Rev Dr Edgar Mayer – Living Grace Church, Toowoomba – Date: 19 November 2017

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

 

Clearing the Way to Love

(Rolland Baker’s Life Message)

 

Rolland Baker – a Christian for all of his life and a missionary for thirty-seven years (founding director of Iris Global, a mission organization that now operates in more than thirty countries and aims to be at the worst trouble spots and tragedies first), now 70 years old – spoke to us at our renewal conference which we had three weeks ago (28-29 October 2017), and (in my view) he shared his life lesson with us – something that took him years to grasp in his own walk with Jesus.

It began on the Friday when he talked to pastors and their spouses and asked them: “What is the essence of Christianity?” What would you answer? What is the essence of Christianity for you? There may be a few possible answers:

 

·         It is about souls being saved.

·         It is about going to heaven.

·         It is about worship and entering into his presence.

·         It’s about hearing from him and then doing his will.

·         It is about life in the power of the Holy Spirit.

·         It is about the teaching that we are justified by the grace of God as a gift through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. According to a quote that has been attributed to Martin Luther, “justification is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls.” He wrote in the heat of the battle with those that relied on their own works for salvation: “Nothing in this article can be given up or compromised… On this article rests all that we teach and practice…”[1] Charles Wesley and many others agreed with Luther: “I marvelled that we were so soon and so entirely removed from Him that called us into the grace of Christ, unto another gospel. Who would believe our Church had been founded on this important article of justification by faith alone? I am astonished I should ever think this a new doctrine; especially while our Articles and Homilies stand unrepealed, and the key of knowledge is not yet taken away.”[2]

 

There was a time in his life when Rolland Baker would have answered: “Christianity is about revival.”

 

There have been times I have thought that revival is the only thing we can live for. This is it. We have to have revival. There isn’t anything else! But not everybody is that excited about revival. And there are all kinds of ideas about what it is.

A lot of people define revival as ‘churches that get a lot bigger’. Others call revival ‘huge offerings’. Others call it ‘transformation’. I’ve heard people get so excited at conferences because they’ve taken more money in an offering than they ever have before, in the history of that particular conference. For them, revival is about prosperity.

At other times it’s a huge number of decision cards that gets people excited. You wouldn’t want to be a missionary if you didn’t want to see people saved and go to heaven. Do you realize that at least one hundred thousand people die every day in the world without the Lord? One hundred thousand people every day! There is a heaven, there is a hell, and this is extremely serious. It’s infinitely serious. Revival is important because it leads to multiple salvations.

And then we have those who stress the idea of heaven coming to earth and countries being transformed. I would love Pemba to be ‘heaven on earth’. I would love for the country to be transformed through a visitation of heaven. I would love for all of the cars to work. I would love for the electricity to be on twenty-four hours a day. I would love to turn the tap on at the base and have water come out. I’d like to have a university that teaches mathematics and physics. I would like every family, every hut in Africa to have a refrigerator. I would like flushing toilets on outreach. I’d like schools that teach something. I’d like some doctors in the hospitals. I’d like some medicine in the hospitals. Yes, I would really love to see Mozambique become prosperous and healthy. I would like to be able to grow anything! So yes, I would just like to see heaven on earth! Wouldn’t you like that?

But let’s talk a little bit about what heaven really is. For one thing, Jesus said the ‘kingdom of God’ is not some place you can point to; it’s inside you. We’re preaching the kingdom and His righteousness; it’s inside you. You cannot see it; the best part is inside. Everybody can carry heaven inside.

Let’s suppose we had transformation outwardly. There are all kinds of good things we can do. We can build things, organize things, fix things and teach things. Many organizations concentrate on exactly that. These things give us a measure of satisfaction, a measure of interest. We can work on feeding people. Helping people medically is rewarding. But in speaking to our Iris leadership, I want to say something here: I’m hungry for more than that! I’m hungry for much, much more than outward, physical transformation. As great and as good as these things are, they are not enough for the human heart. They are not enough to be the focus of Iris, not enough to be the reason we sacrifice and labor to do all that we do. Our hearts are hungry for more than that. Our hearts are hungry for somebody. Our hearts are hungry to feel and to experience love, peace and joy. Our hearts need to be on fire for a reason! Our hearts long to be in love with a perfect Person. Our hearts long for a perfect love affair. Our hearts have deep, deep, deep desires. Our hearts long for something we cannot even express. Our hearts long for our God!

Revival to me means your desire for God gets so extreme, so red hot, so fiery, that He’s all you want! That doesn’t mean we get nothing in the end. That means we get everything at the end!
Paul says in Romans 8, ‘If God did not spare his own son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also, along with Him, give us all things?’

Jesus is all you need and everything you need! Everything good you could ever desire is inside Him. How can we express that massive, ultimate need, and our desire to find Him and experience Him?
God is capable of making you far more alive and more excited than you could possibly imagine. I have known and seen examples of people that are so extremely filled they can hardly stand it. The Spirit of God can fill you with light. He can really fire you up! He’s the One who gives you joy! He’s the One who gives you peace! He’s the One who gives love!

It’s an appetite for Him that we need. This is our number one core value. We must find Him, know Him, have Him! He must be our most valuable possession! Nothing else matters! [Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”]

The reason why this first core value is controversial is that many people have given up finding God and experiencing Him. But what keeps us going is believing, knowing and being confident that every day, all the time, we can find Him more, experience Him more and be more full of His Spirit.

We want to do much more than build roads, buildings and schools. We just want Him. We want to be deeply, deeply, deeply in love with Him! We want to be thrilled by God Himself! Yes, we’ve done good things and built farms and schools … but I want something perfect! I want revival. I want a movement here that focuses right on Jesus’ face and nothing else! I want Iris to focus on Jesus’ face and nothing else! We only have one hope, one direction, one purpose. Jesus is the one we’re excited about; He’s the one we relate to. It’s my relationship with Him that means everything.

