Monday, December 21, 2009

Terry Virgo - Session 1 - Together on a Mission 2009

One of the hardships about this year has been my complete on-going struggle to fit transcribing into my new regime. I loved working nights because it meant I could work through almost a sermon a night. 8am-6:30pm Monday to Friday doesn't really lend itself to transcribing! And I miss it. I miss receiving from God through the preached word of grace and glory. I so want 2010 to see a resurgence of that.

So to get started now (I don't believe in New Years resolutions anymore) - I transcribed Terry Virgo's 1st session at the Together on a Mission 2009 conference. It was an outstanding message and wonderfully encapsulates Word and Spirit - a theme we forget at our peril. Terry makes the most balanced case I have heard for some time for not abandoning charismatic life (as so many have done in the name of respectability) for Reformed doctrine and vice versa.

There are so many awesome themes throughout the message that lifted my spirit awesomely. The absolute commitment to the Presence of God. The honouring of the Word of God. The relentless focus on world mission. The refusal to conform!

Here it is (the audio version is here);

"I am just going to read a short section from Ephesians chapter 2:1-10.

“ 1And you were dead in your trespasses and sins,
2in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience.
3Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest.
4But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us,
5even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together [a]with Christ (by grace you have been saved),
6and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,
7so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.
8For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God;
9not as a result of works, so that no one may boast.
10For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them”.

My approach this year is going to be a little different to previous years in that I want to be response to some of the things that were said here last year and particularly by Mark Driscoll in connection with our considering our future. I really do thank God for his contribution particularly in that theme – much that he said was hugely helpful but that was especially helpful. Last year as I was pondering the conference this year I actually wondered as he was talking about future and founder – I wondered if I should just host the event and let some of these incredible young guys that are surging through our ranks, carry the conference. I felt that while I was away in Australia I heard God speak to me clearly and say;

“I want you to speak three times and I want you to speak about Newfrontiers – its past, its present and its future”.

That is the approach I am bringing and I am not going to expound a particular passage of Scripture though I want to look briefly at the passage I’ve just read to you. I want us to look at who we are and what God has done with us and help us to look forward as a result of that.
Churchill said the further you look back the clearer you can look forward. That is helpful for us to remember how God has led us and what God has made valuable to us. It is not my intention to tell a story of Newfrontiers as I once did at Stoneleigh Bible Week which some of you may remember. I don’t intend taking that course. I want to highlight what I believe are foundational values tonight and then tomorrow night we will press on with some more and then project into the future on Thursday.

1. First of all I want to remind us that we are fundamentally a Word and Spirit Movement.
I believe that and want to treasure that and regard that as hugely important. We don’t want to drift either way but we do want to value both. We want to treasure the Word of God – it is our compass, it is our map, it is our guide, it is our food! And also to have the Presence of the Spirit Who excites and ignites and motivates and shows us that God is literally amongst us!

We want to treasure both themes – we are happy to be called “Word and Spirit”. Sometimes we are called “Reformed and charismatic” – I am happy having those two things together.

In this first passage we read together I want to see where we started. You could say we didn’t get off because Paul began the reading and said; “We were dead”. That is not a very exciting place to start but God said; “You started as dead men and women”. We didn’t come together as massive entrepreneurial wiz-kids that said; “Let’s start something that will go around the world” – the Bible’s assessment of us was that we were dead in trespasses and sin. That is really why I am a Reformed believer, why I believe the Gospel tells me it is because of God that I am saved. We were dead. Dead people don’t really have a lot of choice. Dead people don’t have a lot of ideas – they are not thirsty for God – they don’t have longings for God. Dead people don’t contribute a great deal. Dead people need God to take action! And in this passage we saw “BUT God”. God spoke, God interrupted, God acted.

