See then that you walk circumspectly, not as fools but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil. (Eph. 5:15-16 NKJV) Walk in wisdom toward outsiders, making the best use of the time. (Col. 4:5 ESV) Walk in wisdom towards those without, redeeming opportunities. (Col. 4:5 Darby) Our passages offer great insight into Paul’s approach to the Christian life and ministry. In Eph. 5:15-16, he does not use the Greek word chronos (time) in this verse, but kairos (opportunity). This is significant because Paul wrote Ephesians in roughly 62 AD (near the end of his life) having experienced severe hardships that left him imprisoned on several occasions. He suffered first hand the “evil days” that he writes about. Every minute was precious to him because he never knew what a day would bring forth — except that the Holy Spirit warned him in every city that chains and afflictions were waiting for him (Acts 20:23). He was liable to be imprisoned for years at a time with little access to the people he desired to minister to. So when an opportunity presented itself, he “redeemed it” and made full use of it. Otherwise, those moments of time… those opportunities would be lost forever. Other than daylight savings time, there is simply no way to turn back the clock.
by Andy Zoppelt
Whatever is not from faith is sin.
Romans 14:23 NKJV
Is God only real because we can see Him? Is He with us just as much when we see Him as when we can’t? Are we trying to have a relationship with God by sight or by faith? How often we have said, “If I could only see Jesus.” There is no difference in God’s presence if we can see Him or not. In fact God is more effective through those who act in the faith of His presence than those who see Him.
“Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” John 20:29, NKJV
How big and how real is your God in the light of your enemies and trials? Are we struggling because we can’t see Him, would we struggle less if we could see Him. The measure of our faith is based on how clear our faith sees Him. God privileges those who hunger for Him to see Him by a growing faith. We do not need the kind of faith that we must feel it, but a faith that accepts it as real as if seen by our own eyes.
“Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.” John 4:48, NKJV
Those who can only act on God by miracles or by sight have a problem, they can only act according to God’s word if they see something that convinces their mind and operates through their understanding.
Faith cannot be based on what we see, feel, hear with our senses? It is something we must choose to make real in us. Faith is something that is worked out in practice and in experience. We make a choice between what is visually seen by our senses or living by what is spiritually seen by our faith. The bible says we are seated with Him in heavenly places, how real is that to us? We will never grasp the reality of that revelation handed down to us by Paul if we don’t start acting on it in faith.
There is something we fail to see about Moses and that was his faith before the burning bush. Moses lived by Him who was invisible before he met God visibly. Moses gave up everything, fame, fortune, pleasure and prestige all for the Lord. And he did it all by faith… gave it all up.
“By faith Moses, when he became of age, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God than to enjoy the passing pleasures of sin, esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt; for HE LOOKED to the reward.”
How did he endure all this, the devil must have laughed in his ear a million times. All of this must have seemed so stupid. What was he acting on beside the situations, the feelings and reasoning? Moses never feared the most powerful man on the planet Pharaoh. There was no immediate result to his faith. it didn’t happen till 40 years after.
“By faith [having no idea of his future] he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king [and you can believe he was angry]; for he endured [How, how did Moses endure such hardship against his own reasonings and passions? He endured] as seeing Him who is invisible.” Hebrews 11:22-27
If we can’t serve the invisible Lord by faith, it is doubtful we would serve Him and change if He was visible. There is a glory in serving God by faith that few will ever see because their God doesn’t exceed their understanding and emotions…especially in trials. The disciples also left all and followed Jesus.
What we have failed to communicate is that we must do the same if we are to be saved. Faith endures a dreadful looking future because His Lord is worth it all. Worship is imbued and embedded in worth and in the value we put in our life with Him. We can sing till our emotion reaches it highest height, but all that means absolutely nothing, in fact it is a deterrent in finding real faith, true worship is found in our response in trials and in an unpredictable future. It is not solutions that we seek, but Him, who is our greatest treasure. It comes when everything is lost and we can do like Job and Moses, when the glory of God outweighs any earthly desire or event. It is the hallelujah in the trial that counts not the hallelujah after the victory.
Our senses, our reasoning will never cooperate with faith, they must be abandoned and put to death through the reality of the cross. Crying is not evidence of sincerity and love, it can often just as well be the evidence of self-pity. One day I was crying in my truck and telling Jesus how much I loved Him. Then this came to me, “because you are emotional now, do you think that is the depth of your love? I desire obedience not feelings. Many are deceived because of their tears thinking they care, their tears are from self-pity. Many cry because they obey me and their tears only accompany their love for me but their tears are not evidence of it.”
We must know Him beyond our senses and emotions. Every person who lives by their senses and emotions will never act in faith and will never emulate His life. The reality of God has nothing to do with our senses; He is just as real in your situation as He was with Moses in the burning bush. If we can’t accept that and incorporate that into our experience, we will be spiritual misfits and dwarfs. He is just as real in the most distant star, the center of His throne as He is in our hearts. As real as you want Him is as real He will be in you. Doubt is sin, doubt measures God by the trials, big trials little God, no trials big God!
The only thing that is stopping us from have faith is our refusal to believe Him in the light of our microscopic trials. That is how Paul saw it.
“For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8:18, NKJV
“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, [why have you been grieved? Here it comes] that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ, whom having not SEEN you love. Though now you do not SEE Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory, receiving the end of your faith — the salvation of your souls.” 1 Peter 1:6-9, NKJV
To the Laodicean assembly in Revelation 3, they felt assured of their salvation and had “need of nothing.” Who needs God’s power when we have money and working programs? Laodicea much like the five foolish virgins failed to pay the price in the fire for their salvation. Jesus said this to them:
“I counsel you to buy FROM ME gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich [in eternal life]; and white garments [righteousness], that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent.” Revelation 3:18-20, NKJV
Today we have people who think they are saved because they asked Him into their heart and yet they are defeated in every trial and they can’t stop their sinning, they are defeated during every trials and yet will worship in church with such gusto. Such are only equal to the lives of their feelings in the trial. Hell is going to be full of people who are fully convinced they are saved by some act on the altar and who have not taken up their cross and followed Jesus. They have not died to self, the cross is nothing but a place of forgiveness. They do not live by the kind of faith that overcomes the world.
To the seven called out assemblies mentioned in the book of Revelations Jesus repeated two facts associated with being His: “He who overcomes” and “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the called out assembly.”
“nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within [inside] you.” Luke 17:21, NKJV
Greek entos (en-tos’); inside you.
It is the “Christ in you” that makes us a part of the kingdom of God. We love Him, obey Him and put all our faith in Him. Many people run to the institutional church where their salvation is assured without real faith and obedience.
I remember on day, I was just a new Christian; I was sitting on my reclining chair in my bedroom. As I sat there this thought overwhelmed me. “Christ is living in you.” Wow! The thought of Jesus being in me overwhelmed me. My brother dropped over a while later and I told him, “Jimmy we have Jesus in us.” He said it somewhat nonchalantly, “I know.” “But Jimmy, He is really there!” He repeated in the same fashion again “I know.”
We need not a burning bush, a trip to the seventh heaven or to walk with Him as His early disciples’ did… we have the best of all of them… Jesus is in us waiting for us to live by Him, see Him and allow Him to send what we need so we can have faith in Him and know Him better. Our lives in Jesus will never exceed the biggest trial we are willing to go through in faith.
“And Jesus said, ‘For judgment I have come into this world, that those who do not [spiritually] see may [spiritually] see, and that those who [think they] see may be made blind [spiritually].’ Then some of the Pharisees who were with Him heard these words, and said to Him, ‘Are we blind also?’ [obviously assuming such a righteous person would not be blind spiritually] Jesus said to them, ‘If you were blind [spiritually], you would have no sin; but now you say, ‘We see [spiritually].’ Therefore your sin remains.” John 9:39-41, NKJV
There are millions who think they can see, but in reality they can’t see. It is because they think they can see is what is blinding them. If the light that is in them is instead darkness, how great are they being affected by that darkness?
“Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8,
“Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear?” Mark 8:18, NKJV
If we refuse to see Jesus and acknowledge Him above our reasoning and emotion, at some point He will turn us over to our own devices. He will send “strong delusion so we would believe the lie.” We should never fear when someone comes along to challenge our faith or salvation. There are many fruits in seeing Jesus: “He keeps us in perfect peace;” “we have fellowship with one another;” we “are changed from glory to glory;” our righteousness and live are constantly growing as the sun rises to “the perfect day.” When we speak people lives change because we have “life.”
There are those Christians who only want to know about God and they seek bible studies and teachers having etching ears. Then there are the hungry, they can’t get enough. They read insatiable to know the truth and find him who their soul longs for. They never fear truth, but welcome it when it comes. Their ears and eyes are open constantly seeking Him at all cost. To those, Christ in them becomes more and more real; being seated in heavenly place become their life. Worship is connected to His worth. Obedience becomes easier through the cross and His love. They don’t have excuses for their sin, they found the reason in Jesus not to.
To those who have limited the Holy one and refuse to let go of their life and see beyond their own self interest, God has blinded so that cannot see even if the tried.
“He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.” John 12:40
“Rebuke is more effective for a wise man than a hundred blows on a fool… he who hates correction is stupid.” Proverbs 17:10;12:1
“That the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the called out assembly, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” Ephesians 1:17-23
He is always there, He is always the almighty. “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?'” (that is, to bring Christ down from above) or, ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? ‘The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart” Romans 10:6-8
The reality of God and His presence will never change, He cannot remove His presence even if we doubt it. He is here and He is their just as real as the burning bush. We can choose to enjoy His presence or we can live by our senses in doubt and be overcome by the smallest trial. Use the eyes of faith, the presence will be in front of you leading the way and it will behind you protecting you as a rearguard. Why do we wait for some vision, some miracle, He is there as much as when he walked with His disciples. The almighty is there waiting for you to recognize Him, acknowledge Him, love and faith will flow out of you like living water.
The burning bush lives in me!!!
PART I, POWER IN THE BELIEVER.
If Christianity is supported and maintained on the bases of God’s authority, consequently that authority will result in the manifestation of His power. God’s power is therefore one of the true evidences of His presence and is a means which He leads in establishing His kingdom. If Satan is successful, he will work within the Christian community to cause it to draw from the source of natural ability rather than spiritual ability. But how could Satan develop such a plan that would cause Christians to be willing to minister without power? Very simple …. cost. Personal cost and personal inconvenience. Who wants to pray all night? Wouldn’t it be better to just use our natural talents and exalt talent over power? Who wants to fellowship and give up our entertainment time? Wouldn’t it be better to develop programs where less people can minister to more people? Who wants to strive to enter the narrow gate? Wouldn’t it be better to hire a dynamic, charismatic and exhilarating man to thrill us on Sunday and who can make us “feel” saved? Who wants to wait for the anointing? Wouldn’t it be better to have professional musicians elevate our emotions? The absence of power is rooted in human endeavor and effort. Man perverts when he subverts God’s intentions and objectives.
“This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a FORM of godliness (Rituals & dead theology), but denying the power thereof: from such turn away (the harlot in the book of Revelations).” 2 Tim 3:1-5, KJV
Paul is talking about Christians who possess a religious appearance, yet lack the operation and service of the power of God. Today, our salvation is more akin to an emotional fire insurance that gives us the needed sense of security. We have experiences void of content, godly character and power. Paul is pitting “form” against “power.” By creating a dependent “form” we automatically deny the “power.” Power emanating from Godly character brings glory to Jesus and advances His kingdom. Whenever we witness God’s unwillingness to grant us His power, we develop programs to substitute for it. It is on the basis that we are unwilling to let go of our substitutes that we deny His power. As long as we have our working plans in place to give us hope, we do not miss, nor strive for, the value of His power. If we are to have power, it is going to cost us everything we presently cherish.
Whenever someone is considering going “full time” into the ministry, what is the first consideration? “What collage should they go to?” We see ministry as a “knowing” trade and not a character and power manifestation. Is going to seminary an accurate assessment of the scriptural pattern? Based on our responses today, we would naturally think that prerequisite must have been clearly outlined and established in scriptures, where in reality the opposite is true. How could something so overpowering and popular with us, be absent in scripture? In scripture, service is based on testing and shaking and trusting and walking to develop character a kin to His. Godly character followed with an attestation of His power.
God was unwilling to send anyone out without the power. Simply: “If you don’t have power, you cannot represent His kingdom. …” “for Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory.”
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18, NKJV
I can hear it now…. “Wait, wait, Andy, that part of the gospel of Mark does not appear in the older text.” Maybe that argument wouldn’t stand if that statement were an isolated text. But just for the moment, let’s think about the implication of that particular verse, then let us examine and see how well it stands with the intention of the preaching of the gospel.
Mark 16 makes a statement, a statement connecting a believer and God’s power as being synonymous. A believer is someone who has a supernatural relationship with Almighty God, and that relationship is being manifested by His power in and through the believer. It’s only natural to be supernatural if you believe in God. Wouldn’t it therefore be a natural conclusion, if one had a relationship with a supernatural God, they themselves would also manifest His supernatural power?
If we would logically consider the son of a mighty king, we would just as naturally assume the son having special powers and privileges, and living in a castle and not a slum. If a son stated he was the son of a king yet lived in a slum, we would think him ……Nuts! It doesn’t connect, compute, and make sense. A son will always live with his father and manifest the nature and benefit of his father.
Why do we think of God’s power as some foreign manifestation from a realm separate from the normal Christian experience? It is because we are not desperate, not hungry, we have not been willing to lay it ALL down.
Following Jesus’ resurrection, Jesus made this statement: “This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things. I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but STAY in the city (How long?) UNTIL you have been clothed with POWER from on high.” Luke 24:46-49, NIV
Does that fit in with Mark 16? Of course!
Lay hold of two important commands or imperatives coming from Jesus: “stay” and “until.” Much carnal activity would cease if we laid that kind of importance on achieving His power. Jesus did not emphasize the importance of setting up a bible school or missionary college…. He said, don’t go until you get the power to go. Repentance and the forgiveness of sins is to be preached, but it must be accompanied with the “power from on high.”
“And they went forth, and preached everywhere, the Lord working WITH them, (How?) and confirming the word (preached) with SIGNS following. Amen.” Mark 16:20, KJV
And I say Amen too. Is that not the point that Luke 24 and Mark 16 were making? “Don’t go without power.” But if today, in our preaching, we lack the power, we must preach via another means….form. So what is form? Did you ever lay down a sidewalk or a foundation; you lay down a form first. The form represents in shape what will ultimately replace it in substance. Form is something that appears to be representative of truth, but in fact, does not possess the inherent qualities and substance. Form often depends on talent and natural ability to accomplish its end and is therefore a substitute for power. Think of the many musicians today who are divorcing, living in sin or just not walking with God. Think of the music they play and ask this question, “Would Jesus do what they are doing?” Would He be playing like they are playing? They have a “form” of being a Christian, but in reality, do not possess the nature of God-likeness. We are in an enmeshed, entangled, entertainment craze; everything the world develops in the music field, we follow. But all this madness is the natural consequence of the church following the Devil…. the spirit of anti-Christ… instead of Christ.
“Then Peter said, ‘Silver and gold I DO NOT HAVE, but what I do have I give you: In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk.” Acts 3:6, NKJV
What was Peter saying? He was saying the opposite of every ministry I see today. The cry for silver and gold to keep the ministry going. What? We can’t see it? It’s insane. The first church didn’t have silver and gold and could heal the sick. We can’t heal the sick and we are crying out for silver and gold. I know, your church has a bucket in the back and does not cry out for silver and gold. Yea, sure! Let the silver and gold flow stop and see what happens. Jesus said we would either serve God or money. The love of money is at the root of ALL evil. Today, money is at the root of every successful ministry. More money, more ministry. How different it was in the early church.
“And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. Then fear came upon every soul, and MANY wonders and signs were done through the apostles. Now ALL who believed were together, and had all things in common, and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. So continuing DAILY with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the congregation daily those who were being saved.”
When people ask you what church you go to, tell them, “I am the church, and my brothers and sisters are the church, the church is us. We don’t go to it, we are it.” When you have to go to it, you have to name it and pay for it.
