Rev Dr Edgar Mayer; Living Grace Toowoomba Church

Message: The Kingdom For Keeps – 12 – Sermon On The Mount Series; Date: 26 June 2011

For more sermons and other writings check the following homepage: www.livinggracetoowoomba.org

 

 

You Is Us

 

I want to begin by reading a few Bible verses from the Sermon on the Mount which we frequently misunderstand:

 

Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you … great is your reward in heaven … ”

Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:20: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 6:14: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you … ”

 

Can you guess how and why we – that is: many Christians in the West – are misreading all of these Bible verses? I continue to add more Bible verses which we – more often than not – also misinterpret:

 

Ephesians 6:10-18: “ … Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes … Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist … take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God … ”

1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

 

Theyouin all of these verses is not speaking to theyouof a single person but the community. None of these verses speak to me or you as an individual. None of these verses assume that I am a Christian by myself. It’s not about me – it’s not about you – but us. In every instance – theyouis targeting all of us together as the church: You together are the salt of the earth. You together are the light of the world. You together surpass the righteousness of the Pharisees and enter the kingdom of heaven. You together seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and – then – receive whatever you need. You together put on the full amour of God for spiritual warfare. You together are the temple – the dwelling place – of the Holy Spirit.

 

[Proclaim the basic Gospel by explaining that we are one and unified in Jesus Christ and his sacrifice on a cross. Cf. Ephesians 2.]

 

What does this mean? What does this mean for our understanding of the Sermon on the Mount and the Bible in general? We cannot be Christians by ourselves. You cannot enjoy – you cannot have – the sum total of kingdom blessings in isolation from others. On your own – you cannot have everything that you want from God. We need each other.

Do you know that? Take a look around – do you know that you need everyone in this church to get what you want from God? I am not sure that this is common knowledge because we are slow to act on this truth. Instead of living in a committed church community where people are bonded together in love and loyalty, we – that is: many Christians in the West – often resemble the kind of church which Pastor Brett White – (he’s the brother of Pastor Dale White from the local Humeridge Church) – is describing in his blog on the internet:

 

 

Church: Hotel or Home (By Brett White, Snr Pastor Kingsway Community Church, Caringbah NSW)

Just a thought.

I find it interesting how people can treat ‘the church’ like a hotel. A place they visit from time to time, use the facilities, enjoy the activities, grab a bite to eat and be waited on by the staff. They don’t need to look after it too much, because they pay their bill, and after all isn’t that the staffs’ job anyway. It’s a place they go, enjoy, utilize and if, and only if, it meets their needs and expectations will they come back. If they don’t like it, the surroundings, the staff, the facilities, the food, the service (pun intended), value for money, the experience, the kids club or general hotel philosophy, they won’t go back, they will just try the one down the road. I mean, they are paying for it. And depending on the programs, activities, value for money and current promotion incentives, there is always a ‘flavour of the month” hotel. One hotel loses, another hotel gains. Then they lose, and a new ‘flavour of the month’ arises … for a season. I mean it is a competitive consumer driven world out there.

And when you want to leave, when you feel it’s time to end your stay, for whatever reason (good or bad), you just pay your bill, hand your key back and off you go. You don’t even have to talk to the manager, just sneak out the back door, leave your key and maybe shoot off an email with a thanks for having us. If you’re lucky you might get a response, “hope you enjoyed your stay, hope to see you again sometime.”

But let me say this, the church is not a Hotel. It is a home and a family home at that. It is not perfect. It is not a holiday destination. It’s not a drop in centre.  It is not some where you visit, but part of who you are, because the church is you … and me … and him and her … and them.  Staff are not there to wait on you, or to bow to your expectations, or to clean up after you, or provide you with the perfect ‘hotel’ experience that meets all your requirements.

The church isn’t a thing you can visit, pay your fees and expect to be fed, looked after and entertained. The church is an organic body of people we are called to help shape, transform and invest into. The church is community, a community with others in mind, driven by otherness and not by self-ness. A community desiring to love God, serve God and be like God (not be God, but be like God) to our world, our communities and our home … your home.

Because the church is a home, and not a hotel, you treat it like it’s your own (because it is); you invest into it with your gifts, abilities and finances; you let go of your ‘hotel consumerist’ expectations; you support, love and encourage the staff; you help look after it; you don’t just pop in when you feel like it, you own it, live it, believe in it and are committed to it; you don’t compare it, judge it and rate it; … it’s not a hotel … it’s home.

And when it’s time to leave, when God calls you out (as I know he does), or when you decide that it’s not home anymore, or that the Hotel down the road is offering a better deal, you don’t just drop the keys on the front counter and walk. You don’t just send an email to management. You don’t just meet with a staff and say you’re gone, out of here. That’s not how you treat family, that’s not how you treat a home.

