Monday, March 30, 2009
Sunday, March 29, 2009
I've had the benefit of trying a lot of methods as well which helps to add some validity (I hope) to what I am trying to say and argue. For instance I have 'done' the accountability groups thing and am well aware of their aim but am not convinced as to their usefulness. Last night at work I was re-reading John Piper and Justin Taylor's "A God-Entranced Vision of All Things". And I was intrigued to find three quotes in the chapters that all present slightly different perspectives on how to attempt to combat sin. Here they are;
Saturday, March 28, 2009
The context was when I was living in my parents in Bristol and Pete came to visit me. As is our custom we spent time in my bedroom together praying and waiting on God and suddenly out of the blue, Pete prophesied that "the call was to publish". We didn't really know what it meant. At the time we were thinking about the vast amount of Ern Baxter tapes I had in my possession and felt that God was asking that I begin typing it up. I did so and have published several series of Ern Baxter's sermons including some interviews called "Life on Wings". Also a series of sermons that he preached at our church's Anglia Bible Week called "The Priestly Clothing".
Benefits of the Spoken Word.
Friday, March 27, 2009
"They continued in the apostles doctrine, in fellowship, in the breaking of bread and in prayer". This was the simple description of the life of the first church. And I think it is in the hearts of thousands of people this morning - according to a spate of books that have come out recently - that there is a great hunger across the world for a return to the simplicity of primitive Christianity. I think the closer we adapt our ways to the Word of God the more inclined we are to be obeying God in His desire. Paul says that one of the first things we should do when we come together, in fact he says "most important of all" - is that we should pray for all man everywhere, for rulers, and those in authority over us that we may live a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness.
"For God would have all men be saved". The salvation of all men is related to our community life in godliness. It is not by our preaching or by our tracts but what they see us doing.
So let's engage in prayer now shall we? Remembering of prime importance; "first of all". We don't pray for Grandma's rheumatism but first of all; "for all men everywhere". We can affect the course of nations this morning! By our praying;
"Father we come to You this morning in obedience to Your Word that it is a mark of the continuing church that they engage in prayer. And this morning our Father from the heart of this body goes out an intercessory cry to You for all men everywhere. For rulers and those in authority over us! We pray this morning Father for our own nation embroiled as it is in all the high powered tactics and hypocrisies of electioneering. Grant oh God that righteousness shall break in upon this scene. Because a nation that is not guided by righteousness is heading for hell. That's what Your Word says. We come to You this morning on behalf of many other nations - nations that are torn with famine and starvation. 2,000 a day dying in Somalia - little children Lord! My God be merciful! And arrest the bands of men who stand by cruelly to allow this to happen because of their own personal greed. We pray God for the turmoil in Yugoslavia, we pray for the reconstruction of the former Soviet Union states - we pray for South Africa and indeed all of Africa. We pray for Uganda this morning which is threatened by the end of this century to be wiped out with AIDS. We pray oh God for South America and for the great churches there and the great need there. We pray for South-East Asia Lord! For all men everywhere! Your world God! You so loved the world!
We pray for our own needs Father and the needs in this congregation. We pray Father for Your hand to be on each of us helping us to be in obedience to You to work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We pray God for men and women here facing particular problems and challenges. Grace us oh God with insights as to how to deal with these things. We ask oh God this morning for the instruction of Your Word and that You would prepare our hearts as we come to You at the table. For You are our host and we are so pleased to be Your redeeemed guests this morning. Give us oh God new insights into Your purposes - we thank You for Your Presence this morning. For where two or three are gathered - there You are. We don't ask You to be present Lord - we believe You are present. Hallelujah!"
We pride ourselves on being free and we are not bound by liturgy. But it is an interesting thing that our freedom becomes a liturgy. And we start to do the same things over and over because that was right last time. I am going to talk to you about worship this morning and this maybe just the beginning of several. I am concerned about worship. I really am - I am deeply concerned. Worship is the totality of God's intention. The Father seeks worshippers who will worship in spirit and in truth and that is our major role. When we worship we don't worship according to a preset plan. We worship (and this may be shocking to you) according to the mood of the Holy Spirit! I have seen times of worship that were hilarious. People march, jump - it was the mind of the Spirit! And I have seen times when quietness came and that was not a liturgical quietness. The minister doesn't say "We are all going to have quietness now". The quietness that comes is as dictated by the Holy Spirit as the hilarity. And the first time I encountered it was when I was invited to an evangelical church and they said; "We would like you to come if you don't mention tongues". I said; "I won't mention tongues but I need to tell you something. If you get the shoe then the tongue comes with it". But I was true to my word and I didn't mention tongues. I spoke about the Holy Spirit and the mind of the Spirit and one night when I finished and I noticed a holy hush settled on the room.
So I gave the minister a nod that I was finished and here I was standing up here and he was sitting down there and I didn't know what to do. So I decided if I didn't know what to do then I wouldn't do anything. But I noticed the little children that had been agitated in the congregation and were squirming suddenly became silent. And a holy hush that you could almost hear - which is an oxymoron - went on for 10 - 15 - 30 minutes which was broken by a sob. That was as much emotion as I had seen since I had been there and then it spread across the audience followed by a move of the Spirit. And I realised that either God was in trouble or I was. Because it looked we were going to have the very thing that I promised not to talk about! However I didn't hold God to that promise. We had been proper. The ladies went in one prayer room and the men into another and I thought I would accomodate that. I said "There are obviously men and women here tonight that are feeling the Presence of God and you may want to press into God. Why don't we do what we do when we come? You ladies all go to your room and the men go to your room and wait on God?". And they did. And that meeting went on till four o clock in the morning. Many were filled with the Spirit and many spoke with tongues! So the next night one man got up and said; "I am sure glad for what happened last night - about three days ago God visited me in my bedroom and I started to do what they were doing and I didn't know what was wrong with me but last night I realised it was God!".
I merely say that to say that when we come together - don't look for what you think should happen when you think God is moving. Let's find out what God wants shall we? I want give you a teaching and I first want to read just a few Scriptures. I want to start with Exodus chapter 25:1-9;
"Then the Lord spoke to Moses saying; 'Tell the sons of Israel to raise a contribution for Me. From every man who's heart moves him you shall raise My contribution. And this is the contribution which you are to raise from them. Gold, silver and bronze. Blue, purple and scarlet material, fine linen, goat hair, ram's skin dyed red, acacia wood, oil for lighting, spices for the anointing oil and for the fragrant incense, onyx stones and setting stones for the ephod and for the breastplate and let them construct a sanctuary for Me that I may dwell among you".
Nothing has changed! This here this morning is the Lord's sanctuary. Not the building, chairs, pulpit. You are a sanctuary. They built a material sanctuary back there but now God is building a sanctuary out of living stones and we are that sanctuary.
"According to all that I am going to show you as the pattern of the Tabernacle and the pattern of all it's furnitures just so shall you construct it".
How shall you construct it? Just so. Any deviation? Just so.
