An open letter to my preacher friends about money/Which Church?/The gospel cannot be hindered/The Church in the City/Going through the Cross - the Crucified Ones

 

Modern day Money Changers

David Ravenhill
 

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I'm convinced that the carnal, cunning, conniving, crooked crooks that Jesus drove out of the Temple are still among us today. These modern day moneychangers are forever devising new and deceptive doctrines to defraud God's people out of His/their money. These masters of deceit have now set up their changing tables throughout the Christian television industry.

I'm absolutely certain that if Jesus returned today He would walk into the vast majority of these television studios and overthrow the cameras, lights, monitors, and soundboards. He would unplug the microphones and scatter the makeup colors around as He went about destroying the stages and backdrops.

Several years ago now, a nationally known prophetic voice was told by the Lord, "I'm sick and tired of the prosperity message". If that was true then, how much more today. As far back as 1986, the top seven media evangelists took in over 750 million dollars. Now with the increased manipulation of 'seed faith teaching' that amount has no doubt been dwarfed by comparison.

Only a few days ago I was appalled as I watched and listened as Pastor "So & So" zealously twisted and distorted the Scriptures to his own advantage. This 'brother' dared to distort the most sacred truth of all Scripture. He used The Day Of Atonement, that day when Jesus Christ the Lamb of God shed His blood for the sins of the world, to teach that how we give financially determines how God will respond to us throughout the coming year. My blood boiled as I listened. This 'brother' had finally crossed the line and was now on the verge of blaspheming the atoning work of our blessed Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, not to mention lining his own pockets with the proceeds. He might as well have been selling indulgences by inferring that God's favor toward us was based on our giving rather than God's unmerited grace and forgiveness through the gift of His Son. What made matters worse was that this same 'charlatan' was the guest of one of the nation's best known charismatic personalities. Within a day or so he was teaching the same message on a local Christian telethon. Neither the evangelist nor the network sought to correct his aberrant teaching – after all, the show must go on and that takes money, so how you raise it doesn't seem to matter anymore.

Why does almost every single Christian program have to end with some type of 'seed faith teaching'? If these men and women of faith really believed what they taught, they would practice what they preach and teach; after all what's good for the goose is good for the gander. Imagine how shocked you would be if your favorite televangelist and covenant partner were to send you a check in their next mailing for the amount of $1,000.00 with a personal note telling you he/she just wanted to sow into your life. Perhaps then I could believe that these men/women really believe and practice what they teach. Not only that, but they would never have to appeal for money again as God's return to them would result in a hundredfold increase. At least that's what they would have us to believe.

On a recent ministry trip to the Northwest, I was told by a pastor friend that his church had received a call from a well known and anointed teacher in the Body of Christ. The caller was asking them for a contribution towards the purchase of a jet for their ministry. What a far cry from what the Apostle Paul taught when he prefaced his teaching on 'sowing and reaping' with these words; " For this is not for the ease of others and for your affliction, but by way of equality." (II Cor. 8:13-14)

Many pastors measure their success in terms of numbers –the larger the church the more successful their ministry. Itinerant ministries, not being able to brag about size, seem to fall for the notion that having one's own jet is how success is determined. (Once it was the Rolex watch). By the way, if you love and appreciate this fine teacher, pray that he won't get the desires of his heart - it will only lead to the leanness of his soul.

This is one man's attempt to appeal to the Body of Christ. Stop pandering to these moneychangers. These men and women live like kings while spending your money to buy mansions and jets for themselves. They dine in the finest restaurants, wear the latest designer fashions and then have the audacity to tell you that you can live the same way as long as you give to their ministry.

I opened my Bible the other day to Zechariah's wonderful prophecy concerning the first coming of Jesus, our great and glorious King. Listen to his words; 'Behold your King is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt the foal of a donkey.'( Zechariah 9:9 ) What a far cry from the televangelist who comes high and mighty and traveling on his own jet!

If you are as sick and tired as I am about this waste of God's money, then for heaven's sake STOP SUPPORTING THESE PEOPLE. Give your money to your local church or other servant ministries. There are tens of thousands of needy missionaries who barely have enough support to keep themselves alive. They are laboring long and hard under some of the most difficult and trying conditions. They would rejoice at the thought of an extra $10-30 dollars a month support. These are the real heroes of whom the world is not worthy. Help put these MONEY LOVING TELEVANGELISTS OUT OF BUSINESS and save another MISSIONARY FROM EXTINCTION. Together we can make it happen. Please forward this to as many people as you know.

 

An Open Letter to My Preacher Friends about Money
 

R.Stanley, Blessing Youth Mission, India

 

Dear fellow-labourers,

Warm greetings in the love of God who has graciously called us to proclaim His mercies! I write this letter to share a burden from my heart that becomes heavier every day.

The Christian ministries in India and abroad suffer one scandal after the other year after year. The commonest one seems to be the money scandal. It has been upon my mind to write to my fellow ministers of God in India some of the principles by which we can escape the money trap. Honestly I do not assume a better-than-thou attitude while writing this letter. We are all organs of the same Body and when one organ suffers, all the other organs suffer with it. Not to accuse anyone but to help God's servants in India I submit these lines.

People point out there are three most profitable businesses. They say, once it was cinema, then it was politics, and now it is religion. The frontal attack is on Christian ministry. We cannot totally dismiss this accusation as unfounded. Money-for-ministry has become ministry-for-money. Coin-consciousness robs us of all spiritual vitality. Messageless pulpits are the result of moneymindedness. It is easy to excuse ourselves saying that after all we are raising money for the ministerial needs only. But if fund-raising is at the top of our agenda, we have missed the spirit of the teaching of our Master (Mt 6:24-33). God's work done by God's men at God's time in God's way will not lack God's support. This is not an empty cliche but the consistent testimony of saintly ministers of God down through the ages. It is said that George Muller (1805-1898) never once directly or indirectly appealed to people for money to run his orphanages. Though this appears to be an extreme, it will do us enormous good if we read his biography because we tend to go to the other extreme! Let's decide to say as little as possible about our financial needs in pulpit or print. God honours faith because faith honours Him.

Prosperity does not mean God's approval, nor does poverty mean His displeasure. He takes us through times of plenty as well as seasons of drought so we may learn with Apostle Paul "both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need" (Phil 4:12). Someone said, "When we have money, we pay; when we don't have money, we pray!" If there's no financial crisis in the ministry it should only humble us. We must not feel puffed up that God has given a blanket endorsement for all that we do. We must search our ways more when we have enough than when we are in want. Success can easily blind us. Difficult days naturally drive us to our knees but we must not be discouraged. God simply deepens our roots and strengthens us. This may also be a signal from God to reprioritize our life and ministry.

