ABANDONING THE MACHINERY OF MINISTRY

Church needs to be a place where people seek God in faith, prayer, and expectation. There ought to be an awe and a reverence of coming together corporately into God’s presence. The Scripture tells us that even sinners should be convicted by the presence of God in our midst.

“But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or an uninformed person comes in, he is convinced by all, he is convicted by all. And thus the secrets of his heart are revealed; and so, falling down on his face, he will worship God and report that God is truly among you” (1 Cor. 14:24-25).

The apostle Paul lays out instructions for maximizing the power and presence of God in our gatherings. If things are arranged according to the Father’s order and will He will be present and in manifestation, and people will be drawn to Jesus. Conversely, nowadays church leaders study demographics and people’s preferences in order to make church more appealing to them.

When we try and make church appealing to man it actually detracts from the presence of God and what He wants. When we organize our church agenda and services toward pleasing God, it is then that men will be drawn to Jesus.

Here is a simple equation for this:

Please God – Draw people
Please people – Detract God

Building church to cater to people’s preferences does not draw the presence of God. God knows what people need far more than we do. Following His plan is what brings His presence and power into manifestation. The greatest meetings are those where we follow the leading and direction of the Spirit of God.

Years ago there was a far greater emphasis on making church appealing to God. There was a greater reverence for God and a caution not to grieve the Holy Spirit, or quench what He wanted to do and how He wanted to move.

Today it appears we are so busy curtailing the church experience to accommodate what we feel people want or what they will respond to. So much care and thought goes into not offending the people, but so little consideration goes into not offending God.

We tone down the Scriptures on sin and God’s demands for true discipleship.

We arrange the music around what makes people feel good and happy, loved and accepted.

We program our services so as to not go past a certain time.

The standard that determined early Church policy was pretty clear.

“If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen” (1 Pet. 4:11).

We do demographic studies and research people’s preferences to make people feel comfortable and loved in church, to make them return, and to know we are relevant. But God’s wisdom is much higher and so much more effective.

What if God doesn’t want them to feel comfortable? What if feeling comfortable is the root of their problem. Perhaps if people were allowed to feel uncomfortable they would seek God for His comfort.

Instead of trying to show them that we care, what if knowing God cares is the only thing that can set them free?

And shouldn’t they return to church because they’ve had an encounter with God? And is relevance really that important when sin and spiritual blindness is the sinner’s main problem?

The more we try and build God’s house with our own efforts and in our own wisdom, the more we will labor in vain because we will only attract people to ourselves and our programs. But if we let the Holy Spirit build the house He will attract people to Jesus.

As I read in a recent post that I paraphrased from a Facebook friend,  we must abandon the machinery of ministry:

“There must be an abandoning by our preachers and churches – from what someone called the ‘machinery of ministry’. The status quo, hold-down-the-fort type of thinking is killing the Church. We are sorely in need of a return to a supernatural Church comprised of spiritual initiatives and radical faith. We need to slay this manmade ministry that has been born out of cultural and social compromise.

I believe we are headed for a time of ‘pastoral clarity’, where leaders are going to experience epiphanies of just who they are and who they are not. Pastors will quit trying to be all things to all people and instead will embrace being that ‘one’ thing to those called under their leadership. A radical move of God will be preceded by radical change, and I believe we are closer to that shift than ever before.” – Shane Philpott

I say a hearty Amen to that.

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THE RAPTURE MADE SIMPLE – LET’S CUT TO THE CHASE

“Now a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a garland of twelve stars. Then being with child, she cried out in labor and in pain to give birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great, fiery red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems on his heads. His tail drew a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was ready to give birth, to devour her Child as soon as it was born. She bore a male Child who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron. And her Child was caught up to God and His throne. Then the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there one thousand two hundred and sixty days” (Rev 12:1-6).

In the account of the Sun-Clothed Woman and the Manchild that is caught up to heaven in Revelation 12, the rest of the seed of the woman is left behind on the earth. Now some may argue and say that the symbolism in this account is mainly dealing with Israel and Christ, but a closer look will reveal a fuller picture.