I want a relationship with Him! I want to be in love! I want to be alive! I want the life that is in Him! I want the joy that He has. I want the mind that He has. I don’t just want verses in a Bible. I don’t just want correct doctrine. I don’t just want a library of books on theology. I want more than a big church. I want more than anointing. I want more than to knock people down and make them laugh. I want JESUS!”[3]

Rolland Baker: Five Essential Core Values, Iris Global Newsletter, Pemba, Mozambique 1 November 2015: We’re seeing God transform Mozambique; we’re seeing Him do things we never dreamed He could do. The economy, the growth of the churches, everything, is more spectacular than we could have ever dared believe we would see or experience in our lifetime. But, that’s not what I really want! That’s good, but it’s not top of the list! What I really want is just plain Jesus. Not just the stuff He can do. Not just the success He can bring. Not just the signs and wonders, not just the anointing. Not just the Spirit. Not just the success. Not just the power, not just the friends. I just want Him. That’s all I really want.

That’s controversial because people say, “Well, you’re so heavenly-minded you’re just no earthly good. And what good is that to anybody else? There are people to feed, things to do, stuff to earn, things to fix. You can’t just live with your head up in the clouds with Jesus.”

Well, that’s not the Gospel. Jesus is the Gospel. He is all you need. He is everything you need. All the transformation, all the money, all the power, all the anointing and all the influence – that’s in His hands. He includes everything. If you don’t have Him, you don’t have anything. And if you have Him you have everything. Family, friends, church, nothing is going to do it for you. It’s just Him. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Jesus. He is the one who died for me; He’s the one who became sin for me. He is the one who suffered for me, and He’s not out of my life! People can teach that it’s the finished work, it’s a finished job, that He has nothing to do now. But actually, Jesus is our ongoing, present lover. He is how God wants to be to us – a perfect lover. Paul’s first prayer in the New Testament is that we may grow in the knowledge of God. What makes our core value distinctive is that we actually believe that there’s no limit to how well we can know Him, and how close we can be to Him. And that’s what makes every new week exciting!

What usually happens is teachers teach, “Look, we live by faith and not by sight. This isn’t heaven yet; it’s an ‘already, not yet dialectic,’ and so there are some things you can’t expect, so don’t get your hopes up.” This creates a “grit your teeth and wait for heaven” mentality. And therefore people begin to think they will just have to tough it out and get the job done somehow. In fact, I’ve seen entire mission books written on that topic. But that’s not romantic. We would have died out a long time ago with that idea. We would have fizzled out, burned out, dried up a long time ago. But what keeps us going is that there’s no limit to how well we can know God and how much He can mean to us. Transformation is a side-effect, a fruit of this movement toward union.

 

Yet, experiencing revival where thousands are being saved and even seeing some of heaven come to earth in a nation (celebrating changes in the government and families, electricity and running water) turned out to be not enough for Rolland Baker. Unless you have Jesus, there remains a hole in your heart because only his love can fill that hole.

 

Our hearts are hungry to feel and to experience love, peace and joy. Our hearts need to be on fire for a reason! Our hearts long to be in love with a perfect Person. Our hearts long for a perfect love affair. Our hearts have deep, deep, deep desires. Our hearts long for something we cannot even express. Our hearts long for our God!

 

Psalm 27:4: One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.

 

Heidi Baker, Rolland’s wife, shares his conviction. Christianity is about love – receiving and being in love with our God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

 

Heidi Baker: The Primacy of Love, Iris Global Newsletter: One day I had a vision of the Father and He was smiling at me. I saw that He took great delight in me and His smile undid me. He picked me up and danced with me all around a field. He loved the dance. We pirouetted. We leaped across the field. He danced and smiled at me.

I was completely undone by His love for me! I know that I am totally loved by my Father. This is the place from which my confidence flows. My fearlessness comes from knowing Him and knowing His delight in me. When the Father tells you that He thinks you’re awesome, you’ll go to the ends of the earth without hesitation.

We are also willing to hear his discipline when needed because we know He loves us. Likewise, a wife who is in love will obey her husband. It’s hard for a wife to obey a mean, grouchy husband, but when a woman is in love, she doesn’t have to be told to submit. She will do anything to please the one with whom she is in love. Obedience comes out of knowing you’re loved. When you know you’re loved, you will go anywhere He sends you and do anything with joy.

People often say to me that it must be a huge sacrifice to work with the poor, to spend time in the slums and be exposed to malaria, cholera and dysentery. My response is to laugh. To me there is no sacrifice at all! It is a joy because I have given my life for the One I love. I find joy in being a missionary and doing what I am called to do. I am a happy missionary! To me, the poorest villages where I minister are simply wonderful! They are the most glorious place on earth because Jesus is there. When you get a revelation of the Father’s heart for you, you love whatever He tells you to do and obedience is joyful. He rips away your fear and you are able to do things that you wouldn’t normally do. And things that would usually bother you no longer do, because you’re moving out of love…

When I was in Toronto once, I was on the floor seven days and seven nights under the power of the Holy Spirit. I was unable to move in my own strength. I couldn’t even lift my head, and I had to be carried everywhere, even to the restroom! I couldn’t eat or drink by myself. It was almost like being a quadriplegic. The Body of Christ had to take complete care of me. When I was thirsty, the Lord had to speak to someone to come and pour water down my throat. This was really difficult for someone as active as me, and I felt like I was going to die. The Lord told me that’s exactly how He wanted me! Dead. He would then raise me from the dead. During this time God was wooing me deeper in to His heart and showing me how I could do nothing without Him, and I could do nothing without His Body. I was learning about dependence on Him and inter-dependence in His beloved Bride. We were all created to be in family and can do nothing without each other.

On day three, as I was lying on the floor at church, I felt a hand on my chest and liquid love pulsated through me. I was completely undone, as I had never felt love like this before. It was like a rolling river going through me, over and over again. I thought that the person who had his hand on me was the most anointed person on the planet. Later Rolland told me that no one had been anywhere near me during that time. The hand on my chest had been the hand of the Lord Jesus Himself! He was teaching me about His burning heart of passion.

At that time, we only had three churches. One of them was for our children and staff, so attendance was mandatory. But after being stuck to the floor for seven days under the heavy, weighty glory of God, when I got up and went out, revival happened! A team grew up around us. After that experience of intimate love, fruit just started happening through our little lives and through our Mozambican and missionary family. I began to see every miracle I had ever dreamed of. Then the Lord spoke to me and told me He wanted more of my time. He had to chop away the things that were not important to Him. Where I minister in Africa, we face many pressures and long queues every day.

