Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Lutheran Church, Toowoomba – Date: 17 November 2013

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

 

Free but Costly

 

A young man – (maybe twenty years old) – came to the Jesus Tent in Oakey (9-13 October 2013). [He drove himself and came alone.] He knew nothing about Jesus, nothing about the church, nothing about anything [relating to faith and salvation]. I asked him whether anyone in his family was a Christian. He said: “Maybe my great-grand-parents.” He knew nothing at all about the Christian faith but he listened and he watched what was happening. He heard about Jesus’ love and salvation and – (he saw the gold dust) – he watched people falling to the floor under the power of God. He looked at a middle-aged woman who was lying on the carpet laughing and he asked me what was happening to her. I explained that I knew her and that she was suffering from depression but God was filling her with joy which made her laugh by the Spirit of God. This young man was drawing closer with interest and he was open to God.

He came on the first night of the Jesus Tent and returned on the last night – even bringing a friend. Again, he listened to the preaching and then watched the prayer ministry with interest – coming closer and leaning against the tent pole in the middle of the aisle. Looking into his face, I knew that he wanted God and some of the reality which was unfolding before his eyes (despite some demons were manifesting in a young woman that night). I invited him forward and he came. I instructed him to pray from his heart – (the words do not have to be perfect but he must mean them) – and give his life to Jesus asking him for the forgiveness of his sins. He did and then I prayed for him and he fell to the floor (someone was catching him) where he lay peacefully with eyes closed for a long time. This is what he had wanted – an experience of God – and God did it for him – like he does for everyone – loving us freely. When he opened his eyes again and sat up, a local pastor from Oakey chatted with him – sharing his own faith with him and offering further friendship.

However – one month later – nothing seems to have changed for the young man. He still works at the same place – (a fruit shop in Toowoomba) – and – for all that I know – has not contacted anyone to find out more about Jesus and living the life of a Christian. What went wrong? This is frustrating and sad and also strange. This young man did have an experience of God, yet he doesn’t seem to understand that God invited him into a relationship which is ongoing and radically life-changing. Nothing seems to have changed for him.

Are you the same? How radical is your (new) life as a Christian? According to the Bible, there is no salvation without repentance – (a change of mind and direction) – but could it be that we have lost the edge of repentance – its radical nature? In a nutshell, salvation is free but changes everything and costs you everything – making the most radical demands on you. [You can have an experience of God without repentance but no salvation.]

A young man ran up to Jesus, fell on his knees before him and asked the most important question: “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life” (Mark 10:17). Jesus answered: “You know the commandments which God has given. Obey them: ‘Do not murder. Do not commit adultery. Do not steal. Do not lie. Do not cheat anyone. Honour your father and mother’” (Mark 10:19 – paraphrased; cf. Luke 10:25-37). Contrary to some modern thinking, Jesus never gave up on the idea that the key to salvation – the key to life eternal – was obedience to God and he could not possibly be misunderstood because he spelled out the truth more than once. He said:

 

Matthew 5:17-20: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets … I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished … 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 5:48: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” / Matthew 7:21-23: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven … ” / Matthew 28:18-20: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you …”

 

The insistence on obedience is not a false doctrine. Let me unpack this. Jesus knew that perfect obedience to God in our own strength would not be possible for any one of us. [Cf. Mark 10:18: “Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good—except God alone.”] Therefore, he offered us salvation as a free gift – if only we trust him – but this free (unmerited) gift of salvation would include the promise of power over sin and temptation by the Spirit of God. Those whom Jesus would save, he would also empower by the Spirit of God (who would take residence in the believer) so that obedience could be rendered, not ignored.

Jesus grants forgiveness in response to faith but it is for obedience:

 

Justified by faith – Romans 3:21-26: But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who [God] justifies those who have faith in Jesus. [See also Romans 5:1-11.]

