An overnight fix is available for the church, but is anybody willing to implement it?So much of today's church is drunk on all the wrong things: growth, notoriety, busyness, endless programs, marketing, visitor assimilation and more. It's no wonder pastors are spinning out, members are disgruntled and stress is overtaking most. While there's a deep reformation necessary, there are a handful of simple, quick steps we can take to kick-start the shift.
Release pastors and church leaders to give themselves to prayer and the Word.
2 And the twelve summoned the full number of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. 3 Therefore, brothers, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we will appoint to this duty. 4 But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” Acts 6:2-4 (ESV)It seems many of today's senior leaders are doing everything but spending hours in intercession and study of the Word. They are expected to visit people in homes and hospitals, counsel the hurting, attend birthday parties and other celebrations, clean the church, befriend members, assimilate visitors, develop programs, raise funds and so much more that is sucking the very life out of them—and out of the church. Set them free. I believe we will skyrocket towards revival if pastors drop almost every ball they are juggling and give themselves to hours and hours of prayer and study in the Word every day. Let them be the preachers God called them to be. No more endless meeting, projects or programs. Pray, study and preach. Repeat.
Stop expecting a single local church to do it all.The competitiveness in the Kingdom must cease. It's time we understand that a single local church plays a small part in the larger scheme of the city church. In Scripture the church was designated by city, not by street corner. I propose adopting a culture that encourages people in our local churches to also connect faithfully in other churches and ministries in the region. As a church planter and senior leader for many years I was keenly aware of my strengths and my weaknesses. I was also determined to run in the very specific vision and mandate that God entrusted to me, which meant that I would intentionally, by design, minimize or fully eliminate other seemingly obvious programs and ministries. Needs would go unmet. This meant that I had to trust other leaders in the city to minister to those needs. I encouraged the people to connect in several places each week and to take responsibility for their own spiritual growth. In fact, I so embrace this mindset and I so believe that city ministry is the healthiest and quickest path to an outpouring in the region that I had an open hands policy with people in my church. I let it be known that any leader of any church in the region could, without fear or reservation, approach anybody in my church and invite them to leave to join their ministry. They could recruit my biggest givers, my best leaders, my favorite worship team members, my most faithful workers and my best friends. I understood they wouldn't be leaving my church, but rather they would simply move from one department of the city church to another. Their positioning is more important than any selfish desire to keep them close.
Immediately stop with the church growth madness.Two realities will threaten local church growth:
- The regional church that I wrote about in the above point.
- The call to gather the remnant.
Reassign pastors and the entire five-fold ministry.Pastors are typically best suited for nurturing people, not leading movements. I believe we need to see pastors resign senior leadership positions as prophetic, apostolic leaders step in to advance more powerfully. They are gifted to lead while many pastors will be most successful and satisfied in smaller settings where they can connect one-on-one with people. Many pastors will remain as the senior leader of churches, and this can absolutely be okay if they embrace their role in the broader city church model. Their churches can remain very small as they minister to their congregations, however it's extremely important that they are strategically connected to apostolic ministries in the city. They will need to attend city church meetings and encourage everybody in their church to join them. As they do this, the greater city church will continue to expand and people will be connected more appropriately. And, leaders will see the joy of ministry return as unnecessary tension is eliminated.
Eliminate most every program except prayer meetings.I believe this may be the most significant, powerful and immediate trigger of revival of everything I have shared so far. I am serious when I suggest most every program, focus, strategy, service and function of the local church should be dropped for a significant season to do little else but pray. Instead of our typical, mostly predictable and often extremely boring Sunday morning church services, transition it into a fiery, passionate eruption of intercession. As people walk through the doors they would hear groans and cries of desperation fill the sanctuary. The musicians would be right there with them for the first hour or so, at the altar, contending for an outpouring. At some point the worship team can start playing in the background as the choruses of Heaven-shaking prayer continue to erupt from hungry hearts. Intermix short declarations of Scripture and allow for potent prophetic revelation to be released to all. Encourage people to release short prayers on the mic. Leaders can give appropriately timed messages that will take the atmosphere to an even higher place. Remember, the church isn't a house of fellowship, a house of teaching, a house of visitor assimilation, a house of evangelism or a house of worship. It's a house of prayer and prayer must be the driving force, the main thing and the dominant activity of all.
Are we ready for such a dramatic shift?I believe we could take a giant leap overnight toward great corporate strength and an outpouring that will rock nations if we embrace and adopt a mighty shift in the church. Understand, these are preliminary steps that will make us ready for an even more costly, troubling and important reformation that must come to the church. Baby steps. These are simple though very costly steps that every one of us are able to take, but few probably will. I want to encourage you to prayerfully consider the reality that revival is withheld and that the church, in general, is quite weak and compromised. Do you want to live your entire life outside of the shock and awe of God's glory? He wants to move, but the church must transition dramatically if we want to see it happen in our cities and in our lifetimes.