Have a conversation. Engage people in the process. Talk it through.

Cause that’s what family do … that’s what happens in a home.  Just a thought.

From http://brettrospect.wordpress.com/ 

 

Last week Pastor Dale White sent this blog entry to a number of local pastors here in Toowoomba and it drew some comments. There is truth in the blog and frustration because what are we to do – become better hotels? The blog may not exactly capture our situation at Living Grace because we are small enough to be a church family where most of us know each other – at least from a distance – and we need each other for the basic program of the church. We don’t have paid positions for everything but – I think that it is fair to say – the sentiment of Pastor Brett White’s blog is familiar to us. We like hotels. We – at least most of us – like a good service experience with no lasting strings attached.

To be in a church can be hard because you get close to people and people always seem to have issues. We misunderstand each other, gossip, complain and – even in the perfect setup – we challenge each other because we hold each other accountable. Therefore, doesn’t it sound just great to check into a hotel church where you enjoy the worship service, soak in the presence of God for a while and then go home in peace – staying out of any possible community conflicts? You have made a contribution with your offering but otherwise you want to keep your distance.

(I talk about myself for a moment.) I’m an introvert and can spend days by myself. Therefore, I think that I would be a good candidate for a hotel church. Let’s not be in each other’s pockets. What is more, my own experience with church over the last fifteen years has not been perfect either. I can understand why people want to check out and give up on community life. Your heart seems to break too many times.

Only – this is not an option. When Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, he said that you together are the salt of the earth – you together are the light of the world – and you together seek the kingdom and enter the kingdom of heaven. On your own – you cannot have everything that you want from God. We need each other.

Why? Why can we not opt out of community? There are many reasons – not least our inbuilt hunger for love – to love and be loved. (There is declared power in unity.) Yet – this morning – I want to focus on something that we may not often consider. The kingdom of God is about his dominion and his dominion – his authority – extends over certain people – the Christians – those that accept him as Lord – but also territory. The kingdom of God is also territorial – connected to the land and geographical boundaries. The people who live on the land – who occupy the ground in a city or nation – together determine the level of advancement of God’s kingdom. And this means that we need each other because you cannot occupy and hold the territory of cities and nations on your own.

I will not spend much time on explaining this concept but we know that angels and demons exist and we know that they exist in spiritual bodies that have certain dimensions. Angels are with us now in this church and, according to the Bible and our experience, they have definite shapes – (there are big ones and small ones, some with wings and feathers, others look like people, some carry swords, others trumpets) – and they occupy certain space. They may stand next to you or walk down the aisle or fly above us.

For instance, when an angel appeared to shepherds in the field on the night of Jesus’ birth, he was becoming visible in a certain shape and form and was talking with his mouth (Luke 2:9). Likewise, demons – fallen angels – are spirit persons that have definite shapes and occupy certain space. We know that their ultimate goal is to occupy the body of humans. First – they attach themselves to people but their aim is to possess someone fully.

This is not controversial but demonstrates to us that territory is important. In our church – in our homes – in this city – on our land – we want the number of angels to increase and keep the demons out completely. And, precisely for this reason, we need each other because most territory can only be ours together.

This is a big topic but – this morning – I only sketch the outline of the teaching. We consider one Bible passage – 2 Chronicles 7:14: “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

This Bible verse connects the attitude of people toward God with the healing of the land which is the territory that the people occupy. As people – as we – humble ourselves before God and turn from our wicked ways – embrace the teaching of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount – God hears us from heaven, forgives us our sins and heals the land – our homes and cities and nation.

This is God’s promise to us and numerous other Bible passages back up this basic connection between the righteousness of people and the state of their territory:

 

Isaiah 24:5-6: “The earth is defiled by its people; they have disobeyed the laws, violated the statutes and broken the everlasting covenant. Therefore a curse consumes the earth; its people must bear their guilt. Therefore earth’s inhabitants are burned up, and very few are left.”

 

Ezekiel 16:25-27: “At every street corner you built your lofty shrines and [practiced idolatry] …  So I stretched out my hand against you and reduced your territory; I gave you over to the greed of your enemies … ”

 

Genesis 1:28: “God blessed them and said to them, ‘Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.’”

 

Isaiah 54:2-3: “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities.”

 

In summary, as we practice righteousness and love God, he heals our land and extends – rather than reduces – our territory. This promise of God is practical and true in a number of dimensions. First of all, we have authority over our homes. We absolutely commit to God and throw out all filth from our homes. We pray over our house or unit and property and God heals our place and cleanses our home from all defilement and demonic activity.

