Who reject the common self-promoting self-help teachings and pursue the Word of the cross.

If we desire to have God’s presence in our churches then it is indeed time for judgement to begin in the house of God.

Lesley and I went to South Dakota with Dale and Jessie for a holiday. The joke in the family was that I did not understand the idea of holiday. To do nothing but rest was a strange concept. To travel overseas without having a preaching itinerary was something I had never done. So, I determined that I would do just that, I would rest and avoid any preaching engagements; avoid analysing the political or economic environment; and try not to listen to the Spirit’s concern for the church for a few days.

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Is there a lack of godly leaders?

We don’t have a shortage of leaders, but a shortage of followers of the one Leader who can transform lives and nations. We don’t need to enlarge our vision, but make it smaller and more focused. We don’t need more numbers, but more quality and consistency among the numbers we already have. We need more people who will do things God’s way and fewer people doing things man’s way. (James Montgomery Boise)

Where have all the leaders gone?

I find that when a particular issue is raised with me, if it is in the current purpose of God, the Spirit speaks to me with a clear response and then through prayer and meditation, the Spirit reveals the mind of God.

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Resurrection Presence

By John Yates

Introduction

An article headed Joe Dakuitoga well-versed in ways of miracles, underscored by the citation, “I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” (Phil 4:13) recently appeared in our national newspaper.

Joe is the national coach of the Fiji rugby team, he is quoted, “”We believe God is going to give us the strength. We pray to the almighty God that he will give us the spirit and courage to play against Australia.””I said we have a lot of prayers – everyone in Fiji is praying for us.” Big Joe then refers to Philippians 4:13….Its message is one of faith and belief that with God’s help, anything can be achieved at any given time in any given circumstance.”

Fiji is not a Western nation, but why can’t such a God- consciousness be our portion? Is the Lord prejudiced against affluent folk in general and whites in particular? Or is there a message that will grip church and culture like justification by faith did in the sixteenth century, holiness in the time of Wesley, kingdom care for the poor when the Salvation Army was born, or power from on high at the onset of Pentecostalism. God has a particular message for different times and seasons in history that somehow impacts the spirit of the age and ignites a reviving work. This is the focus of the present teaching.

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To hell with sinners: a fresh look at grace

Let us make no mistake brothers and sisters in the Lord Jesus Christ; the gospel is firstly a revelation of God’s wrath towards sin and sinners. In Romans chapter one Paul is emphatic “I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes” (v16). Why would a message of hope and blessing have the potential to cause the apostle Paul embarrassment? Shame is usually associated with the opinion of others. Nakedness is only shameful in public so why would a message that is only hope and blessing be a cause of possible shame in the eyes of the world? Because it doesn’t begin as hope and blessing; it begins as wrath and cursing, a word that brings scorn from those who are perishing. To them it is a word that is foolishness, a word that scandalises the hearer, a word of offense.

Paul continues on (v17) by saying a righteousness from God – as opposed to the self-justifying acts of idolatrous people – is being revealed and can only be received by grace through faith. But then his gospel begins in earnest (v18ff) the wrath of God is being revealed…

Let us not forget that the gospel begins with this revelation… to hell with sinners. It is salvation from God’s wrath that is the ‘good news of the gospel’. This is where grace begins: it is by grace you have been saved through faith… And it ends with …for we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus, to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. (Eph 2:8-10)

Romans 5:2 [Jesus Christ] through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. NIV

It is this grace – the grace of God in Christ Jesus – that has, by His blood, brought us near to God and given us a new and living way by which we can live as God’s family on earth. This living way is a holy life found in His body.

What is ‘this grace’?

The grace of God is not simply words to be interpreted but God’s wisdom revealed in Christ through the cross. In 1Cor 2:1-2 Paul reminds the church that all of his preaching could be summarised in one phrase; Christ crucified. Quite simply, whatever he preached whether grace or mercy or righteousness or power, it all finds its meaning in the message of the cross.

To speak about eternal life is to speak about God revealed in Jesus Christ; to declare good news is to preach Christ crucified; to preach the benefits or blessings of God is to preach Christ crucified.

The cross is foolishness to Greeks and a stumbling block to Jews. Any preaching that is not Christ crucified is not a message of blessing, hope, mercy or power etc, it is rather the wisdom of Greeks and the signs of Jews. A well known celebrity preacher was asked why he never preaches about sin. His response was that he was called only to preach the blessings of God. Such a response shows at best novice ignorance of the gospel and at worst a doctrine of demons. Hope is only hope to men of despair; salvation to those in peril; blessing to those in need; rest to the weary etc. Hope is not hope if we have hope now. Salvation has no real meaning to those who believe they are already free and safe and secure.

