Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"It DOES Matter What We Believe About the Future of the Church”

I have been busy during this week transcribing two New Wine Magazine articles which have an absolutely vital message to the situation within the Church today. They are:

"The Failing-Church Syndrome - It does Matter What We Believe About the Future of the Church” by Bob Mumford from the New Wine Magazine November 1986.

"The Will-of-God Prayer" by Dr Ern Baxter.

Why are they important and why are they related? Well ever since hearing John MacArthur's "Why Every Self-Respecting Calvinist is a Pre-Millennialist" address to the Shepherds Conference this year, a deep considering of how we view the end-times has been heavy on my heart. Thus it was tremendously encouraging to read Bob Mumford's excellent article where he re-emphasised that our attitude to the end-times is important! Or as Dave Holden put it, "Our eschatology will shape our ecclesiology". Bob Mumford takes a lot of time and effort to show that we are all in danger of seeing the Bible through our favourite "doctrine" - whether it be the Cross, a negative eschatology, economics, covenant and so on. His article makes a tremendous statement for beginning to read those Scriptures that have been there since the Word of God was written - and to begin believing them!

Then secondly Ern Baxter's article on prayer has also helped me. In the run up to Brighton, I asked someone I deeply trusted whether I should go on a 40 day fast and was quite crushed when the answer was a resounding dont-be-so-stupid! It started me thinking through the whole concept of Divine Sovereignity (He is God - if He is going to come in revival then He will whether we pray or not) and Human Responsibility (You don't have because you don't ask - Ask and it will be given to you). Here's two key quotes:

"The point is this: Please don’t demean the gift of tongues. Get into your intercessory chamber and when you are driven past the point that you can intellectually decipher your problems and articulate them, don’t be ashamed to say, “Come Holy Spirit, take hold of these things and articulate them to the Father because I don’t know how or what to pray

"We have said again and again, “If only God will move”, Jesus said, “I will move but I will move in response to your praying-will-of-God prayers”. This amazes me, because it appears that God has put the government of the world – His ultimate purpose for the Church – in the praying mouths of His followers!! He is saying; “You will govern by prayer. You will release My power in the earth by your corporate praying as the redeemed community. I will respond to your prayer and My response will be My activity in history to achieve My ultimate purposes”.

I do commend both articles to you - even if you aren't a post-millenialist! The issue isn't what eschatology we hold but how we view the end-times.
Finally I must recommend this blog that I have just discovered (thanks to my great friend Don for this!). It is run by an SGM pastors son called Jesse Phillips and it is called "Prophetically Speaking - striving for a significant charismatic dimension". I've read most of the posts and they are excellent. He is taking great strides to deal seriously with the challenge to all who believe the charismatic gifts should be pursued and experienced in church today. He writes academically and is even hosting a resource site specifically called "The Charismatic Resource Centre". This quote particularly encouraged me;

"The lecturer in class today said: "If we are merely teaching without modeling, our teaching will have no effect." ... I thought that the same thing can be said about any practice, particularly the practice of the spiritual gifts. It is not enough that our statements of faith say that we believe the gifts are for today. It's not enough simply to comment on our desire from the pulpit".

Amen! A mere theological discussion isn't enough. Paul said, "Pursue"! So perhaps a bit more pursuing is in order and a bit less talk. Finally he has appointed himself, "self-appointed, unofficial live blogger for Sovereign Grace Ministries" and has written very fully on the recent SGM leaders conference for any who didn't go and are wondering exactly what happened and just how R C Sproul fitted in with people who say they are open to charismatic gifts! I was particularly stirred by a quote from C J Mahaney's single address to the conference;

"We should not gain our understanding of what it means to be charismatic from the charismatic movement, but from Scripture itself ... Scripture does not permit a mere affirmation of the gifts. We are called to experience all the empowering he provides"

Go visit - it's excellent stuff.

“The Will-of-God Prayer” by Dr Ern Baxter.

The Bible uses a number of metaphors to describe the progression of truth, such as milk and meat, or childhood and adult maturity. This principle may be applied to prayer. In its simplest form, prayer is best defined by our Lord Himself as “asking”. However if we gather together all the biblical data on this important topic, we soon discover that although asking is part of prayer’s foundation, there is much more to prayer than merely making requests.

We learn from the apostle James, for example, that prayer may be self-seeking. In his epistle he tells his readers that when they ask, they don’t get what they want because their whole aim is wrong – they only want to satisfy their own desire (4:2-3). His words immediately modify the grand sweep that is often imputed to asking in prayer.

Sometimes we hear people talking about prayer simply in terms of having enough faith, and they leave the impression that there are no conditions to be met for answered prayer. They assume that prayer is simply asking because Jesus said, “Ask whatever you will and I will do it”. Yes, He did say that. But that isn’t all that He said.

One of the dangers of building an entire doctrine on a single text is that we fail to take into considering everything the Scripture has to say on the subject. If we look at only one scriptural text on a subject, we have only a very small part of what God has revealed about that subject. Therefore one of the first principles of sound interpretation is to try to take into account all that the Scripture has to say. It is an oversimplification to say that all we have to do is simply ask, and He will do whatever we say. The book of James is not the only place we find conditions on answered prayer that modify that general statement – the whole Bible has many other modifiers about prayer. Prayer is much more than asking.

According to His Will.
Prayer is not to be self-serving but rather God-serving. In 1 John 5:14-15 we read; “We have an assured confidence that when we ask anything (here comes another modifier for the word ‘ask’) in accordance with His will, He hears us”. That is not just any old thing we care to ask for but anything in accordance with His will.

The strong implication here is that if we don’t ask according to His will, He doesn’t listen to us – and it may be just as well that He doesn’t. I think I am as grateful for the prayers God has not answered as I am for the ones He has. It is on record in the history of Israel that “He gave them the desire of their heart but sent leanness into their soul” (Psalm 106:15). Woe to us if He answers selfish prayers with the result that we turn out to be “lean” toward God!

So we are to pray in accordance with His will and He will listen to us. John goes on in verse 15; “And when we know that He listens to us, then whatever we ask, we have the thing which we have asked from Him”. Here is the promise: Self-serving prayers are not answered. God-serving prayers are always answered. What I call “will-of-God” prayers – prayer according to His will – must be answered. He has said so!

We have two sources for discovering the will of God. One is the infallible Scripture. I have no problem with the infallibility of Scripture because I believe that an infallible God cannot speak a fallible word. Therefore I believe that the Word of God is an expression of the will of God, and when I am praying in line with the revealed will of God in the sacred Scriptures, I am confidently praying according to the will of God.

The Holy Spirit.
One problem however is that we have many requests outside the scope of what the Scriptures have spoken about and we are not sure of God’s will in those matters. How can we be really sure that what we are praying is a will-of-God prayer? The answer lies in the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit has been residing here for two thousand years for one reasons; to accomplish the purpose of God in history. He did not come just to bless me and give me goosebumps and spiritual gifts. He is the governmental agent of the Trinity. Through us and through our intercessory prayer, He intends to bring the kingdom of God, the government of God, to the nations of the earth. The Holy Spirit wants to fulfil the will of God and for that reason His desire is for us to pray the will-of-God prayer.

What is the guarantee that my prayers accurately reflect God’s will? Listen carefully to Paul’s words in Romans:

“The Spirit of God not only maintains hope within us but helps us in our present limitations. For example we do not know how to pray worthily as sons of God but His Spirit is within us actually praying for us in those agonizing longings which never find words. And God who knows the heart’s secrets understands the spirit’s intentions as He prays for those who love God” (Romans 8:26-27).

Often we find ourselves in a place where we don’t know what to say or even how to say it. We need help and it is the Spirit who can help us. I believe that we can be relatively certain we are praying accurately if we are conscious that we are praying in the Spirit.

When I say “praying in the Spirit” I am speaking in the broad sense. When I come to pray, it should not be a matter of simply reciting some things I think God should consider. It should be a matter of coming first into a real relationship with the Holy Spirit in which I become conscious that He is guiding me in my praying. Of course that means that you and I must stay very close to the Holy Spirit. We must cultivate the kind of intimacy with Him in which we are conscious of consistently walking in the Spirit, being filled with the Spirit and praying in the Spirit.

When We Don’t Know How
From my own experience I must say that praying in the Spirit often includes praying in tongues in situations for which I don’t know how to pray. I believe that when a man prays in unknown tongues, the Holy Spirit within him is making accurate requests concerning both his own circumstances and needs and the broader circumstances and needs of the kingdom of God. He is articulating them in a language that has been provided for that purpose.