If God gives us much more than what we actually need for our ministry, there will usually come a temptation to enter new areas of ministry for which we are not actually called. This subtle temptation has assaulted many independent and popular evangelists. When they are left with enormous amounts of money after taking care of their crusades, printing and other media expenses, they invent huge projects for their investment. This not only sidetracks these ministers but also leads them to malpractices. To keep their self-invented projects going, they resort to unscriptural methods of fund-raising and justify their actions with a horrible lie: "God told me!" Friends, beware! It will be difficult to do away with white elephants. Don't stretch yourself beyond the "measure of faith" God has given you and exceed the "limits" He has set for you (Rom 12:3; 2 Cor 10:13). Be gracious and generous enough to share excess offerings with less popular ministers and ministries with pressing needs. This way we will help build the Kingdom of God rather than our own empires.

Agur's prayer concerning material needs is full of practical wisdom. He prayed, "Give me neither poverty nor riches—Feed me with the food You prescribe for me; lest I be full and deny You, and say, who is the Lord? Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the Name of my God" (Prov 30:8,9). When the funds position is deplorably low, ask yourself these questions: Did I thank God enough when His supply was sufficient? Did I help the less affluent ministries and poorer preachers when I had excess income? Was I consciously dependent on God my Source rather than on the steady supply? Did I become careless about my personal giving? As preachers we don't have a right to expect people to give until we ourselves have given all we can (1 Chron 29:3-5).

Thank God for Banks and other financial institutions which grant loans for capital expenditure. One inherent danger in borrowing money for ministry is that we would not be able to ascertain whether what we undertake is in the perfect will of God. Zeal and enthusiasm can mislead us. Though it may look like an immediate success, it will adversely affect the overall purposes of God (Mk 1:40-45). The right procedure would be to pray collectively with mature Christians, wait before the Lord for a season, discuss the matter in the light of the Scriptures, confirm with a few witnesses, and then place it before the people of God for their prayers and support. See how people respond and then launch the project. Don't be overambitious but be practical. Differentiate between faith and presumption. Don't get into heavy debts and then go to people with sympathy appeals. It puts the Lord of the Harvest to public shame.

As a general rule, don't sink too much money in brick and mortar. (As a building engineer myself I have to constantly resist the temptation to go for big buildings.) We have come to the end of the age. If you are a pastor and your congregation is growing fast, don't go on extending your Church building. How much will be enough? Split the congregation into two or three and plant them in different localities to function under the secondline leaders. Decentralisation promotes Church growth the Bible way and antidotes many evils. Pastor Paul Yongi Cho of Korea is not an universal pattern to follow.

If you are in the healing ministry you must be extremely vigilant against any form of merchandising your anointing and commercialising your acts. While commissioning the twelve Jesus specifically said, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give" (Mt 10:8). Look at the anger of the apostles when someone offered them money to get a spiritual gift (Acts 8:17-23). There's nothing wrong in accepting an offering in gratitude, but when the intention of the giver is to earn the special favour of the preacher, it must be outrightly rejected. This is illustrated by how Daniel accepted gifts from King Nebuchadnezzar but refused what King Belshazzar gave (Dan 2:47,48; 5:16,17). Beware of offering special seats to the rich in your meetings, and visiting the homes of the affluent (Js 2:1-6). A poor widow may give you just 20 rupees whereas a rich businessman 20,000 rupees. The human tendency is to profusely thank the rich fellow with swelling words of appreciation, and take the poor for granted. But God measures one's giving not by what is given but by what's kept back. Percentagewise usually the poor give much more than the rich (Mk 12:41-44). Those who go overseas obviously earn many times more than their counterparts in India. Don't go after them or allow yourself to be dictated by them. Never forget that you are a servant of the Most High! (Gen 14:22,23).

The temptation for Indian preachers to grab overseas ministerial opportunities is simply too strong because of our low economic condition. No doubt "the field is the world," but we usually sacrifice our commitments and obligations in this vast land of India for foreign programmes. Anyone would love to preach in Singapore, the Middle East, Europe and the West. But how about the thousands and thousands of tribal and backward villages in India totally unreached where only Indian—not white—evangelists can go? Organizers in the abovesaid countries are tired of Indian preachers, especially from Tamilnadu and Kerala, because they are literally pressurised by many of these preachers to extend them invitations and arrange for visas. Wait for honourable invitations, and here again make sure that your local work does not suffer. The Government of India in the present trend has begun to restrict the flow of foreign funds into India. The Christian ministry is singularly targeted. However there's sufficient money in India for our ministries if only the Indian Christians would learn to give. This cannot happen overnight. Therefore spend sufficient time in India to motivate Christians and mobilize inland support.

When you minister in the West or attend international conferences, don't sell your vision for a bowl of broth. Don't accept offers instantly or invite unknown preachers to India straightaway. You are in for trouble. Too many have bowed down to the American dollar or kissed the German Deutchmark and lost their precious calling and rich anointing.

Accountability is another very important thing I want to write about. We are accountable not only to God but also to men. While handling large sums of money received as contributions for the poor saints, Apostle Paul testified, "No one should blame us in this lavish gift which is administered by us—providing honourable things, not only in the sight of the Lord, but also in the sight of men" (2 Cor 8:20,21). According to the civil law, all monies received as gifts, contributions or offerings must be accounted for and audited statements submitted to the Government. Any money that's not accounted for is black money, and God does not accept it because He is light and there's no darkness in Him. Don't evade tax where it's due (Rom 13:7).

It's advisable to have an internal audit system also for your organisation. Be accountable to your fellow-workers and assistant pastors. Leave the responsibility of handling money with someone else who is not your relative. Though I was the founder-leader of the Blessing Youth Mission I voluntarily surrendered my legal rights for money and property transactions. I became free with an open Bible (Acts 6:1-4). Like any of the 300 missionaries in this organisation I just received my salary. We used our family funds for our special needs. Unless you are strict with yourself in this matter, and if you are the top leader or the chief pastor, your children will be spoilt. In the New Testament economy, a son or a daughter cannot simply inherit the ministry or the ministerial money or property of the parents.

Let us not justify ourselves of luxurious lifestyle saying that we are the sons and daughters of the King of kings. Do you know our King is radically different from other kings, and while on earth He rode lowly on a donkey? Only in future glory will He ride on horses! (Mt 21:5; Rev 19:11,14). Simple living goes with high thinking. Let's lower our standard of living to improve the standard of life of people. The unfortunate situation today is overfed shepherds and underfed sheep. Let us live simply so millions can simply live.

Printers and broadcasters complain that several preachers don't pay their bills promptly. One broadcaster showed me the nasty reply he received from a radio evangelist for the reminder sent to him for the payment of airtime cost. We go to such a level because we have ignored the Biblical principles of stewardship of money. When Elisha performed a material miracle for the widow of the prophet, he told her to first pay her debt and use the balance for her livelihood (2 Ki 4:7). It was in the context of payment of taxes and customs, Paul wrote to the Roman Christians to owe no one anything (Rom 13:7,8). Even when Jesus didn't have enough money, He was serious about paying taxes (Mt 17:24-27).

