Thursday, November 29, 2007

Could Ern Baxter Have Gone Further?

As I go on transcribing one Rob Rufus sermon after another, I am continually amazed at the continuity between Rob's kingdom preaching and Ern Baxter's kingdom preaching. But my friend Pete asked a vital question in a comment on a previous post of mine;

"I wonder, however, whether Ern Baxter could have gone further".

It made me reflect on this whole concept of progressive revelation. As evangelicals we are very good at looking back at the past (I think) and appreciating and valuing the servants of church history that God has given us. Let me comment on a few. John Owen is one of my favourite Puritans. I brought his Works from my favourite Christian Bookshop on the advice of my senior pastor and love them. But can we claim he had ultimate revelation on all the glories that God has to show us until Jesus Christ returns again?

I fell in love with the teachings of Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones when his definitive teaching on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit settled a confusing time in my previous church - and went on to get his Works on Romans and Ephesians and love them. But can we claim that the Doctor had ultimate revelation on Church life for example? Would we want our churches to mirror Westminster Chapel in his day?

The day I fell in love with C H Spurgeon's teaching will be forever remembered in my mind. I had just been blown away by being baptised in the Spirit and read his sermons on Revival. I loved finding a staunch evangelical who was so open to the Holy Spirit. It's my birthday on the 8th December and I hit the grand old age of 30. I've asked for the final few volumes to complete my set of the Metropolitan Tabernacle sermons from my family and hope I get them! I think they will be an absolutely invaluable resource for Bible study but furthermore I hope I will catch something of his zeal and passion for the Holy Spirit. Yet I don't think he is the final authority on fellowship and intimacy and relationship with the Spirit of God.

My point?

I wonder whether there is a difference between pastor/teachers (no matter how famous and renowned they become) and prophetic teachers. I haven't done much research or Bible study on this - these are purely my thoughts and ideas and speculations.

What would I see a prophetic teacher as being? I think it is a man or a woman who is obviously gifted to teach from the Word of God but goes a step further and walks in such close relationship with God through the Holy Spirit that their teaching contains a remarkable prophetic element to it that begins to sketch out the climax of the consumation of the ages.

Isn't that just a glorified fortune teller you ask? No, the Bible uses the word "Seer". That means in essence; "It is not just, however, to speak of the "seers" or "prophets" of Samuel's time as on the level of mere fortune-tellers. What insight or vision they possessed is traced to God's Spirit". I do not profess to be experienced in meeting or hearing many great "Seers" or prophets but I don't think that such prophetic teaching would be about details or events. Before He left the earth Jesus warned His disciples that it was not for them to know the times or the ephochs.

I think prophetic preaching and teaching is more about revealing God's heart and God's passion for seeing the Great Commission to which He has called us to be fulfilled - namely how are we going to see the ends of the earth covered with His glory?

When I was in Hong Kong there was a powerful time of ministry during City Church International's Sunday meeting and while they were praying a lady began to cry out and groan very loudly and very deeply. A trusted prophet interpreted that as an expression of God's heart for China. The lady who was crying and groaning was born in China and her heart is there and through her the Holy Spirit was speaking powerfully. The eyes and heart of God are on China! I know this because I began to react in a strange way whenever someone mentioned "China". I found tears rolling down my face for no apparant reason - and this was every time! I don't think I received any particular call to China physically but a definite sense that China is high on heaven's agenda.

So back to Pete's original question - could Ern Baxter have gone any further? I am sure he could but I want to present some quotes from his series on the "King and His Army" that he preached at the Lakes Bible Week in the UK in 1975. It is probably the most talked-of series particularly in the United Kingdom by men such as Terry Virgo. My friend George Kouri was gracious enough to post it on his website here. But I hope these quotes demonstrate the extraordinary insight that the Holy Spirit granted Ern which I am sure those sitting and listening didn't realise at the time. I wonder whether even Ern realised it! Here they are;

Spiritual Authority Forseen

"God is restoring spiritual authority. Men are rising up across the earth with a dimension of delegated authority imparted to them by the Sovereign Christ of apostolic, prophetic, evangelistic and shepherding power and anointing that is unmistakable for God is bringing in His Kingdom which is not a kingdom run by democratic appointments but run by King Jesus who is Lord of all".