The current danger in the world demands an immediate shift of strategy for the church.
Cheerleading and positive motivation has become today’s preferred substitute for prophetic decrees, and the church is fading away as a result.
The world has entered a season of great danger and the church must respond aggressively and unapologetically with a bold prophetic thrust.
I have no desire to gently encourage people to consider the possibility of going deeper in the place of prayer. I’m declaring that it’s that or massive spiritual death in the nations of the Earth.
Either run with the remnant and initiate a prayer movement that is anchored on Sunday mornings or get out of the way.
Priests or Thieves?
And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” Mark 11:17
How many leaders are functioning as thieves instead of priests?
Before you answer, consider how much of church life is strategically set up today in order to draw and keep people and the money they bring with them.
I asked my wife the other day if she thought we’d do anything different in our ministry if the need for tithes and offerings wasn’t there. She thought for a moment and then said, “No, I don’t believe we’d change a thing.”
That’s exactly what I wanted to hear.
You see, when the reformation in the church comes in full force, the high majority of people currently in our churches will run. The call will be too inconvenient and the cost too extreme. We won’t have entry level churches anymore that pander to a casually committed seeker looking for an enhancement to their lives.
Just as in the days of the early church, people will once again realize that the decision to follow Jesus very well may cost them their lives.
If your church cancelled every program, ever meeting, every service, every children’s event, every conference and did nothing for a year but pray in the Spirit and decree the Word of God, what would happen?
- Most would leave.
- Money would disappear.
- Pastor’s salaries would be lost.
- Church buildings would have to be sold.
- Complaining and gossip would skyrocket.
- Accusation and bitterness would fill the hearts of many.
- Revival would come.
The church is first and foremost a house of prayer. This means that prayer must be the driving force, the primary activity and the expected, continual function of every member.
A Christian who is not invested wildly in fervent prayer is in an eternally risky place. In fact, a non-praying Christian isn’t a Christian at all.
Non-praying Christians are the result of non-praying churches. Prayer drives people out and God in. Our American ego won’t allow for the appearance of failure that empty chairs would bring, so we invite the invisible God to leave instead in the hopes that the crowds of people will presume he is there by default.
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22
1 Kings 18:17-18 (ESV) 17 When Ahab saw Elijah, Ahab said to him, “Is it you, you troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you have, and your father’s house, because you have abandoned the commandments of the LORD and followed the Baals.
Is there anybody out there like Leonard Ravenhill and David Wilkerson who is bringing attention to how so much of the church is following the Baals?
We need more troublers to arise! Why? Based on what we see in Elijah’s story, the prevailing culture is actually what is troubling the church and it’s the prophets of God that MUST stand boldly in the face of their accusations. Truth will prevail. God will answer by fire.
We can’t even call people to prayer today due to the fear that they will leave our churches! My God! How can we presume revival is near?
Over 340 Houses of Prayer closed their doors last year. I met with a house of prayer network leader the other day who said that people leave churches when leaders shift time, energy and attention from them to God. I’ve watched that happen myself, and it rips me up! In our church in Colorado we shifted from potlucks to prayer meetings and there was a mass exodus. We lost people and money. I had to get a part-time job. It was disruptive. It was heartbreaking that people ran from the call to pray.
Where are the ones who aren’t looking first for human friends, personal affirmation or a sense of belonging but who are seeking after every available minute to minister to God in prayer? The prayer rooms must be full—and the main prayer room in the American church is the Sunday morning sanctuary!
And, don’t you even think of using the excuse that you need to create a non-threatening environment for the new Believer! Every person, young or old, immature or seasoned must be in the prayer room—and it must be their primary focus! What if the Upper Room was toned down in the hopes of drawing a bigger crowd and interested seekers?
I told God one day many years ago that, if I responded to his call, I would lose my reputation. People would sever relationship with me and hurl accusations my way.
God said, “Good. My Son was of no reputation, why should you be?” I was rocked. It was that day, many years ago, that I stopped trying to look good and build a ministry and make people happy about running with me. Selfish ambition died that day. The moment we make decisions based mostly on attracting people, keeping people or raising money is the moment we have failed as leaders.
Philippians 2:7-8 (KJV) 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
I’m not trying to build a ministry—I’m devoted to obeying God and delivering the messages he has given me. I know these messages will directly hit theologies and ideals that so many hold dear. That’s the point. I crave people’s freedom from those harmful ideals! I desire the truth of Jesus to invade everybody’s life!
Matthew 10:34 (ESV) 34 “Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword.