Spiritual Israel is certainly included in the Sun-Clothed Woman, but we must understand that she represents more that Israel. She is a heavenly sign which is more symbolic of the glorious Church than of Israel.

Most dispensational interpretations say that the Sun-Clothed Woman is national Israel, but how can that be? National Israel rejected Jesus Christ. Certainly Israel is represented in the symbolism of the Woman and the Manchild, but it is spiritual Israel.

It would be absurd to interpret that national Israel who put Christ to death is symbolized in the glorious Sun-Clothed Woman! The Christ-rejecting Jews are more clearly represented as followers of the dragon than the Woman (Rev 2:9). Even Jesus told the unbelieving Jews that they were of their father, the devil (John 8:39, 44). Paul himself said a Jew is not one outwardly, but inwardly by the Spirit (Rom 2:28-29).

The more accurate and complete interpretation of this marvelous symbol of the Sun-Clothed Woman is that she represents the people of God of all ages which does include Israel. She is the Church in the wilderness of the Old Testament whom Israel escaped when they fled from Egypt, but she is also the glorious New Testament Church. She is the Church of all dispensations of time who is depicted here in Rev. 12 in an age long conflict with the dragon Satan that began in the garden of Eden. Again, she does include spiritual Israel, but certainly not national Israel.

Notice that the great fiery red dragon has 7 crowns on his 7 heads, which in the symbolism, most Bible scholars agree, represents the entire period of human history seen in its 7 empires, the 7th being that of the Antichrist. The Manchild which has been interpreted as being applied solely to Christ is also incomplete because Christ did not escape death by being raptured, and secondly, Christ was born 100 years before this prophecy. All prophecy relates to the future and not the past. Certainly, in a general way, there is a parallel here with Israel and Christ in the symbolism of the Woman and the Manchild, but it is not the primary fulfillment of this prophecy.

Thirdly, notice in Revelation 12:5 that the remnant of the Woman’s seed is left behind and flees into the wilderness for 1260 days which is approximately 3 ½ years, the same duration of the great tribulation when the Antichrist comes into power. The expression “the remnant of her seed” tells us that a large number of her seed has been taken away in rapture. Again, this remnant also cannot be natural Israel because they “keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Rev 12:17)

There is a definite distinction between the saints at the end of the age. Indeed at the end of the Church age some saints are ready for the Lord’s return at the first phase of His coming called the rapture. Clearly, some are not. Some are taken, and some are left. Some are caught away before the great tribulation, and some go through it. The Manchild is not one person, but a company of those caught up to the throne, who are the firstfruits unto God. The remnant of the Woman’s seed are those left behind, who are the tribulation saints (this defutes both the pre-trib theory where no saint is left behind and the theory that the entire Church go through the tribulation).

A closer look at another golden clue identifies the time period of this symbolism. Observe the dragon has 7 heads and 10 horns. Notice that the horns are not yet crowned, but in Rev 13:1 they are crowned. What does that mean? Most Bible scholars agree that the 10 horns in this imagery represent the 10 kings who have power only when the Antichrist reigns. This means that he is not yet reigning at the beginning of Rev 12, but is in Rev 13:1.

Through this symbolism we can safely determine that the Sun-Clothed Woman and the dragon Satan are indeed portrayed as spiritual enemies throughout the ages with the moment of action marked by the travail, birth, and subsequent rapture of the Manchild. This is the glorious rapture of the Church for those who are watchful, prayerful, consecrated, and ready.

How thrilling of a possibility it is to be included in this company! It should be the supreme preoccupation and magnificent obsession of every saint.

SIN, TRUE AND FALSE CONVERSION, AND BABY CHRISTIANS

There are a vast number of people who, instead of making Jesus Christ their standard and just obeying the Bible because it is the Spirit-inspired Word of God, only aim to keep up a respectable religious front for others. Instead of seriously asking themselves what the Lord and His Word require, they tend to look at the status quo professing church member and imitate them. They do that which is outwardly respectable, but not what is inwardly right, true, and holy according to God’s Word.