I have heard that in the past the Chinese people would lease houses, which they knew were haunted, to Western missionaries. They observed that when the Western missionaries moved in, the unclean spirits would move out. Frequently, the Western missionaries were unaware of this spiritual dimension but it worked because God would heal whatever personal territory they occupied.

Tatjana and I also had a more confronting experience when a visitor came to our home – a Christian – and began criticizing and accusing us. Even as we were sitting together, I thought that the experience was weird because nothing much made sense. There was confusion and astrangeatmosphere. After the person left, we experienced that the harmony of our home was disturbed. We felt irritated and on edge. There was stress and no peace. It took me a while but then I said to Tanja: “This person has left a demon behind.” Then, I prayed through our home – knowing that I had the authority over our territory – and commanded the Spirit(s) to go and peace was restored.

This is practical. Guard your territory. Be careful what you let into your home.

The next territory, which we occupy besides our personal homes, is – (I think) – the territory of our community – the church. And this is where it gets interesting. How much territory are we occupying at Living Grace? What level of commitment do we have to holiness and purity as a community? How willing are we to humble ourselves together and seek his face so that he is healing our territory?

Everyone is welcome but – in the long run – we define what kind of community that we want to be. What is going to be our culture? What are we willing to tolerate? What are we going to pass on to our children? The Bible is suggesting that we are to take action and know what we are on about:

 

2 Corinthians 6:3-18: “We put no stumbling block in anyone’s path, so that our ministry will not be discredited. Rather, as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left; through glory and dishonor, bad report and good report; genuine, yet regarded as impostors; known, yet regarded as unknown; dying, and yet we live on; beaten, and yet not killed; sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; poor, yet making many rich; having nothing, and yet possessing everything.

We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you …

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? What harmony is there between Christ and Belial? Or what does a believer have in common with an unbeliever? What agreement is there between the temple of God and idols? For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.’

Therefore, ‘Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’ And, ‘I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.’

 

We have a culture which is putting no stumbling block in anyone’s path to God. Nothing is to discredit our mission. Like Paul, we want tocommend ourselves in every way: in great endurance; in troubles, hardships and distresses; in beatings, imprisonments and riots; in hard work, sleepless nights and hunger; in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left”.

At the same time, we make sure that we and our territory are not corrupted by anything intruding from another culture. Thus, Paul said: “Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? ‘Come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.’” This does not mean that we are not mixing and mingling in the wider community but it does mean that we are careful about the company that we keep. We are careful about our friendships and alliances. [E.g.: Scott Shelton thought that befriending a family of unbelievers would get them to church but the truth was that it got him out of the church. Frequently, it is not the unbelieving marriage partner that changes but the believing one. Only this week someone told me that his sister said: “The biggest mistake I ever made was marrying an unbeliever.” 1 Corinthians 15:33: “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’”]

The first Christians practiced an intense community life which created a culture which proved irresistible to the wider city of Jerusalem:

 

Acts 2:42-47: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

 

Acts 5:12-16: “The apostles performed many signs and wonders among the people. And all the believers used to meet together in Solomon’s Colonnade. No one else dared join them, even though they were highly regarded by the people. Nevertheless, more and more men and women believed in the Lord and were added to their number. As a result, people brought the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and mats so that at least Peter’s shadow might fall on some of them as he passed by. Crowds gathered also from the towns around Jerusalem, bringing their sick and those tormented by impure spirits, and all of them were healed.”

 

These Christians reached out to the city and region in preaching and healing but otherwise practiced community life in separation from others – in their homes and at a certain location in the temple – (no one dared to join them) – (there was something holy and awe-inspiring about them) – but this nevertheless drew in new believers. The culture of the church – the kingdom of God – proved to be magnetic and attract others. People are drawn to love.

Thus – according to these Bible references – from the foothold of occupying the territory of the church – from this beachhead – we go further into the community. We are taking ground which – slowly but surely – is changing the spiritual climate of further territory which is also defined by concrete dimensions and boundaries. For instance, the Bible informs us that a demonic principality was in charge over the territory of Persia and was in need to be conquered:

 

Daniel 10:12-14: “Then the angel continued, ‘Do not be afraid, Daniel. Since the first day that you set your mind to gain understanding and to humble yourself before your God, your words were heard, and I have come in response to them. But the prince of the Persian kingdom [a powerful demon] resisted me twenty-one days. Then Michael, one of the chief princes [an angel], came to help me, because I was detained there with the king of Persia. Now I have come to explain to you what will happen to your people in the future, for the vision concerns a time yet to come.”

 

This is still practical today. A teacher writes [abbreviate and retell in your own words]:

 

Timothy M. Warner: Dealing With Territorial Demons, in: Territorial Spirits, ed. C. Peter Wagner, Chichester: Sovereign World 1991, p52-53: “I have come to believe that Satan does indeed assign a demon or a corps of demons to every geo-political unit in the world and that they are among the principalities and powers against whom we wrestle.