One reason I’m OK with this divisive strategy (that Jesus affirmed above) is that it clearly reveals who’s for and who’s opposed. I’d rather make the message clear and know who I’m running with then to tone it down and have those who are opposed to it in our camp (Have you ever had a witch infiltrate your ministry? I have, and it’s not fun!). So, we love and serve everybody in the camp, but we can’t get sidetracked from our mission for the sake of their comfort.
Trust me, the resulting remnant of burning ones will rejoice at such an atmosphere of clarity and fire! Those who are lukewarm today just may awaken and burn tomorrow—if we have the courage to preach the very difficult, costly truth!
There are some people thanking me for my boldness in delivering the messages God gives me. There are others who are vocally opposed to me. There are many more still who are silent but resistant—many of them friends in the past who I don’t hear from anymore. They sadly just disappeared from our lives.
I’m sure there are some who translate boldness and refusal to soft step issues as arrogance—but I do not apologize. Yeah, I know that sounds arrogant! The reason I don’t apologize is because I wrestle with the call to humility continually, and I check my heart non-stop. The possibility of pride and arrogance is there, without question, and I take that very seriously. I check my heart to ensure I’m humble and full of love. It’s wisdom to receive insight from your critics, at least to a point!
People that are close to me do know my heart—and they know I’m broken before the Lord. My call is to aggressively sound alarms, gather people around the mission of revival and call people to pray night and day. It can’t be a soft spoken suggestion if we hope to awaken a great end-time army!
Several years ago in Colorado, the Lord directed me very urgently to learn how to walk in extreme humility and extreme boldness at the same time. It was full year of intense prayer and discovery—a personal school of the Holy Spirit. In that school, I learned much, including this—I was not to attempt to appear humble, I was to be humble. Why was this important? Because the Elijah level boldness that is required to impact a region would often look like anything but humility. It would appear as arrogance and selfish ambition.
We are not in a season where we need to gather around a table and water down the message in the hopes of finding common ground that results in handshakes and smiles. The message of the hour will overturn that table with violence.
I endeavor to love every person deeply, but I refuse to affirm systems, methodologies, theologies and lifestyles that are an offense to the Word of God. I will, in humility and boldness, be relentless in provoking the sleepers to awaken and those given to a lukewarm life to be shaken. Prophetic threats against human systems and unholy altars results in accusation, gossip and resistance.
Judges 6:28-31 (ESV) 28 When the men of the town rose early in the morning, behold, the altar of Baal was broken down, and the Asherah beside it was cut down, and the second bull was offered on the altar that had been built. 29 And they said to one another, “Who has done this thing?” And after they had searched and inquired, they said, “Gideon the son of Joash has done this thing.” 30 Then the men of the town said to Joash, “Bring out your son, that he may die, for he has broken down the altar of Baal and cut down the Asherah beside it.” 31 But Joash said to all who stood against him, “Will you contend for Baal? Or will you save him? Whoever contends for him shall be put to death by morning. If he is a god, let him contend for himself, because his altar has been broken down.”
I know the accusations will continue, but you need to know that, if you are bold, you will provoke. You must be OK with that! Love people deeply, hate the enemy powerfully and know there will be a crisis in the middle as God, people and demons step into the ring. Don’t wrestle against flesh and blood! Be innocent! But, don’t presume a passive spirit is the same thing as a humble spirit.
With this in mind, lets look at three churches that are endangering millions of prayerless people:
THREE DANGEROUS CHURCHES: How Compromised Church Movements Put Our Salvation At Risk
There are different types of churches that millions of Americans are a part of—that are at significant risk. I challenge you to read this book in its entirety and prayerfully consider, in humility, whether you may have fallen into one of these at risk groups. I must also wrestle with this myself.
I’m disturbed. That’s not news, really, as I was created to carry the burden of God for the Bride—his Church. This results in a life of both continual joy and non-stop grieving—and never-ending bold calls of consecration.
The dissatisfaction with God in our nation has resulted in an attempted upgrade—a 2.0 version of God that meets our demands and fits the picture of the perfect leader. Always happy. Always nice to us. Always working to fulfill our desires. Not inconvenient. His personality matches what we expect in a God.
And the LORD said to Moses, “Go down, for your people, whom you brought up out of the land of Egypt, have corrupted themselves. They have turned aside quickly out of the way that I commanded them. They have made for themselves a golden calf and have worshiped it and sacrificed to it and said, ‘These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!’” Exodus 32:7-8
The previous verse reveals the motive of the people:
And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. Exodus 32:6
The Hebrews were not satisfied with the current version of God, so their 2.0 upgrade was in the form of a golden calf—a god of their own design.