So this death we were living in – it describes in some detail and goes through three perspectives. It says that we were living “according to the course of this world” – the prevailing culture dictated the way we evaluated things. We took our guide from those around us and let the world shape our thinking. That was where we came from. As Eugene Peterson said in the Message; “You let the world which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live”. The world dictated the shape of our thinking and this passing age – there is a sense that the Bible speaks about this age being a passing thing. Paul said “That used to captivate you – you were bound by the prince of the power of the air” – yes the devil, dark principalities and powers. We were under the influence of satanic power. Sometimes we were aware of another power or force that overtakes the children of disobedience. God created in Christ however a new creation! We are part of that! If anyone is in Christ then they are a new creation. It is breathtaking! We are new people – radically changed by the gospel of God! We are a new creation and we are His workmanship!

We have quickly rushed through those verses picking up a few phrases – we are “His workmanship”. The Greek word speaks of “poem”. The Jerusalem Bible translates it; “We are His work of art”. Again you can take it as the individual – God is changing and working on you and shaping you. From the beginning He makes you sanctified once and for all but He also goes on changing your character and putting you through setbacks, delays, heartaches and heartbreaks. I was worshipping God a few weeks ago and thanking Him for breaking my heart when I was 20. Really thanking Him that He did a devastating work on my heart. It needed a heartbreak to get through this arrogant selfish person and start something new. He takes us through all sorts of things because He has ambition for you. You are His work of art! He wants to be able to trust you and build things on you and know that you won’t build off at an angle because He has dealt with you. He makes you holy as a gift and then works on you and makes you into His work of art.

One of our pastors in the States – Ian Ashby – his wife is an artist and she was doing it privately for her own entertainment really. She built up a studio and a while ago she began to put her work on display and to her amazement, people really loved it. Her work is beginning to attract serious attention. When we were together in the States at our Leaders event earlier this year, Ian was leading a prayer time and he gave an extraordinary prophecy. And I wrote to him last week and I said; “Can I have that prophecy? It stirred me at the time very strongly and I thought I would like it in word”. Let me read to you what he wrote;

“My wife Emma is an artist and she has her own studio and has just started exhibiting and displaying her work in galleries. The response to her work has been quite amazing – it is different to anything else, very textual, intense colours, and layers. People are drawn to it. One woman said it created an atmosphere that attracted her”. Then he prophesied and all of us who were together there felt so gripped by the prophecy he brought;

“I felt God wants to say to us as a family of churches – this is how it will be with you. You are My workmanship, My work of art, you are surprisingly different from what people are used to seeing for I have worked into you intense colours of grace, different textures of diversity and layers of relationship. I want you to know that I have put My heart into this work – there is an atmosphere to you that is tangible to others that will draw people in. Don’t try and copy other works, don’t look at what you perceive to be successful and what you think other people may like, the techniques produced by others – for they just produce uniformity that people will grow tired of.
What I am creating with you is Spirit-breathed. My workmanship, My delight and the result is infectious! It will attract so learn from techniques, experiment, apply helpful principles – but don’t copy another work. Be who you are for I have uniquely created you to be. It is different from other works and you are going to be surprised by the response for although you have been hidden away as I have worked on you layer by layer – now it is time to be brought out and made public. I am going to put you on display – you will become very visible and many will be drawn by your atmosphere and captivated by your beauty”.

The word is – “You are My workmanship” and as I say that could be taken on board by a local church/an Ephesian church. It could be taken on board by the individual or the church at large – but I don’t see any reason why a people who have been providentially woven into God’s purpose and plan in the way that God has with us, why we couldn’t take such a verse for ourselves. I feel very happy with this prophetic utterance – I really believe it with all my heart – I believe it! We are God’s workmanship in Christ Jesus – what a wonderful place to be! In Him – who keeps providing grace and the gift of righteousness and guidance and shepherding! We are part of the workmanship of God – something He has brought to birth. “Layers of relationship” – that phrase really stirred me. “Colours of grace”. God is creating something for His delight! We have benefited massively over the years from people coming amongst us with tremendous contribution – we learn and keep on being developed and helped and God has done this.

But here it says “We are created in Christ Jesus for good works which God has prepared beforehand that you should walk in them”. So we who were walking in death and blindness and sin, now we walk in these works that He prepared beforehand! That certainty of a sovereign God gives you such courage – it is one of the reasons I am so glad we have a training track on Calvin’s phenomenal contribution to the development of church planting across Europe. Hundreds and hundreds of churches were planted with that sense; “We are God’s workmanship – God has called us and God has taken us – we have a sovereign God behind us!”. It swept up into Scotland and John Knox.