That is not to say that praying in the Spirit always has to be by means of glossolalia. I remember times when I have prayed in English and yet I knew I was praying accurately and supernaturally by the Spirit because the supernatural results of the prayers demonstrated that they had accurately expressed the will of God. Nevertheless I could give you illustration after illustration of how I have gotten on my knees with seemingly insoluble problems to try to articulate my prayers rightly – but they just dribbled down my chin. I didn’t know how to pray; I didn’t know what to pray; I only knew I was up against a blank wall intellectually. The problem seemed to have no answers. But it was then when I “shifted gears” to glossolalia. It was then that I began to pour out my heart in that blessed gift God has given me by His Spirit and as I prayed in an unknown tongue I became aware that there was a great lifting in my spirit and that somehow the Holy Spirit was articulating with guaranteed accuracy the nature of the concern and the Father was hearing it and answering it.

The point is this: Please don’t demean the gift of tongues. Get into your intercessory chamber and when you are driven past the point that you can intellectually decipher your problems and articulate them, don’t be ashamed to say, “Come Holy Spirit, take hold of these things and articulate them to the Father because I don’t know how or what to pray”.

Prayer and God’s Purpose.
As we seek to pray according to the will of God, we must eventually ask one all-important question: What is the place of prayer in God’s ultimate purposes? To answer this question we can look in the last part of the gospel of John at a portion of revelation which is not recorded in the other gospels. It is the very intimate conversation that our Lord had with His disciples before He went to His death. The last words of any man are usually considered very important; they are a distillation of years of study and thought. We should expect to hear the climax of Jesus wisdom in those closing moments of His time on earth.

Jesus had tried to teach His disciples for three and a half years but He had found them for the most part dull and unresponsive. Now He had come to these last solemn moments and He had some truths He had to share with them, even though they obviously were unable to grasp exactly what He meant. Among the things He shared with them was a new revelation on prayer. In John 14:12-13 our Lord said;

“I assure you the one who believes in me will do the same things I have done – yes and he will do even greater things than I have done for I am going away to the Father. Whatever you ask the Father in My Name I will do”.

You and I may see many things that need to be done. Though I am not demeaning the many other methods we use to try to get them done, we must remember Jesus words here. He said that if we want to get them done, we must remember Jesus words here. He said that if we want to get anything done in the new age – the age that was about to be born by His death and resurrection and ascension – then this is how it would be done. Ask the Father in His Name.

Why was this a new revelation? Jesus went on to tell them;

“Up to now you have asked nothing in my name; ask now and you will receive that your joy may be overflowing”. (John 16:23-24).

Jesus said that up until then, His disciples had asked in other terms. Now they would be asking in a new context; Jesus’ Name. They would be asking in the context of the God-Man accomplishing victory over death and ascending into the Presence of God to become a Prince and a Saviour. A man, Jesus of Nazareth would be raised from the dead as the incarnate God and because of that event, they would come to Him to the Father and they would have their prayers answered through that channel.

“Greater Things”.
Three important points in Jesus last discourse should be noted here. First of all the disciples were given representative authority to continue His work. So many times we put those words “greater things than I do” in the context of miracle meetings and the charismatic gifts. But Jesus puts them in the context of prayer. For many of us who are inclined to focus on the spectacular, that seems rather mundane. Often when we ask someone about the services in their church, the conversation runs like this; “Well Sunday morning our pastor will preach, he’s a brilliant speaker. Sunday night we are having a great musical cantana”. “Do you have anything during the week?”. “Well yes, Wednesday night we just have a prayer meeting”. Somehow we fail to see that the prayer meeting should be the great big event of the week! A great authority on revivals said to me one time as he was conducting some teachings in my church; “I have not been a pastor now for several years; I’ve been travelling in the interests of intercession. If ever again I had a church, I would not number my congregation by attendance at the Sunday morning meetings but I would number them by attendance at the prayer meetings”. Prayer is the channel through which we will do the “Greater things”. The first part of this new revelation then is that the disciples are given representative authority to continue Jesus work in prayer.

Second Jesus said that the work would be accomplished by obedience to His Word and prayer in His Name; “If you remain in Me and My words remain in you, ask whatever you wish and it will be given you”. There is no other way to accomplish His work.

Third Jesus said our joy would be overflowing because of answered prayer and answered prayer should be a cause for overflowing joy – which is an essential mark of the kingdom of God. You and I ought to be constantly enraptured by answered prayer. Some of us have to hunt for a needle in a haystack to find any occasion in our lives which shows that God answered a specific prayer. Very simply, that is due to the fact that we don’t pray very much. There are not an awful lot of prayers to be answered because there are not an awful lot of prayers offered. The more we pray, the more He will answer and the more our joy will overflow.

Governing by Prayer.
We have said again and again, “If only God will move”, Jesus said, “I will move but I will move in response to your praying-will-of-God prayers”. This amazes me, because it appears that God has put the government of the world – His ultimate purpose for the Church – in the praying mouths of His followers!! He is saying; “You will govern by prayer. You will release My power in the earth by your corporate praying as the redeemed community. I will respond to your prayer and My response will be My activity in history to achieve My ultimate purposes”.

If prayer doesn’t mean that – why bother with it? If prayer is only some kind of psychological therapy to make us feel better, why engage in it at all? If prayer will not make a difference, why pray?

But it does make a difference. Jesus said, “If you live your life in Me and My word lives in your heart (that is another modifier) you can ask for whatever you like and it will come true for you. This is how My Father will be glorified” (John 15:7).

If we want to glorify God, the best way is not to make Him banners or hold big meetings for Him – though all those things may be good. If we want to glorify the Father, the best thing we can do is to become a praying people, a people who pray will-of-God prayers. Each of us can become a governor on our knees, a person who sways the world from our prayer closet and our prayer meetings. Prayer is a governmental hand and God intends to use it to bring into history His ultimate purposes.

“The Failing-Church Syndrome" by Bob Mumford

"It does Matter What We Believe About the Future of the Church” –
– New Wine Magazine – November 1986.

One of the most critical questions facing Christians today is, How do you see the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth? Many see it as irrelevant and dying, suggesting that perhaps the quicker the Antichrist comes and tribulation envelopes the world, the better off everyone will be, for then follows the rapture and the final solution to everything. After all, proponents of this theology reason, we can’t polish brass on a sinking ship, or why arrange deck chairs on the Titanic? In this kind of classic end-time thinking, every gross manifestation of evil is seen as increased evidence of the “soon coming”.

On the other hand, the faith of the Church Fathers and the Reformers was victorious with a triumphant Christ revealed in His Church. That victory was to be experienced by the believer in his own lifetime and was indeed the hope of the Church! Ideas have consequences so it does matter what we believe about the Church and the future. There is a deadly inertia that surrounds biblical ideas, especially the ones that are not quite centred in complete biblical accuracy. Once some mass of opinion such as the “Failing Church Syndrome” begins to gain momentum, it is nearly impossible to stop or turn it. Disproving it biblically seems to do little to change anything or anyone. Nevertheless each person’s responsibility is to search the Scriptures to see if these things are so.

My Own Search.
In my own search, some years ago I ceased using “proof texts” (compiling a mass of Bible evidence to “prove” a theory is true or not true) because the Bible is a whole book, Old Testament and New Testament, written by one God. He used an amazing variety of human instruments who each wrote from a given perspective. My conviction is that the Scriptures are wholly inspired and originally without error. The story from garden to garden is one redemptive story. The whole is organic in nature that is, it all “hangs together” like a grapevine; roots, branches, leaves and fruit. After some thirty years of studying the Scriptures in the original languages, I am continually humbled and brought to my knees by the marvellous integration and weaving of God’s own purpose in every book as “men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God” (2 Peter 1:21 – NAS).

The simple fact is that the Bible is so written that as a whole it can interpreted and organized around one theme. If we can grasp that, we can solve the problem of conflicting themes that all have ample proof texts. The whole Bible could be arranged in orderly and understandable terms by using this one concept. As a result we would have what is called “covenantal theology”, a study of Scripture taken from covenantal principles. Take another Biblical concept such as faith. We could arrange the whole Bible around the theme of faith to help and benefit millions of believers. The same is true of healings and miracles. We could arrange the Scriptures around money and the result would be biblical economics. What an exciting study that would be and how badly it is needed. Or we could arrange the Bible around psychology and human behaviour, or perhaps spiritual warfare with it’s emphasis on Satan, demons and the degradation of society.

The Biblical Theme.
The problem arises not in studying the Bible by arranging around a given theme, but the tendency to make one theme the theme rather than a theme. It is the tendency to single out one theme to stand on its own rather than looking at it in conjunction with all the other themes. Many a theologian or Bible teacher has come up with the biblical them based on salvation, the Kingdom, healing, the Holy Spirit, Israel or another Biblical concept. When faced with this approach to the Bible we become uncomfortable, and our response, of course, is to immediately gather all the “other” Scriptures that teach “other” themes.

Let us suppose for a moment that we arranged the whole Bible around these Scriptures;

“But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times, some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods, which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth” – (1 Timothy 4:1-3 – NAS).