Grace is not a covering

Heb 10:1-4 The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship. 2 If it could, would they not have stopped being offered? For the worshipers would have been cleansed once for all, and would no longer have felt guilty for their sins. 3 But those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, 4 because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. NIV

Much that is written about grace from a theological/evangelical perspective – in contrast to populist feel-good teaching and books – leaves me dissatisfied. Not that what is said is not useful but that it often fails to fully appreciate that the cross is God’s grace. The emphasis is more often than not on definitions such as condescending favour, unmerited favour or expressed as forgiveness etc.

When a celebrity preacher is exposed as a habitual sinner the term ‘fall from grace’ is used as a descriptive – even though such a term is self-contradicting. At such times the Christian community is polarised in opinions on how to speak about, act towards, discipline or disciple these people. Some insist that such behaviour disqualifies them from ministry (which should be understood in terms of ‘eldership’ cf 1Tim 3), others argue for a period of ‘restoration’ and then a return to their former position. Many are vehement in their opinion that it is grace not discipline or rebuke that is needed and if they repent then leave them be.

The way we respond to habitual sin exposed in celebrity preachers, and the church in general, represents our understanding of the message of the cross and reveals how/if we actually stand in this grace. A clear understanding of the cross as God’s grace will establish a clear response to habitual sin in the church.

If grace is not seen as the message of the cross but as a pithy definition such as ‘unmerited favour’ then the message of the cross ceases to be ‘the good things that are to come’. If ‘this grace’ is not understood to be the message of the cross, then in what are people standing and trusting? Is it another gospel? I think much of the popular teachings on grace are more suited to an Old Testament view of righteousness or more in keeping with an emotive instrument of self-justification.

In the sacrifices repeated endlessly under the old covenant the shadow of the cross is seen. In fact the OT Scriptures are meant to speak exclusively of Christ to those whose eyes are being opened by the Holy Spirit. The blood of bulls and goats was a ‘covering over’ of sin, and what Hebrews 10:1-4 says that this shadow could not do is indicative of what the cross can do and therefore what grace actually is.

Such sacrifices could not make the worshipper of God ‘perfect’ for it could not cleanse us from sin nor could it deal with the guilt of sin. The key in verse four is this ‘it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sin’. By contrast, the grace of God at the cross is the power of God to ‘make the worshipper perfect’, ‘remove the guilt of sin’ – and especially the sense or feeling of guilt – and ‘take away sins’. Not simply take away the guilt of sin, although that occurs, but to actually take away sin or to put it another way, to give us power to resist sin.

1 John 3:7-10 Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous. 8 He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 9 No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in him; he cannot go on sinning, because he has been born of God. 10 This is how we know who the children of God are and who the children of the devil are: Anyone who does not do what is right is not a child of God; nor is anyone who does not love his brother. NIV

God’s grace is not only God condescending to affiliate with humanity despite man’s wretchedness, but it is His means by which man can participate with Christ in the family of God. Such a relationship could never be fully realised if we constantly felt unworthy and were reminded of our unworthiness through our inability to resist the power of sin in our lives? This is why Hebrews 10 says, ‘we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the Blood of Jesus’. By His blood we are both forgiven for our sin and cleansed from all unrighteousness. This is not simply an OT covering but a New Covenant empowering, delivering and setting free. It is in reality “The Power of God” for salvation to those who live by faith.

The cross IS God’s grace

To understand grace is to understand the message of the cross and to realise that the cross is God’s grace. Romans 1:17-32 is the beginning of the gospel of grace: the wrath of God is being revealed and that wrath is not presently experienced as hell-fire and brimstone but as godforsakenness. Verses 24 and 26 tell us what it means to be godforsaken:

Rom 1:24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts…

Rom 1:26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts.

The wrath of God is quite literally God handing people over to their own sinful desires and shameful lusts. The wrath of God is experienced as powerlessness, an inability to overcome lust and the corruption it produces. It is also the inability to distinguish good from evil or to even want to make such distinctions. In verse 28 of Romans one we see that God gave them over to a depraved mind. This is why the gospel is foolishness to those who are perishing; it stands in contradiction to their own depravity of mind.

