An example of God shaking apart worldly church systems and building the Church HIS way.
I wrote the article in the link below at the beginning of April. I feel that a lot of what I’ve seen and heard recently confirms the validity of it, with some of the controversy being created over restrictions to church services.
On YouTube there have been countless videos about John MacArthur’s challenge against the Californian government’s regulations regarding gatherings of large groups that are affecting his church. The commentary I’ve read about the situation in California has included some of the most abusive, rude attacks on other discussion participants that I’ve seen from professing christians.
In Australia, there are restrictions on congregation numbers dependent on the size of meeting place, as well as apparent bans on congregational singing. The strictest situation is in the state of Victoria where a second wave of covid-19 has led to the harshest lock down in Australia since the pandemic first hit. I’ve seen professing believers from Victoria berating the state’s “wicked, totalitarian government” because of the inconvenience.
I have also seen a growing devotion to conspiracy claims being made about the corona virus; that its a media hoax; it’s a left wing conspiracy; it’s danger is being exaggerated to control the population; the restrictions and lock-downs are an attack against religious freedom – it’s persecution. (See the above reference to John MacArthur who has also stooped to promoting QAnon conspiracy claims picked up from a Donald Trump tweet).
A significant irony is the way devotees to the extreme charismania (Rodney Howard Browne), and anti-charismatics (MacArthur) are becoming unlikely allies, brought together by political ideologies and their opposition to restrictions affecting their church meetings.
I see something very significant at play – a widening separation of man’s religious systems and its concerns, and the opportunity to experience and practice a type of gathering together that I believe has a greater biblical legitimacy.
Instead of large congregations lined one row behind another, all facing and listening to one man on a stage or behind a pulpit, smaller groups in homes can genuinely encourage each other (as per Heb 10:25) when they come together; each having a psalm, a teaching, a tongue, a revelation, an interpretation, all done for edification. Home groups involved with community ministry sharing a the gospel confirmed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
What is happening now is a mild foretaste of what is ahead, so how will we survive something worse if we’re shaken by this? We need to prepare for change and be willing to embrace it. The old ways and structures of building centred, leader focused activity won’t be suited to the changed world.
It is not the time to be angry about being denied the comfortable familiarity of a professional clergy dominated, often theatrically presented service where anonymity can be maintained if desired. Now is the time to take the opportunity to establish ourselves and our relationship with Jesus on a very secure biblical foundation. Making the most of the strange times and the upheaval being experienced to focus on GOD’S agenda and HIS ways, and not be distracted by worldly concerns.
Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
Beware of Which Voice You Are Hearing.
From Back to Jerusalem, Three Chinese Church Leaders with Paul Hattaway.
We have noticed that many Christians in the West have an abundance of material possessions, yet they live in a backslidden state. They have silver and gold, but they don’t rise up and walk in Jesus’ name. In China few of us have any possessions to hold us down, so there’s nothing preventing us from moving out for the Lord. The ministry of the Chinese church is like that of Peter at the Beautiful Gate. He told the crippled beggar, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ, walk!” (Acts 3:6). We can’t afford any big programmes or fancy gospel presentations. All we have to give people is Jesus.
We are praying that God will use the Chinese church to help the Western church wake up and walk in the power of the Holy Spirit. It’s almost impossible for the church in China to go to sleep in its present situation. There’s always something to keep us on the run, and it’s very difficult to sleep while you’re running!
A reality check for western Christians who think a little inconvenience in not being able to “go to church” is “persecution”.
“After the Communists came to power in China in 1949 most church buildings were demolished. The communists thought that if they took away the places where Christians met, there would be no more Christianity. Believers were forced to meet secretly, sometimes in groups of just two or three people, and often at times like 3 o’clock in the morning, when everyone else was asleep. For years there were no pastors to shepherd the flock, no Bibles to learn from, and no hymn books to use in worship. Sometimes these tiny illegal meetings would just consist of prayer, mutual encouragement and the taking of the Lord’s Supper.
“Every external symbol of our faith was completely stripped away by the government, but they didn’t realize that our strength didn’t lie in those things anyway. Our strength lay in one thing they could never remove – the resurrected Jesus Christ who lives in our hearts!”
(Testimony of Peter Xu Yongze from Back to Jerusalem)
Broadcast starts approximately at the 5 minute mark.
An article from Cheryl McGrath, with insightful observations about the current situation and our expectations beyond it.
Click on the link below the introduction to access the full article at Cheryl’s site.
Coronavirus. I doubt there’s a single person reading this it hasn’t impacted. Many of us are reeling at the extent and speed with which the world around has changed, dramatically, within what seems like a nano-second. It’s mind boggling, isn’t it!
