I have remained vividly impressed by Exodus 33:16 where Moses argues with God and it culminates in him asking that God would "show me Your glory". The argument was in the context of God's anger at the people's sin. God said that although an angel would take them up into the Land, He would not go with them. Moses drew the line here. His argument was that if the Presence of God did not go with them then they were nothing. Has anything changed?
Terry Virgo wrote; "This is what makes God's people unique - His presence goes with us".
The title of this blog was taken from a conference that Mark Stibbe arranged and invited Terry Virgo to. Terry admitted that of course there is nothing admirable in being purpose-less and drifting without intent but he asked are we in too great a hurry to wait for His Presence to fall upon us by the Holy Spirit? Terry wrote;
"Let's not simply believe in the great objective truth of God's omnipresence, let's also take advantage of the fact with a sense of wonder that when we gather in His name, the Holy Spirit wants to make manifest the reality of His presence. How much more would happen in our gatherings if we did! Not just purpose, but presence! Not just music, but presence. Not just routine or rush, but presence. Get an appetite for the presence of God! When we plant a church and gather in His name, His presence comes with us. Because you gather in His name, God's presence comes to town in a unique way".
I wrote a few days ago that in revival the one universal thing that is restored to the Church is the manifest Presence of God. But do we have to wait for revival to come to enjoy once again the Presence of God? Look at just a few of the wondrous benefits of God's Presence being with us!
(Exodus 33:14 NKJV) And He said, "My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest."
(Psalms 16:11 NKJV) - "In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore".
I have been extremely interested in two comments made over the last few days concerning the vital place of the Ephesians 4 Ministries especially the Apostle and Prophet. A comment was left on this blog and the gentleman voiced the concern that we should not be seeing academics becoming the guiding forces in our churches but rather the Ephesians 4 Ministries. In his powerful prophecy Greg Haslam saw the Ephesians 4 Ministries as being a "catalytic agent" to the Church moving forward into a new era of treasuring the Presence of God and truly seeing Ephesians 2:20 come to pass.
So why are Apostles and Prophets better placed to guide the Church of Jesus Christ into receptiveness to the Presence of God, rather than academic theologians?
1. Immediate Revelation Rather Than Studied Concepts.
I actually have John MacArthur to thank for this thought although I am sure he would not thank me for it. After all in the same sermon he said, "We don't need Apostles today because we already have doctrine". Don't need? Don't need??! MacArthur's bolder than I am. I'm not sure I would like to be in the position of telling the ascended Christ that we "don't need" His gifts! But much thanks to him anyhow for helping me with this.
In the sermon MacArthur spoke of the root meaning to the word "Apostle" - it means "Sent One". The suggestion is that there is a direct anointing for a direct task. Just as similarly with prophets, MacArthur emphasises that they had three functions; they remained in a local ministry, they spoke revelation from God and they taught apostle's doctrine. The emphasis is on the immediate, the "Now" and it is clear that the apostles and prophets called to the ministry must depend on God. They cannot depend on scholarship or degrees.
Please understand I am not against scholarship or degrees. My friend Pete and I are soon to embark on Masters Degrees in theology! What I am trying to examine is the fact that scholarship and degrees are worthless if they do not lead us into a deeper communion with the risen Lord whom is the object and desire of our studies and while there are many theologians such as D A Carson, Gordon Fee and John Piper who would do exactly that, I think it is the apostles and prophets who are best placed to guide the Church into openness to the Presence of God because they have been anointed for exactly that task.
2. Mission to the Nations Rather Than Studying Orthodoxy.
Once again let me make it clear that I am not trying to dispatch with studying orthodoxy! It is a vital call that the Bible makes clear we are all called to do. Paul said we must "prove all things" in one case. David Holden wrote; "Doctrine ... vital though they are, will not of themselves produce mobility". But this question remains to be answered: is it academic theologians or Ephesians 4 Ministries who are best placed to lead the Church into being "Presence Shaped" and thus mission orientated? Before I answer this, how can I presume the immediate link between the Presence of God and mission. To begin with the restoration of the baptism of the Holy Spirit during the Charismatic Movement was a very personal thing for personal blessing. But with men like Arthur Wallis, Bryn Jones and Ern Baxter about it became evident that the coming of the Holy Spirit was for a purpose - to enable us and empower us to go to the ends of the earth. David Holden wrote; "From Pentecost to the return of Jesus, the church is never called to slow down, to become static or settled in this age". And I think it is clear that it is the Ephesians 4 Ministries rather than academics who are best placed to do this.
On Apostles, David Holden wrote; "Apostles ask questions and challenge you as a local eldership about expansion and making a greater impact on your locality, catching you and your church up on a mission to reach the nations. They are not there just to meet your church needs but also to provoke you to ask ‘where next?'".
On Prophets, he wrote; "The prophetic never sits comfortably with something that is static ... Prophets exercising their ministry into something static can become very frustrated. We may lack the prophetic in the church today because we are static, but when the church gets more mobile the prophetic will come to the fore".
Let me say again how vital academics are and how grateful I am for the books they have written and researched that sit in our libraries. But what concerns me is that their writings do not replace the call of the Holy Spirit communicated through Ephesians 4 Ministries to lead us and guide us into 2007. Jonathan Edwards the great Puritan wrote that it is the job of all to find out which direction the Holy Spirit is moving in and move with Him. Let us allow academics to do their job and defend the orthodoxy of aspects of the whole counsel of God to serve us. But let us pray for those in authority over us that they may lead us truly hearing from the Holy Spirit and opening us up and making us receptive to His "coming upon" us as we meet to worship God.