Works for-ordained that we should walk in them. As I was thinking on that and pondering that from a Newfrontiers perspective, I thought; “What are the works that God prepared for us to walk in?”. It is not difficult to remember some of the words given over the years that say quite explicitly what God has raised us up for. If you are a guest here – forgive me for being a bit “in-house” this year. You are most welcome and I hope there is enough common stuff for us to enjoy, but I want to speak to the family this year. Right from the beginning when God spoke to us through we had a prophetic word through John Groves and he said; “I see a herd of elephants and they are charging and there is jungle terrain ahead and no road but they run through it and make a road where there is no road.

Others will follow and together you can accomplish more together than you could alone”. Now that was so formative to us decades ago when a handful of pastors were beginning to get filled with the Spirit and enjoy a bit of fellowship. I think maybe we had started Downs Bible Week which gathered a couple of thousand people. But God spoke to us prophetically. Well in that prophecy you have got works prepared beforehand – what are they? Well first of all there is no road – you will make a road where there is no road. It is quite hard now looking back and when you see the videos and gather in from all over the world thousands of people who love one another. But when we started there was no road. No one was doing this stuff. No one was making the steps we are making. No one was saying; “We are on a church planting mission” – no one hardly used that language! You stayed at home or sent someone to be a missionary.

You didn’t plant churches and go together and say; “Let’s do this thing together”. You didn’t say; “Let’s have a Bible Week that gets bigger and bigger” and have something like Stoneleigh and have clout in this nation. You said; “Well okay charismatic may be okay but it is private and if you want your little prayer language that is fine but don’t mess with church”. We said; “No! We are coming through and coming through because God is about a great thing!”. We are not going to have a private aspect to our Christianity! God said; “Together you can make a road where there is no road!”. Praise God we are and have been doing it – making road where there was no road!

It is almost impossible for me to think back to what church life was like when I first got filled with the Spirit and thought; “Wow! The demands of this are phenomenal”. We have got to change church completely! The response was; “How dare you – you arrogant! What are you doing?”. It was tough! We can’t just go home and speak in tongues! We have got to see church life radically changed and we can do it together. Let’s pool our resources and do this! Together we had great steps and could train leaders together! We could send teams overseas and plant churches and run Stoneleigh and run Newday together with thousands of your children and a generation behind us that wants to go to the nations! That get fired up – 6000 in a few weeks time! There was nothing like that! Together we can accomplish what we couldn’t before.

“Works foreordained of God that you should walk in them”. We have been walking in them doing more together than we could alone. We have raised finance together to resource this and send to Zimbabwe – as a group from 14 different nations we could raise half a million to send to Zim. There have been all sorts of ways – now we can send people out and God told us we would do these things. God said as we planted churches back through the UK, we would send people out and now we are out! Doesn’t it make your heart thrill when you hear big cities? Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbourne – we are there! We are there! We are going to be there! We are nobodies but God bound us together in His work of art and He promised that if we would plant into the UK and get more resources and plant more churches and release more finance – then they would go and they are still going! Workmen – we are His work of art and these things are happening! He promised us that we would join old bricks into a new wall – as someone saw in a prophetic vision a wall crumbling and sad, and an exciting new wall going up. They saw that the new wall needed the occasional old brick with wisdom and ability to gather those young bricks around them.

God said to us that we would gather old bricks and that has happened and I believe it will happen a lot more. We have had the joy and privilege of meeting some wonderful godly men over these last few years. So often in sad lonely independent works – if only they could be in a galvanised world mission movement with their pastoral, godly skills and biblical knowledge! I believe we have got to keep praying for that to happen more and more!

He told us that we would walk in them! Finally and most excitingly He said we would change the expression of Christianity around the world. Someone once heard us say that and said; “Why? Does it need to be changed?”. What does it mean to change the expression? Here are a few;

a. Change from legalistic to grace-shaped.