Now I want you to turn to Hebrews chapter 9:9. I am not going to read extensively here. Talking about the Tabernacle; "It is a symbol of the present time". Or I like this translation; "The Tabernacle is a symbol for the time now present". Now everything I am going to talk about this morning and future Sundays - may seem to be Old Testament and out of date and not applicable, let me remind you that the inspired Word of God says it was a parable or a symbol. The New English Bible says; "All this is symbolic pointing to the present time". Hebrews is the book that informs us about the Old Testament services. Chapter 10:1; "For the law having a shadow of good things to come".
J B Phillips says; "The law possessed only a dim outline of the benefits Christ would bring and not a perfect representation of the reality".
"For those sacrifices which they offered year by year made nothing perfect or mature". The law was a shadow. It was a symbol. It was a parable. Let's turn to 1st Corinthians 10; "Moreover brethren I would not have you be ignorant how all our fathers were in the sea and in the cloud and were all baptised unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea and did eat of the same spiritual meat and did all drink of the same spiritual drink, for they drank of that spiritual rock that followed them and that rock was Christ. But with many of them God was not well pleased for they were overthrown in the wilderness". (v6); "Now these things were examples or shadows - warning us that we should not crave evil things as they also craved". Drop down to (v11); "Now all those things happened to them as examples". J B Phillips says; "These things that happened to our ancestors are illustrations in which the way God works". "In whose lives the climax of the ages has been reached".
One more. Romans 15:16. All I am trying to do in the reading this morning is to validate this one proposition. That what we are going to be talking about this morning has been divinely approved as a pattern as to how we are to behave. The difference between the Old Testament and the New was that the Old Testament was natural and physical and material and parabolic and symbolic of the New which is spiritual. There is a correspondance. Romans 15:4; "Written for our learning". 20th century version says this; "Was written for our instruction". "So that through patient endurance and the encouragement drawn from the Scriptures we might hold fast to our hope". The Old Testament is pertinent to the New because the Old is a shadow or a parable or a storybook. I remember when I started school and the first book we had was a brownie book and it had very simple intellectual information but it had an abundance of illustrations. Little hobgoblins and all in the margins and much of our initial teaching was visual and it was in terms of pictures. When we are training our children they think in picture form. They think in terms of pictures. They are excited about what they can see. "What's that?". Curiousity that is never fully satisfied!
A child is intrigued by things that they can see. It isn't until they get into the upper grades that they start to learn propositions and principles and axioms and start to exercise their intellect in making the pictures into the principles in which those pictures were designed to expound. The Old Testament is God's picture book especially the Pentateuch with the Tabernacle and the life of Israel is so outlined. The Tabernacle being a parable or a type or a shadow of all these things needs then to be studied by us that we might understand the propositions and the precepts and the concepts that the more mature New Testament represents.
Let me give you a simple principle of interpretation. The Old Testament never interprets the New but the New Testament always interprets the Old.
So where you find people who are taking their basic doctrinal positions from the Old Testament then you will find that many times they are harbouring views that are not mature because they have not gone onto the New Covenant interpretation of what the Old Testament teaches.
Many people want to stay in the Old Testament because it is an indication of the state of their maturity.
They still want to play around in the brownie books. The brownie books are important in the beginning but they are only types and shadows. I want to give you a context for the Tabernacle. I am going to put down three geographical locations here. 1. Egypt. 2. The wilderness. 3. Canaan. Egpyt is a type of the world. The wilderness is a type of processive maturity. This is where you get all your instruction. Canaan is a type of the world. But it is also a type of your mature witness. It seems rather strange that God brings His people out of Egypt which is a type of the world. These prepositions; "OUT". "THROUGH". You are not intended to stay in the wilderness. You go through it! "INTO". It looks to me to be a contradiction here! I come out of the world only to go back into it? That is right! What did Jesus say to His disciples? "As the Father has sent Me so send I you". Where? "Into the world". "Go ye into the world". You got out to be matured in divine ways so you may go back in and witness to Canaan the mature ways of God! You are taken out of the world to be prepared to go back into the world! What is the general Christian ideal? This is charismatic country - this is pentecost country. All the miracles happened in the wilderness. They got fresh manna every morning - from the angelic bake ovens. Every morning they went out and collected a miracle. Water out of the flinty rock. There was no natural flowing water in the desert! Water sprung out of the rock! Miracles and signs and wonders galore!
Everyone says "Oh we are very mature". No - charismatic country is the place where you are blessed by the Holy Spirit not only to experience gifts but to be matured through divine instruction as to how God wants you to live so that you may go into the world and be a mature witness to the world you came out of. Where did Israel get it's maturation? At Sinai. God at Sinai gave Israel an entire constitution. There is not an aspect of life that God didn't include in the Sinatic constitution. He covered everything! He covered jurisprudence, agriculture, education, health - everything is dealt with at the Sinatic constitution. Why? Just for the Israelites? No so that the Israelites were equipped with the Sinatic constitution and could come to Canaan and live it before these others and eventually take over Canaan. I don't know how much you want to read into that "take over" but God said when you come into Canaan I want you to put the Canaanite out. Let me digress here to register one of my pet peaves. We are told by certain religious types and I am so sick of reading it - that you and I as Christians are to be relevant to the world. Young theological students are being taught that they need to be relevant. That means we must accomodate the Church to the deteriorating views of a wanton society.
We must find a way to involve homosexuality in the Church even though God calls it an abomination. We must find a way to accomodate abortion on demand even though it is a form of murder according to the Word of God. We must find ways and means to accomodate utter social abberrations because we as a Church don't want to be behind the world! Balderdash! Undiluted drivel! This is not God's intention for us!
God's intention for us is that we shall be a colony of heaven to imitate to that wanton world how men and women are designed to live!
One of the great points that E Stanley Jones makes in his book on the Kingdom (and it is a marvellous point) - he said, "Man is constitutionally not structured for sin". You are not constitutionally structured to sin. When you and I sin it is a violation of our humanity! We are made for righteousness! We are made for God! We are in His image! When we violate that image we become a distortion!
So what are we looking at in the world but a distorted society? I am to be relevant to that??! Let me make one more point here as I commute from the chair to the board! Here in Egypt Israel was delivered by the Passover Lamb. I want to you to get this point and you must have this in your mind. The Passover Lamb is the conversional lamb - the One you believe in when you start out as a Christian. But when we get over here and the Tabernacle is built with all of it's offerings and it's lambs and bulls and goats and so on - this doesn't have to do with conversion, the sacrifices in the Tabernacle has to do with believers! You will see this in a minute as I give you some more visuals. When you and I got converted we were converted by the Passover Lamb. When we become Christians we found to our disappoinment that we weren't immediately perfected. We found a lingering in our tendancy to self-gratifying behaviour. The most disappointing thing in my life is that I have not become perfect. I mean that. When you become a Christian God puts something in you that makes you want to be something. And you don't make that something. And Paul helps us with that tension. He said, "As though we had already attained". He is talking about attaining normal constant maturation. He said "NOT that I have already ... but I press on towards the upward call in Christ".