Apostolic Fatherhood Forseen

"I feel that the Spirit of God is saying to me tonight that there are in this tent young people who have that kind of a heart. I’ve already said it to the leaders of this convention that I believe that there are young people here who will be apostles and prophets and evangelists and shepherds in the days that are ahead. There’s openness in some of your countenance. There’s something that comes to me – I feel Kingdom vibrations coming from some of you young people. I believe they are material for the Kingdom. I believe they are material for what God is doing in this hour".

The People of the Anointing Vision

"But they were all over the globe. I said, “Lord, what’s this?”. He said, “I am going to have in every place a people that are known for the anointing and when you travel from place to place you will not ask for My people by this name or that but you will say, ‘Where are the People of the Anointing?’”. Now I was frightened by this and I thought, “I’ve had enough!”. I can understand how some of the Old Testament men felt when they saw an angel. I thought that’s enough – I’m going to sit up. But as I sat up in the pew, it kept coming; “They went out from us because they were not of us. Had they been of us they would have remained with us. But you have an unction from the Holy One. And the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch".

Inevitable Growth Forseen

“Day by day they came to David”. I want to encourage your hearts by saying this. Even now in Ziklag when we are kicked out, lied about, berated and mocked – even now the growth of God is among us and across the earth men are coming into the reality of relationships of the redeemed community. But remember! Don’t stop at Ziklag. Don’t let the better become the enemy of the best".

Non-exclusive Love Forseen

"Beloved have big hearts. If you see some truths you are going to have to stand for them and be driven to Ziklag, but don’t let it touch your spirit. Don’t let it make you bitter. Don’t let it make you retaliate or become exclusive. Don’t let it make you turn people off. All kinds of people around you are hungry – never go by what a man is saying. Many a time when a man is maddest – he is the weakest".

Ultimate Triumph Forseen

"Brothers and sisters I feel that in my spirit tonight that the Spirit of God is saying that the earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof, the world and all that dwell therein and He is not going to let this thing wind up with a lot of moral poppers. He is going to have Kings and Princes, men and women whose lives have been changed, whose personalities have been blended into the glorious community of the Redeemer into the very Body of Christ for He has predestined us to be conformed to the image of His Son. I believe in miracles".

Zion - the Glory of the Earth - Forseen

"We are not marching to Ziklag. We are not marching to Hebron. We’re marching to Zion. Have you noticed that throughout the Bible, Zion is God’s ultimate name for His corporate people? We’re on our way to ultimate unity. This is God’s world. This is God’s age. This is God’s plan and purpose. You and I can’t see it now but bless God we are getting a foretaste of it. This stirring in the earth is just the beginning. It’s the committed vanguard coming to the Lordship of Christ at Ziklag and we’re going on to Hebron and then all Israel will come and make covenant with our Lord and then we are going to go on and take the heights of Zion and Jesus Christ will be Lord in very deed and the rod of His strength will go out of Zion and this world will know what it means to have Jesus Christ in lordship over the earth!"

So could Ern Baxter have gone further? I am sure he could but I do believe he faithfully reported what the Spirit revealed to him. I am so excited to see that the same message and theme is coming out through Rob Rufus and through Terry Virgo and Newfrontiers and others like Tyrone Daniel and NCMI - but there is MORE being revealed from heaven. We are dreaming of nations like China which would never have been possible in Ern Baxter's day. The Kingdom of God is marching onwards.


Aaron said...

hey Dan, this doesn't really have anything to do with your post but I see that you are familiar with Owen, which I am not much at all. What I have read of him I really didn't like and I was wondering what you thought of his view of sin in the lives of believers etc...I found a quote by him I hated "Load thy conscience with guilt". So please enlighten me. Hopefully he has good stuff I'm just not aware of.

jul said...

Oops I didn't realize I was posting as aaron, it's really me hehe.

Dan Bowen said...

Julie, I think the key issue with John Owen is that he has to be read in context. I know a couple of paperback books have been brought out which claim to summarise his work (Kris Lungard in particular) but they will inevitably miss out vital aspects of what Owen teaches.