We go to people with a detailed presentation of our financial needs when we need their contributions. Is it not then obligatory on our part to publish a report of income and expenditure at the end of each financial year? People may not demand it but they have a right to know. Missionary organizations, Bible Societies and well-structured ministerial agencies faithfully publish their financial statements. Why don't independent evangelists and preachers do the same? Come out of your apprehensions. You will experience a new freedom.

Let me close this letter with a searching question that burst forth from the very lips of our Master: "If you are untrustworthy about worldly wealth, who will trust you with the true riches of heaven?" (Lk 16:11).

Your friend,

R. Stanley

 

Which Church?

"The Lord added to the Church daily those who were being saved"

(Acts 2:47)

New believers are usually advised in follow-up talks to attend a "spiritual" Church. How to identify a "spiritual" Church?

Churches can be broadly divided as Pentecostal and non-Pentecostal. The main difference is on how one understands the experience of the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. It is wrong to say that the Pentecostal Churches are all "spiritual" and others are not. In the Biblical sense, the word "spiritual" is the opposite of "carnal" or "natural." Hence a spiritual Church would mean a Church without carnality. It is not the style of worship, the form of government, the mode of baptism or the method of breadbreaking that decides whether or not a Church is "spiritual." The deciding factor is its character as a group and the lifestyle of its members. In spite of the fact that all the gifts of the Holy Spirit were in operation in the Corinthian Church (1 Cor 1:7; 14:12a), Paul calls it a "carnal" Church (1 Cor 3:1-3). If we honestly analyse today's situation, there is always a mixture of spirituality and carnality. The percentage, of course, varies!

After rebirth one should choose a local Church where he can "grow" into maturity. Some of the characteristics expected of a spiritual Church —

1. It should believe the Bible as the Word of God. It must provide solid Bible teaching which helps believers to grow steady and strong.

2. Worship should be rich in the "truth" content and enthusiastic in "spirit" (Jn 4:23,24).

3. There must be a healthy relationship among the members of the Church. Upholding one another and sharing material blessings with the needy must be practised in the Church (Js 2:14-17).

4. It must be a Church where leadership is not vested on one man but responsibilities are shared.

5. The Church must keep missions and evangelism as its top priority. The Church must not be a clutch. Members should have the freedom to associate themselves with evangelistic agencies and involve themselves in any ministry of their choice.

Since no single Church has all these characteristics, do visit other Churches for enlarging your vision and expanding your knowledge. Don't expect too much and get disappointed. If disappointed, don't get discouraged!

- R.Stanley

 



Courtesy: http://www.stanelyonbible.com

The gospel cannot be hindered!

David Wilkerson
 

The Book of Acts closes on an amazing note. The final two verses find Paul in chains, under house arrest and guarded by Roman soldiers. Yet read the joyous note with which Paul's situation is described: "Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him" (Acts 28:30–31).

The original Greek for "forbidding" here actually means "hindering." The New American Standard Version says Paul preached and taught the gospel "with all openness, unhindered." What an amazing statement, given that Paul was imprisoned. The gospel was "unhindered," meaning unstopped, unobstructed. The author uses this testimony to close Acts with a powerful declaration: "The gospel cannot be hindered!"

Make no mistake, there were hindrances to Paul's message on all sides. When he called on the Jewish leaders in Rome to visit him in his chains, they were indignant. They said, "We don't even know you. Who are you to us?" When Paul did finally preach Christ to them, they ended up squabbling among themselves.

At the same time, the Emperor Nero was torturing and killing Christians in the streets of Rome. In fact, Paul himself would soon be martyred on those streets. Hell was spilling out, and Roman society had become one vast orgy. Homosexuality was a respected lifestyle, preferred among the intelligentsia. The entire culture was immersed in materialism, with the rampant pursuit of money, fame and pleasure.

All the while, there sat Paul, sent by God to bring the gospel to Rome but bound in chains. He had been rejected by a secularized Jewish religion that wanted no part of Christ's gospel. He was persecuted by a godless government. And he was ridiculed by a society that had gone mad for riches and lusts.

Given these mountainous hindrances, how did God plan to impact the godless Roman Empire? What would be his method for building a church in Rome that would influence the world throughout the empire, for ages to come? Could it really be this jailed Jewish former terrorist, whose speech was said to be contemptible? Was Paul God's best instrument to evangelize Rome and all its vast territories?

For two years, the apostle was shut up in this nondescript house on a side street. He had no associate evangelist, no Timothy or Barnabas, to work alongside him. He had no microphone to broadcast his messages. He had no consultants or political connections to help him. Paul simply had no planned program or agenda. And even if he did, he had no way to advertise it. He couldn't go door-to-door evangelizing or hold street meetings.

He declared, in so many words, "Here I am, Lord. Use me as you see fit." No, Paul was just there. And yet he was absolutely contented with where God had placed him. He declared, in so many words, "Here I am, Lord. Use me as you see fit. I don't know your plan, but I do know you put me here. Your gospel will go forth unhindered."

Indeed, what God did through Paul's situation was amazing. The Lord didn't need some method to employ for his gospel to go forth. He only needed a single servant, and this one was hidden away on a back street, in a small rented house, under armed guard. Paul was a man without an ounce of charisma, someone with no eloquence of speech. Yet for two years, a steady stream of hungry souls from all walks of life came to him in his makeshift jail.

In fact, that little rented house served as the Holy Ghost's Grand Central Headquarters for "Operation Rome." Inside, God's Spirit was raising up a devoted body of believers who would come out preaching the gospel with power and anointing. And they would take the good news of Christ to the farthest corners of the empire.

What is God trying to tell through this account?

Could the Lord be telling us here not to look for bigness in ministry, not to focus on numbers or techniques? I do believe that if Paul were on the scene today beholding all the methods that have replaced Holy Ghost direction he would preach "downsizing."

Yet, I believe there is another message here that gets more to the point. Simply put, God is telling us that the Holy Spirit can lay hold of any common person, bring him to a place of total dependence, and reach communities, cities, even nations, from the most insignificant places.

Why did these people come streaming into Paul's house? Why did they respond to mere word of mouth, to hear a poor, non-celebrity preacher? I say it was because that house was filled with the Spirit of God. Jesus was present there, the Holy Spirit convicted all who entered, and Christ's presence healed their hungry souls.

Don't misunderstand: I'm not preaching, "Be small." I'm preaching, "God can use the most humble." He can use anyone who's willing to be stripped of all confidence in the flesh and be dependent on him for everything. And the Lord can do that with any Christian, from any walk of life. I know, because I'm an example of it. God found a skinny preacher in the Pennsylvania countryside and sent him to New York City to work with gangs and drug addicts. What could be more unlikely?

Birth of the great Pentecostal movement

The history of God's people is full of such testimonies. In the early 1900s, a revival broke out in Los Angeles that launched the modern-day Pentecostal movement. It all started in a little clapboard house church in a lowly neighborhood, on a street called Azusa. People came from all over the world to go there and experience God's presence.