After all, God’s purpose is to perform as we expect him to, right? He is mostly interested in our desires to eat, drink and play, isn’t he?
My God, how far has the church fallen?
The warning of Exodus 32 should really begin a chapter earlier.
The LORD said to Moses, “See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: the tent of meeting, and the ark of the testimony, and the mercy seat that is on it, and all the furnishings of the tent, the table and its utensils, and the pure lampstand with all its utensils, and the altar of incense, and the altar of burnt offering with all its utensils, and the basin and its stand, and the finely worked garments, the holy garments for Aaron the priest and the garments of his sons, for their service as priests, and the anointing oil and the fragrant incense for the Holy Place. According to all that I have commanded you, they shall do.” Exodus 31:1-11
Just how were they able to craft the golden calf? God himself gave Bezalel the Spirit of God, ability, intelligence and knowledge and all craftsmanship. God’s anointing, if you will, resulted in Bezalel and his men having the ability to craft another god. This is what we are seeing today. People who have been gifted and anointed by God are forming movements, idols, that are attractive to people. This should cause us great concern. Everything that looks beautiful, effective and anointed is not approved by God. Much of it is an abomination.
Entire movements in our nation have upgraded God to their 2.0 version, and have successfully seduced millions of Christians to abandon the old, outdated, ancient Jesus. The arguments of the emergents have infiltrated the mainline church in America.
Before I continue, I have to make an important point. When bold truth is revealed that threatens the status quo of the church, it’s common for those who are invested in that system to accuse the messenger of being unloving or unconcerned for the Bride of Christ.
How opposite the reality truly is!
It’s deep, troubling love that causes those who are broken over the compromised Bride to sound alarms and shine lights to shake and wake a church that’s in extreme risk of living forever without the Bridegroom!
We must be concerned not for the personal desires and perspectives of those who presume to identify with the Bride, but for God himself and his desire for those who are lukewarm or deceived to pursue him with passion!
It wouldn’t surprise me in the least if over one-half of the true church fell away in the end-times. This should shock us into reality.
This, my friend, is why we must risk offense to let an at risk Bride understand just what is at stake. Many in the church will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day. That reality haunts me non-stop.
The False Bride
Do we understand that not everybody who calls themselves a Christian actually is? Again, that is why we have an urgent job as forerunners. The false bride, those who think they are Christians but are not, are at extreme risk of burning in Hell for multiplied trillions of years. Actually, forever. We cannot remain silent.
An immediate and unbiblical response that many people have today is, “It’s not your place to judge.” How many times have you heard that defense from the secular camp? Now, we are hearing it from Christians when their pet sins, false doctrines or structures are threatened!
The accusation is that we are being cruel, unloving or presumptuous by dealing with this subject matter. Again, that couldn’t be further from the truth.
As Christians, we actually have a very serious responsibility to judge in love! It’s a part of our job description. Pure love of the Bride will reveal all that hinders love!
We absolutely have a responsibility to urgently warn, to release messages of awakening, to talk about eternity, about Heaven and Hell. We must call people to greater fervency. It’s love that demands this, yet so few are sounding alarms.
If I see a child wandering into oncoming traffic, I don’t really care so much about whether he chose to rebel by running into the street. I’m not thinking about his motives or his error of judgment. I just want to warn him so he isn’t crushed by a bus. Yes, it is that simple. It is that urgent.
At Risk Churches
With that in mind, I want to reveal some major church movements and expressions that are actually opposing the cross. The call of every single Christian is to hear God’s voice, to know him deeply and to intercede for the nations. You can gauge where the general church public is by calling a prayer meeting. The most elementary call for any Christian is to pray–and when Christians avoid the prayer room, it’s a revelation of just where we are as a church in this nation. Frightening.
It wouldn’t surprise me at all if most people in the church in America are unsaved.
Leonard Ravenhill said he doubts that 5% of American church goers are actually saved.
I heard someone once say, who had a heavenly encounter, that approximately only 1 in 1000 who die on any given day make it to Heaven. Possibly 99.9% go to Hell. That wouldn’t surprise me, and it grieves me beyond what I can bear. Those who follow God 2.0 would never support this statistic. He is benevolent and unconcerned with the condition of our hearts. There’s a ring of Universalism sounding from that camp–and millions are at risk of eternal torment because of it.
Mike Bickle said that the false-grace message, which is one of the leading causes of people being deceived as a false bride, is more dangerous than the issue of abortion and 54 million baby’s blood crying out in our nation!
Three Dangerous Churches
Listen closely! This is serious! My God, help us! Potentially millions of people who are absolutely convinced that they are saved are actually following Jesus in an unsaved condition right now! Many more will fall away in the future! Who will warn them?