Everywhere I turn – internet, TV news, social media, family discussion – the question of the hour is ‘How long before this is over? When can we all just get back to normal?’
With that in mind the Lord and I started having a discussion about exactly what this ‘normal’ is that we’re all so desperate to get back to. It turns out that from His perspective normal looks a bit different to what it might be for most of us. Actually, it turns out He’s looking at this whole coronavirus thing from a Kingdom perspective. Surprised? Shouldn’t be.
(Continued from previous post)
To replace the current “ministry of division” there is an urgent need for the “ministry of reconciliation” between believers, that can only come by putting off prejudices and favoured theologies and putting on love – for each other and for the Word of God.
Among the commands given to His disciples towards the end of His ministry, Jesus gave a “new commandment”.
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another
This was something important enough for Jesus to say it would be the distinguishing feature revealing to EVERYONE that we are His disciples. Surely a vital ingredient when taking the gospel to an unbelieving world.
It was also important enough for Jesus to repeat in John 16:
My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command
Not only does this statement repeat His command to love each other, the latter part clearly infers that failing to do so disqualifies someone from being Jesus’ friend.
The command for believers to love one another is also repeated several times in 1 John and Peter adds another voice saying in 1 Peter 1: 22
Now that you have purified yourselves by obeying the truth so that you have sincere love for each other, love one another deeply, from the heart.
1 Peter 3: 8-9
love one another, be compassionate and humble. Do not repay evil with evil or insult with insult.
1 Peter 4: 8
Above all, love each other deeply
I now suspect that some might try to find a bit of wiggle room by insisting that those they are labelling as false teachers/prophets/etc aren’t really fellow believers so the obligation to love them as Jesus loved His disciples doesn’t apply.
But even if we allow that presumptuous conclusion, Jesus also said we should love our enemies, so there’s no avoiding the commandment to love. And who are we to judge who belongs to Him, and who doesn’t – thereby excusing ourselves from loving them as fellow disciples?
It seems that so many features of the gospel preached and commanded by Jesus – some of the very important aspects of it, by which unbelievers will see its validity – are being far too casually denied by professing believers. That denial includes the rejection of present day confirming signs following the preaching of the gospel (something affirmed most times that preaching of the gospel is mentioned in scripture) as well as a distinct lack of love being shown between those claiming to follow Jesus.
Through that ongoing denial, the church is allowing Satan to do a very effective job of disempowering what little gospel message remains within the church, by convincing professing believers to avoid and dismiss instructions Jesus gave in the latter days of His time on earth. Instructions regarding a gospel confirmed by signs, and instructions regarding the love of believers for each other.
There is an urgent need for us all to make sure that ALL of our beliefs and practices are consistent with God’s word, without closing our eyes to inconvenient passages, and without resorting to childish clichés to excuse ungodly excesses.
That means NOT trying to explain away Spiritual gifts and/or miracles. It also means abandoning inane claims like ‘you can’t put God in a box’ to justify some of the more dubious things that some charismatics have promoted for too long as being genuine works of the Holy Spirit.
I recently read an astute statement, saying something like the following: “we might not be able to put God in a box, but He did put Himself in a book” – meaning He has revealed Himself, His character and His purposes in scripture; written through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit Himself and won’t act in anyway contrary to that revelation.
And it is the revelation given by God through scripture that is the key to resolve the problems on both sides of the divide being addressed. Both sides need to give scripture its rightful place as the foundational revelation of truth, against which any belief and practice can be measured. That does NOT mean that all truth is contained within the pages of scripture, but it does mean that anything inconsistent with scripture is NOT truth.
There is a need for honesty – to be honest to ourselves – and truly examine our lives and beliefs alongside scripture. To put aside assumptions and take the time to search the scriptures; not through the lens of someone else’s teaching, not through a theological system, but going to scripture itself, scripture alone with the aid of the Holy Spirit. But we do it with the intention and desire to find Jesus and what HE wants of us. Both the scriptures and the Holy Spirit testify of Him.
Unfortunately the division I’ve been addressing is being fuelled by erroneous beliefs, practices and attitudes FROM BOTH SIDES, things that compromise Christian gospel witness.
That has to change – and maybe THAT is what God intends to address through the current world situation.
But will we take the opportunity to use this time of isolation and disruption wisely?
… if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Cor 5)NIV
What does the ministry of reconciliation involve?
Firstly, God reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, which starts with Jesus’ ministry, sacrifice, and resurrection.
Secondly it continues in the ministry that Jesus commissioned His followers to carry on after His return to the Father: the commission revealed through the instructions He gave prior to that return.