I felt that Lungard's work on the mortification of sin (as well as the paperback adaptation of Owen on mortification) missed out a lot of his teaching on grace and the vital Presence of the Holy Spirit in enabling us to walk in glory with the Lord.

To get the best view of Owen you have to read the full 16 volumes of his Works! Because he doesn't deal exclusively with everything on a subject in that named tome. He has written a lot on the Holy Spirit and the Spirit's baptism, filling, sealing etc - but it is to be found in Volume 2 on "Communion with God"!

My point is that I don't recall that particular quote about "Load thy conscience with guilt" but I can guarantee ABSOLUTELY that Owen would not have meant a legalistic, condemning guilt that kept us miserable.

Why am I so sure? Because Owen and the Puritans were men who were more than just dry academic theologians (no matter how many reformed evangelical cessationists claim them as "their" heroes). The Puritans were men of the Spirit who knew what is was to walk in absolute intimacy with God and indeed had vital experiences that we would call the baptism of the Spirit today.

I don't see how you can be a man of God like that and then speak and mean something so legalistically as that.

Another point - you have to remember that Owen was writing in the 15th/16th century to a 15/16th century audience and would use language that we would not identify with now.

As Rob Rufus would say - context - context - context is the key and I would want to read that quote in context before I could comment on it as to what Owen meant.

Hope that helps.

jul said...

I'm still not convinced the Puritans were not largely legalistic, but I can't say for sure, the Salem witch trials come to mind though,as well as David Brainerd's journals, and definately SGM's obsession with them. I love Spurgeon but the section on sin I read of Owen was the original (I read Lungard's as well as it was required)and I thought it was pretty bad. I would like to read a good history of them though, and I think we need to stop accepting godly men wholesale as if they were perfect and discerning the good from the bad in their lives and teachings. Wow, something we actually might disagree about a little! There's a first time for everything...

Dan Bowen said...

I'm not disagreeing with you. To disagree should mean you have to have an informed opinion about what you're disagreeing about. I wouldn't claim to know that much about the Puritans and as to whether they were riddled with legalism or not.

But if you are right and there is legalism throughout what they taught, then I wonder if my theory on "progressive revelation" comes into truth again. Have we ever stopped and considered that God is revealing aspects of His Word and His revelation and will - and that we are seeing things more clearly that our fore-fathers didn't?

Why shouldn't that be the case? Prior to Martin Luther there wasn't experiential knowledge of justification by faith but it was still there in Romans and in the Bible! Prior to the Pentecostal/Charismatic renewal there wasn't real, universal experiential knowledge of the Baptism of the Spirit or the Gifts of the SPirit but it was still there in the Bible!

So why shouldn't the same be true of the "Grace Revolution" that is sweeping the earth? Could it be that today we are actually going to lay hold of and walk in the freedom of the grace foundation that the whole Word of God is revealed on? Could it be that TODAY we are going to understand what it really means to be free and accepted in the Throne Room of heaven and live in the truth of what that means - namely that miracles, signs and wonders really will accompany our ministries?

I hope so!

PS: I totally agree that we need to stop accepting godly men wholesale. I don't think the production of CD's like the Mahaney family on "How to be a Good Family" or a "Good Wife" or a "Good Teenager" is helpful. I may be wrong - but I have seen the first hand fruits of people who listen to that particular family testifying and telling what they do in a "normal" week and have seen those people who have listened trying to learn and copy plunged into condemnation and guilt because they can't become the Mahaneys!

Yes, let's realise these godly men are just ... men. Anointed by God, servants - gifts of the Ascended Christ to be sure. But they are still human and they still will make mistakes and get things wrong. Even Rob Rufus ... no surely he is exempt!?!? ;)

jul said...

Ok, so we're in agreement, I love how you explained the progressive revelation thing, and I think we can learn so much from the past, as long as we're filtering through our understanding of the gospel of the purest grace we can get revelation of. And yes, even Rob is not exempt! And of course there is a grace revolution sweeping the earth, aren't we caught up in it?