“But realise this that in the last days difficult times will come. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, boastful, arrogant, revilers, disobedient to parents, ungrateful, unholy, unloving, irreconcilable, malicious gossips, without self-control, brutal, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God; holding to a form of godliness although they have denied its power and avoid such men as these” – (2 Timothy 3:1-5 – NAS).

If we arranged the entire Bible around these two Scriptures we would soon begin seeing every headline on the evening news and in the paper as fulfilling that prophecy. Every violent and ungodly television show and every incident of nudity, pornography, divorce and child abuse would be expected because of our “biblical” presupposition that this is what is expected to happen. We would never fight or resist evil because that would be equal to counteracting or resisting God’s avowed and prophetic purpose.

A Negative Outlook.
Our problem is not that the Scriptures are wrong but that we have arranged the whole Bible with a negative outlook. We see everything as going to hell in a hand basket, whereas our responsibility is to be prepared for the rapture. That preparation of course is very personal and private between each believer and the Lord. Basically we are preparing to leave and are actually abandoning the world and its problems because “God said so”. What we believe really does matter. R J Rushdoony writes;

“In the modern era, the Church while numerically strong, has grown less and less influential and more and more peripheral to everyday life, to politics, economics, the arts, sciences and all else. For most people, the Church is irrelevant to the “real world” of human affairs. It provides a limited moral training for children, a social focus for the family and not much more. Churches have numbers, not strength. Both in membership and in leadership, the churches are radically weak”[1].

I have struggled for many years to awaken mentally and scripturally out of this failing-Church syndrome that I have just described. As with many believers my doctrine was taken second-hand, unexamined and unquestioned because it was accomplished with multiple proof texts.

But what if we looked toward the future with a victorious perspective? After all experts estimate that there are 30 million born again believers in America. So what would happen if they all believed that they were destined to be salt and light in this society and that it was possible to turn this nation towards God? Suppose those 30 million believed that we could see godly men in office, that our judicial system could be influenced by God’s law, and that the kingdom of God for which we have prayed to come for so many years would and could come in a measurable manner so as to fulfil the Scripture that says, “Righteousness exalts a nation but sin is a disgrace to any people” – (Proverbs 14:34 – NAS).

God’s Ultimate Triumph.
For us to see, experience and move toward victory, we must be able to organize the whole Bible around the theme of God’s ultimate triumph. Christ’s victory in the human situation and the power of the Holy Spirit to subdue a people until “every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord”. I could do that, but then I would be going back to proof texts! Oh well here are a few;

There will be no end to the increase of His government, or of peace on the throne of David and over His kingdom, to establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness from then on and forevermore. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will accomplish this” – (Isaiah 9:7 – NAS – italics mine).

“And to Him was given dominion, glory and a kingdom that all the peoples, nations and men of every language might serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which will not pass away and His kingdom is one which will not be destroyed” – (Daniel 7:14 – NAS – italics mine).

“And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever and His kingdom will have no end” – (Luke 1:33 – NAS – italics mine).

“And Jesus came up and spoke to them saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations baptizing them in the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” – (Matthew 28:18-19 – NAS – italics mine).

“And it shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour forth of My Spirit upon all mankind, and your sons and daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams … And it shall be, that everyone who calls on the Name of the Lord shall be saved” – (Acts 2:17, 21 – NAS – italics mine).

“Signs of the Times”.
Today more people are coming to the Lord than at any time in the history of the Church. If we are blinded by the failing-Church syndrome, we can look directly past that to any and every negative happening needed to confirm that things are getting worse. Africa, with all its problems, is ablaze with the fire of the Holy Spirit. Hundreds of thousands are getting saved and nearly as many are being baptized in water and in the Holy Spirit. Argentina is under a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the same is happening on a smaller scale, but just as dramatically in a few Moslem countries. The Far East is awakening to hear the gospel of the Kingdom preached with signs following. The stories of a victorious Church in China are enough to make an unbelieving press reporter say to me, “This is indeed a miracle!”.

On and on we can go but if we put such reports in a category that says only God’s love matters until the end, then we will never be able to take Christ’s victory into the marketplace and political arena. We will never be able to disciple a nation unless we believe we will be here to do it. The renewal in its overall perspective restores biblical faith to the Church. Everyone involved in the renewal ought to be able to say by conviction, “America can be turned to God!”.
Something good is happening at all levels of the Christian Church. Multitudes of men, churches and whole movements are seeking to wash themselves mentally and spiritually of the failing-Church syndrome to find a new and fresh expectancy that will enable our God to work supernaturally for us in this complex human situation. Now when faced with the question, “How do you see the Church of Jesus Christ on the earth?” they can answer with faith like that of the Church fathers and the Reformers and experience the victory of that faith in their lives.

[1] R J Rushdoony, “The Failure of Seminary Education, Symposium on Christian Education”, Journal of Christian Reconstructionism, Vol IV, No 1 (Summer 1977), p96.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Don't Forget The Resurrection!

I was extremely encouraged to read this post from this SGM writer Mark Lauterbach(HT: Pete Day). I've shared Ern Baxter's concern that the Resurrection is frequently neglected in evangelical emphases for that of the Cross. While I've never denied the vital importance of the Cross I have tried to explore the practical implications of a sole Cross-emphasis actually writing about this last on Easter Day. Here's a few key quotes from Mark Lauterbach's original post entitled "Cross-centered? or Resurrection Centered?":

"Richard Gaffin says that the Christian life is a resurrection life. That the cross includes the resurrection. I know one of the movements of our day is a call to be Gospel centered and cross-centered. I am part of that and agree with it! There is no doubt that the NT makes much of the fact that Jesus died on a cross and we are to preach Christ crucified. But as I read I remembered a conversation with a brother just a few days before, in which he asked me -- do we sometimes leave out the resurrection in our focus on the cross?

I think Wright clearly shows that neither the death on the cross nor the resurrection are good news in themselves . . . but they are inseparable, as they explain each other. Without the resurrection, the entire Christian movement would not have started ... Without the cross, the resurrection would have simply been a wonder, as someone emerges from the grave. But together they are the Gospel -- the One who was cruelly and unjustly murdered in the most humiliating way imaginable has been raised".

I love this point particularly;

"This means that the resurrection calls us to live life now, and all of life, for the glory of God. It is not a call to withdraw from this world. I simply do not get how radical this is . . . I domesticate this agenda, literally. I think I can hear the last words of the risen Christ as "Go ye, therefore, and build strong families and make local churches." But it is more than that -- it is making disciples of all nations, and teaching them to follow Jesus in all of life. And someday Jesus will be praised in every tongue and vocation in which he was cursed -- and all of life will be for his glory".

It reminds me of Stuart Townend's awesome hymn, "The Power of the Cross" and the line; "Death is crushed to death, mine is life to live". Why should we need as alleged lovers of the Word of God to seperate out the different aspects of Christ's ministry as of different value? Ern Baxter said that Christ lived an impeccable life, He died a decisive death, He rose victoriously, He ascended gloriously and now reigns supremely and pours out the Holy Spirit - His coronation oil - again and again. Let me close with a quote from Pete Day who sums it up excellently:

"In fact every part of the ministry of Christ is vital. The Incarnate One, the True Man who alone could stand in our place (and who is our example in life), became the Man upon the Cross - the Redeemer, who triumphed over sin, death, satan and hell and rose from the grave, to ascend (going before us to prepare a place for us, to intercede for us), to reign in glorious splendour, to pour out His Holy Spirit (His coronation anointing oil - Ps 45v7) upon His church, to govern the church as her exalted Head, and to return for a radiant church when His enemies are made His footstool".

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

The Gospel of the Kingdom by Dr Ern Baxter

Last week I published Ern Baxter's amazing words on "The Gospel of the Land". Truly God has saved us from our Egypts and is bringing us through the wilderness of immaturity. But the training of the desert is for a purpose! To bring us into the Land. One misconception is that it all ends when we cross the River Jordan and make it into the Land. The Word of God makes it clear that is not so. It was never God's intention to be limited to a small section of land! He has got the whole world in view. So I pray these faith-building, vision-enhancing words soak and thrill you at the beginning of this new week. By the way, these messages are available on MP3 if you email me.

The Gospel of the Kingdom

Adam failed.

Israel failed.

It looked as if God's plan for a royal and righteous family would never succeed. But God not only speaks the first word but has the last word as well. And the story of His will on earth was not yet done! In the beginning God declared His purpose for mankind. It was His will that man would express and extend the beautiful and majestic life of His Son. When the first family sinned and failed to fulfill God's plan for man, God made a promise. In that promise was the sure word that one day His will would be done. Truly His Kingdom would come - right here on earth - as it had been planned in heaven.