This concept first came up in the missionary context when I read of a new missionary going into an American Indian village in Canada. A veteran of such ministry told him that he had better be prepared to do battle with the demon of the village on his arrival. The young missionary’s world view and training had not prepared him for such concepts, and they just moved in. It was not long, however, before his wife became ill and had to be flown out. The young man was standing alone in his cabin with his back to the stove to keep warm when he heard an awful noise that seemed to be coming from the stove pipe. Suddenly something jumped on his back; and, although he could not see anything, he was barely able to stagger to a chair to sit down. The ‘thing’ identified itself as the demon of the village, and the battle was joined.

The missionary knew enough to claim his position in Christ, and he said ‘All right Satan, you guardian angel of Borchet, let’s have it out. Jesus Christ sent me here. I might die, but I am not leaving, and with the Lord are the issues of death.’ After thirty minutes of struggle, claiming the legal victory of Calvary and all the while gasping for breath, the demon left as it had come, and the missionary stayed on to carry out his ministry.

How this may relate to many other missionary problems, we simply do not know because it has not even been seen as in the realm of possibility. More recently, however, some other things have called this to our attention. For example, there is a town on the border between Brazil and Uruguay in which the main street is the international border. One side of the street is in Brazil and the other side in Uruguay. Ralph Mahoney of World MAP tells of a missionary who was in this town passing out tracts. On the Uruguay side of the street people were very unresponsive; but when he crossed over to the Brazil side, a person who had refused a tract on the Uruguay side of the street now received the tract and even thanked him profusely for it. His curiosity aroused, he tested several more people and found the same pattern.

Peter Wagner reports that: ‘later as [the missionary] was praying about the incident the words of Jesus came to his mind: No one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man, and then he will plunder the house (Mark 3:27). Could it be that the strong man on the Brazilian side had been bound while the strong man on the Uruguayan side was still exercising power’ (Wagner, 1986, 84).”

 

Another pastor writes:

 

Larry Lea: Binding The Strongman, in: Territorial Spirits, ed. C. Peter Wagner, Chichester: Sovereign World 1991, p92-93: “So I went to the church building on Saturday nights to pray especially for the services the next day. Often I met others there, but on one particular Saturday night I was alone. The church auditorium was dark, with only one light on above the baptistery in front.

As I knelt there and cried aloud to the Lord, I broke through into a spiritual dimension that I don’t know how to describe for you. I was in ‘rarified air’ spiritually speaking. When I declared to the North, South, East and West to give up what belongs to the Church on the Rock, I felt a presence in that auditorium that was unlike anything I had ever experienced. And it was not a holy presence.

I was kneeling with my eyes closed, and at that moment when I felt this presence in the room, I looked up and in my spiritual vision I saw a being standing in front of me. He was holding a large silver chain in his hands. I’ll never forget it as long as I live.

My first impulse was to get up and run out of the building. But at the same time, I knew that I was at a moment of truth, a divine intersection. I realized that I was face-to-face with the very power that was holding back the harvest of souls that God wanted to bring into the Church on the Rock.

The being communicated to me these words, ‘Do you really mean it? Are you serious? Are you really going to take your stand?’

Immediately that inner Man within me – the One the Scriptures refer to as ‘greater … than he that is in the world’ – stood up. Before I knew what I was doing, I literally stood to my feet and shouted back at this being, ‘You’re mighty right I mean what I’m saying!’

I stepped toward him and when I did, he stepped back. I knew that I had him on the run. He dropped the chain and disappeared. He was gone.

From that day to this, I have never encountered anything like that again. But in the next twelve months, we saw some thirty four hundred people walk the aisles of the Church on the Rock getting saved or united with our church. We held no special revivals. We conducted no house-to-house canvasses. We sponsored no special membership drives. It happened solely by the power of God shining through the powers of darkness. The strongman had been bound and the kingdom of God released.”

[Cf. The story of revival in Moettlingen (www.livinggracetoowoomba.org/2010/2010VictoryAtMoettlingenEdgarMayer.htm); the story of the “Healing The Land” movement in Melanesia under Pastors Vuniani Nakauyaca and Walo Ani).]

 

When we are the church together and take our stand praying, we are in a position to take ground and extend the territory of the kingdom. (As we live together in a culture of purity, God enlarges the borders of our land and heals the wider community – our city and nation. We preach and heal with results because the spiritual climate is changing.)

I want to give you another key reason why we cannot have everything that we want from God in isolation from each other. We need each other – that is: the church – because the gifts of the Holy Spirit can only be a shared possession.