There are three tenses to salvation. Paul says that the Cross is to us who are saved the power of God. Then writing to the Philippians he says; "Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling". I thought you told me I was saved! He wrote to the Romans and he says; "Now is your salvation nearer than when you believed!". But didn't I get saved when I believed? Yes in one tense. You got saved from the guilt and the penalty of your sin. Now you are going to go on as you walk with God in the Spirit and the Word you will be saved from the power of sin. You and I are only being saved from the power of sin as we work out our salvation with fear and trembling. We don't understand those two words! Some of us give the impression that we don't fear or tremble at anything or anyone! But a godly Christian knows how serious this business is and works out his salvation with fear and trembling. He takes life seriously. He doesn't laugh his way through but understands he is being made mature in Christ. That is the second tense - "I am saved and I am being saved". But I am not saved yet! Now you must see that in the light of the whole - Paul says "Now our salvation is nearer than when we believed". There is one sense of our salvation that we cannot have prior to the general resurrection. I wish I could. I don't like getting old. There is nothing good about getting old. I don't know enough about death or heaven. Why do I have to die anyway?! That is the part of the curse that God has allowed to remain for both saved and unsaved and it is the last enemy to be destroyed and it won't be destroyed until the ressurection at which time you and I whether we are alive or not will take on our new bodies and we will be saved from the presence of sin.
We have been saved from the penalty of sin, we are being saved from the power of sin and we have yet to be saved from the presence of sin.
When we are talking about the Tabernacle I don't wish to be unkind here but I have heard preachers talk about the Tabernacle as if it were the Gospel for sinners. It is not the gospel for sinners because there is no place in the gospel for sinners! All those who have anything to do with the Tabernacle have come through the Passover Lamb in Egypt and came through the instruction of the wilderness and are now meeting in mature witness.
The Tabernacle was in a compound with a fence all around it. Here was a gate and out here was a brazen altar. Brazen - that is important. In here was a brazen (don't forget that) laver. Here is a doorway with a curtain and in here is another curtain. In here is the Ark of the Covenant and it has got the cherubim up here with their wings meeting in the middle and the lid of the ark is called the "Mercy Seat" - it is the lid of the Ark and it's very important. Underneath the lid was a Aaron's rod that budded and a pot of manna and the Law of Moses. When Christ died this curtain was rent from top to bottom. To show how stubborn the Jews were, the Rebecca sewing society sewed it up but God tore it down! So for you and me there is no curtain here but there was for Israel. Out here is the golden altar of incense. This is all brass outside and gold inside. Up here is the Table with the 12 loaves of shewbread and down here is the minora or the Golden Candlestick. The one thing that Israel retained after they were put out of Egypt was the candlestick. When the nation of Israel became a nation, Britain made a gift to them of a golden minora indicating that the British recognised that Israel was a people that related to the minora. It doesn't mean anything to them because they don't understand it's meaning and Paul says there is a veil over their eyes. All of their ancient things has no meaning to them as it should have.
How shall I go about this? Let me talk for a minute about the Levites. They were a tribe that God chose to represent the whole nation. The whole nation numbered probably about 3 million people and 3 million people couldn't come and worship here even though this is called the "Tent of the Congregation". The Tent of Meeting - this is where the entire nation met with it's God through the Levite priests. When an Israelite came to bring his offering, he could only come through this gate and he came here and brings his lamb and it is slain and he can't go any further. Now the priest has to represent him so he takes the offering and offers it on the brazen altar. Now this laver had a foot and this was the basin and he washed his hands and his feet and that is symbolic. When a priest was coming into the assembly - this is a type of what is here this morning. This is us! Before a priest (or you and me) could come into assembly he visited the brazen altar and the brazen laver. =
Brass is a type of judgement. Gold is a type of God!
I am going slowly because I am talking about something that is here in this room. I said this morning I am concerned about worship and I am concerned about our preparation for worship. How many of you dealt with your sins as a Christian and took the value of the Cross at the brazen altar to deliver you from the guilt of that sin and then how many of you went to the Word and Spirit of God to deliver you from the contamination of that sin? You are not even in church yet! It sometimes amazes me that God bothers to meet us at all. We have treated so cavalierly His Word and so imposed our own wishes on God's Word as to say; "I don't know what God said". A question was asked a man recently who took a drastic step back in his life and said; "What do you think God thinks about this?". His answer was a very frightening one; "I have no idea what God thinks". It concerns me deeply this morning what God thinks about me. He has got every reason to think pretty badly about me. But when I take the blood and His forgiveness and His mercy and the Word and He sees me in this Cross - that allays my fears for I am accepted in the beloved!
God doesn't see me in me - if I am up to date with Him. He sees me in Christ! Before you ever come through those doors you deal with those sins preferably outside even at home. We are priests with gifts. When it comes to our equality with God there is no High Priest - no other mediator but Christ. One mediator between God and man and that is Christ Jesus! There is no superior saints here this morning! And when we all function out of our gifts we have got a marvellous flowing body! I am convinced that we have suffered the ebb and flow of our worship flow in assembly through the years not in terms of who is leading worship or in terms of who is in the audience but in terms of what kind of preparation was made before we even came. I started this morning by saying; "This is not the PTA - this is a meeting of the church of God! The ecclesia of God where He sets the rules!". Can you imagine what would have happened to a priest if he had raced past the brazen altar and past the laver and blundered his way into the presence of God? I will tell you what would have happened to him! Fire would have come out before God and devoured him!
Oh - you say - that is too harsh. Well let me give you a real life situation. On the day the Tabernacle was dedicated, the ministry was given to Aaron and his four sons. Two of their sons for whatever reason imbibed too much liquour or wine and violated the command of God and went into the Presence of God in an imebriated state with fire that didn't come off the brazen altar - because the brazen altar was kindled with supernatural fire from heaven and that fire had to be perpetuated night and day fuel was put on to keep it going. Nadab and Abihu took strange, unauthorised fire and went into the golden altar to offer praise and fire came out from God and they were consumed! God got on the phone to Moses right away and said; "Moses I had to do this but tell your brother he is not to mourn and is to stand with Me in My judgement". The goodness and the severity of God. Can any of you think of a chorus about the severity of God? But that doesn't bless me! No it doesn't bless me in terms of your context of thinking. But you have the wrong context. Why did God tell Moses that Aaron was not to mourn over his two boys?
Can you imagine that old gentleman in all his regalia looking at the charred remains and a marvellous Scripture says that they were buried in their tunics. They were smitten with fire but somehow their white tunics were not marked. Isn't that a marvellous thing? When God judges you for sin, He won't burn your tunic but He will sure burn you. Can you imagine standing there and not showing emotion? The reason; "Mine anointing oil is upon him". Aaron is there as my High Priest and even though it is his two sons being judged, he must stand with Me in My judgement. We are talking principle here! I have seen more churches split and break up over human relational loyalty - so-called. Those kind of things don't count in assembly! You stand by the righteous judgements of God! What was the end point for the priest? The whole intention is that he gets to here - his last stop - to worship God. God lives in here. His localised home. He said to Aaron when you come to Me once a year I will speak to you from between the cherubim above, upon the Mercy Seat on the Ark. He locates Himself! The whole purpose in coming here is to deal with your sin first in terms of guilt. To cleanse yourself in terms of contamination and now you come in here to worship God. The only way you can worship God is to make this bee-line all the way through.