1. Kingdom Purpose Restored in Christ.

A. Christ: A New and Royal Seed.

What man could not do for himself, God Himself would do for man. God's desire for a beloved family would begin in a new way. He would start over again with a "new family". The first member of that family would be a very special Person - a new Adam. He would be the Seed from which all the other family members would come. Where the first Adam failed to fulfill God's plan for his life, the last Adam would not. Yes, God's plan would succeed for this new Seed would be His only Son!

As you recall, this had been God's word to the serpant in the garden:

"I will put emnity (hatred, conflict)

between your seed (Satan's offspring)

and her seed (Eve's offspring)

And He (Christ, the divine Seed)

will bruise your head (a fatal, final wound)

And you (Satan, the evil enemy)

will bruise His heel (a temporary wound; Christ's death and resurrection)

The apostle Paul clearly explains the fulfillment of this prophetic truth in these words;

Galatians 3:16; "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. God did not say, "And to your seeds" meaning many seeds. Rather He said, "And to your seed" meaning One Seed - who is Christ".

Yes Christ is the divine Seed Who once and for all crushed the head of the serpant upon the Cross. But something else is involved. Paul tells us that Jesus is also the first-born among many brothers:

Romans 8:29; "God knew us and chose us before the world began to become like His Son - formed into His image. God did so that His Son might be the first among many brothers".

In other words Christ is our:

1. Redeemer Brother - the divine Saviour of mankind.

2. Elder Brother - the first member in God's new and beloved family.

3. Royal Brother - our source of power and authority.

4. Model Brother - the ideal and perfect Man.

5. Glorious Brother - the glorified Son of Man.

B. Christ: Our Redeemer and Elder Brother.

Jesus Christ was both wholly God and wholly Man. In His humanity He lived a sinless life. Therefore when He died upon the Cross, He could take upon Himself our sins and their penalty - physical death and broken fellowship with the Father. The resurrection power of God's Holy Spirit restored Jesus to life as the First-Born of God's "new family" (Romans 8:11, 14, 29). When we accept Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Lord and Saviour, we too are born into the family of God. God is our Father and Jesus becomes our Redeemer and Elder Brother. We receive His Spirit, His life and His nature.

The Holy Spirit provides the power for our "new birth". He also is the source of our strength by which we "grow" into Christ's likeness - are formed into His image. The Lord Jesus is our model, pattern and ideal for our life.

C. Christ: Our Royal Brother.

Christ is also our Royal Brother. In His death and resurrection, He overcame sin, hell and the grave. Satan's kingdom was destroyed. Jesus Christ not reigns in heaven at the right hand of the Father as the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Moreover His Kingdom is established - fixed and known - on earth as well. As members of His royal family we have a role to play in His earthly rule. As we come under His authority, His authority comes upon us. As He reigns in our lives, we shall rule in the power of His Kingdom here on earth. "As He is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17).

Jesus put this truth into words to His disciples just before He returned to heaven;

Matthew 28:18-20; "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Therefore go and make disciples of all the nations. Baptise them into the Name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach them to trust and obey everything that I have told you. And I will be with you always - even to the end of the age".

We are members of Christ's Body. The Church. He is the heavenly Head of His earthly Body. It is through us that His will on earth shall be done. It is through us that His Kingdom shall come. Truly this is our mission in life: to rule with Christ!

Earlier in His ministry Jesus had set the eyes of His disciples in the same direction;

Matthew 16:18-19; "You are Peter and upon this rock I will build My Church. And the power of death and hell will not be able to defeat My Church. I will give you the keys - the authority - of the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever has already been bound or loosed in heaven, you will be able to bind or loose on earth".

Luke 10:17-19; "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven. Behold I give you authority to crush serpants and scorpions under foot. Yes I give you authority over the power of the enemy. Nothing will be able to hurt you".

These promises speak of great power with divine purpose. Their full meaning fills our hearts with holy wonder and awe. The disciples could not totally understand everything that Jesus was trying to say at first. After Pentecost that power and that purpose set them on the move - and they turned the world upside down! What they started in their day is to be completed in ours. There is to be an end-time witness of Christ's Kingdom in power throughout the earth. God's plan for a royal and righteous family will be fulfilled. This time it will not fail for it rests on - upon and rises from - Christ's victory on the Cross.

The Son of God became the Son of Man that the sons of men may become the Sons of God!

As the Son of God, Christ Jesus is the Way to the Father. Only as God could He forgive sins and give us right standing before the Almighty. As the Son of Man Jesus sets the way for us to follow in fulfilling God's will on earth. In this sense He is our model Brother - Someone Who is an example or pattern for our lives.

D. Christ: Our Model Brother.

In His humanity, Christ Jesus lived a perfect life of faith and obedience. He did so by relying upon the authority of God's Word and the power of God's Spirit. As the Son of Man He did not depend upon His deity but upon the same resources which God has given to us - His Word and His Spirit. The reality of Christ's humanity is an important truth which is worthy of further study. It is an important key to Kingdom authority here on earth. Without it we will fail. With it we are sure to succeed. Let us therefore consider this concept more in detail.

We shall begin by listening to these unusual words from the Lord's prayer before going to the Cross;

John 17:1, 4, 5; "Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son that Your Son may also glorify You ... I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do".

"Now O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself. Glorify Me with the glory which I had with You before the world began".

When Jesus asked the Father to glorify Him with the glory He had before the world began, He was not talking as God but as man. As God He already had that glory. He was speaking therefore of His humanity - His manhood. (John 17:1-5). As said before Christ Jesus was not only wholly God but He was also wholly man. He took upon Himself our human nature. Yes it was His being as a man that Jesus wanted glorified.

The Man that was born of the virgin Mary and grew up in the carpenters shop.

The Man that walked upon the hot, dusty roads of Judea and Galilee with His disicples.

The Man who ate fish when He was hungry and slept under the stars when He was tired.

The Man who cried real tears when He was sad and shed real blood when He was crucified.

It was that Man - as a Man - that desired to glorify the Father and be glorified by the Father. And that is exactly what happened in Christ's victory on the Cross! It is this Man - the glorified Man - that stands before the disciples and says, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth" (Matthew 28:18). Jesus didn't say that because of His divine nature. He said that as one of us. He said that as the perfect Man of faith and obedience, Who in His humanity had proven the truth and power of God's Holy Word!

That is the reason He can say to His disciples of every age;

John 20:21, Matthew 20:19; "As the Father has sent Me, so I send you ... Go therefore and make disciples of all nations".

If Jesus was only speaking as God this world-wide commission or command would not be fair. He would have an authority because of His deity which we do not have in our humanity. But, He is not only speaking as God but as a man. Therefore He is also one of us and we are one with Him. When Jesus returned to heaven after His resurrection, He didn't leave His humanity behind. The eternal God will forever share in our manhood. No, He did not seperate Himself from us when He returned to His Father's throne. His royal ministry in heaven now becomes our mission here on earth. Precious indeed is the tie that links our life with His!

Yes we abide in Him and He abides in us. We are joined as one spirit (1 Cor 6:17). Therefore as members of His Body we share in His divine life and authority. There is a Man in the heavens - the God-Man. Our glorified and divine Brother Jesus Christ!

E. Christ: Our Glorious Brother.

Truly He is our Brother. We say that with great respect, honour and reverance. But it is true. The mighty King of the universe is our royal Brother. Moreover His rule here on earth will be through you and me. We are to reign with Christ here on earth because we share in His divine nature. He was the First-Born of a new race to which we belong. In fact one day we shall share in His glory! Listen again in holy wonder to these amazing words from our Lord's high priestly prayer;

John 17:20-22; "Father I do not pray only for these My disciples but for all who believe in Me through their word. I pray that they all may be one as You are in Me and I in You. It is My desire that they may be One in Us that the world might believe that You sent Me".

"And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are One".

The apostle Paul speaks of our glory in Christ Jesus in this way;
2 Corinthians 3:10; "We will all behold and clearly reflect like a mirror the glory of the Lord. For we are being changed into His image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord".

Now this doesn't mean we become equal with God. God will always be God. Christ has a very special place in the Godhead which cannot be shared. But we will share in the power and glory of His nature. In fact the apostle John declares;

1 John 3:1, 2; "Behold how wonderful is the love which the Father has given us. We are actually called the children of God ... Moreover dear brothers we are the children of God right now! We don't fully understand how wonderful this will be but we do know that when Jesus is revealed we shall be like Him for we shall see Him as He really is".

What a glorious hope! What a high and heavenly calling! And wonder of wonders in His majest we find our earthly mission. Think of it. It is almost beyond the little circle of our understanding and the limited measure of our minds. We shall all share in the glory of our Royal Brother and His Kingdom! Yes, God's plan of the ages involves people - a perculiar people. (1 Peter 2:9). The word "perculiar" in New Testament Greek means, prized, purchased and possessed. God places a great value upon our lives because of what we can become in Christ. For that reason, He redeemed us with the precious blood of Jesus. We belong to Him and He belongs in us. By His Spirit, we have been born into His beloved family.