Daily prayer meetings were held on the second floor, and the pastor — a humble African-American man named Seymour — prayed for hours with his head inside a wooden box. Eyewitnesses told of visiting pastors and evangelists who walked into those meetings and fell on their faces, confessing their sins and weeping for days at a time.

God only needs a single humble servant

What is the message here? It's that the gospel of Jesus Christ knows no hindrances. It doesn't matter what kind of opposition comes from the world. Nothing — not Communism, secularism or atheism — is an obstacle to the gospel. God says, "You may think you see hindrances before you, but I see none. I don't need money or an army for my plan to come about. I need only a single humble servant in order to accomplish my work. And I will do it in the smallest, most obscure places, using society's most insignificant people."

In the two years Paul spent in that humble house in Rome, his soul was completely at rest. He wasn't discouraged by the small numbers of believers in Rome at the time. The fact is, Paul had total confidence in the power of the gospel he preached. Rome's religious Jews may have rejected his ministry, but Paul knew that God had his people hidden away in the city.

"Unhindered"

In spite of all the incredible hindrances, the Holy Ghost moved on Luke to put these glorious words to paper and have them emblazoned in Scripture: "Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered" (Acts 28:31, NASV). Here was a statement God made to his church for centuries to come: "The gospel cannot be hindered. Preach it with all confidence!"

Oh, let the heathen rage! Let Islamics boast that Allah will prevail. Let the atheistic, elitist establishment try to legislate God out of society. Let the supreme courts legalize gay marriage. Let persecutors threaten, let principalities and powers mock and curse. I tell you, none can hinder the preaching of the cross and resurrection of Christ. The gates of hell shall never prevail against this Word, or be able to stop the power and might of the gospel.

Greater hindrances today

I believe we face greater hindrances to the gospel than in Paul's day. According to Scripture, evil men in this world are growing worse by the day. And I'm convinced Paul could not have imagined the hindrances God's people face today. Jesus prophesied of a time when world conditions would become so fearsome that people's hearts would fail them, as they learn of the horrid things happening all around.

We are living in those last, terrifying days right now, and the signs are everywhere. Europe is becoming wholly pagan, with the institution of marriage being rejected, partners living together and family values vanishing altogether. In Sweden, 30 percent of the population lives together unmarried.

Here in New York State, we're seeing a "great falling away" of the kind Scripture predicts. Some 410 pastors have enlisted for a homosexual agenda called "Pride in My Pulpit," in which they hang signs in their churches bearing this motto. The message is, "We're proud of the homosexual community, and we endorse it." The numbers of these pastors are growing.

In Islamic nations — Uzbekistan and Pakistan especially — believers are being jailed and beaten. Islamics worldwide are building mosques sponsored by Middle East oil money. Now international think tanks are saying the situation is one of "Islam against all other religions," "Islam against democracy," "Islam against Christianity." The Islamic boast is, "We are going to destroy infidel Christianity."

In the midst of all this, what does God say lies ahead for his church? We know the Lord will not allow any such forces to shut down his gospel. If the message of the Cross is going to triumph before Christ returns, how will it happen?

Our ministry being tried by fire

I can only speak as one man. Personally, I don't believe the Lord's plan will happen through any one person's concept of world evangelism. I don't care to hear or read about any such methods to reach multitudes. Instead, I believe I am to be focused on only one thing, and that is the day I stand before Christ to give an account of my life and ministry. On that day, all my works — all of my ministry, everything I did in his name — will be tried by fire.

Paul writes, "Let every man take heed how he buildeth… Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is" (1 Corinthians 3:10, 13).

That day of accounting, when we stand before his throne, is called "the day of our Lord" (1:8). In that hour, my life and yours will face the fire of the Lord's holy presence. And that fire is going to reveal the quality of our works, whether they were of God or of our flesh. Many of these works will survive, while others will be utterly consumed.

If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. 1 Corinthians 11:31. Now, I believe that the souls I have won will not be lost. And the sacrifices I have made won't be in vain. Every cup of cold water I've given to his servants will receive a reward. In short, I am confident of my salvation, because I'm confident in my Savior, that I will not be cast aside.

Yet, as Peter writes, "If the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" (1 Peter 4:18). Peter is speaking about judgment in the house of God. And I for one do not want to be "scarcely saved."

Paul offers this counsel: "If we would judge ourselves, we should not be judged. But when we are judged, we are chastened of the Lord, that we should not be condemned with the world" (1 Corinthians 11:31–32). So, how are we to judge ourselves, as Paul says to do?
 

He who preaches can hinder the gospel

Here is the criterion by which I constantly judge myself: I ask, "Have I in any way hindered the gospel of Christ?" We know that the world cannot hinder the gospel. But the fact is, we who preach it can hinder it. Paul judged himself on this matter, writing, "(I) suffer all things, lest (I) should hinder the gospel of Christ" (1 Corinthians 9:12).

The apostle is telling us, in essence, "I have to be careful of how I present the gospel. If I'm materialistically minded, or if I harbor covetousness or lust, I cannot possibly represent Christ accurately. It would cause a hindrance to the gospel I present. No, the way I live has to be a part of the gospel I preach."

Consider the Corinthians in Paul's time. They were bringing fancy foods to the feast table, while the poor among them didn't have any food at all. Paul told them, in so many words, "You're not really concerned about the needs of Christ's body if your eye is only fixed on how to better your own life. You simply can't be focused on God's concerns if you don't care whether your brother has enough money for his next meal."

Any works or ministry that's done with such a mindset won't endure the Lord's holy fire. Large numbers, successful methods and monumental achievements won't mean anything in that hour, because God judges the motives of the heart. The question we have to ask ourselves today is, "Am I doing this for recognition? To be somebody? To secure my own future, with no regard for my brothers or sisters in need?"

Make no mistake: the gospel of Jesus Christ goes forth unhindered, mighty and unstoppable. But this happens only when it is preached and taught in its fullness. It has to be delivered in the context of "the whole counsel of God." As Paul says, "I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God" (Acts 20:27, italics mine).

 

Preaching the whole gospel, not half the truth

A watered-down half-gospel is an abomination to the Lord. You see, I could write to you each month, saying, "Jesus loves you and wants to bless you. He wants you to enjoy your life. He desires to give you miracle after miracle." This would be pure gospel truth.

But it is only half the truth of the gospel. The whole gospel also includes warnings against the deceitfulness of sin. It includes repentance and godly sorrow, preparation for persecution, and a yearning for the coming of Christ. Scripture tells us in no uncertain terms, "Follow…holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord" (Hebrews 12:14). The gospel of Christ always confronts man and then brings comfort to him. It will never accommodate the likes of sinful men.

Yes, Jesus ministered miracles. He delivered up bread and meat to the multitudes. But the day came when he no longer performed or preached miracles. Instead, He told His followers, "Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no part in me."