The needs seem overwhelming at times, so we have to contend for time in the secret place. Without the Presence none of it means anything. His Presence is what we live for, and ministry only makes sense when it flows out of this place of abiding. I determined to give Jesus even more of my time and not give in to the constant pressures around me.

I am learning that in the anointing we can produce more fruit in a day than a lifetime of striving and trying. This is a place I must contend for daily.

Even though I had been a diligent missionary for twenty-nine years and preached the Gospel for thirty-three years, He still had to prune many things in my life to take me deeper into the secret place of His heart. Some of my favourite times are walking and snorkelling with Jesus. Just Him and me. Fruit comes out of a laid-down love affair with Jesus. God is not just concerned about how much we can sacrifice for Him by being on the mission field. He is not impressed by how miserable we can be. It doesn’t earn us brownie points in heaven!

He is concerned that our hearts are full of passion for Him and full of compassionate love for our neighbour. A heart that is full of passion will do anything, go anywhere and withhold nothing. This is how Jesus wants to send us out into His harvest field: full of passion and compassion. He wants to captivate our hearts with love until they burn with holy fire and we walk the earth as the fragrance of Jesus. I won’t go for any reason other than love.

 

When Christianity is about love and doing anything for love, it can become quite radical:

 

2 Corinthians 5:13-15: If we are “out of our mind,” as some say, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.

 

Heidi Baker: The Primacy of Love, Iris Global Newsletter: One of our pastors in Mozambique, Pastor Sithole, ministered the love of Jesus tirelessly in many villages day after day. He would walk and pray and pour out his life for love. This angered some people of another faith. They hated him for spreading the Good News.

So one day they came to his house and told him that he would no longer spread the name of Jesus. They chopped off His tongue and cut off his lips so that he would no longer speak of His name. They chopped off his feet and told him that he would no longer walk and preach this message. They chopped off his hands and told him that he would no longer feed people. His wife and six children watched as this terrible thing was happening. Then they chopped off his head.

In our movement hundreds of people have been raised from the dead, but Pastor Sithole wasn’t. His cousin, Pastor Surpresa Sithole, one of our international Iris directors, called us. The two of them had been very close. Together we cried and prayed on the phone. As we wept we asked God what love looked like in this situation?

After we talked, Pastor Surpresa got in his truck and drove all day and all night with a huge sound system to the village where his cousin had been martyred. The police had caught one of the murderers, so when he got there he asked for the murderer to be let out of jail. Next he called the whole village together and said, “You may cut off our tongues, but you will never stop us from speaking about this message of love. You may cut off our feet, but hundreds will run behind us. You may cut off our hands, but we will still cry, ‘We love you, we love you, we love you!’ Because Jesus reached out His hands and He died for love.”

Pastor Surpresa shared this radical, ceaseless, endless love with the whole village, and with the very man that had tortured and murdered his own cousin. The police said we were a crazy church and a crazy movement. But they also said that we were the church that loves. And thousands of people from another faith bowed their knee to Jesus that day because of love.

 

Are Rolland Baker and his wife Heidi right? Is Christianity about love? Rolland talked aboutfalling in lovewith God andbeing in lovewith God. The Bible agrees with him:

 

John 3:16: For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

 

Matthew 22:37-38: Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment.

 

1 John 4:7-10: … love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.

 

In the vision that Jesus gave to John in the book of Revelation, the opening admonition to various churches was to get back theirfirst lovefor God and then there was the closing revelation that history would culminate in a wedding feast with Jesus as the bridegroom and the church as his bride:

 

Revelation 2:4-5:  Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken the love you had at first. Consider how far you have fallen…

 

Revelation 2:20-22: Nevertheless, I have this against you: You tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophet. By her teaching she misleads my servants into sexual immorality and the eating of food sacrificed to idols. I have given her time to repent of her immorality, but she is unwilling. So I will cast her on a bed of suffering, and I will make those who commit adultery with her suffer intensely, unless they repent of her ways.

 

Revelation 3:15-16:  I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

 

Revelation 19:6-9: Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of God’s holy people.)

Then the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”

 

When Rolland talked to the pastors and their spouses, we all agreed with him. But we wanted to know how we could have this Christian life where we would experience more of this love relationship with Jesus Christ. How do you get there? How can you be undone by the love of Jesus? Rolland shared from a full heart and rich experience but most of us were not feeling as immersed in the love of Jesus as he was. They did not feel the same intensity of passionate love.

Yet, Rolland was not helpful at all. He asked: “Can you make yourself ‘fall in love’?” He thought that it just happens. God is doing it. This was a little frustrating. Can you at least prepare yourself for a more intimate love relationship with Jesus Christ? Heidi, his wife, had visions and hands-on sensations of a loving Father in heaven and Jesus but this does not happen for everyone and Rolland did not report such testimonies about himself.

Eventually, I shared a testimony from Charles Finney and how he came to have a heightened sense of love in his relationship with Jesus:

 

Charles Finney: The Original Memoirs Of Charles Finney, Grand Rapids: Zondervan 1989, p328-332: …this winter … my mind was . exercised on the question of personal holiness … I gave myself to a great deal of prayer … After praying … for weeks and months, one morning … the thought occurred to me, what if … my heart is not really subdued …

Just before … I had had a great struggle about giving up my wife to the will of God. She was in very feeble health, and it was very evident that she could not live long … I had never before seen so clearly what was implied in laying her and all that I possessed upon the altar of God, and for hours I struggled upon my knees to give her up unqualifiedly to the will of God. But I found myself unable to do it. I was so shocked and surprised at this that I perspired profusely with agony. I struggled and prayed until I was exhausted, and found myself entirely unable to give her altogether up to God’s will, in such a way as to make no objection to his disposing of her as he pleased. This troubled me much…

But … I was enabled, after struggling … to fall back in a deeper sense than I had ever done before upon the infinitely blessed and perfect will of God. I told the Lord that I had such confidence in him that I felt perfectly willing to give myself, my wife and my family, and all, to be disposed of without any qualification according to his views and will…

I then had a deeper view of what was implied in consecration to God than I ever had before. I spent a long time upon my knees … giving up everything to the will of God … the whole of that day … nothing troubled me. I was neither elated nor depressed; I was neither … joyful nor sorrowful. My confidence in God was perfect …

Just at evening the question arose in my mind: ‘What if God should send me to hell – what then?’ … my mind . settled. I said, ‘No … hell could be no hell to me if I accepted God’s perfect will.’ This sprung a vein of joy in my mind that kept developing more and more for weeks and months, and indeed I may say for years.