The message of the cross, which is the grace of God, begins as a word of revealed condemnation. All have sinned and fallen short of God’s glory; all are objects of God’s wrath; man corrupts all he touches and this corruption is evidence of God’s wrath. That the heart of man desires sexual impurity and has been filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity reveals God’s wrath. Envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice; gossip, slander, insolence, arrogance and boastfulness are all evidences of God’s wrath on humanity. Those under God’s wrath are described as those who disobey parents, are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless and deserving of death.

Once the wrath of God has been revealed the mercy of God can be found. Though deserving death, God’s mercy is revealed in Jesus Christ. Though unrighteousness is what we have under God’s wrath, His righteousness is now revealed, a righteousness that is from God which comes through faith in Jesus Christ. We who were once enslaved to our passions and desires – under God’s wrath – have now be set free from sin and have become slaves to God.

The message of the cross, which is the grace of God, is a word of deliverance from the bondage of sin. Now you are free to resist sin, to resist the works of the flesh that lead to death, and free – indeed, empowered – to live holy lives before God.

Sin excused

What can we conclude from all of this? When grace is used as an excuse to cover over sin it is no longer grace. When revealing sin is called legalism, when provoking one another to righteousness is called being judgemental, and when excusing sin is called grace, then the gospel is not present. When sin revealed produces shame rather than repentance in a person then grace is not evident to them.

The grace of God can be clearly seen in the event of King David’s adultery and murder of Uriah. Though many misinterpret the events to excuse sin the truth of grace is clearly evident. That David sinned is not in dispute. What are the events that demonstrate God’s grace? The first point is that God did not leave David in his sin. He sent a prophet, another man to tell David that God knew of his sin. God’s grace did not begin by offering hope but by revealing sin. And that revelation was not kept hidden or private, it was revealed for the entire world to see.

God’s grace is seen in that David had the power to repent. He did not get angry at the prophet for revealing his sin. That was the actions of the ungodly kings of Israel who killed the prophets for calling them sinners. He recognised his shame and guilt and cried out to God to be forgiven, restored and renewed.

The grace in which we stand

Eph 2:8-9 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God- 9 not by works, so that no one can boast. NIV

Grace is not an aspect of God’s salvation it is the all-encompassing means of salvation. The message of the cross is the grace of God. For that word to be power to us is God’s grace. For us to receive faith is God’s grace and for the Spirit of revelation to open our eyes is God’s grace.

At the cross the cry of dereliction “My God, why have you forsaken me” is answered by the word of the cross “the wrath of God is being revealed to godless men who have forsaken the knowledge of God”. This is an amazing revelation that comes by grace – I am an unrighteous man, a suppressor of the truth of God and thus I am godforsaken. Without God’s grace I could never know this.

The cry “it is finished” reveals that the wrath of God is appeased in Christ for all who receive Him. God’s grace shows me that through acknowledgement of sin, and repentance, through faith in the salvation found in Jesus I can be redeemed from slavery to my lustful pride and sin and be free to live righteously.

The empowering presence of the Holy Spirit is God’s grace to keep me at the cross – which means to live in a state of grace by which I am being sanctified. Sanctification is God’s grace of revealing every sinful motive that keeps me locked in conformity to the pattern of this world. When I react badly in relationship the Spirit convicts me of sin so that I may grow in grace to live pure and blameless before God.

Conclusion

When the visible church of society is filled with evil desires, sexual immorality, greed, lust, selfish ambition and the like, it is not evidence of sinful people saved by grace but of the wrath of God being revealed from heaven. What does this say? that the visible church of society has forsaken the knowledge of God.

The revelation of this wrath is God’s grace to bring about repentance and a return to the worship of God as He is revealed in Jesus Christ by the Spirit. Freedom from the power of sin is the evidence of the work of the cross and proof of God’s grace. God’s grace is at work to reveal His righteousness that is by faith from first to last. His grace is revealing the state of the church of society as being under wrath so that his people will repent and come out of that which is ‘Babylonian harlotry’ (cf Rev 17 & 18).

The community of faith never feels ashamed of the gospel of Christ, nor does she feel ashamed when her sin is revealed, nor when wolves in sheep’s clothing, profiteers or false teachers are exposed. Rather the community of faith rejoices that God’s grace is at work freeing God’s people from slavery to sin and bringing them into greater power, power to live as slaves to righteousness.

The community of faith knows that God’s grace flows from the cross of Jesus Christ and seeks to know nothing except Christ crucified.

Jesus, keep me near the cross,
There a precious fountain
Free to all, a healing stream
Flows from Calvary’s mountain.