“For WHERE two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” Matthew 18:20
Today, we gather together in the name of the Baptist church, Christian Fellowship Church, Covenant Church, Faith Church, Full Gospel Church, Assemblies of God Church…. We just don’t get it. Today we have thousands gathering in large buildings and we can’t even cast out the smallest demon. We boast concerning the name of the building, brag about how great “our” church is, the teaching, the worship, but little is said about our competition, division and pride. We say nothing of the thousands of people who are not growing; the deceived that believe they are saved and are going to hell.
The form is working well and is sustained by the silver and the gold of the misguided.
Because we are unable to discern the Lord’s body, many are sick and sleep among us. Instead of power, we are experiencing sickness, bondage, sin and defeat. In 38 years as a Christian, people are worse than ever, sicker than ever and more emotionally defeated than ever. But we still don’t get the picture. Character, holiness, oneness, God’s presence and power are missing, yet we are comfortable enough to stay where we are and ignore the truth. We are rich with material possession and comfortable with our allotted time for church and bible study…. we have need of nothing. We will not shake ourselves and move toward the radical, the biblical, and the spiritual. Jesus is crying out to us today like He did when He cried out for Israel. We have become dull of hearing.
Our form is working well.
“Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world (system), the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world-the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has (natural vs. spiritual) and does-comes (source) not from the Father but from the world.” 1 John 2:15-16,
“We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control (or power) of the evil one (Satan).” 1 John 5:19-20, NIV
Healing and deliverance is more the exception than the rule. We medicate the demon rather than extricating him. The Christian today is not waiting for the manifestation of the sons of God as much as a new medical breakthrough. Whenever we fail to exercise the power as we ought, we become hypocrites to our witness and God’s glory. Our Christian pacifiers are pampered in personal programs. We have spent years in going in circles and have not moved an inch forward. We have refused to stay and wait and pray until we have the power. We would rather be a powerless “audience” than seeking His power for His glory. We, as Christians, should have the mark of our Father: character and power. His name should be exalted in our midst. Instead, the world sees us as irrelevant, void of power. We have much talk of truth and power, and we have become the victims of every foul spirit.
We cannot hold those who are truly seeking the real and we look to worldly things to entertain our children. We are numb lethargics. Comfortability has nested in our religiosity and slumber has overtaken the dead. I like the way one man put it, “If you missed church this Sunday, you would be no more missed than a bucket of water going over the Niagara falls.” You are as important as a mannequin in a show room…. You are a form filling a seat.
The early church did not change their faith to match the world; they changed the world to match their faith. Since the closing of the first century there has been a progressive falling away from the true faith that empowered the saints. Today Christendom differs little from the other world religions. Our Christianity has been so radically diminish in power and effectiveness, what can we offer our suffering world? Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, Communism and Confucianism have their charismatic and respected leaders, they have their holy authors and holy books and they are more devoted to their dead belief than we to a living God. What is it that we can offer? Nothing except the presence and power of God. What is not manifested in power is a dead religion succumbed to form.
The early Church did not have youth programs, single’s meetings, Sunday-school, concerts, coffee houses, microphones, crusades and TV or silver and gold, yet the power of the resurrection was operating in them.
The Spirit led them like the cloud at day and the fire at night. They possessed a spontaneity of the Spirit that lead them to shake the world for His glory.
“We must have a new reformation. There must come a violent break with the irresponsible, amusement-mad paganized pseudo-religion which passes today for the faith of Christ and which is being spread all over the world by unspiritual men employing unscriptural methods to achieve their ends.” Tozer
We pray more out of form (ritual) than out of purpose. We “go” to church to satisfy our sense of obligation rather than to function and “be” the very church illustrated in His word.. Our money is going to a temporal building, rather than to the support of God’s people…. His temple. Our conscience is clear as long as we know the “church” has provided a program to help those in need. We boast of our dribble-sized ministry. People are only numbers that are often forgotten.
Our form has substituted programs for power and personal commitment.
“And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written (Why?) that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ (the true witness), the Son of God, and that believing you may have life (power) in His name.” John 20:30-31, NKJV
Was not the evidence of the signs and miracles the basis for the preaching of the gospel and to stimulate faith? Jesus would be no different than Mohammad, Buddha and Confucius, if He did not do the works of the Father. We have an obligation to seek and serve the Lord and manifest His power for His glory in the spreading of the gospel.
Let me pose this question: If the church met in homes and we were all close to one another, loved each other, supported each other and the sick were healed and the demons cast out, wouldn’t we think that would make an impact on the whole of Christianity and on the unbelievers? Tell me why we continue to support a ritualistic religion that is denigrating the testimony of God and impoverishing the spirituality of the church… the body of Christ. Let us who truly “profess” to believe the bible, wake up and follow Him and not men and their agendas.
“And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, (Why?) that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” 1 Cor 2:4-5, NKJV
Our salvation today is based on persuasive words shrouded on promises of carnal blessings and unscriptural slogans: “God’s love is unconditional. He will give you peace. He will make you prosperous. He will save you from hell. Come up here and say this prayer.”
Though much of that appears true, it is only incorporated into a form and not based on power, repentance and self-denial.
“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ has not accomplished through me, in word and deed (both, why?), to make the Gentiles obedient—(How?) in mighty signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God, (why?) so that from Jerusalem and round about to Illyricum I have FULLY preached the gospel of Christ.” Rom 15:18-19, NKJV
To “fully” preach the gospel must be in “word and deed,” accompanied with “signs and wonders.”
Paul again says in Rom 1:16, “I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it (the gospel) is the power of God for the salvation (To whom?) of everyone who believes.” NIV
We talk of the power of God in the changed life, but how much change do we really possess when we are void to manifest that power in “fully” preaching the gospel. I believe in the power of a changed life, but if the life is not continually changing, it is a static life based on form and not substance. The gospel is based on God’s love through His power to heal the sick and deliver the captive.
We speak of Jesus healing the sick and casting out demons, but we look more like the seven sons of Sceva mentioned in Acts 19:4 than those early disciples. We have been stripped and naked by the works of the devil. We just are not desperate enough for Jesus; we have doctors, cars and possessions. We prefer our form rather than the sacrifice that is needed to enter into the presence of God.
” For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” 1 Cor 1:18, NKJV
So where is the beef? Where is the power? The changed-life theory will not work. We have more divorces today…in church! More sin today… in church! We have less love, less fellowship, less caring for one another and less unity… in church. We have more sicknesses, more bondage, more fighting and division. We are plagued with more lethargy and less of the gifts and manifestation of the Spirit. We have relegated our Christian experience to a dynamic meeting with persuasive speakers. This only demonstrates the power of deception and the power of the “form.” We are committed to a security without love and power. Good men, men of prominence, charisma, sincere people, crowds, works, but not truth, captivate us. The truth of God’s word stares us in the face and we quickly turn like the rich young ruler, to the comfort of our religion.
The basis on which Paul represents the gospel is God power. “But I will come to you shortly, if the Lord wills, and I will know, not the word of those who are puffed up (knowledge), but the power. For the kingdom of God is NOT in word but in POWER.” 1 Cor 4:19-21, NKJV
Paul clearly knew he was serving God and that God would back him up with His power. He knew the rhetoric of man was rooted in pride and knowledge, and ultimately rooted in Satan himself.
“For our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit and in much assurance, as you know what kind of men we were among you for your sake.’ 1 Thess 1:5, NKJV
Consider Jesus calling: “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” Luke 4:18-19, NIV
“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.'” John 20:20, NKJV
How did the Father send Jesus? In a demonstration of power. It is the power of God that expresses His love and authority.
Now consider the great commission or maybe the great omission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matt 28:19-20, NIV
Couple this verse concerning the end of the age in Matt 24:14, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.” NIV
Two comments: “this gospel,” and “as a testimony.” “This gospel” represents the gospel that Jesus preached. A gospel in word and power, demonstrating a testimony of a powerful God and not a dead ritual.