Before we look at the problem churches, we must consider this: We have to resist the urge to presume the current Sunday driven church structure is the biblical norm. If we think we’re functioning normally, we’ll resort to minor adjustments to that system instead of the destruction of it in favor of the introduction of the biblical church.
When we truly understand this, we’ll devote ourselves to the removal of man made systems and give ourselves to the development of the new.
Most people alive today have no idea what revival is. They have never experienced it. They have no grid for it. So, we default to what we have experienced and try to build on that faulty foundation.
1. The Money Changers Church
In Matthew, the passage that deals with the money changers follows immediately after another type of church that we’ll discuss next—the Triumphal Entry Church. I find it interesting that these two stories are back-to-back, and that they are events that are closely situated to the drama of the cross. Simply said, the cross of Christ is not only foreign, but resisted.
And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” Matthew 21:12-13
The money changers church is possibly the best representation of the current American/Western church. This is a serious issue. This is possibly the most severe and violent reaction from Jesus to a situation when he was still on the Earth.
Note how aggressively Jesus rebuked and resisted the money changers. Why is this?
They were fueled by a spirit of religion. Religion defined is man’s attempt to use God and his church to get what he wants. They were using the temple for personal gain. They were thinking about their own needs and desires instead of ministering to God. They went into the temple with the expectation of leaving with more than they entered with. The call to the church is for us to enter with an offering. A sacrifice. We leave with less than we entered with!
Today, prayer is nearly dead in the church. Additionally, even in churches that support prayer, if every service was cancelled and replaced with prayer meetings, there would be a mass exodus of disappointed people who aren’t getting their desires met.
In Acts, the “wait and pray” mandate was resisted by almost everybody. Thank God for 120 who weren’t waiting for a call from a pastor, a pat on the back or the perfect ministry center for their family. They showed up, laid down their agendas and changed the world.
I’ve said it probably thousands of times and I’ll say it again. Our false expectations of what a church should be are resulting in a defiled structure. The church isn’t a house of teaching, a house of evangelism, a house of friendships or even a house of musical worship. It’s a house of prayer first and foremost. The other focuses are important, but secondary at best. Would you stay in a church that prayed as their primary activity? Or would you get frustrated and leave if your demands weren’t met? Is it possible you may be functioning in a similar spirit as the money changers? You go to church to receive instead of to give?
Pastors know most would not stay, so they have all too often traded in their mantle of prophet for salesman. The church product has been altered, spruced up and packaged in a way to let the people know that they will receive the best bang for their buck if they come to their church.
This is grieving, and must end! I am looking for pavement people—those who aren’t looking for comfort, but will hit the pavement and cry out to God as they did in 2 Chronicles 7!!
As soon as Solomon finished his prayer, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple. And the priests could not enter the house of the LORD, because the glory of the LORD filled the LORD’s house. When all the people of Israel saw the fire come down and the glory of the LORD on the temple, they bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the LORD, saying, “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 2 Chronicles 7:1-3
Long ago as a young, first time church planter, my wife and I would often take visitors out to lunch after the service. I’d do my best song and dance to sell the Revolution Church experience to them. I’d ask what they were looking for in a church, and more times than not I’d encourage them that we’d get right on that! We’d be sure to sell them the product they are looking for!
My brilliant wife would get so frustrated with me! She wanted me to stop the nonsense and simply communicate our vision. Boy, was she right! I was acting in the spirit of the money changers!
I slowly changed my sales pitch. Instead of letting people know how much they would receive if they chose our church for their home, I was reveal the challenge and the cost. I’d let them know that we all pray together 10+ hours a week. We give financially in an extravagant way. We are fervent and burning and calling people into a radical lifestyle—to the cross.
I’d actually try to discourage them from participating if they weren’t on board with the vision! And, surprise! I got more response from that call than I did trying to sell the perfect experience!
2. The Triumphal Entry Church
Now this is church!
I’ve witnessed first hand how people will flood into an environment that’s full of celebration and exuberance. I enjoy those environments too!
I’ve also witnessed first hand how those same people—those who are dancing at the altar, going after a happy experience, will get sad when the call to the cross is preached. It’s heart wrenching.
The focus of the people at the Triumphal Entry is similar to the focuses in the other churches we are discussing. They wanted their lives to be better. Blessing and personal gain were their motives.
The word “Hosanna” literally means, “save us now.” The people wanted a king who would give them life in a kingdom that would be personally fulfilling. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that desire—unless that’s the extent of the desire.
Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting, “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! Hosanna in the highest!” And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.” Matthew 21:8-11
Notice how there was a measure of sacrifice by the people. They gave their cloaks. They got to work and cut down palm branches. They were exuberant in their worship. I can imagine a spirit-filled environment where people are at the altar dancing and laughing and worshiping. I’ve had that happen in churches I’ve led many times, and it’s great! Many churches are growing with this very positive, happy focus—but, the growth is, in my opinion, often driven by people who will not stay the course if the cross is preached with boldness.