These articles are helpers once you get in. The candleabra is supernatural light. There were no windows in the Tabernacle. There was no natural light. It was all supernatural. A PHd won't do you any good. A seminary degree won't help you. Don't you believe in education? Yes. But it has got nothing to do with worship. Worship has to do with the preparation and attitude of the heart. It has to do with you being sure that your sins are confessed. "For if we confess our sins". He is talking to Christians here not sinners. "He is loving and lenient and He will forgive our sins because He is in a good mood". No? "Faithful and just!". Those are not emotional words but courtroom words. They are legal or forensic terms. "Just". There is no elasticity in justice. What does it mean? It means if I confess my sins to God He is faithful and just - He is divinely and infinately related to the work of Christ and has no alternative but to forgive my sins because I come through the blood of Jesus. God cannot ignore that blood! God the Father and Christ the Son have a covenant between them that if the Son died and shed His blood for us then the Father would accept that as our legal acceptance. When I confess my sins to the Father, then He is faithful and just to the Son because the Son's blood takes care of it!
It has nothing to do with being in a good mooid because God is always in an infinately correct mood. That kind of talk is humanist. When I confess my sins I depend on God the Father being true to God the Son to bear my sins in His body and shed His blood so that God will forgive me. For His sake! Not my sake! Ern Baxter only has entrance to God the Father through Jesus Christ and I always come in that Name. Ern Baxter's name doesn't move anything in heaven! No one is impressed with that name in heaven! But when you say "Jesus" the angels all stand to attention. Why? Because when we come in Jesus Name, we come in the only name that God the Father recognises. That's why Paul says "I am accepted in the beloved" because I am in Christ! God sees me in Christ! "Nearer I cannot be". But I am nobody. God knows you are nobody! That won't cut any ice with God! Of course we are nobody! We are a sinner, a rebel like anyone else! You and I are accepted in God because of Jesus Christ and Him only! If our heart isn't prepared to come to worship and we don't take the value of the Cross then we are not understanding what God wants from us for our maturation.
"For if we sin we have an advocate with the Father - Jesus Christ the righteous". What does that mean? Well the word "Advocate" is the same word as in John 16 - paraklete. A legal representative. The minute I sin as a Christian, my advocate moves to the Father and says "Father our boy Ern Baxter has sinned down there and I am here to plead the value of My sacrifice on his behalf". The Father says "Son I recognise the value of Your sacrifice and I maintain My relationship with Ern Baxter". The old hymn said; "Forgive him oh forgive they cry, nor let that ransomed sinner die ... Father Abba Father cry". We say that is great! The minute we sin then Jesus goes to the Father and sorts it! That's great! You have two parakletes - Jesus in Heaven representing you to the Father and the Holy Spirit in you representing the Father to you. When you have sinned as a Christian you have a conscience and know how miserable it makes you. Let's talk about the reality of it. We have sinned and somehow we forget we have an advocate because we are miserable and ashamed and can't find the Holy Ghost anywhere. Don't want to talk to anyone.
The closest any Christian gets to hell is to have an unconfessed sin rambling around in your situation? Who's making you miserable? It's your enemy the Holy Spirit! Under certain circumstances He becomes an enemy! So when you and I engage in the flesh then the Holy Spirit is against us. So you go to bed but aspirins are good for headaches and not good for conviction. You are lying there unhappy and there comes a knock. "Who is it?". "It's the Holy Spirit". "What do you want?". "I want to talk to you". "I think you know". "Come back in the morning". "No I want to come now". "I don't want to talk about it". And you have to go through that whole renching experience where you say oh God I am so sorry. So if you are going to take some kind of carnal refuge in "if we sin we have an advocate" then you don't understand the totality of truth. We cannot continue in sin because we have an advocate inside that will not permit it.
The Presence of God and the gathering of God's people is the centre of our lives.
For us the veil has gone - Jesus took it away in His death. The Table is symbolic of the anointed Word. The candlestick is symbolic of the supernatural light in the assembly. I have seen situations where we have come so close to it where people are so instructed that when they come into assembly -we were in the midst of a visitation and the young people were so on fire for God that right after work they would get together and you could hear them coming up the road. It was like a murmer. They functioned that way. They would come breaking into the assembly place. They commandered the front seats and sometimes I would come and sit down there and never move. A beautiful order - everyone was prophesying according to their measure, no one was being frivolous. I know what can happen! You can't manufacture worship or reality. There is no natural light. The candelabra provides light. The place where we have to end up is here! Each of these deserves it's own treatment but we are talking about worship and how we come to God.
I want to talk for a minute about Dietrich Bonheffer - a young man in Germnay. He was a brilliant young Lutheran. And you wonder would have happened to him had he lived beyond his 39 brilliant years. He came to America and they vyed for him. Hitler was at work and Bonheffer felt he should go back and stand with his fellows Christians in Germany. On his way back to Germany he stopped in Switzerland at a Lutheran conference and his heart got heavy at the frivolity as to how they were treating things. He asked if he would be permitted to speak and here's what he said;
"Let me express to both groups the great concern which has been bearing down on me with growing heavinness throughout the whole conference. Has it not become terrifying clear again and again that we are no longer obedient to the Bible? We are more fond of our own thoughts than the thoughts of the Bible. We no longer read the Bible seriously! We no longer read it against ourselves but for ourselves! If the whole of our conference here is to have any great significance then it may be perhaps to show us that we must read the Bible in a quite different way until we find ourselves again!".
It was almost prophetic. Bonhoffer went back to Germany and joined the underground church. Eventually he was caught and was put into prisonand his letters from prison need to be read by everyone. The man never lost an ounce of confidence in God. Everyday he led the inmates in breaking of bread. And one day the police appeared and he knew what that meant and just hours before the Americans liberated that prison out of sheer venom they hung him by the neck. A man like that needs to be heard. He said; "We no longer read the Bible against ourselves but for ourselves". Every time I read the Bible it correct me".
Thursday, March 26, 2009
I was playing Scott's Wii and my favourite new game; "Starwars -Force Unleased" (yes I'm a nerd!). Essentially you are a character who has the ability to do different things to defeat your enemies. And one of the more powerful abilities is called a "Maelstrom". I was using it to defeat a crowd of enemies and I felt God begin to speak to me. Here's a video I took demonstrating the two different ways. You can gather energy for a short small burst or you can take longer to build up power and then release it in a blast that scatters the room.
Here's the essence of what He said to me;
"That while it was and is My will that you went to Hong Kong and indeed receive everything possible from every portal of glory - I can and will work this together for good. If you had gone to Hong Kong then you would have had the glorious experiences of letting loose everything that has been burning in your spirit for the last few months or so. But now you will find that everything that has been burning in your spirit will continue to burn and grow to a greater degree and a greater dimension than you had even realised was physically possible.