“The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me, Because He has anointed Me To preach the gospel to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives And recovery of sight to the blind,
To set at liberty those who are oppressed; to proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.” Luke 4:18-19
Should we expect less? Shouldn’t we have personalized our gospel in a responsibility to disciple the new believers and to those hurting? Instead we have depended on various forms: programs, teaching meetings, seminaries, etc. We have lost a whole generation of searching, seeking people. People have come to the church in desperation, some seeking deliverance, others seeking an authentic spiritual experience, only to be left with sitting in a pew and paying their tithes to support the staff and building. “As a testimony,” means one who can prove by evidence the reality of Jesus and His gospel of power to heal through His love.
Listen to Paul’s prayer to the Thessalonians church: “Therefore we also pray always for you that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness (How?) and the work of faith with power, (Why?) that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ may be glorified in you, and you in Him, (How?) according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Thess 1:11-12, NKJV
Jesus Christ is not glorified in a bunch of dead saints who sit in a building once a week or who smugly have their morning devotion and prayer. We say “Lord,” but He is not Lord, therefore there is no power in our word.
You say to me, “Doesn’t the bible say in Matt 7:22-24, we can have power and not be saved.”
“Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock.” NIV
First, let’s recognize that they fully understood the principle of “power” being part of the testimony of the real saint, and this Jesus did not deny. Their error was in not fully understanding that power must be accompanied with character. Secondly, this also goes on to illustrate that Godly character, personal holiness, is a mark of a true saint. Much of what we see in our “form” today is a misuse of grace to accommodate sin in the “Christian” rather than a grace to free the person from sin and sickness, and thus glorifying Jesus and His testimony before a sick world. The lack of power in our gospel only demonstrates our lack of character, or the lack of our being conformed to the image of Christ. Our testimony is to give testimony to His power. Why should the world believe that Jesus did miracles if we don’t do miracles?
The Fruit of the Spirit working in our lives demonstrates the inward development and outward manifestation of the character and nature of God in the life of the true believer. If we fail to become like Him, we will truly not be with Him in heaven. It matters little how much we know or how much we believed we are saved, if believing doesn’t produce a testimony of His love. If our experience is not fully biblical… it matters none.
Let me end this portion with a quote from a few brothers off the Internet. First from Michael Clark and his article “Exodus and the house church” (http://www.awildernessvoice.com /Exodus.htm)
“In the early days of the Church in the first century there was explosive growth. Under the leadership and guidance of the Holy Spirit and humble, broken men and women, the Church grew and multiplied until its impact upon the Roman empire was felt right into the very houses of its emperors and leaders. Of these humble believers who poured out their blood as if it was an honor in the service of their savior it was once said, “these are they who turn the world upside down.” (Acts 17:6). For three hundred years these humble saints met together as families in their humble homes.
I was born into the kingdom during a move of the Holy Spirit that was sweeping the nation of America in the early ’70s. This phenomenon was known as the Jesus Revolution and it seemed to spring up almost over night everywhere, finally spreading to Europe and parts of Asia. It was an exciting time to be a Christian as we saw “signs follow those who believed.” It was like reliving the book of Acts itself. Thousands of young people came to Christ, demons were cast out, and people were healed of serious drug addictions and diseases as we laid hands on them and prayed.
Almost over night, ‘Christian houses’ started popping up and they all seemed to be given Bible names. In Spokane we had the house of Abraham (where single brothers lived), the house of Sarah (for the single girls), the house of David (where our band lived), and the house of Manna (where we gathered for meals and Bible study).
We found these believers’ houses and Christian coffee houses everywhere we went across the country and in Europe by 1974. It was “just Jesus,” doing it all, not any organization or by any pamphlet, but the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Everywhere the Church was meeting and eating together in homes. And the meetings were alive and dynamic with everyone able to contribute and be part of the family. Imagine our excitement as we discovered while feeding on the Bible that this was how the early church got started and met, too! (see Acts chapters 1-6).
In the following years Christian home meetings started becoming more and more popular. Institutional Churches wanting to share in this dynamic life that we were experiencing, started opening up their own ‘coffee houses,’ sponsoring house church meetings, and sending their people out on the streets to ‘witness.’
The only trouble was that often their ‘coffee houses’ were in the church basement, their home meetings were a mini-Sunday service dominated by the pastor, and their people on the streets were there without the youthful zeal that we knew as we shared our newfound love for Jesus with the lost. What the Holy Spirit sovereignly did among America’s once drug sick youth culture could not be cloned by dead traditional Churches. As time went on, many of the ‘Jesus People’ either joined these institutions – or created ones of their own – and soon the light went out. By 1976 the Jesus Movement had almost lost all signs of life. The new wine of the Holy Spirit had turned into vinegar in the old wine skins. As Don McClain sang in his popular song ‘Buy, Buy American Pie’ it seemed that we had seen ‘the day the music died.'”
Ken Brown admits that “True spiritual reality cannot be found in traditional religion with its rules and rituals, dead formalism, man-made authority structure, public worship, group prayer, false prophecy, miracles and lying wonders, doctrinal statements, self-help classes, recovery groups, children’s programs or anything else it might have to offer…… And do you think traditional, institutional, denominational religion is where you go to find God and don’t understand that religion in its many forms is never what God intended and is, in fact, specifically designed by the world, the flesh and the Devil to lead you away from God? ” -Andy Zoppelt
Let us note at the outset that there is little apparent difference between ministry to the House of the Lord and ministry to the Lord Himself. Many of you are doing your utmost to help your brethren, and you are labouring to save sinners and administer the affairs of the church. But let me ask you: Have you been seeking to meet the need around you, or have you been seeking to serve the Lord? Is it your fellow men you have in view, or is it Him?
Let us be quite frank. Work for the Lord undoubtedly has its attractions for the flesh. You may be thrilled when crowds gather to hear you preach, and when numbers of souls are saved. If you have to stay at home, occupied from morning to night with mundane matters, then you think: How meaningless life as! How grand at would be if I could go out and serve the Lord! If only I were free to go around ministering! But that is not spirituality. That is merely a matter of natural preference. Oh, if only we could see that much of the work done for God is not really ministry at all! He, Himself, has told us chat there was a class of Levites who busily served in the Temple, and yet they were not serving Him; they were merely serving the House. However, service to the Lord and service to the House appear so much alike that it is often difficult to differentiate between the two.
If an Israelite came along to the Temple and wanted to worship God, those Levites would come to his aid and help him offer his peace offering and his burnt offering. They would help him drag the sacrifice to the altar, and they would slay it. Surely that was a grand work to be engaged in, reclaiming sinners and leading believers closer to the Lord! And God took account of the service of those Levites who helped men bring their peace offerings and their burnt offerings to the altar. Yet He said it was not ministry to Himself.
Brothers and sisters, there is a heavy burden on my heart that you might realise what God is after. He wants ministers who will minister to Him. “They shall come near to me to minister unto me; and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood. They shall minister unto me” (Ezekiel 44:15).
The thing I fear most is that many of you will go out and win sinners to the Lord and build up believers, without ministering to the Lord Himself. Much so-called service for Him is simply following our natural inclinations. We have such active dispositions that we cannot bear to stay at home, so we run around for our own relief. We may appear to be serving sinners, or serving believers, but all the while we are serving our own flesh.
I have a dear friend who is now with the Lord. One day, after we had a time of prayer together, we read this passage in Ezekiel (44:9-26, 28, 31 ). She was very much older than I, and she addressed me like this: “My young brother, it was twenty years ago that I first studied this passage of Scripture.”
“How did you react to it?” I asked.
She replied: “As soon as I had finished reading it, I closed my Bible, and kneeling down before the Lord, I prayed: `Lord, make me to be one who shall minister to You, not to the Temple.”‘ Can we also pray that prayer?
But what do we really mean when we talk of serving God or serving the Temple? Here is what the Word says:
But the priests, the Levites, the sons of Zadok, that kept the charge of my sanctuary when the children of Israel went astray from me, they shall come near to me to minister unto me; and they shall stand before me to offer unto me the fat and the blood, saith the LORD God (Ezekiel 44:15).