I am not a prophet, but the Holy Spirit has led me to deliver some prophetic messages that have been considered by many to be too hard. Some people have called me a doomsday preacher. And I readily admit I've preached some messages that caused me to walk right out the church doors, go home and weep. Yet this was all because of one verse: "He that justifieth the wicked, and he that condemneth the just, even they both are abomination to the Lord" (Proverbs 17:15).

It doesn't matter how I may feel on a given Sunday. At no time may I preach from my flesh and condemn the just. Likewise, I cannot deliver a message that justifies the sin in anyone's heart.

Occasionally after a service, I will put on earphones and replay the message I just preached. And sometimes I tremble as I listen, asking the Lord, "Oh, God, did I cross a line? Did I condemn your righteous saints here? Did I unconsciously wound your servants?" On other occasions, I ask, "Jesus, did I preach only half of your gospel in this sermon? Did I give a sermon that makes people feel good about their sins? Did I give them false comfort by watering down your call to turn from iniquity?" The only hindrance to his gospel is the unbelief in our hearts.

 

Planting the seed of gospel

There is no hindrance to the salvation of that loved one of yours. Have you given up believing God to do the impossible? Do you still believe His saving Word is unstoppable? Our Lord says nothing is impossible with him. And no barrier, manmade or spiritual, can hinder his gospel.

If you have a loved one who doesn't know Jesus, rest assured in this: any gospel seed you have planted, no matter how humble, is a mighty one. And it will get through. It may happen only on a deathbed, but God has heard your prayer, and his Word will not return void. The devil can't stop it, the spirit of the age can't stop it, no man or army can stop it. As Luke has declared: "This gospel cannot be hindered!"


www.worldchallenge.org

The Church in the City
 

Ron Wood
 

The early church fathers "turned the world upside down" with their witness. They did not have automobiles, telephones, the internet, or airplanes. Yet they successfully planted kingdom colonies in city after city. They had something that God was pleased to bear witness to with supernatural signs and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Since that first generation of pioneers, the world has not been the same!

You can see evidence of their effective strategy in the New Testament epistles written to the churches in the Bible. For example, 1 Cor 1:2 says "…to the church of God which is at Corinth…." Eph 1:1 reads, "…to the saints who are at Ephesus…." Phil 1:1 mentions "…the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi…." Col 1:2 is addressed "…to the saints and faithful brethren in Christ who are at Colossae…" Ah, you noticed the Letter to the Galatians? Yes, it references churches- plural. But Galatia was a province, not a city!

In each city there was only one church made up of many house-churches. There was no branding or franchising. When Paul called for the elders of the church at Ephesus, they knew who they were, they knew one another, they knew who they were accountable to, and they came together as one man (Acts 20:17). They were the house-church leaders of the entire city. They were given one new mandate by their apostle (Acts 20:28).

The historic church of the first Apostolic Era had two expressions of corporate life: small groups meeting in homes and the city-wide gathering or network of all the saints. There was no hybrid church like we have today, local congregations. Facility-based congregations are like synagogues in that they have a building devoted to their meetings. Christian congregations as such have been and always will be a blessing. But they do have two major problems: 1) They are too large to meet in private homes. 2) They don't interconnect with the rest of the Body of Christ in the city.

If you add to this dilemma another reality, that modern churches were not founded on the proper foundation of apostles and prophets (Eph 2:20), you have another difficulty interjected into the challenge. Most contemporary churches are not answerable to apostles nor do they receive regular input from prophets. They are usually governed by pastors or elders or boards and these usually fight to maintain the status quo.

These early Christian pioneers transformed a fiercely antagonistic Roman Empire that crucified thousands of them and fed hundreds of them to the lions or burned them at the stake. They endured awesome tribulation. Their brave preachers had one basic strategy. Wherever there was a Jewish synagogue that would receive them, they went there first and proclaimed the same Messiah their prophets had foretold in their sacred Scriptures. Then, expelled or persecuted, they would go from house to house among the Gentiles, meeting with groups of new believers in their homes. It was this latter strategy, seemingly accidental-- the development of small house churches throughout each city-- that was the true secret to their phenomenal success.

The only way they could do this was by turning laymen into leaders. (I'll say more on this in a future article when I develop the Grace Matrix concept.) They did this in small group settings or sometimes in rented halls. These new leaders could in turn tend to the sheep and could continue to expand the ministry of the gospel without becoming paid professionals or becoming priests in a synagogue performing sacred services for their livelihood. These leaders invaded and conquered their pagan cultures, waging spiritual war while remaining below enemy radar.

These heroes of the faith were nameless, faceless, ordinary men and women, not superstars. But they were outstanding workers. And they were all home group leaders and also members of a apostolic teams. The apostle Paul names many of them in his greetings at the end of some of his letters, folks like Phoebe, Priscilla and Aquilla, Mary, Andronicus and Junia, and others too numerous to mention. The apostolic ministry was not a one-man show but a team constantly qualifying and multiplying new workers. You may have noticed many of them were women. Others were husband and wife. By every measure of success, they succeeded.

God's Performance Evaluation for church leaders today could be, "Are you equipping the saints?" A performance evaluation precedes a promotion. Ask yourself: Are the believers sitting in our congregations discovering their purpose in life, learning the awesome power of prayer, growing in their knowledge of the Lord, and excitedly thwarting the devil's work? Or, are they frustrated, bored, and over-fed?

Admittedly, equipping believers for the work of the ministry is nearly an impossible task given our present church structures and religious expectations. Our meetings are too big, too formal, and too dependent on skilled oratory, amplified music, and polished presentations. Church has become big business. As a result, church staff is usually too busy caring for programs, budgets, and buildings to develop the ministries that God has hidden among the saints. Besides that, making the mental and theological transition from "me fulfilling my ministry" to "helping equip them to fulfill their ministry" is too big a hurdle for many contemporary church leaders to jump over.

I love pastors. But they are too few to get the job done. And often their good past prevents their better future. Most modern pastors are good preachers. They are the product of good seminaries, Bible colleges, and historic denominational church models. They may not realize the standard their Chief Shepherd uses to measure success. Christ uses Ephesians 4:11 as his baseline for evaluating performance. In this Scripture, our Risen Lord says he deliberately gave certain ministries (apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers) in order to do one main thing: equip the saints. What ever this means, equipping the saints is apparently their main job description. Note, in this Scripture, it is not to win souls, which is certainly necessary, nor is it to erect buildings, which may not be necessary at all. We know Jesus came to save sinners (1 Tim 1:15) and we are ordered to participate in prayer for all men to be saved (1 Tim 2:1-8). Yet Jesus placed the emphasis on more workers (Matt 9:37-38). With God, the harvest is never an issue.