In My economy I have designed encounters with Me as high points and they are to be loved and appreciated, but to miss one is not the end of the world. For I have many others planned and in store and in mind to surprise you with. For it is My delight to see you desperate to draw close to Me. And there is no Old Covenant dictate that you must draw close to Me and only then will I draw close to you. No! Rather the New Covenant glory is that it is by My proximity, My closeness, My passion that you feel the longing to reciprocate and open your heart up to Me and encounter Me.
So continue to allow this passion and desire to grow! Let it circle you, you fear it will drive you mad for longing - but that is love! My heart burns as I see desire for Me! And then ... when the time comes there will be a loosing of that desire in a powerful rush of glory that will demonstrate to all that I am not merely a God of the intellect, a God of the cerebral. Rather a God who delights to verify His Word with signs and wonders and miracles!".
Never treating the prophetic with contempt - I found that all very encouraging. But I still felt stuck as to where to go and what to do in terms of continuing to receive from God. I'm not really sure whether to go to Brighton this July still to "Together on a Mission". There are no visiting speakers putting me off. I'm just not sure about the Driscoll-esque sort of direction.
But then my answer came! I got an email from City Church International and it stated;
"The next two Glory and Grace Conferences will be happening in Durban (South Africa) and Holland (The Netherlands) this year in 2009. More details will be out shortly upon confirmation from the hosts. The Hong Kong conference last week has been amazing... gold dust, oils, fire tunnels, healings, revelations, prophecies, etc... what an amazing time!".
Holland! This year! And there's going to be another "Glory and Grace Conference" actually in Hong Kong next year confirmed! So it looks like hope will not have to be deferred for much longer! What an awesome God we serve.
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
This conference was my first encounter with Rob Rufus - a life-changing encounter although I have yet to meet the man! But I had such an incredible touch from God and was so moved by his teaching that I wrote to Terry Virgo to thank him for inviting Rob and enthusing about what I had heard. Terry was gracious enough to write back and made particular mention as to how Rob's teaching on the "Laying on of Hands" was really useful and revelational to him. I listened again to that session while I was driving back from my parents last night and agreed - and felt it had to be transcribed. The laying on of hands is something that I've heard and experienced a diverse range of opinions on. Dr Martyn Lloyd-Jones taught strongly that the practice should be discontinued. John Stott taught that it was symbolic. Whereas at the other end of the spectrum I've let legalists lay hands on me for prayer and allowed it far too easily. Rob Rufus's seminar really raises the importance of something the Bible clearly teaches (dare I say it - Dr Lloyd-Jones was wrong!)
I want talk about the laying on of hands today and raising the significance of this incredible truth to a higher level of expectation. The doctrine of laying on of hands needs to be raised up to a higher level. I believe currently it is operating in the church at a very low level. I don't believe we are seeing the level of apostolic understanding as to what it means to lay hands on people. It has become almost too cheap and done too quickly and carelessly and casually and we need to encourage and train and equip people. Never come up and ask people to lay hands on you lightly. Never ask hands to be laid on you without expecting to receive something. It is a foundation doctrine of Christ. Hebrews chapter 6. The laying on of hands is equal to baptism, baptism in the Spirit, judgements, resurrection from the dead, repentance and faith towards God. Alongside that is laying on of hands and you can't go on to maturity without a clear revelation of the importance of the doctrine of the laying on of hands.
We look here in Habbakkuk chapter 3 and let's read from verse 2. "Lord I have heard of Your fame - I stand in awe of Your deeds oh Lord. Renew them in our day, in our time make them known. In wrath remember mercy ... His glory covered the heavens and His praise filled the earth, His splendour was like the sunrise. Rays flashed from His hands where His power was hidden".
I am not trying to make out that God is reduced to human shape but it does say that "rays flashed from His hands" so there is this divine image that the power of God is flashing from the hands of God. I believe that when God's immortal hands come on our mortal hands then there is a divine flash - there is a discharge of heavenly voltage that needs to be restored back to the Church in dimension that was there in the Book of Acts and we have got to recapture today!
Go to Acts chapter 8 please. There are many passages on this. Dave Holden quoted it yesterday - Romans 1:11 and Paul says; "I have come to you so that I may impart a gift to you - a gift that makes you strong". Then in 2nd Timothy chapter 1:6-7 Paul says; "Stir up the gift that is within you through the laying on of my hands ... a spirit of power, love and a sound mind".
In other words Timothy was a timid man but he got something that made him amazingly strong when Paul laid his hands on him and got something amazingly powerful that Paul put into him through the apostolic laying on of hands so that Timothy was standing up and starting to lead well but people didn't like that so intimidation was coming back on him and Paul was saying; "Stir up what you received through the laying on of my hands".
Here Philip goes down to Samaria and has the most amazing signs and wonders and miracles - the whole city filled with joy. The cripples and the paralysed were walking - demons coming out - people getting saved! Then the apostles come down and they don't start off with line upon line teaching.
They add MORE to the supernatural by the laying on of hands for the impartation of the Holy Spirit!
Here is Simon the sorcerer who had just got saved through seeing some amazing supernatural phenomeon and he had moved in psychic counterfeit demonic power and in counterfeit miracles and had impressed the village. But when Philip came down he was amazed at the power of God at work and then he sees the apostles come down and apostles lay their hands on the new converts and here is what it says; (v18); "When Simon saw that the Holy Spirit was given through the laying on of hands, he offered them money and said 'Give me also this ability'". There are many witchdoctors in Africa and some of them are cons but I have met many that are really moving in dark demonic power. I have heard from pretty good witnesss of some who could reverse the flow of a river. Their curses on people would have power. I never knew of any of those witchdoctors that came to us Christians and offered us money so they could have the power that when I lay my hands on people something happens that is so powerful!
Peter said "Your money perish with you - you will die and even if you repent" and he gets heavy on him.
A witchdoctor or a sorcerer is not going to be impressed with hands being laid on people and nothing happening! He MUST have seen SOMETHING. He must have seen the miracles that Philip did but now he is willing to offer money to get the power to lay hands on people and something is given to them!
Today you see people lay their hands on people and pray for the sick and nothing. We must recover what it means to lay hands on people. John G Lake came to South Africa in 1905 and in five years, 500 churches were planted. It is the biggest denomination in South Africa today and sadly some of it has gone into terrible heresy because unfortunately John G Lake didn't build a proper biblical wineskin and that is the sad legacy of the power without a proper wineskin. But in terms of the power - phenomenal power! Signs and wonders and miracles! When he got back to America they hooked him upto machinery and put all kinds of gadgets on him and saw electrical powers on him. He said; "Gentlemen the same power that raised Jesus from the dead is quickening my mortal body with life!".
One day he laid hands on someone who had a massive festering sore and they had to scrape the maggots of it. So he came in and laid hands on that person in one of their healing schools and he prayed these kinds of prayers; "You foul devil of infirmity - I curse you by the authority of heaven - let the lightning flashes of heaven break through and manifest the power of healing in this body!".