 

Empowered by faith – Romans 5:1-2: Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. / Galatians 3:14: He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

 

For faithful obedience – Romans 1:5: Through him [Jesus Christ our Lord] we received grace to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake. / Romans 15:18-19: I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done – by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. / [Romans 1:15-18: That is why I am so eager to preach the gospel also to you who are in Rome.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile. For in the gospel the righteousness of God is revealed—a righteousness that is by faith from first to last, just as it is written: “The righteous will live by faith.” The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness]

 

Therefore, obedience is not an option and the young man that had been running up to Jesus was neither surprised nor offended. From childhood, this was what he had been taught (from the Bible) and this is what he had practiced. He said to Jesus – Mark 10:20: “Teacher,” he declared, “all these [commandments] I have kept since I was a boy.”

Jesus loved his answer and he loved him. The Bible says – Mark 10:21: “Jesus looked at him and loved him.” A young man like that is priceless – passionately seeking God (he ran up to Jesus), disciplined (keeping the commandments since childhood) and humble (kneeling before Jesus) – and Jesus loved him. Therefore, what could possibly go wrong with someone like that?

This is what Jesus said next and what made the young man share the same (rotten) fate as many of our young men and women who are seeking God at the Jesus Tent:

 

Mark 10:21-31: Jesus looked at him and loved him. “One thing you lack,” he said. “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth.

Jesus looked around and said to his disciples, “How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God!” The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, “Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.”

The disciples were even more amazed, and said to each other, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”

Then Peter spoke up, “We have left everything to follow you!” “Truly I tell you,” Jesus replied, “no one who has left home or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or fields for me and the gospel 30 will fail to receive a hundred times as much in this present age: homes, brothers, sisters, mothers, children and fields—along with persecutions—and in the age to come eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and the last first.”

 

The young man – for all of his obedience and keeping the commandments of God which he knew from childhood – he failed to understand that obedience to God goes deeper and costs you everything. There is no list of commandments which you can tick at your convenience but otherwise go on with your own life. Saved people live in a new relationship with God where their own will completely surrenders to God’s will. You never saynoto God. It’s alwaysyes”. That’s obedience and it is not optional.

Is this too hard? Bystanders thought so – those watching Jesus and the young man thought so – and said to one another: “Who then can be saved? Who could possible give up all of his wealth for anything?” Yet, Jesus did not back down but talked again about the power of God (which is available to us for obedience). He said: “With humans radical obedience is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.” [Later, Jesus was more specific and promised power to his disciples through the Holy Spirit.]

How are you hearing this? Did you leave everything behind for Jesus? Not everyone receives the specific call to sell everything immediately for the sake of the poor but the underlying truth is universal: Salvation is free – Jesus’ offer to follow him is absolutely free – but costs you everything. None of your money – none of your time – none of your strength – none of your pride – none of your self-pity – nothing whatsoever is yours any more. It belongs to God.

Please, do not just have an experience of God at the Jesus Tent or anywhere else but then fail to live with him. There is no salvation without repentance which radically changes everything in your life because the wordrepentancemeans a complete change of heart, mind, will and direction. Your life is no longer your own but God’s.

Charles Finney (1792 – 1875) was a powerful evangelist and missionary in the 1800s – preaching and helping hundreds of thousands of people to have a relationship with Jesus. I learned much from his autobiography and appreciated a little booklet with the titlePower from Godbut there was one chapter in this booklet which made me judge him. In this one chapter, I found him harsh, unreasonable, extreme in an unhealthy sense and unattractive. See what you think. I will give you a few quotes:

 

Charles Finney: Power from God, New Kensington: Whitaker House 1996, p99-100: Fishing and shooting for amusement are not innocent … fishing and hunting to gratify a passion for these sports is not innocent.

 

P101: Expensive journeys for our own pleasure and amusement … are not innocent amusements but sinful.

 

P105: The question often arises, Are we never to seek such amusements? My answer is that it is our privilege and our duty to live above a desire for such things.

 

P107: Some have maintained that we should conform to the ways of the world somewhat at least, enough to show that we can enjoy the world and religion too; and that we make religion appear repulsive to unconverted souls by turning our backs upon what they call their innocent amusements. But we should represent religion as it really is – as living above the world, as consisting in a heavenly mind, as that which affords an enjoyment so spiritual and heavenly as to render the low pursuits and joys of worldly men disagreeable and repulsive. It is a sad stumbling-block to the unconverted to see professed Christians seeking pleasure or happiness from this world. Such seeking is a misrepresentation of the religion of Jesus.