Soul-winning would be far more effective if the sheep were the ones reproducing. That's multiplication. If the shepherd of the flock is winning all the converts, that's merely addition. Erecting more church buildings may in fact be the greatest hindrance to fulfilling the great commission. It begs for more professionals to run the business, thus leaving out the huge pool of laymen who are indeed qualified by biblical standards (Titus 1:5-9). Buildings formalize our meetings whereas the Body of Christ is a living organism, not an organization. The real church is alive and corporate, the ekklesia. In the Greek language and custom, this word meant "an assembly of called out ones." These Greek citizens, when assembled, had power to legislate local affairs. This is still true today for the saints: they have spiritual authority when coming into agreement in prayer. This also illustrates the truth that the church is not a building on the street corner but a body of people. As Derek Prince said, "There is no way to say in the New Testament Greek language, 'Let's go to church.'" Why? Because the people are the church not the meeting place.

The five ministries named in Eph 4:11 were meant to function even in the context of the post-Temple era, after the fall of Judaism in 70 AD. For awhile, the Church was mostly Jewish. Later, starting in Acts 10, it became mostly Gentile. Until the third century after Roman Emperor Constantine, the church was an underground movement without formal houses of worship. It was led by laypeople energized by the Holy Spirit but touched at foundations and transitions by apostles and prophets. They went from city to city and from house to house ministering the Word and training more workers. They were (and are) post-resurrection gifts to the Body of Christ, not organizational titles in a religious hierarchy.

Yes, these five titles are ministry offices-- real badges of heaven's authority-- but even more than that, they are job-descriptions for workers set apart for specific missions. These Five-Fold ministry gifts (Greek, doma) are Ascension Gifts by Christ. They are unique in that the man or woman who occupies this office, the person himself, is the gift. The office gifts are distinct from the charismatic gifts (grace-lets) of the Holy Spirit (also called the pneumaticos or spiritual gifts of grace). The Five-Fold persons themselves are gifts given by the ascended Savior to the whole Body of Christ. Therefore, the office-gift is an identity, a role, and a calling based on God's choice with specific power to act received from the Head of the Church not from men. It is not a charismatic anointing that briefly rests upon someone and then quickly departs. What I mean is this: apostles are still apostles even when they are not obviously anointed. The same is true for God's prophets, and for all the Five Fold ministries.

What is the mission of the Five Fold Ministry? It certainly includes The Great Commission. (Matthew 28:18-20) This is the record of Jesus' final orders to the Church. Jesus spoke this commandment to his eleven remaining apostles. Remember, Judas had killed himself, reducing the Twelve to eleven, and Matthias wasn't yet chosen to replace Judas until days later in the upper room (Acts 1:26). Just so you know, the Bible has fourteen apostles mentioned by name before the resurrection of Jesus and fourteen more are identified by name after his resurrection and ascension. Let this startling fact sink in: The Ascended Lord Jesus is still doing what he did then-- recruiting, equipping, and sending forth apostles and prophets to the Church today!

Jesus showed us how to do it when he gathered his original twelve disciples. Yes, he preached to the mixed multitudes, but he also drew aside his devoted followers for special hands-on training. During his earthly ministry, he demonstrated the kingdom of God by driving demons out of suffering people, by healing people of sickness and disease, by raising the dead, and by preaching the good news of the gospel to the poor. He had both good words and good works. But did he stop at preaching?

No… but that's where most of us draw the line. For modern Christians, church is all about preaching and worshipping. Basically, we think good preaching is what the work of the ministry is all about. We tell the pastor, "Great sermon, Preacher!" We never think to say, "Wonderful to hear that you spent all week with those young people desiring to serve God."

Jesus did more than preach. He modeled a small mobile community of faith (at first, a deeply committed team) that displayed the values of his new kingdom. He loved and trained this small band of brothers so they could know God's will. He showed them how to pray persistently, how to stop reacting in sinful ways, and how to stop judging sinners. He forgave others freely right up to the cross. He gave generously to the poor and he gave away everything the Father had given to him. He deployed these raw recruits, these agents of the kingdom, these revolutionaries of a new age, into the same kind of preaching and healing and mentoring work that he had been doing. Then he did something truly amazing… he got out of their way so they could do it themselves in the Holy Spirit's power.

Understanding Jesus' method helps us see the challenges we are now facing. The congregational model of contemporary Christianity brings with it an unquestioned assumption: that is, if we fill the building with hundreds of people and a few people are being saved, we must be successfully doing the work of the ministry.

For many evangelicals, the problem is that they don't know there is a problem. Our small success deceives us. The paradigm of professional clergy in front of laymen as listeners is so pervasive that we don't question it anymore. The perks of success are too powerful to ignore in our church culture so now we have new ministries springing up with a TV mentality and even small churches in poverty-stricken Third World countries that think they can't do church without a PA system. We've made the building and the size of the crowd our status symbol and the validation of our success.

However, even if successful, this paradigm has several problems associated with it. The first problem is that it is unbiblical. The second problem is that it isn't working well enough to get the job done in our lifetime. The third problem is that it robs ordinary believers of the opportunity to do the work of the ministry by keeping it in the hands of paid professionals. The fourth problem is that there aren't enough resources to build enough buildings to gather everyone inside that God wants saved… such as whole cities!

About thirty years ago, I wrote an article while pastoring my first (organized, traditional, Spirit-filled) church. It was entitled "The Church in the City." That article, quite ahead of its time for the prophetic insight in that day, was published by New Wine Magazine. That word described how the Lord looks at his church in each city. Let me summarize what I said. When the Lord looks down from heaven into a major metropolitan area, does he see only Baptist churches? Does he see only Spirit-filled churches? Does he see only churches inside buildings? What does he see? The answer is—he sees the whole church at once, all of it, every flavor and variety and style you can imagine. They are all his people, everyone who names the name of the Lord and has been redeemed by the blood of his Son.

If you're saved, you'd better learn to love your brothers and sisters, even those of different races or liturgies, since we'll all going to spend eternity together! And if you're following the pattern of the apostles and prophets settled in the Bible and affirmed in church history, you'd better start believing in the legitimate church as it really is: congregations plus a myriad of small house groups and the whole network of all the saints in your city.

Going Through The Cross - The crucified ones


Charles Elliott Newbold, Jr.



I call a particular of God's people the "crucified ones" because I see them as having not only gone to the cross for the forgiveness of their sins, but as having gone through the cross in total denial of anything for self. Each is willing, as Jesus called, to "take up his cross daily..." (Luke 9:23, Matt. 16:24).

These crucified ones are dead so far as the interests and deeds of their flesh and of the world are concerned. They have come to the end of themselves--the place God wants to bring us all. They understand that the only true life is found in the loss of their own self-life, to be given over completely to the absolute will of God. "Whoever will save his life shall lose it" (Matt. 16:25). They are willing to die, or willing to be made willing to die, for the sake of the gospel.

Jesus is the only issue in their lives. Other great truths and doctrines are important as safeguards against heresy, but, to them, these truths never become dividing issues in the body of Christ. These "crucified ones" are not argumentative or divisive but are, nonetheless, bulwarks for the Truth who is Jesus Christ as Lord.