It is so sad – only God knows the percentage of nations and churches who are riddled with legalism. How the apostle Paul would have fought to liberate them to the gospel of grace. Much that is called Christianity is high-bound in condemnation and there is no joy. Just driven. I had the privilege of speaking at quite a big conference recently and preached grace in four sessions. There was a real buzz and one lady came to me and said; “I’ve been on the staff here for seven years and I didn’t realise I am a legalist!”. It is going to be my privilidge to go to Japan and they are translating “God’s Lavish Grace” into Japanese to go right across a national pastor’s conference. To “change the expression” of Christianity from legalism to the wonderful freedom that grace provides. From rules and regulations religion to freedom. From interdependence to independence. Churches that say they are autonomous but are actually just living for themselves. No – we must change the expression of Christianity!

It was never the biblical purpose or apostolic concept for a church to be planted and then have nothing to do with world mission. Churches are planted to get caught up!

We have got to see they are part of a world mission. From being self-centred to being sacrificial, from individualistic to being corporate, from being democratic to honouring the anointing and gifted leadership! How many good churches are totally ensnared by democracy? That has got to change! We are to keep on planting new churches or help churches make the radical change so the life of God can flow through those churches.

b. Change from cessationist to charismatic.

From old wineskin to new wineskin! Changing the expression of Christianity! See God do a new thing! It is so great when a church alive in the Spirit gets visibility – it is great our friends from Peterborough were visible recently and I know many of you will have looked at the site and seen the DJ saying “That is amazing” – just at a church that is full of life with baptisms and so on – just like this! They don’t know it is there. The world hardly knows! So we must keep planting more and more churches and help churches that are a bit frightened to say; “No this is okay”. Let’s change! God has made us an instrument for change globally and not just in the UK!

From cessationist to charismatic. This brings me to my 2nd main point – I didn’t read the verse I want to read now. Ephesians 1 where he says in verse 13; “In Him you also after listening to the message of truth, the gospel of salvation, you were sealed in Him with the Holy Spirit of promise”.

2. Life in the Spirit.

We want to be theologically truly biblical but we want to know the explosive power of the Presence of the Holy Spirit. Paul says; “Having believed, you were SEALED”. What does that mean; “Sealed?”. It is interesting to study that – a seal is something stamped in wax. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones says it is;

“A stamp of authenticity, authority, ownership, security”.

It is something you know about, something visible that adds authority and authenticity. Interestingly the English Standard study Bible says this;

“The Holy Spirit certifies the authenticity of their acceptance by God as being genuine. They bear the royal seal”.

Sealed with the Spirit – they bear the royal seal! That is the way the ESV comments on it and cross-references Acts 10:44,47 when Peter goes to Cornelius’s house and preaches to these Gentiles having to overcome his Jewishness and reluctance and as he preaches, you remember that Peter has a vision and sees a sheet coming down from heaven and is told; “What I call clean – don’t call unclean”. Cornelius’s messenger asks him to a Gentile home and Peter feels uncomfortable but begins to talk about Jesus because Cornelius told him an angel appeared to us! And as he begins to speak; “The Spirit falls upon them”. Peter says; “Oh my word! God has given the same gift to them as He did to us! You better get baptised now”.

The whole reason Peter knows these Gentiles are now authentic people of God is the Spirit coming UPON them as a seal, proof, demonstration!

You need to know Peter that this is authentic!

The coming of the Spirit is an authentic seal! We must get hold of that because in our day so many will teach that the baptism (which is the same thing as a seal) of the Spirit is non-experiential. You just become a Christian and don’t necessarily feel anything. That is being baptised in the Spirit you will be told. But the Bible says that when the Spirit came upon them – for Peter, that was PROOF that God is working on the Gentiles! A seal can be SEEN! It is EVIDENCE – it AUTHENTICATES! The coming of the Spirit authenticates and gives another dimension!

When you get to the counsel in Jerusalem in Acts 15 again they were discussing what people should become Christians and whether they should circumstances and Peter gave his account of what happened when he went to Cornelius’s house and he said in Acts 15; “He cleansed their heart by faith” – that is “I am saved”. Then he said; “And God who knows the heart bore witness to them gave them the Holy Spirit”.