 

Romans 12:4-8: “For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”

 

1 Corinthians 12:7-10: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, … to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits … ”

 

God does not give one person the full package of all spiritual gifts. It is only in community that we are going to enjoy absolutely everything that God wants to release among us: wisdom, mercy and compassion, healings, miracles, prophecy, special faith boldness, generosity, and so on. We need each other!

What is more, God – frequently – makes us receive our own gifts of the Holy Spirit through the community. The Bible encourages us to add spiritual gift after spiritual gift to our own repertoire. We are commanded – (and this is a sweet command) – to – 1 Corinthians 14:1: “ … eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy … ” And – in the Bible – we learn that these new gifts can come to us through other Christians that already possess this gift. Spiritual gifts can be passed on when others who already possess this gift (or come with a prophetic word) share this gift with us through the laying on of hands or by simply inviting us into the space and climate around them:

 

Romans 1:11: “I long to see you so that I may impart to you some spiritual gift to make you strong.”

 

Acts 8:17: “Then they laid hands on them, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

 

1 Timothy 4:14: “Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through prophecy when the body of elders laid their hands on you.”

 

1 Samuel 19:10-24: “ … But when they saw a group of prophets prophesying, with Samuel standing there as their leader, the Spirit of God came on Saul’s men, and they also prophesied. Saul was told about it, and he sent more men, and they prophesied too. Saul sent men a third time, and they also prophesied. Finally, he himself left for Ramah … But the Spirit of God came even on him, and he walked along prophesying until he came to Naioth. He stripped off his garments, and he too prophesied in Samuel’s presence … ”

 

What does this mean for us? There are treasures among us that can be shared. Can you see them? Who do you want to pray for you with the laying on of hands? Who do you want to have close to you so that something is transferred through the atmosphere? What do you want – prophecy, generosity, gift of tongues, miracles, wisdom, holiness, courage, compassion, and so on? It’s available to you among your brothers and sisters in Christ.

This is absolutely exciting. Over the last few years we have been pioneering and pushing into the things of the Spirit. We became hungry for the baptism in the Holy Spirit – and then it came. (God has empowered us now to pray for others and see them immersed in the Spirit.) We became hungry for the gift of tongues – and then it came. We became hungry for intimacy with God in worship – and then it came. We became hungry for converts – and then they came. We became hungry for miracles – and then they came (e.g.: glory dust, oil on hands, mist). We became hungry for healings – and then they came.

We have seen much over the last few years but our pioneering efforts have also cost us. There was the cost of change. Some of us had to rethink a life-time of obeying church traditions rather than the Bible. This was not easy and we lost people in the process. Then – for whatever reason – God did not immediately confirm our new insights. There we were with our new hunger to see him act on his promises – (what we now knew to be true) – but he seemed to take his time to make healings and miracles and converts more common among us. It was a character-shaping journey (and still is) but – and this is where at least my excitement bubbles over – anyone coming new into this congregation and any of our children growing up in this church do not have to make the same journey. They do not have to pioneer themselves but simply enjoy what we are able to share with them. Whatever we have attained (and will attain), we can pass on – either through the laying on of hands or it is simply in the faith atmosphere of our community.

Look at all of our children – the toddlers that love to wave banners during worship – we can leave an inheritance to them. They are simply growing up with what has taken us years to discover ourselves. There are no hang-ups about speaking in tongues or showing emotions in worship. Some of them are two years old and alreadysee in the Spirit”. This is exciting and worth the investment. Our community is precious. And then – when we are old – we are sitting in the back pew and let them advance even further – build on the inheritance. We cheer them on – like the proud fathers and mothers that we are.

Together – as a community – we can increase in what is available from God. There are spiritual gifts such as prophecy and wisdom but in my description of our pioneering efforts I have also touched on something else. Frequently – any truth of God needs a release of the Spirit before it is activated. God promised the baptism (immersion) in the Spirit but this promise needs to be activated – in a church – through the Spirit so that we can – on a more regular basis – minister the Spirit to others. God promised converts but this promise also needs activation through the release of the Spirit for this purpose. According to the Bible – the Word of God – his truth – and the Holy Spirit need to work together for anything to happen:

 

Genesis 1:1-3: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.

 

Ephesians 6:17: “ … the sword of the Spirit . is the word of God.”

 

I have only begun to recognize the more general application of this principle over the last few weeks. Sometimes the truth by itself is not enough but needs to be activated by the Spirit. A pastor (Bill Johnson) told the following testimony: He and his wife had always been committed to a generous life-style. They had always given at least 20% of their income to God’s work. At the beginning of the year – they did not think about how much they could save but how much they could give away. Yet – for all their generosity – they did not experience the Bible truth of blessings in return. They were always struggling financially. They did not reap what they had sown. What was wrong?