Under the Headship / Lordship of Christ

The crucified ones have a strong sense of and security in the headship of Jesus Christ. They resist the pressures of traditional Christianity to submit to the headship of other men but are given to the scriptural order of 1 Corinthians 11: 3: "But I would have you know, that the head of every man is Christ; and the head of the woman is the man; and the head of Christ is God." Any other headship, to them, would be false and offensive to their sincere spirits.

Their insistence upon the headship of Jesus Christ is an offense to the traditionalists/institutionalists who, for some reason, want to bring men into submission to men.

Nevertheless, the crucified ones are submitted one to another, especially to those others who are sensitive to the leadings of the Holy Spirit. Having come through the cross as it were, they are humble, broken before the Lord, and eager to examine themselves to see if there is any evil within. They voluntarily and willfully present themselves accountable one to another.

They have no ambition for self but see themselves as servants. They are willing to do their service before God in secret, making no acclaim for themselves. They do not seek for themselves "a city, and a tower, ...and a name" (Gen. 11:4). They are without ambition to increase themselves in power, position, or riches. They are not interested in building churches and memberships for themselves, devising programs, or gaining reputation and titles. They have no agenda of their own. They only want and pursue what God wants.

While they are genuinely submitted one to the other in the Spirit, they are not motivated by the fear of man but by their reverence for God Almighty. Jesus is absolute Lord in their lives. They have renounced all forms of idolatry.

Radical Obedience


The absolute Lordship of Jesus Christ infers radical obedience to Him. The crucified ones have abandoned all to follow Him and are faithful in the least as well as in the greater of things (Luke 16:10).

Such obedience comes out of extreme faith and confidence in God as being sovereign in their lives. Their faith supersedes faith for things, even the things of the Kingdom. Their faith is in God regardless of things and circumstances.

Yet, they are not without knowledge of the wiles of the devil nor without power over all the work of the enemy. In fact, they exert absolute power over the enemy because they are obedient to the Spirit.

They have such confidence in the greater power of God in them that whatever happens to them is regarded more as the sanctification work of the Holy Spirit than as the destructive work of the enemy. They are so given to God and His will that they have that confidence that "...all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose" (Rom. 8:28).

Non-Religious


The crucified ones are non-religious non-traditional, non-institutional, and non-liturgical. They see the difference between religion and relationship. They do not need religion because they have a personal relationship with the Christ of Christianity.

Religion is interested in the doing of things to appease the gods while relationship is interested in being in fellowship with the God-person Himself.

Religion is sacrifice; relationship is obedience. Religion is intent on cleaning the outside of the cup; relationship is intent upon being cleansed on the inside (Matt. 23:25-26).

Religion partakes of the symbol only of the body and the blood (communion); relationship partakes of the Person of the body and the blood.

We can no longer offer people the symbol only. They need the Person of the symbol--Jesus Christ, Lord.

The crucified ones no longer base their own lives on the symbol but upon their relationship with the Person. They are so identified with Him that, when they present their own lives as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable unto God (Rom. 12:1), it is as though they are presenting the Person Himself.

Being in relationship with God this way, they will come to know Him, not just know about Him--to understand Him and His ways, to trust Him, to have love and affection for Him, to fear Him, to respect Him, and to obey Him. An inseparable bond is formed between Him and them.

The interest of these crucified ones is to seek only more and more of Jesus. They are those for whom it could be said by their life and power "that they had been with Jesus" (Acts 4:13).

They are not centered upon themselves in any way but are centered and focused upon Jesus and His will. They identify with His plans and purposes in all eternity.

Non-materialistic


They are non-materialistic, having learned that "a man's life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses" (Luke 12:15). They identify with the apostle Paul who said of himself, "...I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content" (Phil. 4:11). It does not matter whether they have or have not. Their confidence is in their God who provides. They think Spirit, not flesh; eternal, not temporal; spiritual, not material.

Non-Sensational


They are non-sensational. They are Spirit-immersed, likely to speak in unknown tongues, believe in the present day operation of the gifts and ministries of the Spirit as set forth in the scriptures, and are anxiously awaiting the second coming of the Lord. But these things are no longer the issue with them. Their interest is to receive spiritual gifts as tools to go on in the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

The Pentecostal experience is not the end, but the means toward the higher goal of attaining Him, of being found in Him (Phil. 3: 7-11). They are less inclined to seek the sensational, outward manifestations of miracles and healings and more inclined to seek that "holiness without which no man shall see the Lord" (Heb. 12:14). They desire more that hidden work of the Holy Spirit in their lives. In the long run, however, the greater and truer signs will follow them.

Their main interest is to be separated unto God. "For this is the will of God, even your sanctification..." (1 Thess. 4:3). They are quick to admit to sin and to repent. Holiness, to them, is attained through the purging, purifying, cleansing fire of the Holy Spirit--transforming and conforming them into the image of Jesus.

They are patient to wait upon the Lord--to rest, wait, listen, and then and only then, to do.

They have a profound confidence in the Bible as the word of God and live as though God said what He meant and meant what He said.

They also have a profound confidence in the Holy Spirit of God and operate on the basis of Zechariah 4:6: "Not by might, nor by power but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts." They put no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3).

The Church without Walls

The crucified ones are the church without walls. They have gone outside of the camp with Jesus, bearing His reproach (Heb. 13:12-13).

The churches are like walled cities within which to keep their own.

The ecumenical movement is an attempt to overlap these walls so as to give an appearance of unity. But all of these attempts will never remove the reality of the walls.

More often, even among the most sincere believers, these walled cities become social clubs for their kind. God is not calling for Christian country clubs. Rather He is calling for His people to come out of them. The only wall that God and His crucified ones are interested in is that wall of fire mentioned in Zechariah 2:5: "'For I,' says the Lord, 'will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.'" These crucified ones are a people who have been called out of a people: the ekklesia, "called out ones." 3 {1}

They view the gifts of the Spirit and the ministries of the Spirit as belonging to the whole body without regard to particular church membership.

The crucified ones have taken for themselves no other name but His name: the name of Jesus (Acts 15:14).

They gather in no other name but His (Matt. 18:20).

T
hey submit to no other headship/Lordship except the headship/Lordship of Jesus Christ who is the true head of the church (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23).

They follow no one but the Holy Spirit of God who is Himself bound only to do and say what Jesus, the Head, is doing and saying (John 16:13).

They know no other voice but that of the Good Shepherd (John 10:14-16).

They are joined to no one or no thing but to Him (1 Cor. 6:17).

They have been bought with a price (1 Cor. 7:23) and, therefore, dare not attempt to own anyone or to be owned by anyone except Him. Yet, they belong to each other in the deepest spiritual sense of the word (1 Cor. 3:22 NAS).

They have no other life to live but that His life should be lived in and through them (Gal. 2:20).

Prophets


The crucified ones are a people who say what God says, do what God does, and are what God has made them to be.