The person went off and two days later they got a telegram back from this person from another city. The open wound was completely healed miraculously! But there is a clear imprint burn-mark about 1mm deep and the full imprint of that hand over where that open wound was!
We don't understand! That was someone who knew how to impart something! That may not be what God wants as the norm but we have to raise the level of the miraculous impartation with the laying on of hands. I know that if I can get people to lower their resistance to the anointing and get it right down low then I know that; "Such as I have - I can give". I know that! The great One lives inside of us and in the Kingdom of heaven;
Wealth is not measured so much by what you have but how much you give away.
So in a sense I believe that when the Holy Spirit comes into our lives, we ALL have the Spirit without measure! But that doesn't measure our wealth. What measures our wealth is how much we can give away. I love what Peter says; "Such as we HAVE - we GIVE to you". So if we can help lower people's resistance then when we help lay our hands on them - there comes an impartation that is so powerful it can heal any disease. What about unforgiveness and bitterness in their lives? I think we have gone too hard on that and said "People with unforgivness can't get healed". I know of people that got miraclously healed and they still were bitter! It is like God healed them and delivered them of their sins. Some need to confess their sins of bitterness but there is no formula or checklist! "Any unforgivenss or any bitterness in your life?". Then you don't get healed!
The 1st thing I am going for is to lower their resistance on their faith fuse. Because when the power of God comes into people, He can heal them of bitterness as much as He can drive cancer out their body! Some people don't have the power to get free from their bitterness! But when the power of God comes on them it destroys that root of bitterness that is defiling them and heals their body. I know sometimes that bitterness can block the power of God sometimes and be a resistance but I am not wanting to make a type category here. If we can lower their resistance and lay hands on them then great healings can take place.
I learnt this at what we called in Durban a, "New Africa Celebration". We did a protest against apartheid, sang songs about a new South Africa but we also wanted to see a demonstration of God's power. So I preached a message in this big hall with a whole load of unsaved people there and I preached on God's will to heal and God's desire to heal and called people forward. There was such a corporate anointing that I literally ran down this row just slapping people on the head! About 98% of people got flung back like a baseball bat had hit them on the head and it knocked them and the catchers over! I didn't ask them what their sickness was because you see - I don't have faith to open blind eyes or deaf ears or miracles of healing cripples. I HAVE faith to GIVE the power of God! And it makes it so much simpler! That took 30 seconds to run down this row and then an elder came to me with a woman screaming "I can see! I can see" and a totally blind eye had been opened! How long have you been blind? She said "I was born blind in that eye". I said "I am so glad that you didn't tell me that before I prayed for you".
What I am saying is that I had faith to IMPART the power and she had faith to RECEIVE it. The power of God is like a heat seeking missile and it went and did the job.
Another guy came up and said "I can hear! I can hear!". How long have you been deaf? "I was born without an ear drum!". I am so thankful I didn't know that either! Because if I had known about this ear or eye then I would have gone back to my secular university days and literally tried to work out how God was going to put an ear drum in there and how that would happen.
But I developed my faith in "Such as I have" and I laid my hands upon people and I expect power to go into them! And I had prepared them to receive power.
I have found in the last 20 years that if we don't prepare people with faith to receive then we get about 5-10% healed but if we teach the Word of God clearly then they can be raised up to about 80% and higher. Let me give you several things here and then we can close. Here is some of the things that happen when we lay hands on people and we need to raise expectations. I have watched in services and no one is prepared to EXPECT something to happen when hands are laid on. So you see begging and pleading but I don't see Jesus ever (and I could be wrong) begging the Father to heal people or even asking the Father to heal people. What I do see is Him commanding sickness to go and demons of infirmity to go and healing to come. He just commands it! When I see hands laid on and there is begging and pleading I just don't think it looks like the New Testament! Jesus said to His disicples; "Go to a village and tell them that the Kingdom of heaven is touchable and it is reachable and it is at hand and you can change the way you think - then lay hands on the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers and cast out demons". THAT simple! He is training them to prepare people to receive.
I think once we raise this doctrine of the laying on of hands we are going to see manifestations of God! Now I think laying on of hands is one of the lowest levels of the impartation of the supernatural. But I think if we don't get the lowest foundational Hebrews 6 doctrine right then we can't go on to the greater manifestations. We look at Peter laying hands on the cripple at the Gate Beautiful and him walking to 2 chapters later and his shadows heal the sick. I have watched when we have laid hands on a few in a meeting and suddenly the glory of God covers a whole meeting and suddenly you go into a higher level and people are getting healed in their chairs and we can go onto spitting on people's eyes! Waving clothes around! We can just speak and heal them with our words wrapped in the anointing and people get healed 200 meters back in the hall. But if we don't get the laying on of hands then we are not going to get very far.
The more we lay hands on people to impart the power of God the more we will see the corporate manifestation getting stronger.
Kathryn Kuhlman would go and stay in a hotel prior to a meeting and the people on the floor above and below her would get healed spontaneously even though they didn't know that she was in the hotel! I know of one very well documented case of her speaking at a Full Gospel Businessmen's meeting in a great forum and at the end the anointing was so strong on her and they took her out through the kitchen area so she wouldn't have to work her way out through the crowds and so as they escorted her through the kitchen area and these chefs and unsaved people in the kitchen area were falling under the power! Unsaved people just falling under the power! I think we have got to grow in the laying on of hands and then we can grow to higher levels of the greater manifestations.
Nine or ten things that happen with the laying on of hands:
1. There is an impartation of Supernatural Life.
We become supercharged with the life and vitality of almighty God. For some people it is like the divine defibrillators at work bringing them back to life! That is a heartbeat! Why can't we use a 10v battery? No some people need 10 000 volts to bring a revival into another level of the glory of God!
2. There is an impartation of a gift that makes us strong (Romans 11).
3. Vision can come.
There are five levels of vision and the highest is open vision in front of your very eyes and you can see things happening! I have had a few of those and mostly to do with my children. They used to get so angry! Both my sons got saved properly in their late teens! They were upto all kinds of nonsense although they are all serving God now. My son is a leader with us in Hong Kong and my daughter is a worship leader and my oldest son is serving God in Australia. They would try and get upto all kinds of naughty things. I would be at home worshipping and I would see a vision of my son Ryan and he is meant to be at school. And I would see him standing under a post smoking a cigaratte. So I would come home and Ryan would be there and I would say; "Ryan where were you this morning?" and he said; "Oh Dad I was at school". "No you weren't - you were standing up that post with a cigarette!". He said; "That's not fair - why does God tell on us! Why can't we get away with it!?". I said "Because He loves you and so do I!".