The conditions basic to all ministry that can truly be called ministry to the Lord are drawing near to Him and standing before Him. But how hard we often find it to drag ourselves into His presence! We shrink from the solitude, and even when we do detach ourselves physically, our thoughts still keep wandering outside. Many of us can enjoy working among people, but how many of us can draw near to (God in the Holy of Holies? Yet it is only as we draw near to Him that we can minister to Him.
To come into the presence of God and kneel before Him for an hour demands all the strength we possess. We have to be violent to hold that ground. But everyone who serves the Lord knows the preciousness of such times, the sweetness of waking at midnight and spending an hour in prayer, or waking very early in the morning and getting up for an hour of prayer before the final sleep of the night.
Unless we really know what it is to draw near to God, we cannot know what it is to serve Him. It is impossible to stand afar off and still minister to Him. We cannot serve Him from a distance. There is only one place where ministry to Him is possible and that is in the Holy Place. In the outer court you approach the people; in the Holy Place you approach the Lord.
The passage we ‘ have quoted emphasises not only our need to draw near to God; it also speaks of standing before Him to minister. Today we always want to be moving on; we cannot stand still. There are, so many things claiming our attention that we are perpetually on the go. We cannot stop for a moment.
But a spiritual person knows how to stand still. He can stand before God till God makes His will known. He can stand and await orders. You who are leaders need to particularly consider this. Can you be persuaded to call a halt and not move for a little while? That is what is referred to here: “stand and minister unto me.” Don’t you think that a servant should await his master’s orders before seeking to serve him? The Sin of presumption
There are only two types of sin before God. One is the sin of refusing to obey when He issues orders. The other is the sin of going ahead when the Lord has not issued orders. The one is rebellion; the other is presumption. The one is not doing what the Lord has required; the other is doing what the Lord has not required. Learning to stand before the Lord deals with the sin of doing what the Lord has not commanded. Brothers and sisters, how much of the work you have done has been based on the clear command of the Lord? How much have you done because of His direct instructions? And how much have you done simply on the ground that the thing you did was a good thing to do? Let me tell you that nothing so damages the Lord’s interests as a “good thing.” “Good things” are the greatest hindrance to the accomplishment of His will. The moment we are faced with anything wicked or unclean, we immediately recognise it as something a Christian ought to avoid, and for that reason, things which are positively evil are nearly not such a menace to the Lord’s purpose as good things.
You think: This thing would not be wrong, or That thing is the very best that could be done so you go ahead and take action without stopping to inquire if it is the will of God. We who are His children all know that we ought not to do anything evil, but we think that if only our conscience does not forbid a thing, or if a thing commends itself to us as positively good, that is reason enough to go ahead and do it.
‘That thing you contemplate doing may be very good, but are you standing before the Lord awaiting His command regarding it? “They shall stand before me” involves halting in His presence and refusing to move till He issues His orders. That is what ministry to the Lord means.
In the outer court it is human need that governs. Just let someone come along to sacrifice an ox or a sheep, and there is work for you to do. But in the Holiest Place
there is utter solitude. Not a soul comes in. No brother or sister governs us here, nor does any committee determine our affairs. In the Holiest Place there is one authority only – the authority of the Lord. If He appoints me a task I, do it; if He appoints me no task, I do none.
But something is required of us as we stand before the Lord and minister to Him. We are required to offer Him “the fat and the blood.” The blood answers the demands of His holiness and righteousness; the fat meets the requirements of His glory. The blood deals with the question of our sin; the fat deals with the question of His satisfaction. The blood removes all that belongs to the old creation; the fat brings in the new.
But such ministry is confined to a certain place: “They shall enter into my sanctuary, and they shall come near to my table to minister unto me, and they shall keep my charge” (Ezekiel 44:16). Ministry that is “unto me” is in the inner sanctuary, in the hidden place, not in the outer court, exposed to public view. People may think we are doing nothing, but service to God in the Holy Place far transcends service to the people in the outer court. Ministry Without Sweat
The same passage tells us how they must be clothed who would minister to the Lord:
They shall be clothed with linen garments; and no wool shall come upon them, while they minister in the gates of the inner court, and within. They shall have linen bonnets upon their heads, and shall have linen breeches upon their loins (Ezekiel 44:18).
Those who minister to the Lord may not wear wool. Why not? The reason is given:
“They shall not clothe themselves with anything that causes sweat” (verse 18 NKJV). No work chat produces sweat is acceptable to the Lord. But what does “sweat” signify?
We all know that the first occasion when sweat is mentioned was when Adam was driven from the Garden of Eden. After Adam sinned, God pronounced this sentence upon him: “Cursed is the ground for thy sake; in toil shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life…in the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread” (Genesis 3:19-19). It is clear that sweat is a condition of the curse. Because the curse rested on the ground, it ceased to yield its fruit without man’s effort, and such effort produced sweat.
When the blessing of God is withheld, fleshly effort becomes necessary, and that causes sweat. All work that produces sweat is positively prohibited to those who minister to the Lord. Yet today what an expenditure of energy there is in work for Him! Few Christians can do any work today without sweating over it. Their work involves planning and scheming, exhorting and urging, and very much running around. It cannot be done without a great deal of fleshly zeal.
Nowadays, if there is no sweat there is no work. Before work for God can be undertaken, there is a great deal of rushing to and fro, making numerous contacts, having consultations and discussions, and finally getting the approval of various people before going ahead. As for waiting quietly in the presence of God and seeking His instructions, that is out of the question.
Yet in spiritual work, the one factor to be taken into account is God. He is the one
Person to make contact with. That is the preciousness of spiritual work that is truly spiritual-it is related to the Lord Himself In relation to Him there is work to do, but it is work that produces no sweat.
If we have to advertise our ministry and use great effort to promote it, then it is obvious that it does not spring from prayer in the presence of God. If you really work in God’s presence, men will respond when you come into their presence. You will not have to use endless means in order to help them. Spiritual work is God’s work, and when God works, man does not need to expend so much effort that he sweats over it.
Let us in utter honesty examine ourselves before God today. Let us ask Him: “Am I serving You, or am I merely serving the work? Is my ministry truly unto you Lord, or is it only ministry to your House?” If you are pouring with sweat all the time, it is safe to conclude that it is the House you are serving, not the Lord. If all your busyness is related to human need, you may know that you are serving men, not God. I am not despising the work of slaying sacrifices at the altar. It is work for God and someone has to do it-but God wants something beyond that. The Sons of Zadok
God cannot secure everyone for service to Himself, for many of His own are reluctant to leave the thrill and excitement of the outer court. They are bent on serving the people. But what about us? Oh that today we might say to the Lord: “I am willing to forsake things, I am willing to forsake the work, I am willing to forsake the outer court and serve You in the inner sanctuary.”
When God could find no way to bring all the Levites to the place of ministry to Himself, He chose the sons of Zadok from among them for this special service. Why did He select the sons of Zadok? Because when the children of Israel went astray, they recognised that the outer court had been irreparably corrupted, so they did not seek to preserve it. Instead, they made it their business to preserve the sanctity of the Holy Place.
Brothers and sisters, can you bear to let the external structure go, or must you persist in putting up a scaffolding to preserve it? It is the Holy Place that God is out to preserve-a place utterly set apart for Him. I beseech you before God to hear His call to for sake the outer court and devote yourself to His service in the Holy Place.
I love to read about the prophets and teachers in the church at Antioch: “As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said: Separate me Barnabas and Sau1 for the work whereunto I have called them” (Acts 13:2). We see there that the Holy Spirit commissions men to the work as they are ministering to the Lord. Unless ministry to the Lord is the thing that governs us, the work will be in confusion.
God does not want volunteers for His work; He wants conscripts. He will not have you preaching the gospel just because you want to. The work of the Lord is suffering serious damage today at the hand of volunteers; it lacks those who can say as He did: “He that sent me…”
Brothers and sisters, the work of God is God’s own work, and not work that you can take up ac your pleasure. Neither churches, nor missionary societies, nor evangelistic bands can send men to work for God. The authority to commission men is not in the hands of men, but solely, in the hands of the Spirit of God.