One day the pastor approached a businessman who seemed to enjoy great favour in his handling of money. He said to him: “Would you please pray for my wife and I. We need something of what God has put on your life in the matters of finances.” The businessman prayed for them and – from this day – everything changed in the pastor’s life. He said that it was like going from darkness to light. They did not change their behaviour but money was becoming more freely available to them and they always seemed to have enough. The businessman had imparted something of the Spirit in relation to money. [He later told his kids that this would be their inheritance also. They would never be poor because their parents had lived a generous life-style and God’s Spirit was on them.]

This is interesting. What other truths may the Spirit need to activate among us? Maybe intimacy between husband and wife and between Jesus Christ and his church:

 

Ephesians 5:28-33: “ … He who loves his wife loves himself. After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— for we are members of his body. ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church … ”

 

I am still trying to understand this more fully but a community that is full of the Holy Spirit is a community where the kingdom of God is operating as promised. The Spirit is activating all of God’s promises and – coming back to my basic point – we can share the activating Spirit with each other in the community of the church. Together we can reach higher levels of his release. [Cf. Consider impartation, faith, holiness, cleansing territory, … I have even heard that when people are more frequently taken up to heaven, they can take others with them through holding their hand and touch.]

This has practical consequences. We need to honour each other. Sometimes we are quick to see the character flaws in a brother or sister but fail to appreciate the spiritual gift which we could receive through this person. Then, it is familiarity that can breed contempt. We are so used to the other person. We know him so well and his lame jokes that we can no longer see anything special in him. [Respect for each other even after a shared holiday?] People even became blind to the Spirit on Jesus because he was so familiar to them. I read from the Bible:

 

Matthew 13:54-58: “Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. ‘Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?’ they asked. ‘Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?’ And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, ‘A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.’ And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

 

People were amazed at his wisdom and the miraculous powers but – nevertheless – they could not welcome the grown man Jesus because they had known him as a boy. Why would he suddenly be anything special? His parents, brothers and sisters were still living among them. They rejected him in a climate of unbelief which – in turn – reduced the work of God among them: “And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.”

We don’t want to make the same mistake. You may have grown up here. You may be familiar to us but our eyes are on God’s Spirit on you – what he has given you already and what you will become. We welcome you and receive from God through you.

The other extreme to rejection is recorded in another Bible passage. I read:

 

Mark 5:24-34: “ … And a woman was there who had been subject to bleeding for twelve years.  She had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors and had spent all she had, yet instead of getting better she grew worse. When she heard about Jesus, she came up behind him in the crowd and touched his cloak, because she thought, ‘If I just touch his clothes, I will be healed.’ Immediately her bleeding stopped and she felt in her body that she was freed from her suffering. At once Jesus realized that power had gone out from him. He turned around in the crowd and asked, ‘Who touched my clothes?’ ‘You see the people crowding against you,’ his disciples answered, ‘and yet you can ask, Who touched me?’ But Jesus kept looking around to see who had done it. Then the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came and fell at his feet and, trembling with fear, told him the whole truth. He said to her, ‘Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.’”

 

Plenty of people were bumping into Jesus because a great crowd seemed to mob him but only one woman received something from Jesus by touching him. She came to him with faith and Jesus felt power going out from him. She was healed. What if we became more intentional in drawing the Spirit out from each other? There are riches among us.

In May a few of us went to see Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke on the Gold Coast. Since David Challenor is a more regular supporter of his ministry, we met him at a luncheon and could line up to shake hands with him. I had only one desire. As I would shake hands with him – by faith – I would draw from the Spirit that was on him. I knew that it might drain him a little as power would be coming out of him but I was prepared to be a leech and desired his gift for evangelism. When we finally shook hands, I did get a dose of the Holy Spirit and could hardly stand up. This was good.

At night – David managed to get front row seats. If Reinhard had fallen off the stage, he would have landed in our laps. Again – I was conscious of spending time in the atmosphere around him as he was proclaiming the truth of God about the Spirit of God. That night the Spirit and the truth worked together and the one activated the other.

I was receiving from God through Reinhard but one segment in his preaching surprised me because it contradicted my very reason for being there. He told the audience how many people wanted him to pray for them with the laying on of hands and receive his anointing – his gift and authority in the Spirit. He thought that their request was rubbish. He dismissed the whole concept of impartation because – in his understanding – everyone received from God separately. He argued that if he imparted his anointing and gave it away, then he would be left with nothing. I shook my head. How could he not respect the numerous Bible verses that clearly teach the transferring of spiritual gifts through the laying on of hands? In the kingdom, sharing anything does not make you poorer. It multiplies.