They are true prophets of God. By the use of the term prophet, I do not infer that they are all called to the equipping gift ministry of prophet. Nevertheless, their lives are styled after that of the prophets of God--the Elijah spirit--having this radical relationship with God in the Spirit, speaking for God by their very life-style, bringing conviction to the world, preparing the way of the Lord's second coming.

They appear as mavericks in the body of Christ but are in fact the very opposite. They are each given absolutely to the will of God at all cost to themselves. There is no rebellion to be found within them.

As each of them follow the Spirit, they find that He leads according to the Scriptures; that the gifts and ministries of the Spirit will emerge and begin to flow together without walls; that His body, the church, will begin to come together in good scriptural order and liberty as one man according to Ephesians 4:13; that His divine purposes and plans are revealed; that His presence and power is manifested; and that they themselves are emerging as a corporate son throughout the world.

These things have to be the work of the Holy Spirit who is building God's house. "Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain who build it" (Ps. 127:1).

No man knows how to build God's house. Man cannot legislate or institutionalize God's divine order. He can only submit to the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit who is doing the building and be radically obedient to that particular thing he is shown by the Spirit to do. Any attempt to build, legislate, or institutionalize ahead of the Spirit is carnal, resulting in legalism and death. "...the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6).

Rivers of Living Water from Within

These crucified ones are self-starters. The life and power of the Spirit is the driving force within them. They have themselves become that living water welling up from within their innermost being, flowing as rivers of life (John 7:38).

They do not need to be prompted to praise and worship, to pray, to fast, to give, to respond to all that is demanded by the Spirit.

They do not need to run to this seminar on healing or that workshop on deliverance. They will not have to buy all those books and tapes on "how to this" and "how to that."

They will not have to try to grasp the promises of God in their lives through endless incantations of faith confessions.

The Kingdom of God is within them (Luke 17:21). The Word of God is within them. They are in Him and He is in them. They are one, even as He is one with the Father (John 17:21). The Word of God is the promises of God; therefore, the promises of God are within them and cannot be attained by grasping outwardly for them.

Moreover, they not only have the Kingdom, the Word, the promises, and the Person of the Word within them, they are themselves becoming the manifestation of the word of God in and through their lives. They are living epistles (2 Cor. 3:2-3), oracles (1 Pet. 4:11). They are the Word made flesh in their own bodies as they are the body of Christ in the world.
 

Normal Christian Life


This is not to say that these crucified ones are an elite body of people in terms of how the world thinks of elite. On the contrary, they are the subject of much ridicule and disdain in the world.

The crucified life is that to which God has called all of His disciples. It is considered normal Christian living from God's point of view. Any attempt at life in Christ that is less than this is sub-normal, immature discipleship.

Yet, it is not something that one can attain in one's own strength.

Jesus alone is the fulfillment of all the feasts and courts. He is our redeemer and our redemption, our justifier and our justification, our deliverer and our deliverance, our sanctifier and our sanctification, our glorifier and our glorification. If we want any of these things we have to get Him. He is it!

It is not a matter of God being willing to redeem, justify, deliver, sanctify, and glorify. He's already done it. It's a matter of our believing in Him as the finisher of His own work--done on our behalf--and of our being willing for God to work in us all that he has done for us.

Some people are not willing to go on in sanctification and glorification. You cannot have glorification without first going through sanctification. You can not have sanctification without first going through justification. We were justified, we are being sanctified, we will be glorified--together, this is the salvation process. We are becoming who we are in Christ Jesus.

Thus, we not only have all three feasts and courts fulfilled in Jesus, but they are being worked out in our lives as we are willing and yielded. Oswald Chambers, in his devotional book, My Utmost for His Highest, wrote, "It is not a question of whether God is willing to sanctify me; is it my will? Am I willing to let God do in me all that has been made possible by the Atonement?"

Born out of Fire


These crucified ones are born out of fire. Acts 8:1-4 records an example of this among those first century Christians. Here we read that Saul had consented to Stephen's death; thus great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem. Because of this persecution, the disciples were scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles. These scattered Christians went forth preaching the word.

Jesus Christ had given those first disciples the commission to "go...and teach all nations, baptizing them..." (Matt. 28:19-20), but they were at ease in their Jerusalem cove and were not going out as they had been commissioned. Therefore, it took persecution to scatter them and the word abroad.

I sense that once again, it will take persecution to scatter the saints for the spread of the true gospel.

I say "true" gospel because any gospel that does not preach "Jesus Christ and Him crucified" is not the true but is "another gospel." Social justice, the rebirth experience, holiness, faith, prosperity, church order, and other such teachings may be truths but are not in and of themselves "the" gospel. They may be by-products of the gospel to one extent or the other. But the gospel, according to the apostle Paul, whose writings we hold inspired and sacred, is Christ and Him crucified. 1 Corinthians 2:2: "For I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified."

Persecution is often God's shaking--His tool for the fulfillment of the great commission.

A Higher Realm in the Spirit

Having gone from Passover through Pentecost, the crucified ones have crossed over into a higher realm in the Spirit, reaching over into Tabernacles even before it's fulfillment. (I will stress again that this higher realm is expected of and available to every true, hungry, seeking disciple.)

We have a type of this in the Old Testament when David and his men ate the consecrated bread (1 Sam. 21:4-6). In regard to this, Matthew 12:1-8 tells of a time when Jesus and His disciples were walking through a grain field on a Sabbath and ate some of the grain. The Pharisees saw them and questioned Jesus about this unlawful thing they did. Jesus reminded them of how David had entered the house of God and ate the consecrated showbread which he was not permitted by law to do. Yet, he was blameless.

Jesus then declared that something greater than the temple was there. He was referring to Himself--that He was the Lord of the Sabbath. In other words, David, because of his intimate relationship with God, reached beyond the Law and laid hold of the Lord of the Law Himself. He moved in a higher realm in the Spirit.

There is a bread for the children of God of which we have not been privileged to partake until now because we have not yet crossed over into that crucified life for ourselves. We have been operating in the mercy and grace of Him who went in before us once and for all as the Great High Priest: Jesus Christ, Lord.

Once the crucified ones have truly crossed over into the Holy of Holies--the place where Jesus is the only thing there is, where Christ is not only preached as crucified but where the believer himself is a living example of that sacrificial life (Rom. 12:1)--they will have come to a place where they may never be sick, crippled, or diseased again; where demons cannot oppress, torment, or tempt; where material things are irrelevant because these things have nothing to do with a dead man. Moreover, the blessings of God will be in pursuit of them.

Jesus is their pattern. His sacrificial life becomes their lives, and their lives become His. The Holy Spirit gave gifts and ministries as tools to equip the saints for the work of "service" to the end of becoming like Him. We are fast approaching the end and the perfecting of the saints--those who are willing to go through the cross in Christ.

Footnotes

{1} Ekklesia is the Greek word that has been translated "church" but which literally means "called-out ones."