 

P113: The Bible exhorts … and informs us that we must give account in the Day of Judgement for every idle word (Matthew 12:36). It nowhere informs us that fun and hilarity are the source of rational enjoyment …

 

I would have thought that fishing, hunting and holiday trips to Bali were okay for Christians – innocent – but Charles Finney disagreed and called sinful much of what seems normal to us today – amusements like watching TV, water-skiing, BBQs, computer games and club sport. Ignoring our protests (which may already be stirring in you), Charley Finney would have said that we no longer understand that salvation is free but costs you everything including your freedom to do what you want in your leisure time. You belong to God now.

 This strikes me as radical and outlandish as what Jesus said to the young man: “Sell everything.” / “Forsake all amusements for your own pleasure.”

Yet, Jesus said what he said and even Charles Finney – if we dare to pay attention to his reasoning – made a lot of sense:

 

Charles Finney: Power from God, New Kensington: Whitaker House 1996, p99: Nothing is innocent unless it proceeds from supreme love to God and equal love to man, unless the supreme and ultimate motive be to please and honour God.

 

P99-100: Fishing and shooting for amusement are not innocent. We may fish and hunt for the same reason that we are allowed to eat and drink – for nourishment, that we may be strong in the service of God. We may hunt to destroy noxious animals, for the glory of God and the interests of His kingdom. But fishing and hunting to gratify a passion for these sports is not innocent. Again, no amusement can be innocent that involves the squandering of precious time that might be better employed to the glory of God and the good of man. Life is short. Time is precious. We have but one life to live. Much is to be done. The world is in darkness. A world of sinners are to be enlightened and, if possible, saved.

 

P100-101: Again, no amusement can be innocent that involves an unnecessary expenditure of the Lord’s money. All our time and all our money are the Lord’s. We are the Lord's. We may innocently use both time and money to promote the Lord’s interests and the highest interests of man, which are the Lord's interests. But we may not innocently use either for our own pleasure and gratification. Expensive journeys for our own pleasure and amusement, and not indulged in with a single eye to the glory of God, are not innocent amusements, but sinful.

 

P102: What, then, is an innocent amusement? It must be that and that only which not only might be but actually is engaged in with a single eye to God’s glory and the interests of His kingdom. If this be not the ultimate and supreme design, it is not an innocent, but a sinful amusement.

 

P102-103: Now, many people are deluded about this point, I fear. When speaking of amusements, they say: “What harm is there in them?” In answering to themselves and others this question, they do not penetrate to the bottom of it. If on the surface they see nothing contrary to morality, they judge that the amusement is innocent. They fail to inquire into the supreme and ultimate motive in which the innocence or sinfulness of the act is found. But apart from the motive no course of action is either innocent or sinful, any more than the motions of a machine or the acts of a mere animal are innocent or sinful. No act or course of action should, therefore, be adjudged as either innocent or sinful without ascertaining the supreme motive of the person who acts.

 

P104: No amusement is lawful unless it is engaged in as a love-service rendered to God and designed to please and glorify Him. It must not only be a love service, but, in the judgment of the one who renders it, it must be the best service that, for the time being, he can render to God – a service that will be more pleasing to Him and more useful to His kingdom than any other that can be engaged in at the time.

 

This is absolutely radical and counter-cultural in a world of non-stop electronic entertainment – (where you watch TV, check Facebook on the computer and play a game on your smart phone all at the same time). Maybe Charles Finney could have conceded that sometimes God just likes us to have fun – like any Dad rejoices over his children at play – but otherwise his logic is cutting and convicting. Fishing and hunting, sport and excursions – any amusements can only ever be innocent in the service of God. If you have a Family Fun Day at church, do it to glorify God – to replenish everyone for service – to build the kind of community which cares for his people – to experience joy in a safe place so that the sadness of the world will not overcome us. Everything serves God and what he wants which is primarily the salvation of all people. “Life is short. Time is precious. We have but one life to live. Much is to be done.