See, Jesus was willing to save them now. However, his methods were nowhere near satisfactory for a crowd of people who were looking for life, not death. Jesus chose the cross as the means to answer their prayers. This crowd of energetic worshipers switched quickly to energetic crucifiers.
I’m all for wild, fervent worship. I am a proponent of continual joy. We should dance and smile a lot. However, we can’t dismiss the burden of the cross and the call to die.
Don’t presume a church is alive just because there’s an electric atmosphere. Human energy and desire can create quite an environment. Wait and see who remains when the call to surrender is high, and the alarms of intercession are sounded.
3. The Rich Young Ruler Church
There is some relation between the Rich Young Ruler church and the Money Changers Church. In both scenarios, personal gain was the focus.
The Rich Young Ruler, however, possessed a sincere desire to follow Jesus. Notice how Jesus reveals this story is all about salvation:
And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:16-25
I am convinced there are millions of people following Jesus in an unsaved condition. Pastors have affirmed people’s commitment to Christ and, in turn, their eternal security, all while, in many of those cases Jesus knew the deeper truth—they were not willing to surrender all. I believe the sinner’s prayer has probably led more people to Hell than to Heaven. Handled wrongly it gives people false-confidence in their position in Christ.
How many go to church each week, raise their hands in worship, pay their tithes and “follow Jesus” in a very public way, the same way the Rich Young Ruler wanted to—but are actually not saved?
Even Billy Graham admits less than 2% of people who make decisions at his crusades over the years remain true followers of Jesus. Wow!
If you are struggling with this and the truth of your own salvation, that’s good! That’s healthy! I don’t know where it started being negative for us to wrestle with that. Today leaders don’t want to upset people with messages like this out of fear of accusation and ridicule. We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling! The disciples in the above passage wrestled with it, and so should we. Let’s see what Jesus says next:
But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Then Peter said in reply, “See, we have left everything and followed you. What then will we have?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, in the new world, when the Son of Man will sit on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and will inherit eternal life. Matthew 19:26-29
The most controversial thing I’ve ever said just may be this:
I give myself about an 80% chance of making Heaven.
Is there any part of the Rich Young Ruler in me? Is it possible that I could fall away? It would be arrogant for me to presume that I’m exempt from the great falling away. I wrestle with Jesus and with my own heart—and I love that process.
Again, it’s healthy and necessary to work that out day by day. And, we need pastors and leaders who won’t skirt that tough topic out of fear of losing people who would rather be coddled. It’s possible that the best giver and most vibrant member of your church is on a track that leads to Hell. We can’t stay silent on this issue.
When you understand how deeply God loves you, it’s wonderful to wrestle with the difficult topics. It’s invigorating!
It’s critical! So many will be shocked to enter Hell. We see this proven in scripture:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23
The Coming Church
Spiritual encounters, whether they are visions, dreams or visitations, can go a long way in preparing individuals, groups, and even nations for the otherworldly, dramatic and critical shifts that God is setting into motion. Of course, we know in Scripture that spiritual things must be discerned spiritually, and it’s important to understand clearly what’s being communicated. We also know that all dreams, for example, are not necessarily spiritual dreams. That must be discerned. I challenge you to stay up until 3AM and then consume a bucket of hot wings, a can of Mountain Dew and a half a gallon of ice cream and see what kind of crazy images dance around in your head when you finally fall asleep. Experiences like that won’t shake nations. However, the encounter I had absolutely must.
I had a vision of the soon coming Church. For me, a spiritual revelation, a message delivered directly by the Creator of the world, is usually very easy to discern. It’s rare that I have to go to someone seeking out an interpretation. The scene and the message are almost always extremely vivid and revealing. I immediately understand what the players, atmosphere and story line are attempting to communicate to me.
This particular encounter was no different—in fact, it was so striking, fearful, engulfing and overpowering that the imagery and message will keep me trembling in my spirit forever.
In order to appreciate the magnitude of the message that was communicated to me in the vision, it will be helpful to understand the context. Try to imagine, at least to an incredibly small degree, the picture of the true Church that God himself sees. It shouldn’t be a stretch to realize the picture of the compromised Church that we see on the Earth today clearly cannot match up. Meaning, when God drew up the designs for the glorious Church, leading up to its launch in the book of Acts, the blueprint that was before him looks little like the Church we see today. God’s Church looks little like the Church we have come to know.