God's beloved family is also a royal family with royal rights and duties. Privilidges and responsibilities. We have been restored to a royal priesthood. As God's priestly people, we are responsible for bringing the nations under the righteous rule of the Lord Jesus Christ.

II. Evangelism: The Key to Kingdom Rule.

A large vision of God's purpose will produce a large faith - and faith is necessary if we are going to win the world for the Kingdom of God. We have faith for saving souls, healing bodies and meeting our physical needs. But do we have faith to reach a nation? The Holy Spirit has been given to fire our faith and move us forth in Kingdom power. Satan's authority was destroyed at Calvary.

A. Two Kinds of Evangelism.

Yes we have a divine right and duty to preach, teach, baptise and disciple all nations. But how are we to do this in a practical and effective way? As we shall see it involves two kinds of evangelism;

1. Primary planting of the local church.

2. Secondary outreach through the local church.

This double principle in evangelism is seen in Paul's letter to the Church which he planted in Thessalonica;

1 Thess 1:5-8; "Our gospel did not come to you only in words but also with power and in the Holy Spirit ... And you became followers of us and of the Lord ... so that you became examples to all ... From you the word of the Lord has gone forth in Macedonia, Achaia and every other place".

The founding of the Church at Thessalonica is told in Acts 17:1-10. Paul and Silas were there only long enough to preach the gospel and ground them in the faith. Later Timothy further helped the young church as it grew strong in the grace of the Lord. Paul must have told the new converts at Thessalonica that he would write - and even return to help them if he could. Basically however they wre on their own. The Holy Spirit would be with them to raise up new leaders and elders. They were to obey the word which they had received. They were also to share their faith with everyone who would listen - just as Paul had shared with them.

Some time went by before Paul learned how the young church was doing. The report he received from Timothy was most encouraging. They were growing in the faith and had taken the good news of the gospel to all the peoples of the surrounding area. The planted had become planters!

B. An example of Evanglism in Action.
This principle of "spiritual reproduction" is God's means of reaching the world with the gospel of the Kingdom. It begins - and is carried on - in the hearts of His people. When the Church in Communist China was forced to go "underground" it did not die. In fact like the Thessalonian Church, the Church actually became stronger in the face of opposition. They even developed their own special missionary program. Of course they could not hold large evangelistic meetings or crusades. And they were unable to use radio or television in their outreach methods. So they used a simple method - one that worked very well.

People were allowed to move to another town if they had a trade or skill that was needed. So perhaps two or three families would move to a place that had no Christian witness. They would establish a fellowship in their homes and it would grow in a quiet but powerful way.

Jesus said that the Kingdom was within and among His disciples. He also said that the Kingdom was like salt and leaven or yeast. They act in hidden ways at first but soon effect the whole lump. (Luke 17:21, 13:20, 21). And this was exactly what happened - over and over again. These Chinese Christians did just what the Church at Thessalonica did. As they had been reached, so they reached out to others. This two-fold princple of evangelism really works. Whole nations can be reached for God and His Kingdom even in places where Christianity is opposed. In fact I will be surprised if history does not reveal that the most active and effective work for God was done in just this way. One to one!

III. The King is Coming!

A. The Future Fulfillment of the Kingdom.

We can be sure of God's promises. He always keeps His Word. And Christ as promised to build His Church and forever fix and establish His Kingdom here on earth. (Matt 16:18-19). John looking into the future saw this day of Kingdom power and glory;

Revelation 11:15; "Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet. And there were loud voices in heaven which said; "The kingdom of this world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. And He will rule forever and forever".

But what can we expect between now and then? When will Jesus return to earth? Is He waiting for us to establish His Kingdom by the power of His gospel? Or are we waiting for His return that we will rule and reign with Him upon this earth? There is much mystery in end-time truth which should cause us to remain humble before God and each other. However I believe that God has revealed enough of His will and purpose for us to act in a responsible way.

I believe some things must wait for Christ's return for God's full and final purpose to be complete. This will be God's doing and not ours - although we will be involved. Two important things come under this heading;

1. The glorification of the believer. When we are raised up at the second coming of Christ we will have new glorified bodies like His. This is a part of our royal inheritance - to share in the full power of His resurrection. We experience the first fruits of Kingdom life now in the healing of our physical bodies. Even so our bodies age, weaken and in time we die. The full glory of Kingdom life waits for the return of our living Lord!

2. The renewal of the physical universe. Paul tells us that all of creation waits to be delivered from the law of disorder and decay. When Jesus rules and reigns over all the entire universe will be in order, peace and harmony (Romans 8:19-22).

The full glory of Christ's Kingdom will include a New Heaven and a New Earth. This amazing promise takes us far beyond our ability to understand. But it is a wonderful part of our blessed hope!

B. The Firstfruits of the Kingdom - Now.

It is true that some aspects of the Kingdom wait for Christ's return. However this does not mean that we don't experience some of the power, glory and majesty of the Kingdom now. As we have seen the first fruits of the Kingdom begin in our hearts and are expressed in our lives. Kingdom life then reaches out to our homes, communities, cities and the many nations of the world. Jesus said;

Matthew 24:14; "This gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world. It will be a witness to all the nations - and then will come the end".

Paul reaching forth as far as divine revelation can take us wrote these majestic words;

1 Cor 15:20, 23, 24; "It is the truth. Christ has been raised from death as a sure promise that those who sleep in death will also be raised ... Christ first of all - then at the time of His coming, those who belong to Him. Then the end will come. Christ will overcome all rulers, authorities and powers and give the Kingdom to God the Father".

This is one story that truly has a happy ending. One might say that it is a happy story that never ends. As we have seen the final chapters of earths history are important ones for the Church. As the Kindom of God grows in power and outreach, all the nations of the earth will hear the gospel.

This does not mean that all evil will be destroyed but I believe it will be brought under control. Christ will yet reign through His Church throughout the earth. When the Lord returns, He will have a Kingdom to offer to the Father that is worthy of the Gospel. In His Second Coming Christ will return as a conquering King. Every last enemy will be destroyed. The physical universe will then be restored and we shall enter into the fullness of the new heavens and the new earth. Clearly the future is bright with the glory of Christ's majesty.

C. Occupy Until I Come.

We must realise that the lordship of Christ Jesus must first be realised in history. The gospel of the Kingdom is truly the power of God for salvation. Christ is to reign through His Church in time until His enemies are beneath His feet. Then He will return and we shall rise to be with Him forever. Our duty and responsibility for now is to be about the business of our Master. Jesus told His disciples a parable or story when they thought the Kingdom was going to come right away. It was about a nobleman who went away to receive a kingdom and then he would return. Before leaving his servants behind he gave them this very important command, "Occupy until I come" (Luke 19:13).

The word "occupy" meant to do business for their master until he returned. Clearly this applies to disciples of every age - and all the moreso as we come to the end of the age. But what is our business? It is to take the Gospel of the Kingdom to the four corners of the earth. There is to be a world-wide witness of God's power and authority in the affairs of men. Every area of society is to become a mission field. God wants to raise up Christian leaders - godly people who will act as light, salt and leaven in a world that is headed for spiritual darkness, decay and death. The Scripture tells us that in the end the devil will come in great wrath because he knows his time is short. (Revelation 12:12). However we are also told;

Isaiah 59:19, 20; "When the enemy comes in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord will lift up a standard against him".

"At last they will honour and glorify the Lord from west to east ... and this is My promise to them says the Lord, "My Spirit is upon you. And My words which I have put in your mouth and the mouth of your offspring will never depart ... from this time on and forever".

The final question the disciples asked Jesus before He returned to Heaven related to their earthly view of the Kingdom; "Lord will You at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?". (Acts 1:6). The last recorded words which Jesus spoke were in reply to their question;

Acts 1:7, 6; "These things are not for you to know. Only the Father has the authority to decide dates and times. But the Holy Spirit will come upon you and you will be My witnesses - in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth".

They listened, obeyed and reached their world with the gospel of the Kingdom. May we do the same!

Matthew 24:14; "And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all nations. And then comes the end".

Amen. Come Lord Jesus!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Kingdom Business

Its come to that time when I post the odd blog with some links of various other blogs that I have noticed along with some updates for this site. I usually allow this kind of post to mount up till I have got enough of sufficient value to say rather than dredging the internet for anything to fill the space up.

Updates on "Life on Wings".

I have updated the "Archive" page - deleting some posts and adding others.

Ern Baxter transcripts: I have added "The Kadesh Crisis" and "The Land".

Other posts: It's now becoming something of a tradition for me to summarise the latest Newfrontiers magazine so I have indexed the Oct-Dec, Jan-March, April-June magazines.

Links: I've added Christchurch, London - as I wrote before it's a dangerous place to be and there's a lot happening in our capital!