 This may sound and look demanding and it is but we have nothing to complain about. On the contrary – I read to you one verse from the Bible:

 

1 Corinthians 6:19-20: … You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God …

 

Belonging to God costs us everything because – as his people – we are not our own but God’s. Yet, we are not the only ones that pay a price. While salvation is free for us – while forgiveness of all of our sins and ongoing grace does not cost us anything – (only the response demands everything) – God paid the highest possible price for our salvation – John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son [Jesus Christ], that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” [Expand on the price (complete sacrifice) which Jesus paid for us.]

 

Colossians 1:19-23: For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behaviour. But now he has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel …

 

[And just as an aside, belonging to God we may not be our own but we never were. According to the Bible, we either belong to God or to the devil whose enslavement by sin – (addictions) – and demonic oppression you may even know.]

 

Therefore – this morning – rethink your response to Jesus. Salvation is his free gift to you but, if you choose to accept the gift of his love and eternal life, you are no longer your own. It will cost you everything but not as much as it cost him to save you. Repent and pay the price and let God change everything – including life in this church.

I read to you more verses from the Bible. Make them your own:

 

James 4:4-10: You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Therefore, anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble.”

 Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

 

[Matthew 6:24: “No one can serve two masters … You cannot serve both God and money.” Matthew 7:13-14: “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.”]

 

You may think that this is heavy but it is not. The God who touched the young man at the Jesus Tent and made him lie peacefully on the carpet with eyes closed, he is a good God. With him, there is always peace and joy and righteousness. [Romans 14:17: “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”] Charles Finney may have sounded unreasonable and harsh and extreme to us but – listen to more of his words – he knew and experienced another reality – the satisfying life with God:

 

Charles Finney: Power from God, New Kensington: Whitaker House 1996, p105-106: If a Christian avails himself of his privilege of communion with God, he will naturally and by an instinct of his new nature repel solicitations to go after worldly amusements. To him such pastimes will appear low, unsatisfactory, and even repulsive. If he is of a heavenly mind, as he ought to be, he will feel as if he could not afford to come down and seek enjoyment in worldly amusements.

Surely, a Christian must be fallen from his first love, he must have turned back into the world, before he can feel the necessity or have the desire of seeking enjoyment in worldly sports and pastimes. A spiritual mind cannot seek enjoyment in worldly society. To such a mind that society is necessarily repulsive. Worldly society is insincere, hollow, and to a great extent a sham. What relish can a spiritual mind have for the gossip of a worldly party of pleasure? None whatever. To a mind in communion with God their worldly spirit and ways, conversation and folly is repulsive and painful, as it is so strongly suggestive of the downward tendency of their souls, and of the destiny that awaits them.

I have had so marked an experience of both sides of this question that I think I cannot be mistaken. Probably but few persons enjoy worldly pleasure more intensely than I did before I was converted; but my conversion, and the spiritual baptism which immediately followed it, completely extinguished all desire for worldly sports and amusements. I was lifted at once into entirely another plane of life and another kind of enjoyment. From that hour to the present the mode of life, the pastimes, sports, amusements, and worldly ways that so much delighted me before have not only failed to interest me, but I have had a positive aversion to them. I have never felt them necessary to, or even compatible with, a truly rational enjoyment. I do not speak boastingly; but for the honour of Christ and His religion, I must say that my Christian life has been a happy one. I have had as much enjoyment as is probably best for men to have in this life, and never for an hour have I had the desire to turn back and seek enjoyment from anything the world can give.

 

P111: This is a fact of Christian consciousness. The highest and purest of all amusements is found in doing the will of God. Mere worldly amusements are cold and insipid and not worthy of naming in comparison with the enjoyment we find in doing the will of God. To one who loves God supremely it is natural to seek amusements, and everything else that we do seek, with supreme reference to the glory of God.

 

P113-114: But to come back to the question: To whom is it a bondage, to be required to have a single eye to the good pleasure and glory of God in all that we do? Who finds it hard to do so? Christ says, “My yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30). The requirement to do all for the glory of God is surely none other than the yoke of Christ. It is His expressed will. Who finds this a hard yoke and a heavy burden? It is not hard or heavy to a willing, loving mind.