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. Acts 2:1-3
Do me a favor and read that passage in Acts chapter 2 one more time. I want those three verses to dive into your spirit and shake you up. When God started diagramming the Church, this is what he envisioned—this is where he started. When you compare this passage of Scripture with descriptions of the modern-day Church as we know it, it seems like we are comparing apples and oranges, or even the living and the dead.
I’d like to ask you to read the passage one more time. As I’m writing this, I feel the Spirit of the Lord starting to burn in my inner man. Let me pray for you right now just before you read it again:
Mighty God, I pray the burnings of your Spirit would be transmitted into your friend’s heart. Give them a glimpse into the supernatural yet strikingly real realm of the Church. Give them the capacity to release old paradigms, structures, traditions, mind sets and cultures as they come alive to the reality of the Church as you see it. Amen.
Okay, go ahead and read the passage in Acts chapter 2 one more time.
When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. Acts 2:1-3
Is it becoming a little bit easier to understand just what the Church should look like? You see, as God designed and then launched the Church, it was literally blowing and burning and every one of those in that upper room experienced it. As we begin to embrace the truth that passages like this are not science fiction, and that they communicate actual phenomena that are expected to be normal for us as believers, it will become easier to leave behind what we know and press toward the soon coming Church. We will suddenly find ourselves so deeply dissatisfied that any thought of maintenance becomes quite ridiculous.
America doesn’t need another bed-and-breakfast church that comforts our flesh (our natural desires). Our nation needs a Church with a volatile atmosphere that explodes, burns human flesh and shocks our culture.
Now, keep in mind that this fiery Acts 2 reality was communicated to us by the Spirit through the Word. This passage is the Word of God, not simply a descriptive, historical report. So, God’s plan is for the Church to be a supernatural raging furnace of Holy Spirit activity.
Mark 7:13 reveals how powerful tradition of man is. It actually makes the Word of God ineffective! The traditions of man overpower the greatest power in existence—Jesus Christ himself. Do you feel the weight of that? Is it possible that we need to embrace the fear of the Lord again? There is a holy tremble that will come as the fierceness of God is revealed to us at the same time the burning love of God does. The thought of allowing man-made concepts, structures or agendas to push aside and nullify God’s plans seems nonsensical. Yet it happens with stunning regularity every day all over the world.
…making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down… Mark 7:13
Of course it’s true that the definition of the Church cannot be limited to a perspective of one segment of the greater structure. It is certainly true, as is revealed later on in Acts chapter 2, that the healthy Church will include Kingdom-focused fellowship, breaking of bread, bold proclamation of the Gospel, discipleship, evangelism, prayer and other critical activities. However, what we see in the Church today is a lot of activity, even good activity, but usually without the tangible burning and blowing of God’s Spirit.
If you take a look at the cover of this book, you will see a futilely poor attempt at visually communicating what I experienced in my vision. In the vision, I found myself in a dramatic, apocalyptic scene. Everything seemed to be colorless, or at best a variety of dark blues, grays and greens. The ominous clouds matched up with the dark and wild landscape all around me.
Directly in front of me was the focal point of the vision, a tremendously massive crater. I can’t begin to describe in human language the overwhelmingly weighty, urgent, and fearsome atmosphere that gripped me and demanded my complete attention. I was trembling as I looked at the edge of the crater in the distance. As I slowly walked toward the gigantic hole in the ground, I knew I could not approach it casually. The fear of the Lord surrounded me. I couldn’t imagine what type of alien invasion could have created an impression this deep in such solid ground. The force had to have been greater than anything my human mind could comprehend.
As I was analyzing the drama that I was experiencing, God revealed to me that the crater I was drawing near to was not simply a hole in the ground. It was, in fact, the coming Church. The Church? My mind certainly couldn’t even begin to analyze what that meant, but my spirit was raging. My mind presumed I should be looking at a small white church building with a steeple, but that was not at all what my spiritual eyes were seeing.
My spirit was provoked and alive, but I knew that those who were more logical than spiritual in their life experience would most probably resist what is just over the horizon.
But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. 1 Corinthians 2:14
Note that this doesn’t mean the unsaved; it means those who are naturally minded. That’s a lot of Christians. Here’s what Paul says next:
And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2
I continued to tremble as the increasingly intense, colorless atmosphere engulfed me, and as I ever so carefully, fearfully, yet with intense curiosity approached the edge of the coming Church, the crater.
Again, I realized I couldn’t casually participate. This was a very clear message that I was receiving. The days of casually connecting in secular fellowship in the Church were over. The shaking and trembling rocked my whole being as I approached this invasion of Heaven on Earth.
Once at the edge, I was stunned and my senses were overwhelmed as I looked at what seemed to be alive. While everything else around me was grayscale, I saw vivid, bright and glowing, neon hues of orange, yellow and red and a prism of colors in between. The bright, colorful, burning lava was living and active. It was moving, coursing throughout the crater. My trembling intensified.