The "Underlined Bits" Archive (fathered by Mark Heath) is growing considerably and is becoming a resource suitable for many pastors I would guess. I'm doing my best to keep up with those sound, orthodox guys!

Dr Sam Storms has been re-added. I've forgiven him now he has cleaned up his site a bit and has began a blog. He's going to be back at the Life in the Spirit Conference next year as well.


Peter Cockrell has begun a new blog - his last one managed two posts and stopped last year. I've mentioned him every now and then on this blog. Peter was assistant pastor to Dr Stanley Jebb at my old home church - New Covenant Church in Dunstable. He then moved to Lansdowne, West Norwood in London where he trained up my best friend Pete Day. He is now pastor of a church in Worthing. He's a big fan of SGM and John Piper.

I know this is cheating a bit but I've posted on the "Spirit of God!" blog. I was walking home a few days ago and I had quite a vivid picture about dandelions.

Much to the delight of all T4G fans, the book of the conference has been published and is available. It's called, "Preaching the Cross". The contributers are the speakers so Mohler, Dever, Duncan, Macarthur, Piper et al. It's a hardback book which will please us hardback lovers and Crossway price it at about $20. I am sure that Amazon will make it available soon but I heard that the delegates at the recent SGM Leaders Conference all got a copy free. I do think they should hand out books at Together on a Mission ... ;)

George Kouri, my new awesome friend from the USA has posted an outstanding transcript of his message entitled; "God's Agenda for the 21st Century". It is an absolutely key apostolic message that should be heard far and wide. He shows ably why Ern Baxter said of him, "George Kouri's teaching on the kingdom is the best I have ever seen". He ministered this word in Alberta in Canada. Here's a few quotes that caught my eye;

"God is pouring out His Spirit today! He is reviving, restoring and reforming His Church! Contrary to what many believe today the Church is not on the brink of destruction, nor on the threshold of the Second Coming of the Lord! Instead we are on the threshold of a new millennium of unprecedented opportunity and challenge!".

"There can be no true apostolic reformation of the Church in the 21st century without a restoration of the foundational revelation entrusted to those original apostles in the first century!"

"The greatest problem facing the 21st century is not the problem of evil! The greatest problem then is the problem of a divided church; our division keeps Christ’s Church from effectively combating and counter-acting evil and influencing and discipling the nations!"

"Emerging apostles must first: recognize, honor and submit to one another in the Lord; second, we must learn to seek the Lord together, so that together we might truly understand and recover the foundational revelation of Christ and His Kingdom entrusted to the original Apostles; and third, we must also work together as brothers to restore the fellowship or communion of the apostles, a fully functioning apostolate and global eldership, so that together, we might not only extend Christ’s Kingdom throughout the earth, but also reform His Church as One! "

Go read the whole thing - it won't take you long and it is well worth it!

Pete Day is building up a helpful compilation of reports from the sessions at the recent Life in the Spirit conference. Sam Storm's sessions: one, two and three. Dave Smith on Dreams - Part 1 and Part 2.

And my great friend Luke has presented a fascinating history of Winchester Family Church. Part 1 - Part 2 - Part 3. I loved reading it! I find myself marvelling at the awesome grace of God, how He takes each of His churches in different ways but leads them as they are willing deeper into Him. It is the Church! The Hope of the World!

Friday, April 13, 2007

Willing in the Day of Thy Power?

My favourite post of the quarter arrived today – the Newfrontiers magazine! I must admit to being excited and surprised by the theme: “Healing – the L-plates are on”. I’m sure it will offend some, excite others and hopefully bring the majority to see the possibility of healing in a new light. Terry Virgo made it abundantly clear that the theme wasn’t chosen lightly; “I have wondered very seriously about the appropriateness of publishing an issue on the subject of healing. We are such novices. Our experience is so limited”. But Terry remains adamant; “It is no time for us to keep silent about such a theme”. Indeed it isn't! If the tidal wave is coming then God wants us exercising corporate healing in the Church. So the step of faith has been taken and it is absolutely key that this is one of the pre-Together on a Mission Conference 2007!

In writing about the great Healing Movement of the 1960s and in particular his friendship with William Branham, Dr Ern Baxter wrote;

The existence together of spiritual gifts and sin can cause great disillusionment for the na├»ve in Christ. I had seen numerous supernatural manifestations but I had also seen gross irregularities in the midst of these impressive charismatic events … It is sad to see the ebb of a movement but I believe that until we learn the lessons that God is teaching us and has taught us, through past moves of the Spirit we will continue to grieve the Holy Spirit and see movements suffer the same fate. The gifts of the Spirit must not be divorced from the Word of the Spirit!”

I suspect that it has been God’s intention to withhold the dramatic demonstrations of His healing power until He has been confident that we will not make the same mistakes as the healers from the 1960s. Ern Baxter spoke of them as being; “Stars shining in their unilateral glory – until they came down like shooting stars”. Has it ever been God’s will to have anything but a community – the Church – exercising the supernatural gifts of miracles and healings? We know He uses men to pave the way – such as William Branham, Paul Cain, Rob Rufus, Lex Loizides or Terry Virgo. But surely these men are examples to us, to encourage us and spur us to step out in faith also?

So here is a summary of the April-June 2007 Newfrontiers magazine! This is becoming something of a tradition with me now. The summary of the Jan-March 07 Newfrontiers magazine is here (Theme: Authority) and the summary of the Oct-Dec 06 magazine is here (Theme: The Tide is Turning)!

1. A Foundation of Faith - Terry Virgo's Frontline.

As always Terry’s Frontline carries weighty truth to impart and it is always the first thing I read and read again. I have already quoted from him as to the dilemma between feeling inadequate in this great area of the miraculous but also knowing without a doubt that our fathers in the movement must speak out. He goes on to speak quite rightly about faith – and I was so challenged by the Lord’s anger not with weakness but with unbelief. Terry wrote;

God delights in faith. Jesus seems staggered at the disciples unbelief when He asks, “How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40) … Jesus was weary of His unbelieving followers. He could not be indifferent or complacent. He could not passively accommodate their failure … When Jesus rebuked their unbelief it was a revelation of His heart … He expected better from them! He wanted better from them! He found their unbelief unacceptable! His anger was pure, holy and appropriate! If their unbelief was not worthy of His reproach, Jesus would not have given it”.

I wonder how often today what I do or more importantly do not do for the Kingdom of God is linked to the statement, “It can’t be done”. Having written quite a bit on “Going into the Land” recently, I keep thinking of the account of the spies bringing back a bad report. It was not that the Israelites were incapable of going into the Land that stopped them. It was the fact that they said, “It can’t be done” and they contradicted God Himself who said, “You can”. Terry wrote;

Jesus served His Father with red hot zeal and holy passion. He looked for the same in His disciples. When in Mark 9:28 the disciples asked, “Why couldn’t we drive it out?”, Jesus replied “This kind can come out only by prayer”. Notice that He didn’t say, “This kind only come out if it is God’s will”. He said that they only come out if you pray. IF you pray it will happen. If you don’t – it won’t!”.

I would rather be accused by fellow Christians of being a fundamentalist and a maverick, than have to face the holy wrath and disappointment of God Himself on Judgement Day when He asks, “How is it that you have no faith?”.

2. “A Journey into Healing” by Terry Virgo.

I was extremely challenged and stirred some years ago at a Brighton Conference when the apostolic team began to speak of Terry moving out in faith into praying for the sick. With his usual characteristic true humility, Terry has said virtually nothing publicly about praying for the sick – he has just got on and done it! And the fantastic, faith-stirring, vision-enhancing testimonies speak for themselves. Here’s how Terry accounts for beginning to step out in faith;

I felt that God had freshly commissioned me to pray for the sick, and instead of being confused by the rather strange and narrow area of confidence, I should simply press through it. I immediately began to offer to pray for people with back problems at the end of nearly every meeting and witnessed scores of people being healed.

One day I was laying hands on a number of people at the end of the meeting. Many testified to immediate relief. Then a young man asked for prayer for his knees both of which were damaged. This was a new frontier for me but I laid hands on his knees and he was immediately healed. He started jumping on and off chairs to celebrate his new-found freedom. The next guy said, “My shoulder blade is broken in three places”, adding that he had a metal plate in his shoulder and experienced severe pain. I laid my hands on him and the pain immediately disappeared”.

Some seem not only to get healed but at the same time have beautiful encounters with the Holy Spirit. I know that when I was healed from my back pain I was also very emotionally moved by the sense of God’s amazing kindness and love in healing me. One girl testified that she was baptised in the Holy Spirit at the same time and subsequently found that she was speaking in tongues

Terry doesn’t skirt around the difficult issue of the fact that not all seem to get healed. He writes with compassion;

Do all get healed? That is not my experience … I prayed with another woman who began to sob because nothing had happened. What do you do? I told her that I was so sorry. I hate it but I still feel that I must press on”.