 

P114: Turn aside from saving souls to seek amusements! As if there could be a higher and diviner pleasure than is found in labouring for the salvation of souls. It cannot be. There can be no higher enjoyment found in this world than is found in pulling souls out of the fire and bringing them to Christ. I am filled with amazement when I read and hear the appeals to the Church to seek more worldly amusements. Do we need, can we have any fuller and higher satisfaction than is found in a close, serious, loving walk with God and cooperation with Him in fitting souls for heaven?

 

God is good. I repeat the main message of this sermon: Salvation is free but it costs you everything. Therefore – if need be – give up your money – give up your amusements – and live for him – only for him. Be serious about obedience. Repent. It will not be as bad as you think. God is good and you live by his strength and his peace and his joy.

I close with two testimonies:

 

Mahesh Chavda: The Hidden Power Of Prayers & Fasting, Shippensburg: Destiny Image 1998, p118-121: I had an out-of-town ministry commitment and so did Derek Prince; yet, even though the two of us had to leave, the church was supposed to start the fast on the following Monday. On the first day of the fast, a total of five people out of a 600-member congregation showed up for the corporate gathering. On the next day, only two people showed up. One of the two people there that morning was a man with a strong prophetic gifting – he always traveled with me when I ministered in Africa. This man began to weep that morning when the Spirit of God came on him. He spoke to the church during the regular Wednesday night service the next day, and said, “The Lord told me, I am here, where are my people?”

I flew back home that same night, but I didn’t find out until about midnight what had happened. After this man spoke to the people, the Spirit of the Lord began to fall upon the children first. Then he descended on a number of adults as well. I knew something unusual was afoot when my little 4-year-old daughter, Serah, came into my bedroom at about 4 o’clock in the morning and shook my shoulder. She said, “Daddy, wake up! It’s time to go to church.” Now little Serah loved her sleep, but here she was at my bedside fully awake, and ready to go to church. We found out that many of the parents in the church congregation were being wakened by their children.

Bonnie told me that the day before I got home, she had been awakened by a loud knock on the door – at 4 am. When she got up and answered the door, nobody was there. She gathered up our children and went to the church building, and when she opened the door, the glory of the Lord was so strong that she fell on the floor right there! When God’s glory came down, all the children had simultaneous visions. Whenever the Lord walked in, we would all know he was there, and everyone could see the same thing. One hundred and fifty people turned up, then 200 people turned out. We were engulfed in a spirit of revival, and it was an awesome thing to behold. People started repenting of sins – men who were thought to be examples of holiness began to weep uncontrollably and repent of their compulsive involvement in pornography and addiction.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of this visitation was our sense of the literal presence of God hovering over us when the Lord walked into those meetings. All I could do was just weep in a kind of “holy terror” because he was there in such breathtaking holiness and glory. I didn’t even want to lift up my head because I could so strongly sense the holiness of God in that place. God’s presence stayed with us week after week, and we were in true revival – even as early as 1986! Derek Prince shared that in his 40 years of ministry at that time, he had never experienced this level of God’s anointing or tangible presence. It was one of the most glorious experiences we had ever experienced corporately.

If this was so powerful, then why didn’t the church world hear about it, like it heard about God’s visitation in Toronto, Ontario, and Pensacola, Florida? The answer is that we did not know how to steward the presence of God. The Holy Spirit didn’t ask us “how to come” to us. He sovereignly chose to reveal himself as the Spirit of repentance, and he called us as a people to repent. Unfortunately, we did not understand that repentance is a word of blessing. The only reason we are able to genuinely repent before God is because the Holy Spirit gives us the grace to repent.

Week after week, the Spirit of God would descend on us in his heavy, weighty glory and lead us to our knees in continual repentance. Meanwhile, some of the leaders began to feel uncomfortable about it all. They were (and are) good brothers who dearly love God, but they began to feel so uncomfortable with the way the Holy Spirit kept “hovering” over us that they wanted to “move on”. The problem was that the Spirit of God didn’t want to “move” anywhere. They said, “That’s enough repentance. Let’s go into joy,” so in the end we left the Holy Spirit behind to party when God wanted to complete a deeper work of repentance in us and perhaps in the nation as a whole.