When you lay hands on some people they have instant vision. Revelations of God's plans and purposes for your life! An inward quiet impression is just as powerful as an open vision. Some of the most dramatic breakthroughs I have had, have not been with open vision but with quiet vision! Vision comes through the laying on of hands! People get caught up into the heavenly realm. I don't understand that - that has never happened to me but I have laid hands on people and mainly teenagers have seen the throne room! This is an amazing thing that ten to fifteen years later their lives are still changed. They saw something! I loved what Dave Holden said yesterday - don't try to catch the youth up with a whole load of entertainment to get them related to the church! They are so ready for the supernatural, the young people! When I first went to Australia, all the young people sat at the back cutting up the benches and talking to the girls. These were the youth! Within several months of releasing the power of God they were all near the front and all on the front rows turned unto God. They got under the defibrillator and said "God is real".
Trances are not just New Age - trances are also biblical. The devil is not a creator but a counterfeiter. We have so overreacted to the counterfeit that we withdraw from the genuine. I think it is Acts chapter 10 verse 10 and Peter fell into a trance! He saw things and it opened up the gospel in a wonderful way into Cornelius's home. How many of you have heard of Maria Woodworth-Etter? Amazing ministry. She was standing preaching in the United States and made a point and fell into a trance and was like that for 3 days. It was like her bodily functions were suspended. She stepped over into the realm of the glory. For 3 days! And after that she carried on with the end of her sentance and wondered why the crowd had grown! They reckoned that tens of thousands had come in those 3 days to come and see this lady frozen - a sign and a wonder and they felt the Presence of God was so sacred that they fell to their knees and repented and they reckoned that for a 100 mile radius the glory of God radiated around that whole region.
Many religious traditions would say; "That's demonic". We are so quick to label everything as demonic. It is easy to pick up when it is demonic! When it is demonic it draws attention to the fact that it is the flesh, it is irritating. When it is the glory of God it edifies you and makes you wonder. When God comes in signs and wonders - it is a wonder! What is the point? People realise God is real and it is sacred!
4. Healing both physical and emotions.
5. Darkness is removed.
Demonic presence is driven out and great peace and clarity comes. Because there were extremes in the deliverance ministry many years ago we kind of backed off casting out demons. I don't believe that any individual has a deliverance ministry. I would never categorise myself as that - I believe that ALL believers are to cast out demons. Soon as you classify yourself as having a deliverance ministry the devil says "Great I will send thousands of demonised people that don't want to be delivered to your house and destroy you and burn you out!". Your identity is not in casting demons out but in God's grace. We just cast demons out as a normal way of life! It is just the Kingdom of heaven breaking in!
6. Visitations of Jesus - intimacy, closeness with Jesus.
He becomes so real and His love becomes so real and it carries over into daily living. Many people live for the rest of their life carried by the wonder of that encounter of how real Jesus was.
7. Callings and Commissionings.
God first calls you and then He prepares you over days and weeks and months or even years and then He suddenly commissions you and activates the calling and from that moment we walk in the authority and anointing of that calling through the laying on of hands.
I don't believe someone can actually function properly as an elder unless apostles lay hands upon them - there is a missing ingredient.
8. Conferring Blessings.
"The rod of instruction drives out foolishness from the child". We never want to smack our children with our hands. I know that is a bit controversial issue today biut it says spare the rod and spoil the child. So we would never use our hands to smack our children but a rod.
Hands are not to punish - hands are to bless with. Hands are for conferring blessing, success, favour, promotion, prosperity and peace - all transferred by the laying on of hands.
9. Ordaining Leaders.
10. You bring relief and an impartation of rest.
It brings a relief from striving that can build up internally over days and even years. Often this pressure does not come out until the anointing accesses those areas like a safety valve being opened.
11. The Personality of the Holy Spirit rubs off on you.
The laying on of hands is not an immunisation. It doesn't guarantee you against challenges. But it sure is a powerful doctrine of the Bible that God wants to elevate to a whole new level of faith.
Sunday, March 22, 2009
I think it's very helpful for clarity. Here's what he said;
Old Way of Law - External Code:
The moral precepts of God are only an external code of conduct. The law commands obedience but provides no inclination or desire to obey.
New Way of Spirit - Internal Desire:
The moral precepts of God are written on our hearts as well as being an external code. The Spirit inclines our hearts and gives us a desire to obey.
Old Way of Law - Commanding:
The law commands but gives no enabling power for obedience.
New Way of Spirit - Enabling:
The Spirit enables us to obey the law's commands.
Old Way of Law - Hostility:
Because of our hostility to God's law before our conversion, the commands of the law actually provoked and incited us to sin.
New Way of Spirit - Delight:
The Spirit by removing our hostility and writing the law on our hearts, actually causes us to delight in God's law.
Old Way of Law - Fear:
The law produces a legalistic response to God. We try to obey because of a fear of punishment for disobedience or in order to win favour with God.
New Way of Spirit - Gratitude:
The Spirit, by showing us God's grace, produces a response of love and gratitude. We obey not out of fear or to earn favour but out of gratitude for favour ALREADY given!
Old Way of Law - Working:
Under the Law we perform in order to be accepted by God. Since our performance is always imperfect, we never feel completely accepted by Him. Thus in our Christian life, we always work from a position of weakness. We work to be accepted, but feel we never quite make it.
New Way of Spirit - Relying:
The Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are accepted by God through the merit of Christ. By relying solely on His perfect righteousness we feel accepted by Him. Thus in our Christian life, we work from a position of strength because we have been accepted through Jesus and through Him, we have "made it".
In reading this I see absolutely no place where there would be much conflict between what Bridges is saying and what Rob Rufus is teaching. It's all there! But again and again over the past week I've read blogs by Christians, I've heard teaching by Christians that persistantly mixes law with grace. What particularly bothers me is the "sin conciousness" that is so present and so dangerous. Christians are testifying as to what a failure they feel before God and it is often applauded as "humility" when in reality it is pride and indeed somewhat blasphemous to the Cross. We need to stop talking and focusing on "us" and start talking and focusing on "Him" and what He has done for us and what that qualifies us to do for Him!
Thursday, March 19, 2009
1. The 'Problem' Text.
Of course there are no "problem" texts - I know that! The problem is us! But here it is (Matthew 18:8-9);
"If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it from you; it is better for you to enter life crippled or lame, than to have two hands or two feet and be cast into the eternal fire. If your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out and throw it from you. It is better for you to enter life with one eye, than to have two eyes and be cast into the fiery hell".
Obviously this is Jesus talking.
2. What 'They' Say about it.
So the first hero that I heard use this text was Terry Virgo when Scott and I visited CCK earlier in the month. Now I fully admit that he didn't say; "Go out and do likewise". But he also didn't explicitly say that Jesus was not advocating this practice in the New Covenant. He said;
"Jesus is looking for ruthlessness. He calls for a radical commitment! Loving but truly revolutionary! We are saying "Jesus whatever you say".
And then went onto use Matthew 18 as an example of that radicalness.
John Piper also used this text. He was speaking in the panel discussion at the "Sex and Supremacy of Christ" conference back in 2004. And he said this;
"Jesus used things like 'Cut off your hand and gouge out your eye' ... but because if you have a good heart you will have the guts to gouge out your eye. We are in war here and tactics to manage your television tonight will either be fruitful or not fruitful".