Each gospel gives a variation of those instructions with different levels of detail. Sadly they are instructions that seem to have mostly been ignored, dismissed, reduced, denied or otherwise avoided by most who profess to be followers of Jesus.
Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 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.
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it
Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
From Luke in Acts 1:
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
Then we should see the example of the early church throughout the book of Acts, and how Paul often linked preaching the gospel with power, and confirming signs.
Do ANY of those describe anything resembling the ministry and experience of the majority of churches and those within the church today?
Sadly, I’d have to say no.
And even more sadly, most professing believers seem to be okay with that and find it acceptable.
Recently I’ve had my attention brought to some ministries who are doing what they can to go into the their communities, sharing the gospel with those outside of church walls, and are taking the other parts of Jesus’ commission regarding healing and deliverance seriously. And they are reportedly seeing people healed and delivered, and as a result turning to Jesus, whose reality has been confirmed to them through the signs they’ve observed or experienced.
Not long ago I posted videos related to two of those people. One of the videos showed a practical example, praying for the sick and seeing them healed. The other was more teaching related, with a very sound scriptural foundation, given through countless bible references for viewers to search the scriptures for themselves. That teaching was followed by a practical application of what was learned, with people testifying to being healed after the teaching was put into practice.
Those two videos caused a great deal of controversy, because of the alleged “associations” the men featured had with others – in other words, they were covered with a broad-brush application of guilt because of friendships, acquaintances, or links to people with whom they’d shared a preaching engagement.
For more than a decade and a half I took that broad-brush approach myself; dismissing anyone who had a hint of being linked to any kind of group or individual with questionable practices and theology.
My recent situation has made me seriously reconsider that attitude, an attitude I’m now seeing as being a “ministry” of division.
In trying to convince me that the men in those videos should be avoided, I was sent links to articles “proving” they were involved in very dubious things – except, for the most part the articles offered no evidence, just unsubstantiated claims and rumours. Even worse, there were also misrepresentations and outright lies. Again the strongest reason for “condemnation” came down to some people they were linked to rather than what they themselves were saying and doing in the posted videos.
As a result I had to reconsider any trust I may have had in many of those people and groups who would call themselves “discernment ministries”, finding there was little if any discernment involved in anything they were doing or the conclusions they were drawing.
Discernment is something believers need, probably more than ever.
But, discernment is NOT gained through trawling web-pages for information allegedly exposing the wrong doings and wrong teachings of others. It’s not gained through spending hours of dissecting every word or phrase uttered by someone targeted for exposure to find a problem statement or claim. And its not a demonstration of discernment when someone is dismissed because of who they may know or have met with.
Discernment comes through searching the scriptures for ourselves, with the help of the Holy Spirit who inspired the writers of scripture. Discernment comes through believing scripture and DOING what scripture directs us to do instead of turning to theological opinions and teachings that try to explain why scripture doesn’t really mean what it actually says according to its context.
Genuine discernment is needed so we can assess ALL teachings and practices no matter what or who the source may be – whether it comes from a favoured teacher or from someone we’ve been advised to avoid. Ultimately WE are responsible for what WE accept or reject, so it would be wise to make informed judgements that align with scripture and not rely on potentially biased opinion from others.
Genuine discernment also allows us to respond with a lot more grace and wisdom towards others than outright broad-brush judgements allow. Genuine discernment can make room for us to learn from others and recognise the value of what they are doing when and if they are conforming to scripture, and it allows us to recognise and reject anything that IS genuinely erroneous, without seeing the need to reject everything they say and do.
This goes both ways – we should all make room in our lives to learn from others and to shape our own Christian lives to conform more and more with God’s requirements of us. But while it goes both ways, to date I’ve seen the aggression and condemnation has mostly been going in one direction, often from groups and people who dismiss the ongoing validity of Spiritual gifts and miraculous signs to accompany the gospel.
While charismatic groups have often ventured into questionable, extra-biblical territory, it is no less the case that those opposing them have virtually erased large sections of scripture from their bibles by seeing them as being no longer valid, as if the canonical compilation of the very scriptures that record them have nullified the gifts and miracles that the Bible itself teaches ARE and will continue to be valid.
Which of those groups present the greater problem? Those who add to scripture or those who subtract from it by disempowering the gospel?
I’d suggest that BOTH are equally a danger to themselves and to anyone who makes undiscerning judgements about their teachings. Both sides need to find reconciliation with God and each other through respect for, and obedience to, His word.
Have I wandered off track with the latter part of this article?
To replace the current “ministry of division” there is an urgent need for the “ministry of reconciliation”. There is a need for reconciliation between believers, that can only come with the putting off of prejudices and favoured theologies and putting on love – for each other and for the Word of God.
(To be continued)