We often think God should be satisfied with our repentance or obedience in a particular area, when his focus isn’t on us at all! Sometimes he is satisfied with our repentance on “Day 1,” and he wants to work repentance in our families, churches, cities, or nation in “Day 2 through 21”. But then we get impatient. We want to have a celebration party before there’s anything to celebrate about! We left God’s place of grace so we could “move into joy”, but as we left him behind, very slowly the hovering presence of the Spirit began to fade away too, along with his anointing.

All of us who witnessed that remarkable visitation were profoundly affected by it for years to come. I can still recall the wonderful presence of God that came down in those meetings, and I learned that we not only need to learn how to ‘bring down the glory,’ but we should also learn how to “steward the glory” with honour, respect, and obedience so he will stay with us.

God gave John the Baptist one “yardstick” to pick out the Messiah from the crowd of humanity. He said, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, this is he who baptizes with the Holy Spirit” (John 1:33b). During the Charismatic movement, we learned how to honour God and see the Holy Spirit descend upon us in a concentrated way from time to time, but we didn’t know how to encourage his presence to remain among us …

 

Pastor Walo Ani – conversation in my office (2013): Seven villages joined us for the last three years in 24/7 prayer and fasting (starting from after midnight 31 December – 7 January). This year Kokoda Healing the Land team joined us and instead of finishing on the seventh they continued and the process in different villages was that they were repenting of sins and bringing forth their items of sins (e.g.: tools for abortion). [The ministry of the Healing the Land process is based on 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.”.] So they surrendered those things (e.g.: guns, Marihuana plants, adultery). They decided to do repentance (this particular village) family by family, clan by clan, … They decided to continue the fast for a whole month (instead of just the seven days). They never finished the month but, on the 24th of January 2013, God moved in. This is churches combined in Sangyi village, right up on a hill in Kokoda (beautiful place). I was there – preaching there last year.

About four or five different denominations have united and praying for their community and then God did some interesting things. What happened on the 24th January – mid-morning. Some children disappeared from the worship service (like being raptured). Suddenly, you look around and several children were missing (6-10 years old). They did not know where these children disappeared to. Everyone was panicking. The whole village was there but the other kids that were not raptured could see what was happening (but the general public did not). Kids looked up and they saw Jesus coming and they could see the other kids. Some saw them meet Jesus in the air. They went to heaven.

They left and they were gone (bodily). Amazing! It became a day or a few days later because the worship time continued. It was not the end of the month yet. The kids when they went did not go forever. Everyone thought that they had gone forever but next day – about mid-morning – during the worship time they looked up and saw the kids coming back with Jesus. Suddenly, they started appearing. Some of them were appearing on the roof of the house or beside the others standing there.

Two adults were gone with the children at another time. They actually did not go all the way with Jesus. They were told to come back because they had to pass on the message to the village – more repentance before anyone could experience more. Their sins needed to be dealt with. The kids went to heaven but Jesus sent them back with a message. They were to tell their parents and village people to repent of sins. The kids were then preaching repentance – too much sin in the village (after 24 days of prayer and fasting). It seems to show that we open up to certain layers but there are deeper layers.

The older adults – both of them – came back and one of them landed on the banana leaf but his weight should not have been able to be supported by the banana leaf (happened to the children as well). Everybody could see him. The other landed on the coconut branch and it should have broken. They were wondering how he would come down from there but God made him just float down. One of them had sores like blisters. “I went there and all I could experience was the kind of experience people go through when they have not repented of their sins.” Prophetic message: repent or this happens to you. The whole message is repentance. They could have seen things in heaven but I did not hear any of those stories. It was all about repentance. You cannot go with Jesus unless you repent. Jesus cannot show you what he is showing us unless you repent.

The kids did not report any details about heaven because the main focus was on the message that Jesus gave them: repentance. These miracles keep happening now until the rest of Kokoda hears the message of repentance. True story!

 

Both times, God was amazing – stunning in his goodness – (pouring out his Spirit and granting his people wonderful experiences) – but he was also serious about repentance – the changing of lives so that everything would come into perfect obedience to his will, not ours. This morning, let the goodness of God not go to waste. He paid the price of your salvation. You pay the price of belonging to him and don’t hurry the process. Amen.