For years my mind was too full of joy to feel much exercised with anxiety on any subject … It seemed as if my desires were all met. What I had been praying for myself, I had received in a way that I least expected. Holiness to the Lord seemed to be inscribed on all the exercises of my mind … The language of the Song of Solomon was as natural to me as my breath … I not only had all the freshness of my first love, but a vast accession to it. Indeed the Lord lifted me so much above anything that I had experienced before, and taught me so much of the meaning of the Bible, of Christ’s relations and power and willingness, that I often found myself saying to him, ‘I had not known or conceived that any such thing was true.’ … I had had no conception of the length and breadth, and height and depth, and efficiency of his grace … I found myself exclaiming, ‘Wonderful! Wonderful! Wonderful!’ …

 

Charles Finney came to a place – after surprising struggles – where he could surrender his wife and even his own future in heaven to Jesus and completely trust in his perfect will. This led to a surprisingvein of joythat sprung in his mind so thatfor years my mind was too full of joy to feel much exercised with anxiety on any subject”, andthe language of the Song of Solomon was a natural to me as my breath”.

Rolland Baker did not really take this testimony on board but, if I have listened to him correctly, his own experience was not that different from Charles Finney’s. On the Sunday night of the conference, Rolland preached an interesting message and, in my view, revealed the key that opened up for him a relationship of love with God:

 

Rolland Baker: Conference Talk, Sunday 29 October 2017 @ Toowoomba: The problem is that God doesn’t behave. He doesn’t do what he is told… He is hard to manage. He is hard to pastor. He is hard to control. He is not obedient. He is very hard to work with. He doesn’t cooperate… He needs instruction. He needs behaviour modification… We need to explain things to him. He is hard of hearing… He is stubborn. He doesn’t fit in. He’s not a good model of a god. He is just difficult… He is doing a bad job of running the world.

He needs help. He needs a partner… He has been away too long. We need to help him. He needs to adjust to us and the way things are… He really needs to go to seminary.

And you know what: I don’t think that I am painting a caricature of how we actually treat God. I think that’s how a lot of the church treats God, and thinks of him… We sing all the proper songs but we don’t treat him very well. I get a whole of criticism: “Rolland, you are disempowering the church.” Precisely.

How much power do you think we have? … Do you wake up in the morning and feel powerful? Empowered? I don’t. We have been missionaries for 37 years. We have been dealing with extreme crises and problems in Africa for a long time. We have been preaching for a long time and have seen God do a lot of amazing things. But I feel less in control of God than I have ever felt. I am not the boss. I do not feel in control of God.

And that’s the most wonderful discovery that I have ever made. It takes all the pressure off. I don’t have to pretend that I have God under control. I don’t have to act like I have power. Because in fact I don’t. That’s why I don’t fit in in most church streams. I don’t fit into the renewal very well actually… I just don’t feel like I get up in the morning and I can just go around all day long and just use God’s power and tell God what to do. I actually don’t feel like my prayers control him.

I don’t think that he is under my beck and call. When I encounter God, when I meet him, I don’t feel like he is at my disposal. I don’t feel like I have learned the secret to getting him to do what I want…

That clears the way for me to absolutely love him. I love him because he is great and powerful and worthy and wise and in control. He is Mighty God. He is able to look after his own reputation. He is able to do what he wants in the world. He is able to get the outcome that he wants. That’s why I can love him so freely…

I don’t have to figure out how to be his boss. That isn’t love. It isn’t love to meet somebody that you really love and then be in control of that person. Does that make sense? But a lot of preaching, a lot of teaching in the Christian body is about how to get God’s power working for us. It’s about empowering the church. It’s about getting the gifts of God so that we can go out and do amazing miracles and be significant and make a difference and be empowered to do great things.

That’s to me not romantic. That’s a huge effort. That’s a huge effort to be somebody, to be powerful, and anointed and effective. It’s not being so in love with God that you throw yourself into his heart, that you love him for who he is, that you delight in his will, and just trust him in all things. It actually rips the love out of me when I hear a lot of teaching… It drains you to try to be God’s manager. It drains me to think that the Holy Spirit has to be pastored…

So then the Christian life becomes kind of a desperate effort to find a way to get what we need from God. That’s what a lot of charismatic preaching is about. We need to go to the right school of supernatural ministry. We need to read the right books. We need to be equipped to do God’s miraculous work… You see why I don’t fit in? I just don’t fit in.

Now the thing is we have seen God do what he wants to do – in Mozambique. We have seen what he is able to do. We have seen his sovereignty at work. Everything about the ministry that we have seen God do have been things that we could never have imagined or prayed for or planned or scheduled or come up with at all. We have seen over 22 years in Mozambique a people movement, an astounding people movement beyond by a thousandfold (orders of magnitude) beyond anything that we have ever expected. And the way it happened was in no way anything that we could have predicted and prayed for.

God prepared Mozambique for revival… 500 years of colonialism, 500 years of slavery…

There is nothing like getting in an extreme situation to realize that you are not God’s boss and that you do not have his power unless he gets way. And if you think that you are empowered, if you think that you are equipped, if you think that you are in charge, if you think that you are God’s manager, come to Mozambique and demonstrate, please. You prosperity preachers and you guys that feel so empowered, come to Mozambique among the poorest of the poor and come demonstrate. I challenge you. Come to Africa and demonstrate how much power and wisdom you have.

A lot of things work when everything’s nice and easy and functioning. Come and demonstrate where everything is wrecked… [Comment: Rolland Baker rightly emphasizes that our theologies are formed by our experiences and life situations. When you are prosperous, the church is full and books are bestsellers, then you can feel empowered and some even tend to think that they live without sin for periods of time which may be a good feeling but increases responsibility and expectations to be powerful.]