In the cross, in the cross,
Be my glory ever;
Till my raptured soul shall find
Rest beyond the river.

Near the cross, a trembling soul,
Love and mercy found me;
There the bright and morning star
Sheds its beams around me.

Near the cross! O Lamb of God,
Bring its scenes before me;
Help me walk from day to day,
With its shadows o’er me.

Near the cross I’ll watch and wait
Hoping, trusting ever,
Till I reach the golden strand,
Just beyond the river.

By Fanny Crosby

Posture of the Mind II

The new covenant promised in Jeremiah 31:33-34 declares that God “will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts.” Unlike the old covenant of external laws and sacrifices, this is a covenant of the heart and mind. An internal covenant sealed with the indwelling Spirit of God.

The new birth begins with a new heart. This is the act of God through the blood of Jesus. Having been received a new heart we are compelled by Apostle Paul:

Rom 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind…NIV

So the heart that is towards God is a result of the new birth whereas the mind that is towards God is what we grow into. The maturing process, which leads to a life of ever increasing glory; that is being to the praise of His glory; is I believe found in the ‘Posture of our Minds’. (See Part I of Posture of the Mind)

The mind of God or an earthly mind

Matthew 16:15-23

Jesus asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Jesus replied, “Blessed are you…”

Jesus began to explain to his disciples … that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus … said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan!”

What a remarkable turn of events. One moment Peter is being praised by Jesus for his profound insight into the things of God and the next he is being rebuked by Jesus and called a stumbling block who does not ‘have in mind the things of God, but the things of men.’

This highlights what I am saying about promoting famous people or famous testimonies. Having a revelation from God is not the same as having a mind towards God. Peter had a profound revelatory experience when he declared Jesus to be the Christ, Son of the living God. At this time Jesus reminds Peter of his ‘new name’ – Simon, son of Jonah – this is who you once were but now in Christ you are to be a new creation with a new name – I tell you that you are Peter.

It seems that Peter fell into the trap of believing that this revelation said something about Peter, rather than realising it was simply God speaking of His Son through Peter. So our hero became – in his own mind – the font of all revelation and wisdom to the point of speaking whatever he thought.

Peter’s posture expresses his mind when he rebuked Jesus. He spoke with the ‘wisdom’ of men. Jesus was the messiah. He could not die because he was going to rule. Therefore Jesus must not talk like that. I am now the ‘man of God’ who has been called and even received a powerful revelation, therefore my reasoning and judgement is right.

This may sound ludicrous in light of what we know but how often have we heard ‘men of God’ speak nonsense in the name of God? Years ago a well known evangelist declared that God said if he did not raise a million dollars God would take him home. Is this ‘the things of God’ or ‘the things of men’?

I recently was sent an email calling for overseers to pray for an apostle who had encountered financial trouble. As a consequence, I believe, of the prevalent teaching that God is going to ‘unlock’ extreme wealth for the Kingdom through apostles, this man had entered into a business arrangement with a coffee shop chain to be the sole distributor of that franchise in their county. I am sure that the promise seemed great and would have been accompanied by biblical/Christianised rhetoric but was it ‘the mind of God’? This venture has failed and the man and his family face financial ruin.

Haven’t we learned anything? Wasn’t this sort of thing prevalent in the 1980s and 90s? I know personally church overseers who went to prison for various get-rich-through-prophetic-business schemes and church members who lost their homes and life savings built on the same promises. Often the justification is that God wants, nay requires, His Holy Church to take the nations and that now, through the abundance of wealth that He will pour into the church through anointed wealthy businessmen, God’s people would finally be the head and not the tail. Naturally there is a minor addendum that they would all get wealthy in the process – for the glory of God though.

The rhetoric is the same, but like Peter, it does not come from the mind of God but the mind of men whose posture is not of faith but of pride and lust. It is more appealing to be a person of wealth or prominence than to hang with Jesus on the cross. Like the Israelites in the dessert, they wished they had a promised land but there posture was towards eating with the Egyptians.

The great lesson for ascension gifts to learn here is that we must have minds that are renewed. If our posture is towards God then we will not feel compelled to ‘succeed’. We will not ‘require great amounts of money’ to fulfil God’s ‘mandate’. We will trust that Jesus’ response to Peter will actually come to pass…

…on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

Peter discovered who Jesus was through Spirit revelation. He then had the privilege of discipleship – Jesus explained how He would accomplish God’s mandate and that Peter would participate with Him in it. This knowledge and the intimate discipleship to be received would empower Peter with the keys of the Kingdom – the message of the cross of Jesus Christ received by the grace of God and empowered through the Spirit who imparts faith to believe – and by these keys you will have authority to bind and loose. (Just before Jesus ascended he gave those keys to His disciples. In Mat 28:18 He declared that He alone had all authority in heaven and on earth, and they were to go in His name to make disciples.)