Standing beside each other a true convert and a sinner will talk and act differently, but a true convert and a false convert can look similar. The Bible says there can be quite a few outward similarities between them. It tells us that an unsaved “religious” man (false convert) can be strictly moral and seem prayerful in his outward life (Mt. 23:8) (Mk.12:40); zealous in religion (Mt.23:15); and even conscientious in doing what is expected of him (Mt. 23:23).

A false convert can also be making efforts to gain converts and give money for the work of religion (1 Cor. 13:3; Mt.23:15; Lk. 18:12). But none of these things are necessarily fool proof signs that he has definitely been converted.

Remember that the false convert is not a Christ rejecter. He stands beside you in the midst of the congregation or he could be a member of another congregation. What he has done is merely change his means of serving himself, from the secular to the religious. Either way, he is still serving himself. Unlike a false convert, a “baby” Christian being young in the Lord is selfish at first, but the love of God is now shed abroad in his heart by the Holy Ghost (Rom. 5:5), and his motive to live unselfishly for the Lord has been planted there. He only needs to grow.

“And He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Cor. 5:15).

In God’s sight it is the heart that determines whether he is a true Christian or not. We can’t judge someone’s heart, but we can judge the fruit of his life. But if the heart is wrong, everything else is wrong, no matter what is done outwardly. Either your heart is set on serving Christ supremely or it is set on serving yourself supremely. You either belong to God or you do not.

But the most basic and fundamental message of the gospel is that Jesus came to save us from our sins. The message to forsake our sins is not optional; it is an absolute necessity. It is as simple and clear as, “Surrender your will and live. Rebel and die.” No honest Bible scholar could justify the salvation of a man who still lives in sin. No definition of a Christian, that allows fellowship with sin and cost God His Son and Christ His life, comes from the Holy Spirit of God. He that practices sin has not been born of God.

“Whoever has been born of God does not (practice) sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot (practice) sin, because he has been born of God” (1 Jn. 3:9).

What about “baby” Christians? Don’t they sin? As a new convert I remember  sitting at a racquetball club after a workout and having a beer. My mentors, a young Christian couple, walked into the club at that time and later told me how disappointed they were in me. I had no knowledge of wrongdoing. If a “baby” Christian does not know that what he is doing is wrong, to him it is not sin. I was not drinking to get drunk, but enjoying a beer after a workout. In God’s eyes I was innocent.

If a “baby” Christian sins ignorantly, it is not reckoned as sin; if he sins knowingly, it is sin (Jas. 4:17).

My point is this: Although a “baby’’ Christian needs to grow spiritually his “growing” is not from partial repentance to then a commitment to complete repentance. All true converts who have come to genuine faith and repentance have forsaken all known sin, and are not knowingly living in sin. They have surrendered to the Lordship of Jesus and their will is bent toward serving Him. They just need to “grow” now as they receive more light from the Word of God and discipline new areas of their lives that the Holy Spirit reveals to them.

If a “baby” Christian is struggling with areas of the flesh and wants to be set free and made right, then we are to instruct them and help them and work through with them in these areas. Once I was instructed and knew that drinking beer did not provide for a godly Christian witness and could be a stumbling block to others I immediately stopped and have not even had so much as a sip of beer since them. As a young believer and disciple of Jesus it was far more important to me to please the Lord than to please my friends or look respectable in the eyes of the world.

The problem has been that there are so many professing “Christians” in churches today who are living in adultery, fornication, homosexuality, addicted to pornography, drinking, smoking weed, are gossipers, slanderers, criticizing other Christians etc. and nothing is being said or done about it.

We are called by Scripture to teach, exhort, and rebuke in these areas. We are called to confront such ones who are living intentionally in sin, and with meekness instruct them as a means of bringing them to repentance (Mt. 18:15-17) (Gal. 6:1). If they refuse, we are called to take one or two others with us and confront them again. If they refuse again, we are to tell the church and break fellowship with them and/or turn their flesh over to Satan for destruction so their spirits might be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5).

If more Christian pastors and leaders were thorough in following through with these steps we would have a far purer and more powerful church.

That’s what love would do.