Serving the Lord does not mean chat we do not serve people, but it does mean that all service to people has service to the Lord as its basis. It is service Godward that urges us out manward. Luke 17:7-10 tells us clearly what the Lord is after. These are two kinds of work referred to here: ploughing the field and tending the flock. Both are very important occupations, yet the Lord says that when a servant returns from such work, he is expected to provide for his master’s satisfaction before sitting down to enjoy his own food.
When we have returned from our toil in the field, we are apt to muse complacently on the much work we have accomplished. But the Lord will say, “Gird yourself and give me to eat.” He requires ministry to Himself. We may have laboured in a wide field and cared for many sheep, but all our toil in the field and among the flock does not exempt us from ministry to the Lord’s own personal satisfaction. That is our supreme task.
What are you really after? Is it only work in the field, preaching the gospel to the unsaved? Is it just tending the flock, caring for the needs of the saved? Or are we seeing to it that the Lord can eat to His full satisfaction and drink till His thirst is quenched? True, it is necessary for us also to eat and drink, but that cannot be till after the Lord is satisfied. We, too, must have our enjoyment, but that can never be until His joy is first made full.
Let us ask ourselves: Does our work minister to our satisfaction or to the Lord’s? I fear that when we have worked for the Lord, we are often thoroughly satisfied before He is satisfied. We are often quite happy with our work when He has found no joy in it. Blessed are they who can differentiate between ministry to sinners or saints, and ministry to Him. Such discernment is not easily acquired. Often it is only by much drastic dealing that we learn the difference between ministry to the Lord Himself and ministry to the House.
Let us seek the grace of God that He may reveal to us what it really means to minister to Him!… Watchman Nee
“Nothing will come out right for the person who either consciously or subconsciously makes the universe to revolve around himself. What a penalty, to live with a self you can’t live with. As long as you center in yourself,
you won’t like yourself. Another has put it this way. “It is so wonderful to get yourself off your own hands and into the hands of God. It’s like living in a new world!”
“Man was not created to be the CENTER and any attempt to build this false universe will only cause confusion. God has made life that way, and there is no use kicking against the goad, as Paul did to his own hurt.”
“Paul explains it this way, “we thus judge, that one died for all, therefore all died, and He died for all, that they which live should no longer live unto themselves, but unto Him who for them died and rose again.” (2 Cor. 5:14-
15). “Paul reveals that it was God’s purpose to take all of Adam’s race to the cross in order to deal with the “I” principle that stands in opposition to God. So when God looked down upon the cross, He saw us united in death
with His Son. All that is involved in the treachery of S-I-N (Selfish, independent negation) is dealt with there. Thus from God’s viewpoint man was crucified WITH CHRIST- but more. He was buried with Christ in Jospeh’s new tomb. Yet even more, He was raised with Christ to newness of life. But still more than that, he was positioned with Christ in God in a new heavenly position.”
“Now all this which God reckons to have happened as he sees it from His viewpoint, we must likewise reckon to be our experience by faith-appropriation. So Paul describes it in four words: CRUCIFIED, BURIED, RISEN, and ASCENDED. This is not something that we do. No, we see it by revelation- see that it happened to us “in Him” – and we by faith live in that reckoning.” “Man has been raised with Christ and is now in a new position “in Him.”
We know of multitudes of believers who have well taught about their position in Christ. They speak with conviction of the finished work by which they have forgiveness, deliverance, victory, and authority. And well they might rejoice in all that has been done for them. Yet here is just the trouble- the snare. They have never changed centers. All that has been made available to them in Christ they continue to relate to themselves: the old center. They have missed the deepest severing power of the cross which would deliver them to a life centered in God where all things are related to HIM.”
“For almost fifteen years this writer preached the GLORIES OF OUR POSITION IN CHRIST and emphasized the truths of identification in the death and resurrection of Christ as this made available a victorious walk- a truth which is now being taught by hundreds throughout the country. Yet, I was, without realizing it always relating all this to man and his needs and welfare. It was all FOR MAN- what man received through his new position in
Christ. Thus the center had not really changed.””Then one day the truth exploded. I realized just how short this was of bringing man to a full and total emancipation from his man centered-ness. It became evident as long as one is
still appealing to man FOR WHAT MAN CAN GET, it still fits into the popular approach.
But it is a vastly different thing to experience the radical working of the Cross which liberates one from self to a new center. As long as one is still more alive to what God does for man, to what the cross realizes for man, to what our position in Christ means for man- that individual has never grasped the Father’s full intention for placing us in His Son: that we might come to the same vision, purpose, dedication and philosophy of life as the Son shares in the Father.”
“God intends for man to live with an utterly new center of gravity. We are not merely centered “in Christ” but with Him are centered in God the Father. As we shall see, in this God centered position it is no longer our victory, but living in His victory; it is no longer our purpose, but living in His purpose; it is no longer our dedication, but living in His dedication. All things have truly become new.”
The parable of the wheat and the tares holds a unique place in the New Testament. It is one of the very few parables where Jesus explicitly detailed out the key elements to understanding the meaning. As such, we need to pay attention to the meanings He assigned to them and recognize them, not as mysterious, debatable ideas, but as truths which Christ Himself gave for the edification (strengthening, building up) of His body, His people, whom He has called out of this world’s darkness and caused to enter into and attend to His kingdom of light – that is, His ekklesia.  Greek word poorly translated “church” – We must pay attention to the details Christ gave or we will misinterpret this parable and misapply these truths, even preventing some of His ekklesia from being what He intends and desires them to be.
Let us first notice the end of the story. When the tares are removed, “Then the righteous [sons of the kingdom] will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father.” It is only after the tares are removed that we see the greater manifestation of the real nature of God’s kingdom. Thus we can see that a primary characteristic of the tares is that they stand in the way of God’s kingdom being manifested among men. As Jesus rebuked the hypocritical scribes and Pharisees, the tares shut up the kingdom of God against men; for [they] neither go in [themselves] nor do [they] allow those who are entering to go in.”
(Mt. 23:13) Luke records this saying in a different way, giving it a different emphasis, perhaps as it was given on a similar but different occasion. As Jesus said of the lawyers (scribes), the tares “have taken away the key of knowledge. [They] do not enter in [themselves], and those who are entering in [they] hinder.” (Lk. 11:52)
It is a terrible thing to stand in front of the door to the kingdom of God and fail to enter. This is a tragedy of immense proportions. Yet it is exponentially worse to do this while barring another person’s entrance into the kingdom! The kingdom of God is that realm where Christ and God are actively and carefully obeyed – this is the essence of a king over his kingdom! – and a tare is one who, even as he routinely uses the name of Christ and God, diverts people away from actually obeying the commands of Jesus. Whereas Jesus said, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to observe [know and obey] all things that I have commanded you…” (Mt. 28:19-20), the tare corrupts and perverts the truth (perhaps most or even only with his notions that he has the right, a “special anointing,” “gifting” or “calling” and God has given him the right and duty to tell other people how to live and be, especially around and under him! – and draws followers away from Christ and after himself.
This is precisely what occurred in the first and second centuries as bishops arose from the ranks of elders and drew followers after themselves and their own teachings. The Catholic bishops were the most successful as they perverted the ideas of unity and leadership to mean attachment to the very visible hierarchical authority structure centered in Rome – and these were able to subordinate or ostracize any and all who did not bow down to that notion. This is the parent and pattern that the “church” “pastor” comes from! And all this is exactly as Paul prophesied would occur!
As the power to suppress, excommunicate and even execute has slipped from the Catholic “church’s” hands, men have had to resort to the double standard of “believe and practice as we do or go find (or start) a place where they do!” This is the means by which their own divisiveness can be tolerated. Since Christ is not their true King but rather their “denomination” (sect, heresy) is formed around their own preferred “doctrines,” “creeds,” and “theology” (most often a corrupted compilation of truth and error), these tares must have a way to build up their own fiefdom that doesn’t require too much from the affluent customers who come to have their ears routinely itched and scratched by the religious, swelling words that roll so eloquently from the tare’s mouth. This too was warned against by both Jesus and Paul though the concepts have been somewhat obscured through poor translations and even greater ignorance of what the words mean.