Now hear me out. I think I can understand what both Piper and Virgo were saying and were trying to do. They were urging and encouraging a radicalness and an approach towards holy living that is no compromise. But why are they using that verse as a mark of that radicalness?
The other use of this verse was when I was in the SGM church. It was in my final meeting with the church pastor and elder and they were doggedly insisting that they "suspected" I was living in sin. I kept on insisting that I had never confessed to such sin and they had no proof of such sin. At that point the church pastor used another saying of Jesus which again I believe is totally out of context. He said; "Oh yere but Jesus said if you even look at another man with lust in your heart then you have committed adultery". I didn't like to point out that actually it said "another WOMAN". But he went on to say "the Bible says if your hand causes you to sin then you must cut it off or if your eye causes you to sin then you must gouge it out".
Let me be candid - I don't see either John Piper or Terry Virgo or SGM pastors missing arms or legs or eyes. So therefore logically we are left with three conclusions. Either their arms, legs and eyes do not cause them to sin. Or the parts of their bodies that they removed are covered by clothes and we cannot see the abscence of said parts. Or thirdly they are being disobedient to what Jesus said and they are not practicing what they preached.
Let me also say that I am not by any means trying to be disobedient to Scripture and distort it as some Lesbian/Gay Christians do. I fully accept and agree that these verses are clear in the Bible. But I was distressed and upset to listen to Al Mohler's lecture - "Homosexual Marriage - A Tragic Oxymoron" - recently at the "Sex and Supremacy of Christ conference" hosted by John Piper. I wanted to listen to it to see if he had anything useful to say to the gay community - for which I have such a heart for. Some of what he said was good. He urged Christians to;
"Love homosexuals more than homosexuals love homsexuality".
Would that happened! In the three churches I have been in so far in my life if you confess you struggled with homosexuality they usually tended to turn pale and run away. But Mohler disappointed me. I hear C J Mahaney and SGM-ers wax lyrical about what an amazing scholar of the Word he is. Yet he did a very cliche Christian thing and quoted all the texts against homosexuality without making it clear that it comes set in a list of all other sins. One such text he used was 1 Corinthians 6:9-11. Yes indeed it does say that homsexuals will not inherit the "kingdom of God" (although I'm not sure that means they won't go to heaven if they are truly born again).
But it ALSO says that fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will either inherit the kingdom of God. So am I expected to believe that ALL Christians have been sexually pure? That ALL Christians have NEVER looked at someone other than their wife with lust in their hearts? That ALL Christians men have ALWAYS been butch and macho - loving sports?! That ALL Christian men have never stolen a bit of extra tax where possible or the odd hour on a timesheet? That ALL Christians have never looked at someone else's possession with desire? That ALL Christians have NEVER got drunk? That ALL Christians have never used a swear word?
I know some may say I am being petty. But these are the neighbors of homosexuality. And if we are going down for having a same sex attraction then so are those pointing the finger. That is the beauty of the Law! It is a "composite whole". And frankly - if any Christians trying to live under law have done any of the above then you have as good as committed homosexual sin as well. What I am trying to say is that it is time that homosexuality stopped being exalted to a position that it does not deserve.
It isn't a "superior" or "worst" sin than any of the others because if it was then Jesus would have had to have done something more than simply dying on the Cross. But He didn't! He stretched out His arms and said; "It is finished!". God didn't add any extra repenting that homosexuals have to do post-conversion. He simply said "Repent and believe!". There's an interesting discussion going on at "Grace Revolution" where someone asked "Will practicing homosexuals go to heaven?". I felt God saying the issue is not "will practicing homosexuals go to heaven?" but rather "will practicing SINNERS go to heaven?". Because if you die on your deathbed a consistently proud and arrogant man who really believes deep down you are better than everyone else even though you constantly admit it and tell everyone you are doing "better than you deserve" then are you any better than the practicing homosexual who can't "mortify the flesh"?
I am digressing ...
3. What I tried to Do.
Why do I care so much about this? Because to me it isn't just a cerebral matter. I shared my testimony a while back and I actually tried to do what Jesus said in this passage. My apologies to the squeamish here! A part of my body was causing me to sin and I couldn't seem to control myself and I tried all sorts of ways to "mortify the flesh". I tried prayer, fasting, exorcism, I tried going to a Christian celibate group (which ended disasterously) and running out of options I couldn't see any other option than what Jesus said here.
I wussed out but I still bear the scars and got referred to psychiatric services from my G.P for my troubles!
My point is this. Does that make me a better Christian for at least trying? Or am I more of a failure for not having the guts (as Piper and Virgo both said) to actually do it? What really worries me is that some Christians may just get desperate enough to begin cutting and plucking. And then when they are done, they will find that their mind causes them to sin quite easily enough without arms or eyes. And then being panicked by the Scripture that says; "I say to you if you look at another woman with lust then you have committed adultery in your heart". The only option then is suicide.
4. Maybe There is Another Answer?
Rob Rufus showed me for the first time in 30 years of sitting under so-called "Word ministry" another way to view how Jesus was preaching and teaching. When he was speaking at the Newfrontiers conference in Europe with Dave Holden, he said this;
"Now I believe in living a holy life. But as soon as you focus God's people on trying to live upto something higher, you are no longer preaching the New Covenant - you are preaching the Old Covenant. When Jesus Christ said; "It was said you shall not commit adultery but I say if you even look at something with desire you have committed adultery". People say; "See He was preaching the highest standard of the New Covenant". He was preaching the New Covenant! He was preaching the true spirituality of the law of Moses. If you believe that is the highest standard. He was preaching the New Covenant - to be honest and consisten with that belief - you must pluck your eye out, cut your hand off next time you sin with it!
He taught that too! He was preaching to the bigoted, arrogant Pharisees. You think you can be ready for the New Covenant by your law keeping? The standard of the law is so high that you have no hope but to turn to grace! You need the New Covenant! You had no miracles for 300 years between covenants. The God of miracles doesn't work through your law-keeping anymore. You have got to wait for an angel to come and stir the waters to get healed. There is a reason why this message sounds so radical to some people.
It is because we have had centuries of mixing Old Covenant and New Covenant. It is a confusing cocktail that cripples the Church with condemnation and throws a sack of hopelessness over God's people and suffocates faith".
Jesus was trying to show the Pharisees that even their attempts to keep the Old Covenant law wasn't enough. There is only one option! There is only one answer! And it is the best answer of all. That we begin believing a total message of grace. That we begin believing that God isn't mad with us anymore and that the war is over! That we begin believing "It is finished!" really means just that - it is finished! And that we begin believing that the more sin conciousness we have, the more we are going to struggle living upto a standard we simply cannot. But once we begin to relax and enjoy the benefits of our inheritance then we will see holiness begin to come so easily.
PS: I suspect that others are out there who are also crippled by condemnation and have resorted to mutiliating your body through self-harm to try and "be holy". I just wanted to share that I know what you are going through and what you have tried to do. If I can be of any help at all, please do email me. I would be glad to chat.