How are you supposed to fall in love with God if you are always telling him what to do? How is it love for God when it is always trying to empower ourselves, somehow drain God to be more powerful? … I rather have God. I would rather just have him and be delighted in his will and his ways and his Spirit and his direction. And I would rather lose everything if necessary to get him. I came to this meeting today feeling less in control of God than I have ever felt in my life [I know that Rolland had emails about an Iris base facing the plague and other distressing news.] … But I don’t feel at all any ability whatsoever to make God do something. Heidi feels exactly the same way. Often she says to me: I’d like this or that but I can’t make it happen… The fact is finally after 70 years I just fully admit: I cannot make God do anything. What’s goanna have to happen to us until we realize that

If you don’t face enough crises, you may not ever actually fully acknowledge that. But just wait until you actually face an extreme crisis, extreme need, and then see how empowered you feel…

What does the Holy Spirit do? He is able to create love in us for God. And respect and adoration for God’s ways. And love for God so great that we totally set our hearts on the next life with him…

That changes everything. That’s how we can have a light heart. We have all kinds of needs in Mozambique. We need lots of money. We need doctors. We need support… People have all sorts of needs … lonely, wives, family, houses. It’s unbelievable how much they need – far more than we have resources for … find a solution… “Don’t you know how to do spiritual warfare … take possession…” Please, come demonstrate. Come and show us what you mean… God, I need you in every possible way. I need your ways, your solutions, your directions… Do you know how relaxing it is to throw yourself into the love of God and just fall into his heart? And not try to run the show. Just delight in him and his initiative, his direction. What he wants to do. Be delighted in what he is able to do in our hearts instead of pretending that we know what to do…

What happens? What happens is that we have seen the power of God to a degree that we have never seen anywhere else…

But it’s hard for people. It’s hard for most people to love of God when they want to be in control. When they want things from God. When they love this world. When they want a certain kind of life on earth. They want a God who will provide what they want. And you can see by the mega-churches and by the huge ministries and by the amount of money involved how popular that is. It is amazing how many books you can sell if you promise people how they can tap into God’s wealth, resources and supernatural power…

How did I get this? I have not always been this way. I have been through about every ministry stream there is. You know, trying to get this working, trying to get that working… get help from God in the way that I wanted… That’s exhausting. No wonder people aren’t laughing much…

There is no freedom until God changes us so that we are no longer in contention with God… Otherwise our will is contending with God all the time. I have been taught by major ministries that if your purpose in prayer is not to change God’s will, you are wasting your time. There is no reason to pray. Where is the love? Is that how you talk to someone that you love? …

Psalm 27:4: “One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.”

It is the persecuted church in China that are the happiest people I have ever met. They are the ones that taught me that the joy of the Lord is the energy of the Holy Spirit. Persecuted people in China have taught me more about abandonment, total joy and peace and freedom from worry than anybody in the world…

2 Corinthians 11:3: “But I am afraid that, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.” Actually, my theology is exceedingly simple. Do not let anything distract you from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ. That’s it. That’s the Christian life

 

After years of trying hard (after having “been through every ministry stream there is”) and extreme crises and problems in Africa (unbelievable needs way past available resources), Rolland Baker finally gave up being in control. And when he did, he finally madethe most wonderful discovery”: He did not have to be the boss. That took all the pressure off, because it is draining and exhausting to try and be God’s manager. “No wonder people don’t laugh much.” Have you ever prayed pleading and demanding a certain outcome from God, and then stressed over his slow response?

Trusting God at all times, that he is in perfect control, without his help, allowed Rolland to live witha light heartdespite the tragedies in Africa. As he gave up being the boss – as he gave up trying to be empowered and significant and making a difference by managing God – he found that this clearedthe way for me to absolutely love him”.

 

That’s a huge effort to be somebody, to be powerful, and anointed and effective. It’s not being so in love with God that you throw yourself into his heart, that you love him for who he is, that you delight in his will, and just trust him in all things. It actually rips the love out of me when I hear a lot of teaching… It drains you to try to be God’s manager.

 

In this way, if I am not mistaken, Rolland Baker was not so different from Charles Finney who also had to give up control and throw himself upon God and his perfect will for his ailing wife and even his future in eternity. That also cleared the way for Charles Finney toabsolutely loveGod.

Do you find that you are also being drained and feeling exhausted by the way you practice your relationship with God? Are you his boss? Are you putting in a huge effort to be powerful, anointed and effective – somehow try to get God to do things – and this is no fun and you don’t love him much?

In the leadup to the conference, I did not try to manage God but I had expectations of him which he did not meet. He didn’t seem to keep what he had promised and I tried to hold him to his promises – straining to see them fulfilled – which not only proved draining but also discouraging. God didn’t perform according to my expectations which was exhausting, made me question his trustworthiness (which is certainly a crisis of faith) and certainly blocked the way for meto absolutely love him”. [Just as an aside: How can you experience miracles and amazing testimonies every week and still be discouraged in your relationship with God?]

Thus, Rolland’s preaching came at the right time for me. Maybe I don’t have to understand. Maybe I can just choose to trust God no matter what and live with a light heart. Rolland didn’t talk about discouragement at the conference but he knows about it, and it is connected with what he was preaching. Give up being the boss and just absolutely trust him – that he is all powerful and good and wide, and will accomplish what he desires – and you can snap out of discouragement into joy and love.

 

Rolland Baker: Iris Global Newsletter: We have been at that point, you know. There have been times when Heidi and I would quit the ministry every three days because of incredible difficulty.

 

This took me a lot to understand – years and years to understand. And I’m still learning more every day. And that is that life without joy is absolutely pointless! There’s no point in giving God your life, serving Him, laying down, suffering and doing everything He says, if you don’t enjoy Him! If at the end of the day you’re not happy, then what’s the point of everything? … you need to get this! Paul says in Philippians – this is the Bible, remember; this is Scripture; this is a command; this is not a suggestion; this is so you can stay alive – ‘Rejoice in the Lord, and again I say, rejoice!’

Nehemiah says, ‘The joy of the Lord is your strength!’ How many want twice the strength that you have? Then you’re going to need twice as much joy! It’s just that simple.

It was the persecuted Christians in China who taught me that joy is the energy of the Holy Spirit. Suffering Christians being persecuted are saying that joy is the energy of the Holy Spirit! So if you just walk out of here kind of bored, then I’ve completely failed tonight. All the other things I’ve said before (about finding God, being humble, going to the least and suffering for Him) are for your joy!

Jesus, the night before He died, told His disciples, ‘I’ve told you all these things so that your joy might be complete.’ Remember this when you’re in Bible School. Remember it when you teach your people, when you preach in church on Sunday. You do all these things so that your joy may be complete! For the joy set before Him, Jesus endured the cross. It was His motivation for everything He did. You are going to need the same motivation.