Jesus warned, “Because lawlessness (Greek, anomia ) will abound, the love of many will grow cold.” (Mt. 24:12) Lawlessness, put simply, has the capability of rendering even the chiefest of Christian attributes virtually lifeless. Anomia is literally “no law” and it refers to the absence of any outside source or standard by which one is expected or required to order his life and conduct. This idea is perhaps best captured in the description of the Israelites during the time of the judges: in those days there was no king in Israel; everyone did what was right in his own eyes.” (Jdgs. 21:25) The time of the judges – strikingly similar to this time of rampant denominationalism and sectarianism – has been described as a time of apostasy, warfare, decline, violence, moral decay and anarchy – traits curbed or accentuated according to the spiritual disposition of the reigning king. The devolvement of Christianity into churchianity only shows that Christ is not the King over most, if not all, that is done in His name!
Paul warned that those who routinely practiced the works of the flesh would not inherit the kingdom of God. Included in his list of the works of the flesh are four of the “church’s” cornerstones:
- Contentions. (Greek eris ) Every “church” must contend, at least in its own pulpit, for its own peculiar or denominational doctrines and “theology.”
- Selfish ambitions. (Greek eritheia ) The man or group at the top, either in attaining to or maintaining their grasp on the top spot, must be motivated by selfish ambition – otherwise Christ would be the true Head.
- Dissensions or divisions. (Greek dichostasia ) The double standard, believe and practice as we do or leave, is the most basic building block in all of churchianity. Paul said to avoid those who cause them.
- Heresies. (Greek hairesis ) The idea of grossly aberrant religious error worth burning someone at the stake for is a later Catholic addition to the meaning. The original meaning is simply that of a forming one’s own party or following. We now call these “denominations” and believe them to be a good thing.
Put bluntly, we will not see the kingdom of God come forth in our midst while we follow or submit to a man, a “ministry” or an organization that is built upon or driven by these sins. Quite simply, the “church” stands in the way of the kingdom of God. We can choose one or the other but we cannot have these sins in our lives and see the will of God done on earth as it is in heaven. The counterfeit “church” and the kingdom of God are mutually exclusive of one another.
When we recall that Jesus proclaimed the kingdom of God but it was the ekklesia (and then the “church”) that came into existence, we can see that the primary reason the kingdom of God did not come into the preeminence but was overshadowed by the Romish hierarchy was that the bishops had arisen and stood in the way. Because the bishops first taught and then practiced Nicolaitanism  “conquer over the people” – the people accepted the ways of contention, selfish ambition, dissension (division) and heresy (sectarian) – and therefore progressively the kingdom of God was left far behind, remembered only in the pages of the New Testament and nostalgically longed for from time to time by some saint or mystic. This problem still haunts and plagues the people of Christ to this day.
When we further explore the roots of the office of the “pastor” (traditionally, bishop), we find that he was also called a “pontiff” – literally, a bridge between the people and God. In effect, this title boasts that the man stands in the way of the people attaining to the fullness of God’s plan for them. He was – and still is – aided in this deception by standing on a platform with all his volunteer victims seated at his feet as he speaks whatever he – or in many cases, the demonic within him – wishes. In this way, the passive listeners have their ears scratched as they are told fables – stories that use words and names from the Bible but don’t require the listener to actually know or obey Jesus Christ!
Though the shepherd (Greek poimen , poor English translation “pastor”) is listed in a group of specially graced (or gifted) individuals who are to train and equip the saints – every believer – to do the works of service (to one another, to the poor, orphans and widows, etc. –), today’s “pastor” and the “church’s” professional staff are now expected to do those works. Where this laziness and neglect of one’s individual responsibilities to God are practiced as “truth,” great “theological” excuses are manufactured. “Grace” is nearly always invoked and any effort toward obeying the commands of Jesus is condemned as “legalism” or “self-effort” toward salvation. Jesus’ command to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…teaching them to obey all things that I have commanded…”
(Mt. 28:19-20) is simply “theologically” explained out of existence or just never brought up as a topic in the “pastor’s” “sermons.” Jesus still says, “Why do you call Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ and do not do the things which I say?” (Lk. 6:46) This is the form of godliness of which Paul wrote that has no power to make a person actually godly (resembling the character or attributes of Christ and God) – from these kind of “brothers” we are to turn away!
Some who are reading this will dismiss it as judgmental foolishness, never realizing that such a response only indicates that the demonic holds great power over them and is keeping them from coming into the light of truth. Others will reject it on the basis of “Well, even if it’s true, don’t uproot the tares!” Such a response has the appearance of wisdom and of being obedient to the truth but is a deception nonetheless. Consider:
- The tares were planted “while men slept.” (Mt. 13:25) Those who are awake, are not to follow after blind leaders – we may simply leave them to their own destruction because every plant not planted by the Father will be uprooted soon enough.
- The tares, by virtue of their place in the pulpit and over the people and of their allegiance to a sinful division (denomination, even the so-called “non-denominational” ones!), are those who are to be avoided. Because the lives of the tares are not characterized by true divine love and righteousness (what is right in God’s eyes), we can know they are children of the devil and we can turn away from their impotent, lifeless churchianity and draw near to God anyway.
- The servants who are first told not to uproot the tares but who are later sent to uproot them and deliver them to a fiery furnace are angels. No mere man can uproot a tare and deliver that person to a fiery furnace except perhaps by literally murdering that person – a tactic completely foreign to the New Testament and entirely contradictory to the commandments and ways of Christ Jesus!
It is neither necessary nor commanded that we even attempt to “uproot a tare.” Leaving them alone, avoiding them and turning away from them are what are commanded to do. And it is precisely here that we can take our first step toward true spiritual maturity – going forth to meet Christ outside the camp of men’s ideas and “theologies,” bearing His reproach and following Him wherever He leads us. This is the road that leads to life – anything else is merely some man’s “church,” just another lane in the broad highway that leads to destruction … Let he who has ears hear. Neil Girrard
The lessons taught to us from the life of Jacob concern the Holy Spirit’s discipline of the Christian. It is this that makes room in our lives for Christ to reveal Himself. This discipline is concerned not with our old man and his sinfulness but with our natural strength, the strength of self. Before we are saved they are as one, and we cannot distinguish between them; but in the Christian they are clearly distinguished in Scripture.
At his creation in the Garden of Eden, Adam had by nature a distinct self-conscious personality, but he had no sin, no `old man’. He possessed free will, which made it possible for him to act on his own account, so that self was already therebut not sin.
Natural strength is what we receive from the hand of God as Creator. Spiritual strength is what we receive from God in grace. At our birth we receive wisdom, skill, intellect, eloquence, feelings, consciousness, and all these go to make up our personality as man-apart from sin. But after Adam’s fall he changed. Sin had come in and taken control of him. Now not only was he a natural man: the `old man’ also was there in him, under the dominion of sin, loving to sin. Before he sinned Adam was a natural man. After he sinned he was the old man.
We must be cautious about drawing parallels between ourselves and the Lord Jesus in His incarnation, but we can say with assurance that He had no old man, because He was free from sin. Nevertheless He had a self; He possessed natural strength. Yet not once, in the smallest degree, did He ever abuse it. That is the difference. It is not that He did not possess personality and individualism-everyone must have these but that He did not choose to live by Himself. `I can of myself do nothing’ (John 5. 30). This was His estimate of the worthlessness of natural human effort apart from God. We can understand therefore why He went on to say of our spiritual fruitfulness: `Apart from me ye can do nothing’ (15. 5).
Unlike Him, we ourselves possess an old man, sold under sin. It is he that must be put out of the way, and as we saw, God has already done this on the Cross in Christ. But that is only the beginning of God’s problem with us, for there is still our natural man to be dealt with. We not only sin in the sight of God; we do a whole lot of things with the best intention of pleasing God that are mistimed and misdirected and fail altogether to satisfy Him. Take the man who is always indiscriminately broadcasting all he knows about spiritual things. That is not the old man but the natural man at work. To speak of spiritual things is not sin, but the natural man is doing it out of his own zeal and not because the Lord wants it.
The natural life is just that, doing what we want and not what God wants. We may do many quite good things, building quite an impressive edifice on the foundation that is Jesus Christ. Nevertheless God calls them wood, hay and stubble (I Corinthians 3. 12). Such materials are not refuse but represent things done by man. True, the man is doing God’s work of building; yet the work is judged. It is not a question of whether the workmanship is good or bad, but of who is doing the work.