I began to be stirred up but then I settled down again. Who cares whether I could agree with everything in his preaching. The Spirit of God was on him and I would receive something through him whether he believed in it or not. I was just glad that I had invested so much faith in the hand-shake and did not wait for personal prayer time at the night service. I would have waited in vain.

The irony is that Reinhard Bonnke himself received from the Spirit on another man and placed importance on the testimony in his autobiography [abbreviate and retell in your own words]:

 

Reinhard Bonnke: Living A Life Of Fire, Orlando: E-R Productions 2009, p146-1 49: … After finishing school in Swansea, I said my goodbyes. Lifelong relationships were begun there at the school of Wales. So many memories. The fellowship, the tests of faith, and the wonderful Bible classes – these had now become forever a part of me and would follow me wherever I went. Furthermore, my English had become passable.

I traveled by train to London. Having some money to spare, I decided I would simply take an unguided sightseeing tour of the great city. Big Ben, the famous Parliament building, Trafalgar Square, the Tower of London. I hoped from bus to bus, crisscrossing the city as if on a holiday. Which, in fact, I was. My first holiday.

At length, I arrived at a place called Clapham Commons, a large park in a lovely residential section of the city. With no specific destination in mind, I decided to stretch my legs. I began walking through the surrounding neighbourhood totally at random. All of a sudden I stopped because I saw a blue nameplate in front of a house. On that nameplate I read, “George Jeffreys.”

I thought to myself, could this be the great George Jeffreys who had founded the Elim Pentecostal Churches in Ireland and England? I had read much about him. He had been a great firebrand evangelist who had traveled across the world preaching to overflow crowds in some of the largest venues. Miraculous signs and wonders had accompanied his preaching. I recalled that 10,000 had been coverted in his historic Birmingham crusade. 14,000 had responded during a crusade in Switzerland. He was known to many as the greatest evangelist Britain had produced after George Whitefield and John Wesley. My heart pounded with anticipation to think that of all the residences in London I might have stumbled upon, I had stumbled upon his.

I felt a spiritual and natural link with this man. As with so many other British revival leaders, Jeffreys had been born in Wales to a miner’s family. He had been a teenager during the great Welsh Revival of 1904 and 1905, and for him, the fire had never gone out. What especially linked him to me was that he had also ridden the tide of the Pentecostal revival that followed from Azusa Street and onward. He had embraced both revivals.

You only live once, I decided. I walked through the front garden gate and climbed the porch, pausing at the door. There I rang the bell. A lady opened the door.

“Pardon my intrusion, ma’am. Does the George Jeffreys live here who was that famous firebrand evangelist I have heard so much about?” “Yes, he does.” “May I please see him?” “No. Under no circumstances.”

She had hardly said no when I heard a deep voice from within the house say, “Let the young man come in.” I squeezed past that lady in a heartbeat and into the house. As my eyes adjusted to the dim light, I saw him coming slowly down a staircase, holding it unsteadily as he made his way toward me. As he reached the landing, I stepped forward, took his hand, and introduced myself. I told him I had a call of God on my life to be an evangelist and to preach the gospel in Africa. That I had been to college in Swansea and was now returning home to Germany.

What happened next was extraordinary. All of a sudden, he took me by the shoulders and fell to his knees, pulling me to the floor with him. He placed his hands on my hand and began to bless me as a father blesses a son, as Abraham blessed Isaac, who blessed Jacob, and on and on. The room seemed to light up with the glory of God as he poured out his prayer over me. I was dazed by that glory. I do not remember the words with which he blessed me, but I do remember their effect. My body felt electrified, tingling with divine energy.

After about a half hour he finished. I stood up and helped him to his feet. He seemed very frail. We said goodbye. The lady came and escorted him away. He could hardly stand. Nor could I, for different reasons. I stumbled from his house and staggered back toward Clapham Commons like a drunken man. There, with my head spinning, I waited for a bus to carry me on my way to the railway station.

What were the odds that this had happened to me? Even more, what did it mean that it had happened to me? It seemed like a dream. I had to convince myself, again and again, that it had actually happened. Why would God grant me this unexpected and unplanned meeting as a 21-year-old Bible college graduate in London on his way hom to serve a practicum at the smallest church in all of Germany?

I did not know. I kept it to myself.

I arrived at home and began the process of serving with my father in Krempe. I had been home for just a few months when one day Father said to me, “Son, did you hear the sad news?” “No, what news?” “George Jeffreys died in London.” “George Jeffreys! That’s impossible, Father. I just saw him. I met him.” And then I told him the story of my meeting with him in London.