This was hard for me to learn – that when you’re down and unhappy and discouraged and you don’t know what to do, when you have to force yourself through a day, when you’re not happy and you’re not full, that’s not the reason you were made! If you’re down and discouraged, you’re not doing the will of God! You are not obeying God, you are not in His will, unless you are full of the Holy Spirit. Something needs to change. You need an infilling!

Joy was also the reward that the Father gave Jesus. God said, ‘Because you loved righteousness and hated wickedness, I will anoint you with the oil of joy.’ How many want to be anointed with the oil of joy? I mean anointed as in drenched!

Some people think that this is not important, that it’s only for a few. You may not like it, but you need it! You need it! You need to laugh! We all need to laugh more tomorrow than we did today! It’s your biggest weapon. Joy is your biggest weapon! If you can laugh when things get really, really tough, if you can laugh with the joy of the Lord, that’s your weapon in the face of the devil!

I want everybody at Iris to have this weapon against the devil! Everybody at Iris needs to be given the power to laugh in the devil’s face!

I have testimonies of when people faced sorrow and death, and God just told them to laugh. I’m saying, Iris family, that we desperately need to laugh – as well as cry, as well as everything else. I know we’ve shed a lot of tears, but that’s not how we should end up. Every single day we shed tears, but I don’t think that’s how we should end every day. We need to laugh at the end of every day! Laugh really hard at the end of every day! That’s God’s gift to you![4]

 

Giving up our management of God is easier said than done, especially when you want to trust God but he does not seem to make any sense. Take the last twelve months from my perspective. After years of preparation, we finally seemed to turn a corner. The prophetic words changed and now from every angle we heard good news. From within the congregation, we were given Jeremiah 33:3: “Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and show thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not.” And to give you just one outside source – Faylene Sparks prophesied at the Worship Centre in Brisbane in September last year:

 

·         High road, not low road, the King's road

·         New stripe of promotion. 

·         Strap on your seat belts, there is going to be lift off... 

·         Lift off

·         Finances 

·         Tested you and did not find you wanting. Kept the joy. 

·         Hammer of God. 

·         End of winter into garden and coming into fruitfulness. 

·         There will be blossoming and growth

·         Prayers that have been prayed, even the quiet whispers of your heart, are coming to fruition. 

 

And we had some kind oflift off”. On 28-30 October 2016, we had more than one thousand people turn up at our National Renewal Conference at Mt Barker (just outside of Adelaide) – in the midst of the Lutheran heartland in Australia. On the 28th of December, Steve Gollash (having flown up from Portland, Victoria) spent a whole day interviewing Living Grace members for the documentary of Lutheran Renewal (which we initiated and financed). In January, I wrote another book – “Experiencing God Together” – which was written specifically for the Lutheran Church of Australia to help the movement of renewal among Lutherans. (Other Christians would also benefit from the book because the themes are universal but I was writing into our context.)

But then ourlift offseemed to be cut short. Within a few months – in March (Thursday 16 March) – God seemed to call us out of the Lutheran Church of Australia, and we came to a unanimous agreement that this was the will of God for us and finally left the LCA with the blessing of the Bishop on Sunday 27 August. With us leaving the LCA and ongoing official resistance to renewal ministry, Lutheran Renewal seemed to falter and fold in many places. We still exercised faith for another national renewal conference, expecting many hundreds, but then it was mainly us – with a few friends from interstate (numbering between 200 and 300). At the same time, we also had a lull at Living Grace with little excitement on display after leaving the LCA and before the conference, and numerous services where we were back to smaller numbers (about 130).

Was God still on track with his prophetic words? Where was the harvest – coming into fruitfulness? I don’t care that much if we remain as we are (Living Grace is a good place) but God seemed to promise more and I need to be able to trust him.

This is where Rolland Baker’s preaching was life-giving for me. If I give up my expectations, my interpretations of the prophetic words, even my dreams, my time tables, my need to understand what God is doing, and simply choose to trust him – God’s perfect will and perfect ability to do what he wants – then I can relax, lean on him, and actually find love. I can live with a light heart.

And thinking back, God had already taught me – and all of us – a lesson on this. It happened in March (Sunday 19 March 2017) while I was preaching. Before Christmas, six Lutheran pastors publicly attacked Tatjana over her conversion testimony and some of her experiences with the Holy Spirit which were published in a national Lutheran women’s magazine. I was a little bit upset but then God took me by surprise (which seems to be his habit):

 

Show video clip

 

In other words, God said: “Give up trying to stress and fix this situation yourself. Give up managing this and managing me. I am not stressing. Don’t get discouraged. These six pastors can write what they want. They will not derail my plans and undo what is on my heart to do. Edgar, you need to sit down and laugh. Trust me and love me.” (This surprising experience came on the Sunday after the Thursday 16 March where Etienne Blom prophesied that God was calling us out of the LCA.)

Is this where you are at? God can be trusted:

 

Psalm 2:1-6: Why do the nations rage, and the people plot a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against His Anointed, saying, “Let us break Their bonds in pieces and cast away Their cords from us.”

He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall hold them in derision. Then He shall speak to them in His wrath, and distress them in His deep displeasure: “Yet I have set My King
On My holy hill of Zion.”

 

Acts 4:21-31: So when they had further threatened them, they let them go, finding no way of punishing them, because of the people, since they all glorified God for what had been done. For the man was over forty years old on whom this miracle of healing had been performed.

And being let go, they went to their own companions and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things? The kings of the earth took their stand, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord and against His Christ.’

For truly against Your holy Servant Jesus, whom You anointed, both Herod and Pontius Pilate, with the Gentiles and the people of Israel, were gathered together to do whatever Your hand and Your purpose determined before to be done.

Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.”

And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

 

Romans 8:28: And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose.

 

Psalm 37:4: Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.

 

This morning, I think that God’s invitation goes out to all of us: “Give up being my boss. You are not powerful. I am. You are not in control. I am. You don’t understand everything that is going on. But I do. Choose to trust me. And then be surprised. I fill your heart with love and joy.” The Bible says – 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.”