He ends the article with some points that he has learned through his ministering;

I have noticed how faith seems to grow among a group of people where healings are happening … As I approached one lady and asked what the problem was, she said, “I have back pain but I won’t have it in a moment”. She was right – she was immediately healed.

I have noticed a greater intensity of Holy Spirit power on some occasions where it just seems to be “easier”. One lady testified, “It’s okay I have just been healed while you were praying for others”.

I am convinced that faith comes from hearing the Word … I know that for many years I have spoken with faith to inspire people to receive the Holy Spirit and also to be free and released to give large sums of money in faith. I want to learn to do that effectively with regard to healing also".

Note this one. We stand convicted!

I have noticed that the English are more cynical than most and that in my experience healings seem to happen more readily, for instance in the USA”.

And finally;

I love to enjoy the Presence of the Lord Jesus who promised us that He would not leave us as orphans but would Himself come to us. All the time that I am laying hands on the sick, I am aiming to enjoy His Presence and make room for the Holy Spirit’s activity”.

3. “Expecting the Miraculous!” by Lex Loizides.

I loved what Lex wrote; “I’m convinced that I am a charismatic, not because of my nature but because of the nature of God! I believe in miracles because I believe in the doctrine of the Holy Trinity!”. His whole article is deeply theological yet deeply faith-stirring (as the whole magazine is).

He wrote;

Note three things:
1. The incredible patience of God in the way He deals with Moses reluctance. Stunning! Similarly God doesn’t accept our reluctance to step out in faith either! Fears, vulnerability, nerves – none of these seem to deter Him from leading us into more of the supernatural. There is a world to be reached and suffering to be relieved.

2. Moses reluctance should encourage everyone who feels he is an unlikely candidate to minister in the miraculous. But if God is speaking to you, turn aside to Him and hear His voice”.

3. When God desired to “authorise” His purpose, He decided (not Moses) to use supernatural means. Who thought of a stick becoming a snake? Why the leprous hand? Or water becoming blood? Why a demonstration of the Spirit’s power rather than wise and persuasive words? God’s desire is that our faith rests not on men’s wisdom but on His power

4. “A Healing King and a Healing Kingdom” by John Groves.

This article was probably the most powerful theologically-based resource in the magazine. Terry himself wrote; “I have been impressed by the Biblical arguments of John Groves’ excellent study which I asked him to include as our Leader’s article in this magazine”. What thrilled me is how he bases it within our foundational belief in restoration. He writes;

God is restoring New Testament principles of church life that have been lost over the years. This process of “restoration” which has been going on for centuries has accelerated over the last 100 years or so. We are building on the basis of what others have restored and in some areas the church has become very strong, but in other areas are still in process, and one of these is the restoration of healings, signs and wonders”.

Thanks to a tip-off by Luke Wood, I sent John Groves a copy of my most recent transcript – Ern Baxter’s series “The King and His Army”. He was incredibly gracious and kind enough to reply and made mention of; “The Heavenly Game Plan – Renewal, Restoration, Revival”. God renewed His church through the Charismatic Movement among other outpourings of His Spirit. He is restoring His Church as John wrote and we are longing for and expecting and praying for a tidal wave of revival to come set the Church ablaze and bring millions of non-Christians in. I love it!

John Groves goes on;

We have benefited from previous phases of restoration in church life. Often big battles were fought that cost men of God dearly at the time. Yet the things that were restored would have been happening in New Testament times when the church was first born. They had simply been lost through human frailty or demonic attack. We can take for granted some “restored” things that the church generally accepts today”.

He then goes on to ask some significant questions that deserve an answer;

Are our senses the final arbiters in all that goes on around us? How much do we trust in science and medicine as opposed to prayer and the Holy Spirit? … What do we make of the Faith Theology that would encourage us to name it and claim it? How does this fit in with a Kingdom Theology which teaches us that the kingdom of God has a “Now” and “Not Yet” expectation? What about the sovereignty of God and human responsibility?”.

I was raised on a diet on John Macarthur’s “Charismatic Chaos” and Hank Hanegraff’s “Christianity in Crisis” and “Counterfeit Revival” and Alan Morrison generally – so I am well aware of the dangers and errors inherent in the Faith Movement. Yet I cannot escape a genuine admiration for their ardent faith in the fact that God has promised in His Word that healing should be expected. When Rob Rufus was preaching at Together on a Mission last year, he mentioned receiving from God during a Kenneth Hagin meeting. There were some people behind me who made distinctly loud and derisive comments. Clearly the mention of Hagin upset them. But is our faith so closed that we cannot believe or accept that God can work through men such as Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland? Rather than deriding them, judging them and writing books “exposing” them, why don’t we make it our mission to pursue the same levels of faith and expectation – and pray to exercise the same level of supernatural ministry that they have – yet with the Reformed doctrines that we love and cherish?

John presents ten important facts from the Word of God regarding healing;

1. There is a lot of healing in the Gospels. 90% of Jesus miracles are healings or exorcisms for wholeness.
2. In the gospels Jesus appears to treat sickness as an enemy. It seems pretty clear that God is for healing and against sickness.
3. Jesus appears very willing to heal people. The fact is that we know sickness is bad and we want it to go. We want to be healed. This is not unreasonable and it is also not out of harmony with the heart of God.
4. Jesus relates healing to the message of the Kingdom.
5. Compassion was a strong motivation in Jesus healing ministry. Out of His infinite compassion He brought answers to the agonies of human life. Surely this is still the heavenly view of sin-sick humanity?
6. Jesus cares for individual needs.
7. Jesus never condemns people for being sick.
8. Rejoicing in suffering generally refers to persecution.
9. Healings are glorifying to God.
10. Jesus has already won our deliverance from sickness. The truth is we can taste the powers of the age to come now and we are encouraged to do so in the New Testament. The truth is the risen Lord passed on His authority to His disciples including the authority to heal in His Name

I cannot do better than close with the encouragement from John Groves;

As disciples we are to go into all the world with the good news of the Kingdom of God. We are to assault the dominion of darkness in all its manifestations including demonic oppression and sickness of body. Let us determine to keep laying hands on the sick with an increasing faith and expectation that they will get well”.

The title of this post is; "Willing in the Day of Thy Power?". I'd like to present that as a statement but having been an evangelical most of my life - I'm not sure it is. I think we have become so obsessed with discernment that we quite frankly are not willing. This is the question that has been on my heart all today since I got the magazine through the post. "Are you willing?". Are you willing to step out? Are you willing to take a leap of faith? Are you willing to lay hands on that person and risk "nothing happening"? Are you willing to look foolish for My Name? Are you willing to just trust Me? Are you willing to give the money you saved for that holiday? Are you willing?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Gospel of the Land: A Centre for World Evangelism by Dr Ern Baxter

Another awesome transcript on the theme of "The Land". It just won't go away!

Ezekiel 5:5 NIV – “This is what the Sovereign Lord says; This is Jerusalem which I have set in the centre of the nations, with countries all around her”.

The land of Israel was set right in the middle of the world. God’s chosen people were surrounded by the mighty nations of that time – Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, the Medes and the Persians. Nearby was Tyre and Sidon whose ships sailed to every port in the world. More than that, all of the great inland roads for trade either crossed Israel’s borders or were nearby. Truly Israel was the centre of everything and everyone!

1. God’s Purpose for His People Israel.

God had a large purpose in planting His people where He did:

Exodus 19:5-6: “If you will truly obey My voice and keep My command then you will be a special treasure to Me above all people – for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a Kingdom of priests and a holy nation”.

Exodus 34:10: “Then the Lord said, I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will be awed by the work that I will do for you”.

Yes God had a large purpose for His chosen people. They were to be a kingdom of priests – kings and priests under God. They were to declare God’s word and will with divine power and authority. They were to reach out to the nations around them with the good news of God’s holy purpose for their lives. As prophets, they were to bring God to the nations and the nations to God. As kings they were to bring all the peoples under the righteous rule of God’s law of love. Sin and rebellion against the holy love of God was to be opposed and destroyed.

God’s purpose for His people – in every age – has been world-wide in His scope. This great theme can be traced throughout both the Old and the New Testaments. The whole world has always been in God’s heart and under His watchful eye. It is interesting to note the many times in Israel’s history that God tried to lift their vision beyond themselves. Their history is recorded for our instruction so it will be worth our while to review this special missionary theme from Scripture.

2. The report of the twelve spies at Kadesh.

Moses sent twelve men to spy out the land of Canaan which God had promised them. Upon their return, ten of the men gave a report which was filled with fear and doubt. As a result, the people refused to enter Canaan and possess the land. The land however was the key to God’s plan for a world-wide witness. Canaan was the centre from which God – through Israel – was going to reach all the nations of the earth. To avoid the Promised Land was to oppose the will of God for His beloved world. Israel rebelled in fear: Moses prayed in faith. He prayed that God would forgive His people and give them another chance. Listen as Moses pleads with God on behalf of Israel:

Numbers 14:19-21: “Pardon the sin of this people, I pray because of your great mercy … Then the Lord said, “I have forgiven them as you asked. For truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the Lord”.