In fact, he died on January 26, 1962. I was still 21, three months short of my 22nd birthday. As I absorbed the news, I realized something wonderful had happened in London. I had caught Elijah’s mantel that day. God had connected me with former generations of evangelists – George Whitefield, John Wesley, Evan Roberts, George Mueller, Rees Howells, George Jeffreys. The gospel is like a baton in a relay race. That day I got the baton into my hands. The fire I had already within me. The fire is always fresh. The baton of the gospel is always old, and it is passed on. I now understood that on that day in London, the baton and the flame had met …

 

I come to a close. Consider again the following Bible verses:

 

Matthew 5:11-12: “Blessed are you … great is your reward in heaven … ”

Matthew 5:13-16: “You are the salt of the earth … You are the light of the world … let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

Matthew 5:20: “For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matthew 6:14: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.”

Matthew 6:33: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.”

Matthew 7:1: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged.”

Matthew 7:7: “Ask and it will be given to you … ”

 

Ephesians 6:10-18: “ … Put on the full armour of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes … Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist … take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God … ”

1 Corinthians 3:16: “Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?”

 

 

 

Theyouin all of these verses is not speaking to theyouof a single person but the community. None of these verses speak to me or you as an individual. It’s not about me – it’s not about you – but us. In every instance – theyouis targeting all of us together as the church: You together are the salt of the earth and the light of the world. You together seek first his kingdom and his righteousness. You together are the temple – the dwelling place – of the Holy Spirit.

What does this mean? We cannot be Christians by ourselves. None of us can have the sum total of kingdom blessings in isolation from others. None of us can have everything that we want from God on our own. We need each other.

It is only in community that we can enlarge the borders of God’s kingdom in our midst and occupy territory. As we humble ourselves together before God, seek his face and turn away from our wicked ways – maintain purity on our patch – God will hear us and heal the land. Furthermore, we need each other because the fullness of the Holy Spirit can only be a shared possession. We serve each other with our spiritual gifts and – what is even more exciting – live in a climate where spiritual gifts can be received from others and imparted.

Take a look around. None of us here is perfect but see the treasures of the Spirit on each one. Invest in our community – in this church – for yourself, the expanding territory of God’s kingdom and for leaving a legacy to the next generation and newcomers who will simply step in and inherit what we have pioneered in God. Don’t give up on the church. God saidyouand meantustogether. Amen.


 

Appendix: Practical Resource from http://aandbcounseling.com/sites/default/files/Home%20Cleansing%20Prayer.pdf

 

1. First start with a time of worship through songs, testimonies of God's blessings, and prayer. This will naturally flow into -

 

2. A time of thanksgiving. The head of the household gives thanks for each member of the family, God's goodness upon the various members of the household, His faithfulness to the family, God's watch care and protection, and His abundant bestowal of health and strength, both physical and spiritual.

 

3. Bless the members of the household and break the power of demonic curses and torment over the home. The following is an example but creativity is encouraged. You need not follow this prayer verbatim.

 

“Our Father in heaven, we thank You for Your kindness and goodness to to us all. Your grace had been evident to all the members of this household. Now, in the Name of Jesus, we speak blessing over this household. Grant us a heart that fears You. Help us to walk in Your ways and lead this family to do the same. Grant us health, strength and wisdom to walk before You in sincerity, truth and humility. Bless the labour of our hands so that he will make honest gains and provide abundantly for this household. May there always be food on the table, clothes on the back, and a roof over us by night. Teach us to live in simplicity and contentment. May we always have enough and be willing to share with all who come to them in need. Grant us the grace to exercise the gift of hospitality.”

 

“Father, we pray the blood of Jesus over this home right now. We break the power of plan and scheme of the enemy to bring destruction upon this marriage, family and home. We break the power of any curse, spell or demonic assignment attached to this dwelling or ancestral curse upon the land. We bind and cast out every spirit of darkness over and about this home and send these spirits to dry, uninhabited places. We ask for warring angels to be dispatched around this home and put a hedge around this family and protect them from all the forces of evil, and keep them from the wiles and attacks of the enemy.”

 

“Bless this home with Your love and peace. Fill these rooms with Your joy and laughter. Let these be great halls of learning of Your truth and grace. Let Your glory shine through these windows to the neighbors. May their kind words and consideration for others draw many into Your kingdom. Bless this family richly in the precious name of Jesus. Amen."

 

4. Anoint the rooms with oil (door frames, walls, windows, floors) and pray briefly at each location (avoid leaving oil on surfaces such as drywall or fabrics that will leave a stain).

 

Sample prayer: “I pray the blood of Jesus over this room and I thank you Lord for protecting this dwelling” or “I pray the blood of Jesus here and I tell you Satan and your kingdom will not cross the Blood line of Jesus for now and all eternity.”