Peter, in his exuberance perhaps, tried to apply all of this before he had learned the ‘secret’ of a renewed mind. Fortunately for Peter, he was a disciple first… he was in a place to be corrected by a man who had no fear of losing disciples but a willingness to make disciples. Peter was rebuked and ceased from pursuing the ‘mind of men’ and learned to wait on God.

Packaging God

Matt 17:1-8 After six days Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. 2 There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. 3 Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus.

4 Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If you wish, I will put up three shelters – one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah.”

5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to him!”

6 When the disciples heard this, they fell facedown to the ground, terrified. 7 But Jesus came and touched them. “Get up,” he said. “Don’t be afraid.” 8 When they looked up, they saw no one except Jesus. NIV

Once again we have a great lesson from Peter about what not to do. Here Peter has been taken into an exclusive encounter with God. He has experienced a particular manifestation. Rather than glorifying God for that experience the earthly mind wants to enshrine it.

We are not really told what Peter was thinking but my cynical mind can come up with some thoughts based on what has been seen in recent history. Let’s put this on YouTube for everyone to see – for God’s glory of course. Maybe people will come to our meetings and get saved? Though there may be a ‘few’ curious Christians that will come, so we can take up a few more offerings – to further the gospel naturally.

Hasn’t this been the case concerning ‘revivals’ of late? We hear of people ‘catching the fire’ after a visit to the place where the fire ‘sprang up’ and taking that fire with them. People running here and there looking for a visitation of Jesus and being ‘sold’ an experience.

When Peter said, let’s build three shelters/tabernacles was he trying to humanise God by locating him? When the Samaritan woman spoke to Jesus she queried the location of worship but Jesus told her that worship was not a location but a spiritual position or posture (John 4:20-24).

In Luke 17:20-37 Jesus warns of the last days and what to be aware of. Though you will hear of me in this place or that don’t go running off after them. It is noticeable that Jesus reiterates, ‘the Kingdom of God is within you’.

When Peter began to outline his plans to ‘market’ this manifestation God spoke; this is my Son, it’s with him that I am pleased, stop thinking like earthly men and get the posture of your mind right – this is my Son, listen to him!

Ascension gifts, and especially those who are called apostles, must learn that God cannot be humanised by us. He chose His humanisation as being Jesus Christ. By humanising God I am referring to our need to turn God, His Word and His presence into a packageable commodity that can be easily accepted by earthly minds. Though we justify it with Christian rhetoric it is still earthly mindedness.

To be continued…

A Word for our Cities

What does the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, want to reveal of Himself to the church in your city?

A meeting with a friend, sharing what the Lord is saying to him about the city and particularly his leading to establish a new wineskin for discipleship, was a catalyst through which the Spirit revealed a blockage in my mind concerning the church of Jesus Christ. When he shared his direction I asked “shouldn’t that be the work of the local church?” When he replied that the church was one church in the city, although I knew this in an academic way it suddenly hit me as revelation.

A local congregation is not the church in the city but a part of that church. The fullest expression of Christ exists, not in a local church, but in The Church in Perth. Whereas many will agree, the expressions of ‘church’ do not actually reflect this belief. Traditional mindsets are still being expressed regardless of how much we say we believe in one church. And the worldly models of success, power and leadership that control the church keep reinforcing our failure to be The Church.

The gospel reveals that the constructs of our mind, the way we think, what we think, and what we validate as truth, is not the cumulative result of a superior intellect but the result of our sin nature, the world we live in and our inability to resist being conformed to the patterns of this world. Everything we think we know has been implanted into our minds by the god of this age. Paul’s gospel presentation to the Romans points out that we are all sinners and that the world of fallen men has replaced the knowledge of good for evil; truth for lies. Being born into a world of inverted knowledge means that all that we know is inverted and must be considered wrong unless proven right by God’s Spirit.

This is not just true of secular knowledge but also of religious knowledge. I had a construct in my mind concerning church that came from religious power-holders and not from God. I grew up believing in a particular construct of church and that model was reinforced time and time again by the examples of ‘successful churches’. When I finally rejected the validity of these systems and went in search of ‘the real church’ I abandoned what I considered to be systems of men but in doing so I also withdrew from The Church. Even though I rejected these systems as not being a valid expression, I allowed those constructs to obfuscate any valid expression of the Church of Jesus Christ. In so doing, I validated what I had rejected.