God did forgive but only those of the next generation were allowed into the land. Those who doubted God’s promise and disobeyed His Word missed their inheritance. Only their children would enter the land and fulfil the will of God – to be a glorious light in a dark world. Yes, a whole generation had failed in their test of faith and obedience at Kadesh. They were so near, yet so far. God stayed true to His purpose, however. The whole world would one day be filled with the glory of His Presence.

Moreover as we shall see in our next chapter, that glory will be revealed through another family. But it will be a faithful family of royal sons and daughters – people who have a great vision and a large faith. There is no place in God’s great plan for people with small minds and weak hearts. The Promised Land is filled with giants. They will only fall before those who are willing to fight with faith – a faith which is backed by the power of God’s Word!

3. The Crossing of the Jordan River.

Before Israel could possess the Promised Land they had to cross the Jordan River. Plainly for all the people and their supplies to cross the river at flood stage would require a miracle. And that is just what God provided! The priests were carrying the Ark. The people were told to follow them for they had not been that way before. The possession of God’s promises often requires travelling on unknown roads and crossing deep rivers. As the priests reached the waters edge all the people of Israel were backed up behind them. It must have been a very dramatic moment. It must have been a very dramatic moment. As the feet of the priests at the front touched the surface of the water, every eye was fixed upon them. Only the Jordan itself was between the people and their land.

As they watched, the river was cut off up stream – and they all marched over on dry land. An entire nation walked forward in faith and obedience. God had dammed up an entire river so carefully that not even their shoes got wet! What was the purpose of such a mighty miracle? Was it a sign that God was with them? Yes but it was more than that;

Joshua 4:23-24 – “For the Lord your God dried up the waters of the Jordan before you until you had crossed over … that all the peoples of the earth might know the mighty hand of the Lord. And that you might fear the Lord your God forever”.

Again we see that the overall purpose of God went beyond the nation of Israel. It reached out to “all the peoples of the earth”. No one is left out of God’s plan of the ages.

4. David’s defeat of the giant Goliath.

We all like stories where the good, little guy beats up on the big, bad guy. And none is better than the story of David and Goliath. David’s small slingshot wins over the great sword of Goliath. Yes it is a story which is loved by children of all ages! But what does it mean? Was it because God wanted to save and deliver Israel from the hands of the Philistines? Yes but there is a much larger purpose in this mighty, military miracle;

1 Samuel 17:45-46: “Then David spoke to Goliath, the Philistine, “You come to me with a sword, spear and javelin. But I come to you in the name of the Lord Almighty. He is the God of the armies of Israel … This day the Lord will hand you over to me. I will strike you down and cut off your head … and the whole world will know that there is a God in Israel”.

Plainly God’s larger purpose was to reveal His power and Presence to the whole world. Israel’s salvation was to be a witness throughout the entire earth. This missionary theme was carried on by David’s son Solomon.

5. Solomon’s world-wide vision.

Solomon’s understanding of God’s world-wide purpose is found in his prayer at the dedication of the Temple;

1 Kings 8:22, 23, 41, 43; “Then Solomon stood before the altar of the Lord in the presence of all the people. He spread out his hands towards heaven and said, “Lord God of Israel, there is no God in heaven or earth like You. You have kept Your covenant of love with Your servants who walk before You with all their heart … Remember also the foreigners who do not belong to Your people Israel. They will come from far-away lands to this temple because of Your Name. They will hear of Your Great Name and mighty power and come to pray towards this temple. When they do, then hear from heaven and answer their prayers that all the peoples of the earth may know Your Name. May they fear and honour Your as do Your people Israel”.

Solomon welcomed the foreigner with open arms because he saw something of God’s love for all the peoples of the earth. His attitude was very different than most of the Jews of his day. They believed God belonged to them. He was their God, the God of the Jews. They belonged to Him and He belonged to them – and to nobody else!

Solomon did not agree with them. True, God was their God but for a reason. He was their God that they might share Him with others. Sometimes we fall into the same false idea about God. We feel He is for us – and against them. But God is not against anybody. God was in Christ bringing the “whole world” into a right relationship with Himself (1 Cor 5:18, 19).

God blessed Solomon because of his open heart and many came from far places just as he had prayed. One of his foreign visitors was the queen of Sheba.

6. A Jewish King blesses a Gentile Queen.

The story of Solomon and the queen of Sheba is most interesting. It is a prophetic picture of God’s end-time purpose for the world. Let us read the record from Scripture itself:

1 Kings 10:1-4, 9, 23-24: “The queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation with the Name of the Lord. Therefore she came to test him with hard questions … Solomon answered all of her questions for there was nothing too difficult for him to explain. When the queen of Sheba had seen all of Solomon’s wisdom, the beauty of his buildings and the wealth of his possessions, she was overcome … “You are much richer and wiser than all the reports which I had received … Blessed be the Lord your God who set you on the throne of Israel to do justice and righteousness”. So King Solomon became greater than all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear the wisdom which God had put in his heart”.

At the height of Solomon’s rule the kingdom was at its best. Because of God’s blessing upon Solomon, his empire was known all over the world. With this thought in mind we can see how Solomon is a type of the Lord Jesus. One day He will rule the entire earth with righteousness and justice. Jesus referred to this prophetic truth in His warning to the wicked people of His day:
Matthew 12:42: “The queen of Sheba will rise up to condemn this generation at the judgement day. She came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. But now Someone greater than Solomon is here”.

As we have seen before the little phrase, “ends of the earth” is of great importance. It speaks of God’s overall purpose for mankind. It is not a surprise therefore to hear these very words from the lips of Jesus just before He returned to heaven;

Acts 1:8; “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you and you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth”.

The promise of the Father – the coming of the Holy Spirit – was to provide the power needed to fulfil God’s end-time purpose. These last words of Jesus here on earth were directed to His disciples. Their mission after He was gone was to take the gospel to all the peoples of the world. Yes there is a world to be won for Christ. Only then can the “knowledge of the glory of the Lord cover the whole earth as the waters cover the sea”. This was their task and it is ours too.

To All the Ends of the Earth.

In review, we have seen that both the gospel of the Garden and the gospel of the Land had the whole world in view. God wanted each place to be the centre from which His life and His love could reach out to the ends of the earth. Sadly both Adam and Israel failed in their calling. God however has not changed His mind. He will not fail in His plan for a world-wide family – a royal, righteous and beloved family. Christ Jesus is the first born of that family and by the power of the Spirit, His Church will succeed where others failed. Before we close this study however I would like for us to briefly consider one of David’s psalms which has a powerful, prophetic message;

Psalm 76; “God be gracious to us and bless us. May He cause His face to shine upon us, that You may be known on the earth and Your salvation among all the nations. Let the peoples praise You O God, let all the peoples praise You. Let the nations be glad and sing for joy, for You will rightly judge the peoples and rule the nations on the earth. Let the people’s praise You O God. Let all the peoples praise You. The earth has been fruitful. God, our God blesses us that all the ends of the earth may hear Him”.

I would put a circle around the little word “us” in the above verse. There is no doubt who “us” is in this New Testament age of grace. WE are spiritual Israel – God’s redeemed people. God bless us. God be gracious to us. God cause His face to shine upon us. For many this is where the psalm stops – with us. We seek God’s grace, favour and blessing but only for us. There is little thought for others in the world.

This is not where the Psalm ends however. True God does want to bless His people. But we will soon discover that His blessing involves a much larger purpose, “That Your way may be known on all the earth”. God’s business of blessing is not for us to keep and store up for ourselves. God wants His salvation known among “all the nations”. Let “all the peoples praise Him”. And “all the ends of the earth” fear Him. Plainly God’s purpose reveals God’s person – He is a “World Person”! In other words it is not enough to enjoy God and personally receive His blessings. That is not wrong but God expects more. He wants us to enjoy His goodness and pass it on. To share it with the nations. If we truly want to see things as God does, we will need to become “World Christians”.

God so “loved the world” that He gave all that He had to give when He gave us His only Son. To be touched by that kind of love will open our hearts to all the peoples of the world. The gospel of the Garden and the gospel of the Land shared the same message. They clearly told the “good news” of God’s purpose and provision for a beloved family that would fill the whole earth. As we have seen both Adam and Israel failed in their mission and their message to the world. Their time has passed; but our time has come!

God now reveals His plan for our age – a plan that will not fail. It will not fail because it is based upon the Cross and Kingdom of His Son. God’s purpose for His beloved world will be fulfilled through the Church of Jesus Christ. As members of that Church, God’s end-time purpose becomes our privilege and responsibility – our personal right and duty.