The difference between the natural man and the old man is a basic one. God has given us His Son. When we enter into Him and He into us, what happens? One day we receive Him as our Saviour and Lord, and quickly discover that our old man was dealt with once and for all in His Cross (Romans 6. 6). God made no effort to patch him up or improve him, but crucified him outright in Christ, finishing him for good. Therein the question of sin was settled. To know this is of the greatest importance. In God’s eyes the old man had to die. Then our eyes are opened and the truth dawns on us that he is already dead in Christ; and that Christ Himself is our new life, indwelling, empowering, becoming to us everything. This is a tremendous discovery.
But along with this new life indwelling, there remains within us the natural man, the good, honest, worthy human nature that wants to please God. It is this that God encounters in Jacob.
God’s dealings with Jacob as a man concern the question of his fulfilling the divine will. Jacob was interested in this above all, not in sinning. He knew that God had said of himself and his brother, `the elder shall serve the younger’ (Genesis 25. 23). Accordingly he set himself to achieve this. He used human means to reach the divine end, for he was set on spiritual things and on fulfilling God’s will. He only made the fundamental mistake of setting about it in his own way.
God not only hates man’s sin; He has no room for the natural man. Not merely did our Lord Jesus never sin; He never depended upon Himself to do good-indeed to do anything at all. God’s dealings with our natural man are designed to bring us to the place that Christ Himself chose to take. By nature we are so strong, so able to think and plan and do, and God must bring us to the place of weakness, the place where we cannot think or plan or do apart from Him.
As we have just said, nothing is ever done to the old man; he died in Christ. Something, however, is done to the natural man. He is not patched up, it is true; he is weakened. He is progressively incapacitated. Step by step the Spirit weakens our natural life until at length, by a last drastic divine touch, we are as dead before Him. But for what? To show us what? To lead us whither?
We saw that `I in Christ’ leads to `Christ in me’, the outward fact leading to an inward fact, both of them accomplished acts of God. In the same way the progressive discipline of the Spirit through outward circumstances leads to a formation of Christ within us by the Spirit (Galatians 4. 19) so that we live a life that is in a new sense derived from Him.
In the figure of Isaac we have Christ imparted to us so that, in the words of Galatians 2. 20, it is `no longer I, but Christ liveth in me’. In the figure of Jacob we have Christ being wrought in us, so that `that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God’. It is the Holy Spirit’s work to form Christ in us in this latter way. God deals with the natural man that Christ may be inwrought in us, so that we manifest the fruit of the Spirit (5. 22).
Hebrews 12. 5-11 speaks of the loving chastening of the Lord. God, who is the Father of our spirits, deals with us as sons; and He does so to our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Thus is clearly different from I Corinthians I. 30, where it is made plain that Christ is holiness. Here in Hebrews 12, through trial and suffering, I come to be a partaker of His holiness. Thus is something constructive. Something is being wrought in me. Grievous suffering is yielding peaceable fruit-fruit that is produced by the Spirit of God, effortlessly.
What do I mean by that? Let us take the example we have used already. Our human nature delights to expose its spiritual experiences. We prattle on about what the Lord has taught us of deliverance from sin (I am not here referring to witness, that is a different matter) and then the thing we claimed had been finally dealt with in us happens again! We are shattered. And this recurs-until spontaneously we learn not to prattle any more. We do not decide not to talk; we just don’t talk. We have learned through suffering.
Here, in this small lesson, we have a tiny particle of what is meant by the term `Christ inwrought’. In this small degree of self-restraint the character of Christ has become in practice ours. The Spirit is developing in us a new character.
The items listed in Galatians 5. 22-23 under the heading of `the fruit of the Spirit’ are not virtues that the Spirit gives us; they are the natural, spontaneous fruit of the new character. The good tree is bearing good fruit, just as when a peach and a pear tree are planted side by side in the same kind of soil and given the same care and water and nourishment and sunshine, but each of them bears its own distinctive fruit. These out ward things are absorbed by each, and by each they are changed into their own fruit. Just so the sunshine of Christ’s own life is transmuted in us into something that is recognizably our own.
What God wants today is first that we should know Christ as our life, and in addition, that the Spirit should work Christ into us, to become our characters. Few enough of us know what is meant by the impartation of Christ. Fewer still, alas, know the formation of Christ by the Spirit. Yet this is the whole object of God’s dealing with us by chastening.
When we meet some aged saint who has gone through long years of discipline and perhaps suffering under the hand of God, we encounter a depth of spiritual measure, a Christ-likeness, which displays how really and deeply Christ has been wrought into them. (‘This is something the young lack, for of course such formation takes time.) Not only their life but the warp and woof of their character becomes Christ. It is, we may say, the Spirit’s manufacture.
Some of us are naturally so capable, able to do anything. Others of us are impetuous, ready at once to act for God, impatient of delay. Peter was one such. God did not improve him but touched and weakened him, and then worked Christ into him. So, later on, we encounter in Peter not only a new life but a new man. Paul, too, was one who had had Christ wrought into him through the testings of time. `I have learned,’ says he, `in whatsoever state I am, therein to be content’ (Philippians 4. 11), and the context refers to physical want. Through such experience, which took time, there was a progressive but a quite definite change in his character. And this is what we ourselves need: not only exchanged lives, where it is no longer I but Christ, but changed lives. Of course we cannot have the second without the first, but God does indeed want the second; He does want a real transformation in us.
There was a real transformation in Paul, not just a doctrinal one. In 1 Corinthians 7 there are some verses where Paul speaks for himself, expressing a purely personal opinion. `But this I say by way of permission, not of commandment’ (7. 6). `But to the rest say I, not the Lord’ (7. 12). Who dares to speak like that? Yet God puts it into His Word. `But I give my judgement, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful’ (7. 25). There has been the formation of Christ in him, and what such a one says is valuable in the sight of God, even though it be his own words. Paul was a vessel for God’s words, for he could also say `I give charge, yea not I, but the Lord’ (7. 10), but in these other instances he speaks on the ground of God’s dealing with him and his oneness of heart with God, and thus God can confirm it. Only one who has known the formation of the Spirit can say, as Paul does, `be ye imitators of me, even as I also am of Christ’ (1 Corinthians 11:1 ). If another man said this we should regard him as dangerously proud, but we are forced to acknowledge the power of God in those in whom the Spirit has wrought His formative work.
And this formative work is basic to Christianity. The command of Jesus in Matthew 28. 19 is: `Go ye therefore, and make disciples of all the nations.’ The believer receives salvation, but this is not enough, this is not the end. The disciple learns, and his life is worked upon by training and discipline. This is the ministry of the Holy Spirit.
This matter of the quality of life is expressed in figurative language at the beginning, in the middle, and at the end of the Bible. In Genesis 2: 12 we read, `The gold of that land is good; there is bdellium and the onyx stone.’ In 1 Corinthians 3. 12 Paul tells us `if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble; each man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire’. And in Revelation 21. 19-21 we read that `the foundations of the wall of the city were adorned with all manner of precious stones; . . . and the twelve gates were twelve pearls; . . . and the street of the city was pure gold, as it were transparent glass.’
God’s purpose for mankind is not just gold but precious stones. Gold surely represents that which is of God, which proceeds from the Father. Silver stands for the redemption that is in Christ, His free gift of grace. Precious stones are the work of the Spirit. Stones are not elements they are compounds. They are formed through fire, then cut. This is a figure of the Spirit’s discipline; through much suffering, difficulty, sorrow, through stress of circumstances, we are made into gem-stones. In the new Jerusalem there is no mention of silver at all; all has become precious stones.
God is looking for a vessel for the meeting of His need and the carrying out of His wondrous purpose. Such a vessel must know the God of Abraham, that all is from Him alone gold. It must know the God of Isaac, that all is His gift in Christ-silver. It must know too the God of Jacob, the Spirit’s dealing with the natural man that works Christ into the being -precious stones.
From ‘Changed Into His Likeness’ by Watchman Nee