When the disciples in the early church (in Jerusalem) were being threatened with persecution and discouragement, they prayed reminding God and themselves of God’s sovereign control even when the nations and their kings raged against Jesus Christ and nailed him to the cross. They prayed pointing out to God the threats they were facing and asked for boldness which God granted: “And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.

This morning, remind yourself that God is in control and point out to him what you are facing, and then ask for boldness (which is the opposite of discouragement) and also joy and a renewed and deeper sense of his love. God will make it to spring up in you. And you will know the place from which Rolland Baker was preaching. Amen.

 

Rolland Baker’s preaching makes much of God’s sovereignty which is not an easy concept to grasp and handle rightly. Here are a few more quotes:

 

There’s no reason why you can’t be having the greatest day of your life or the greatest moment of your life right now. Would you like to have that happen in the next two minutes? For most of us, as soon as our brain processes that question, we immediately begin to think about all the reasons why that can’t happen. To begin with, there’s too much to worry about, right? I mean, after all, we are responsible people. We’re supposed to be on the lookout for problems and issues and then worry about them, right? Or are we?

When you stop to think about the reality of the Christian life, you realize that there is actually nothing to worry about, absolutely nothing, because God is in control. It’s not up to us. We don’t have to be responsible every waking moment of our lives because God is responsible. We can just be in the presence of God where there is fullness of joy. People think that preaching and teaching is all about helping others to overcome issues, learning how to be stronger, and all that sort of thing. But if we are full of the Holy Spirit we can give free rein to the Spirit and allow Him to fill us with the joy of the Lord. People who are full of the Spirit can’t be depressed no matter how hard they try. The two just don’t go together.

There was a time when I was very apologetic about having so much fun all the time. I would hear comments like, “Humor has no place in the church,” or “Get serious!” Do you realize that God is happier than you are? He’s more childlike than you and He has way more fun than you too. Think for a moment about children when they play. When a child is happy and playing, do you think they’re justifying their joy and trying to figure out on what grounds they should be behaving that way? Of course not. And it’s the same with God. He’s just happy. He’s just fun! How do I know this? Because our kids in Mozambique, especially in the early years, have been to the throne room of God and they will tell you that it’s not a place where everybody is just solemnly bowing for a thousand years. It’s a place of great joy! Jesus went to the cross because He knew about this joy. He knew what was in store for you and me. He’s there now in the midst of this joy, and He’s inviting you to join in. Isn’t it time to accept His invitation?[5]

 

The sovereignty of God tends to be a difficult thing for people to wrap their minds around. The usual reaction to the issue of the sovereignty of God is, “Well, if God is in control and He runs everything and decides everything, and it’s not up to me, where is my motivation to do anything?” People tend to stay away from the issue of sovereignty because it kills missions. Sovereignty as most people understand it puts the brakes on a relationship with God unless we approach it from the opposite direction. Think about this—would you be motivated to give your life away to a God who is out of control, a God who doesn’t have power, who can’t determine things, a God who isn’t safe to trust? Let’s say you’re going along in life not knowing what the best thing for your life is, but God doesn’t know either so you have to tell Him. And He’s just waiting for you to learn how to properly pray and figure things out. And all of heaven is waiting on the edge of their seats to see what you’re going to do next because they have no idea what’s coming and neither does God.

Why, if God were even slightly out of control, how would we sleep at night? If He were not omnipotent, would you trust your entire life to Him for all eternity? What if it were all up to you now? If you’re the weakest link in the chain, guess where things break? Lots of people make statements such as, “Oh, God doesn’t send people to hell; God didn’t do that.” There is a lot of talk about what God can and can’t do, what God does and doesn’t do, as if it’s not up to God. I hear people say, “God’s just waiting, waiting on you. He’s practically screaming at you, but you’re not listening. God is trying, but you won’t cooperate. He’s so frustrated because people aren’t responding to Him.” That kind of theology is very prevalent. My response to all of this is, “If you don’t like the idea of God’s sovereignty, try something else and see how that works for you.”

What does sovereignty really mean? Well, we’re talking about a perfect God. We’re not talking about a Hitler who has all power. We’re not talking about a human being who has all power. We’re talking about God who has all power, and that turns sovereignty into something completely different. We have a God who gives life through His sovereignty. He doesn’t shut us down and restrict us and make us feel chained and bound. He’s a life-giver. Jesus said, “I came that you might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Well, how is He going to do that if He’s not in control?[6]

 

What does sovereignty really mean? I believe sovereignty means God has the power to finish what He began in you and present you before the throne on that great day, blameless and spotless, without fault and with great joy in His presence. That’s what He is able to do. Hallelujah! And if He is really at work in you, why would you not run the race, make every effort, strive in every way possible, love God with all your strength because you want to, because you know you have a powerful God who is able to make that happen in you?

A sovereign God means that if you have a desire for God, He is at work in you. And when you get to know Him, you realize that your experience of His sovereignty is total freedom. And if He is not at work in you, you don’t have freedom because you’re fighting your own conscience all the time; you’re fighting your own weaknesses all the time. Isn’t it exhilarating to think that because you know that God is all-powerful, you love that about Him? And because you love that about Him, you want to confirm His calling in everything you do. The last thing you’d want to do is refuse His work in you. The last thing you’d want to do is become passive and think, “Oh, it’s just God’s job.”

The sovereignty of God gives me energy because I realize He is absolutely in control of everything about me. Knowing He’s a perfect God means that I want to go with Him. The perfection of God is that He is able to go out of Himself and put into you and me a love for what He loves. The more you voluntarily love what God loves, the more free and satisfying your relationship is with Him because you will live in a place of trusting Him constantly to work out His plans in your life.

I don’t know how our churches in the bush have hung together all these years. They don’t have email, texts or phones. We see these churches and their leaders maybe once a year, if that. This whole group of churches is so supernatural we can’t explain it. People want to know how to replicate what we do here and the answer is, “We have no idea.” It’s the sovereignty of God working through all of us.

 

But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into His likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:16–18).[7]

 

So many times Iris Global has faced a crossroad, a point in the road where we wonder if God is going to continue the ministry or just shut it down. One of our crossroad times occurred during the high holiday of another religious faith. We were in the middle of a Harvest School, and suddenly the government revoked the visas of a hundred or so of our students along with the visas of many of our workers. It was a devastating blow in the natural. We began to question God as to whether we were to press on or close many of our operations. In the midst of our own hunger for righteousness in Mozambique—the place we have invested all of our heart for so many years—we knew we had to be able to lay it down if that was God’s will. We just needed to hear from Him. God does things His own way and we need to stick with His plan.