Now, through the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, He is directing me to participate in His church. I am not sure yet what that looks like but I want to share what the Spirit has revealed so far.

Constructs of the Mind

The church of Jesus Christ is not denominations, nor is it local gatherings or congregations; it is the family of God on earth. For a long time I had been fixated with the idea of the local church because the ‘church in the city’ seemed to be controlled by religious power-holders rather than led by apostolic men recognised as gifts of Jesus given to the church in our city.

Religious power-holders are basically those who have the appearance of success – large numbers, large incomes, large organisations, impressive speaking resumes etc. They gather together affirming and validating one another and hold combined self-congratulatory meetings in the name of unity. Though unity is the expressed purpose for gatherings, they are more often than not vehicles through which worldly constructs are validated. I don’t mean this to sound judgemental or whiney because I am sure they do not understand what they are doing. Still, it needs to be said so that the elect of God, the church in every city, do not get caught up by every passing wind.

The constructs of religion only exist in the minds of men and are validated or empowered only when we act as though they are true.  ((Isn’t this a very worldly practice? Professionals gather together proclaiming their expertise, training others in the ways of knowledge and truth and then the ‘untrained duly accept their self-stated expertise and willingly follow their advice.)) The religious leaders or power-holders in Jesus’ day were no different to any other self-validating group at any time in the history of the church: religious power-holders suppressing a genuine expression of church of Jesus Christ through religious constructs.

Jesus declared to His disciples “I will build my church and the gates of Hades will not overcome it”. Jesus builds His church among every people group of the world. Throughout history, amongst the ‘Christian’ forms of religion has been hidden the Church of Jesus Christ.

Men, some downright evil using the gospel for profit and others simply naive, finding security in the patterns of this world, obscure the actual church through established religious constructs – whether Catholic or Protestant, denominational or non-denominational, conservative or contemporary, evangelical or charismatic, seeker-sensitive, post-modern, revivalist, transformational, emergent, missional; while the church of Jesus may be found amongst people within these constructs, they are constructs of the mind that cause the church to be obscured. The more we validate these constructs, as legitimate as the ideas may be in some of them, the more we obfuscate the church in our cities.

To the Angel of the Church in [insert your city]

I was in a meeting some years ago where a person asked everyone they spoke to the same question, “What has God shown you His strategy for the city is?” At a leaders’ breakfast the speaker was going to share “his heart for the city”.

As the Spirit of revelation has been unlocking my mind – revealing the constructs that I have held for too long as being truth, and renewing my mind – the Spirit has been showing me God’s will in this matter. Not a finite strategy for a city, but rather the renewed mind necessary to test and approve what God’s will is.

In Revelation, John is told by Jesus to write a specific message to seven churches. These seven messages have a specific framework that can help us in discerning God’s will in regard to our cities. (For my purpose here I will only look at a part of the framework)

  • 1. To the angel of the church in…
  • 2. These are the words of Him…
  • 3. I know your [witness]…

The first point is that these letters are not concerning a city, they have no revelation on winning a city; no strategies for a city; nor do they speak of ‘god’s heart for a city’, rather they are addressed to The Church in each city. According to Ephesians 1:11-12, God works everything out in conformity with the purpose of His will, so that we might be to the praise of His glory. Later in 3:9-10 the intent of God is revealed:

Eph 3:10-11 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, 11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. NIV

In Ephesians the purpose of God is for the church to reflect His wisdom and glory. The church was always in God’s mind as an expression of His glory on earth – a people belonging to God who will declare His glory. In each of the letters in Revelation 2 and 3 Jesus reveals an aspect of Himself to the church, speaks about their witness as His church and calls for an action in relation to His self-revelation.

A Word for your City

The conclusion that I have come to through all of this is simple, there is one church in the city of Perth and one church in your city. The constructs of our mind may obscure that church but that construct exists in our minds not in God. Jesus is continually present in His church and the purpose of the church is to reveal His abiding presence by being to the praise of God’s glory. This, after all, was Jesus’ mission, to do His will and in so doing bring glory to the Father.

God’s purpose is to reveal Himself to the church and the church in this city is to exhibit that revelation. And so, in prayer, I believe, we need to be asking for the revelation of God in the church of our city.

What does the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will, want to reveal of Himself to the church in your city?