The new birth cleanses the heart by faith but the seal of the Spirit demonstrates that God is here! They are authentic and are the real thing! The coming upon of the Spirit is huge! It is vital! It is not something we should dismiss or miss the point! It was the argument point that made the Gentiles acceptable.

The seal – it says of Jesus that “on Him, God the Father has set His seal”. God set His seal on Him – what is that referring to? Dr Lloyd-Jones and C K Barrett say; “John the Baptist was told on Him you see the Spirit coming upon – He is the one”. When John saw the Spirit coming upon Him, he knew. It was evident! Whom I “seal”. The coming of the Spirit is huge! Sometimes people say it happens gradually – you become a Christian gradually and get filled with the Spirit gradually. Paul says “Did you receive the Spirit?” and they said; “No”. Paul said; “What were you baptised into?”. “John’s”. “Oh I see – you are disciples of John, I thought you were disciples of Jesus – oh okay!”. Then he baptised them and then with the water still dripping off them, the Spirit came on them and they spoke in tongues and prophesied! It is plain Biblical truth!

It is so important.

The Gospels promise the Spirit is coming. The Epistles write as though the Spirit has come. The Book of Acts tell us HOW it happened.

It is no good saying; “We don’t take teaching from the book of Acts – it is narrative”. You get doctrine from Scripture – the Bible says so. ALL Scripture is God-breathed and given by inspiration and profitable for teaching. 1 Corinthians 10 – “All these things happened to them as examples and written down for our instruction”. What is our instruction? Narrative. Stories. How it happened. Narrative guides us! You cannot say that the book of Acts is just stories. It is how it happened! So for us, we must re-discover the Spirit’s coming.

We will never understand how the New Testament church grew without the dynamic of the Spirit.

It is vital – absolutely vital!

Paul says in Galatians 3; “Did you receive the Spirit by works of law or by hearing with faith?”. Some may say; “Well we don’t know – we didn’t feel anything anyway”. It makes Paul’s question utter folly! He expected them to know what he was speaking about!

He asked them; “Have you received?” and after he had prayed for them, he said; “Have you received now?” – I don’t think they said; “Well we’re moving into that”! They said; “Yes! We have received!”. Maybe you have not received. It is so thrilling to mingle leadership and Mobilise. You could receive tonight! We had the word; “Jesus said if anyone is thirsty come to Me and drink!”.

Are you thirsty? It doesn’t say “Anyone who is holy”. Or “anyone who is special”. “Anyone who is mature now”. It says; “Anyone who is thirsty”.

The coming upon of the Spirit, the seal or baptism of the Spirit – we CANNOT say it is non-experiential. It is utter foolishness!

Douglas Moo says in his commentary on Romans 8; “The Spirit in our hearts crying “Abba Father!” – it is a truth deeply felt and intensely experienced”. Intensely felt! It is not non-experiential! It is intense! It says “Shouting out or crying out!”. Lloyd-Jones makes the same point of this word; “Crying out” – he says; “It is a very extravagant kind of word”. It is not just a reflection on a few thoughts – it is something impulsive! It cries out!

Remember this – Paul says “Did you receive by works of the law?” or in other words did you work up some kind of merit? Or by hearing with faith? I want to invite you in a moment if you have never experienced the baptism with the Spirit – I want to invite you come and drink! Come and receive! Did you receive by the works of the law – or in other words gaining merit by being a “good person” or by hearing with faith? You have to hear with faith! That is the whole point! It is not something you get from merit – it is a gift! That is why it happens to people so early in their Christian lives! The promise is for everyone that the Lord our God shall call! It is not for special people!

“It is not whether you are worthy – it is whether I am glorified”.

On the Day of Pentecost Peter virtually preached that sermon and said; “He being exalted – glorified – has shed forth this which you can SEE and HEAR”. It is NOW available! After that day no one was ever told to wait! When Ananias came to Paul who was saved 3 days, Ananias (a nobody) laid hands on Paul and he was filled with the Spirit. No one was ever told to wait! The Holy Spirit believes in justification by faith – He owns and seals people justified by faith! He puts His seal on them! The promise is for everyone that the Lord our God shall call.

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