When Rolland was three years old, he and his family barely escaped from China. They were forced to abandon their mission, in a boat, with machine guns firing at their backs. But funny thing was, when all the missionaries left China, the Church grew faster than it had ever grown in the history of the world. The greatest church growth came during persecution. As we cried out to God day and night about our visa situation in Mozambique, I recalled what God had done in China when He sent the missionaries out, and I knew in my heart that if He sent us out of Mozambique, we would trust Him for the outcome. We were ready to stay or ready to go. We just needed a sign from God, so we got on our faces and began to worship. Day and night we worshiped the Lord in the huts and in the villages, and then things began to shift. We could literally feel the shift in our spirits.

As things shifted, God reminded me that we aren’t on an assignment here at Iris from Him just to learn. We are on a holy assignment from Him. There is a holy purpose in everything He does. We may get confused, but God is never confused. He knows we will be shaken, struck down, but not destroyed because we always carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies (see 2 Cor. 4:9-10). When trouble comes, we must contend, contend again, and then contend some more because God promises not to abandon us.[8]

 

In Acts 16:11-40, what a roller-coaster ride Paul and Silas were on: Up when Lydia and her family became Christians, down when the fortune telling girl kept shouting after them, up when the unclean spirit left her, down when they were arrested and flogged, up when the earthquake set them free, “down” when the Spirit told them to stay put, up when the prison warden and his family became Christians, “down” when the Spirit told them not to leave the prison quietly, up when they were vindicated by the authorities. Unless they kept trusting the sovereign and perfect will of God, they could not have kept singing in prison and would have despaired before their final release. But God is always good and powerful.

 

Rolland Baker, Iris Global Newsletter, 9 November 2013, www.irisglobal.org/news/newsletters/view/our-ministry-outlook-at-iris: In the course of our ministry in Iris we have increasingly enjoyed great release in understanding that Christian doctrine is not an untidy mass of extremes in constant, inexplicable tension. God’s perfections cannot be encompassed by singular positions and perspectives on various issues. Our fellowship should not be a battleground of competing arguments. We should learn again not to underestimate God. Science in this century has been traumatically humbled by observations made in the field of quantum physics. It is simple fact that this dimension of our existence would not operate at all if seemingly incompatible models of the laws of physics were not all valid and operative. For example, our entire electronic semiconductor industry depends on our understanding of quantum mechanics, a model that seems in complete contradiction to our understanding of electromagnetic waves and fields. Yet both must necessarily be operative.

God is perfect and impassive, but He is also wounded, vulnerable and sorrowful. The Christian life is extremely difficult, only for mighty conquerors, but also effortless in Christ and the power of the Spirit. We are favored royalty in the sight of God, but also like the apostle Paul the off-scouring of the world. Jesus became poor so that we might become rich, but we have suffered the loss of all things for the surpassing value of knowing Him. We have free choice, but we did not choose Him, He chose us. We work out our salvation with fear and trembling, for He is at work in us to will and do His good pleasure. We “labor” to enter His rest. No one seeks God, but we are to seek His face. All who came to Jesus were healed, but He may have other more immediate priorities for us.

How great it is not to argue positions on these issues, but to exult in God’s perfections. We underestimate and diminish God if we doubt that freedom and sovereignty can coexist. Probably no other theological understanding has given me more freedom and exhilaration than to realize that God’s sovereign workmanship in me produces real and total freedom in relationship, and that I am under no pressure whatsoever to assert that freedom apart from His will. I am utterly free to pursue Him with all my heart, and at the same time trust in His total control of me by His Spirit. This is a great mystery, but one that we delight in. Our experience in Iris has taught us to revel in these perfections of God, to accept and thrive on all of scripture, and to be free of debilitating tension.

 

Martin Luther’s Preface to the Epistle to the Romans, Coromandel East: New Creation Publications 1995, English translation from the edition produced by Lutheran Publishing House – Adelaide 1966, chapters 9-11: The apostle’s teaching in the ninth, tenth, and eleventh chapters is concerning the eternal predestination of God, whence it originally flows, whether a person is to believe or not, become rid of his sins or not, in order that our becoming godly may be taken entirely out of our own hands and placed in the hands of God. And this is of the very highest importance. For we are so feeble and full of uncertainty that, if it depended on us, not a single person would be saved; the devil would surely overpower all. But God being reliable so that His predestination does not fail, and no one can defeat His purpose, we have still reason for hope over against sin.

However, at this point a limit has to be staked off against presumptuous and arrogant spirits, who lead their reason to this point first, start from the top, undertake to explore before everything else the abyss of divine predestination, and worry to no purpose over the question whether they are predestinated. These people become the cause of their own downfall; they either despair of their salvation or abandon themselves to recklessness.

As to yourself, I say: Follow the order of this epistle. Occupy your mind with Christ and His Gospel in order that you may know your sin and His grace, and then wrestle with your sin, as chaps. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 have taught you to do. After you have arrived at the eighth chapter and are subjected to crosses and sufferings, you will be rightly taught how comforting predestination is, as explained in chaps. 9, 10, and 11. For outside of a condition of suffering, cross-bearing, and mortal anguish, a person cannot contemplate predestination without injury to himself and without harbouring a secret grudge against God. Therefore, Adam must be quite dead before a person can bear to listen to this teaching and drink of this strong wine. Beware, then, of drinking wine while you are still a suckling infant. There is a proper limit, time, and age for every doctrine.



[1] Theodore G. Tappert, ed., The Book of Concord. The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, trans. Theodore G. Tappert (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1967), 292.

[2] The Early Journal of Charles Wesley, London: Charles H. Kelly 1909, p142-143.

[3] Rolland Baker, Keeping the Fire (Kent: River Publishing & Media Ltd, 2015), Chapter 1.

[4] Ibid., Chapter 5.

[5] Rolland & Heidi Baker, Training for Harvest (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers, 2017), 63.

[6] Ibid., 69.

[7] Ibid., 71.

[8] Rolland & Heidi Baker, Training for Harvest (Shippensburg: Destiny Image Publishers, 2017), 196.