I received an email from someone in theLab University, our ministry training center, here in the Detroit area. The message instantly received my attention when I saw the content contained the word holocaust. Of course, that’s a provocative and sensitive word and it takes some care to handle it when applying it to current situations.
The email was sent to several of us at theLab in reference to a conference I was about to minister at. I’ll share the complete, unedited email so you have a full glimpse of what was being communicated. Keep the vision of the crater in mind as you read.
Hey Fellow Fireball Launchers! I’ve been hit w/ this urgency thing to pray for John, his upcoming trip to Connecticut to speak at the conference w/ Brian Simmons & James Levesque, & well, the conference as a whole. I just feel like we need to rally around him & call down fire on this conference! I’m feelin that God is gonna break through in a crazy way during this, & John is carrying this crazy powerful message. As the Lord impressed it on my heart to pray, I heard 1 word… holocaust. At first, the only thing that came to mind was “the” holocaust of World War II. After my initial thoughts on the word subsided, I started to think about the word. As I was talking to the Lord, I kept asking “What do you mean?”. He prompted me to look up the definition.
Here it is: hol•o•caust noun a great or complete devastation or destruction, especially by fire. a sacrifice completely consumed by fire; burnt offering (Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved October 23, 2013, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/HOLOCAUST) Hah! How crazy is that? I’m not even sure what else to say right now, but whoah! It feels like the meaning He’s relaying is not negative. It feels powerful! Still grasping the full context of what’s going on here, but I do know that God is bringin down the house with this one!!
This word was given right after I shared the vision of the crater with the students and staff at theLab. What is coming to the Church is not an enhancement or an adjustment. The destruction (or we could use the word deconstruction) will be so comprehensive and total that it will not only remove current structures, but also the faulty foundations (anything other than the foundation of Christ) they were built on. The coming Church will look nothing like the Church we now know.
This transformation will take us well beyond our human ability to understand. I believe God intentionally overwhelmed me with such a vivid vision while also leaving almost every question unanswered. This plan for reformation won’t easily translate into a formulaic church growth process. The only way we can apply it to our own situation is by falling on our faces, being consumed by another world and submitting ourselves to the risky, vulnerable and shocking process of transformation.
Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths. Do not be wise in your own eyes; Fear the LORD and depart from evil. Proverbs 3:5-7
Check out this simple yet profoundly important quote by Andrew Murray:
Beware in your prayers, above everything else, of limiting God, not only by unbelief, but by fancying that you know what He can do. (Christian Reader, v. 32, n. 4.)
We are all too often guilty of praying for what we can see or imagine. The dynamic life of prayer and faith doesn’t even really begin until we venture outside of the realm of human senses. It’s too easy to get consumed with what seems to be obvious and natural in our pursuits while forgetting that the majority of our answers and adventures sit just beyond the reach of our human understanding.
If this is true (which it is), then we must agree that God’s picture of the Church is also painted with colors that exist outside of our earthly realm. This invasion of Heaven on Earth will result in an explosion of brilliance that we could never have imagined.
This is precisely what happened in the Upper Room. God was birthing the Church as only he could with revelation and power that only he had. There was no way for anybody in that room to possibly imagine what was coming no matter how creative they may have been.
In fact, their human futility was obvious just prior to the outpouring in the Upper Room. They were required to fulfill the mandate to find a replacement for the fallen Judas. Their process actually looks a lot like the decision-making processes of Christians today. They prayed and then cast lots.
And they cast their lots, and the lot fell on Matthias. And he was numbered with the eleven apostles. Acts 1:26
They were so limited in revelation because the Holy Spirit had not yet been given to them—that they relied on human methods of decision making. They could do no better than pray and cast lots. Today’s church is much like that—there’s little revelation and little power so we do what is humanly understandable. The coming Church is both ancient and emerging. It’s ancient because it’s the Church founded through an empty tomb and a burning Upper Room. It’s emerging because it’s been largely forsaken. Humanism has replaced supernatural power. Humanistic efforts result in a limited, disappointing life.
However, when the Holy Spirit is in the mix, what is humanly impossible becomes the launching pad of Kingdom life. The transition that is coming will result in a shift of manifestation. Instead of hoping for God to manifest in our natural realm alone we will begin manifesting in God’s supernatural realm!
As wonderful as it is, when we focus solely on God touching life as we know it in our earthly realm, we limit God. But when we venture beyond this world into the great expanse of the heavenly world, the possibilities of encounter, adventure, abundant life and Kingdom living are limitless.
I trust the idea of the Church being defined by a Sunday service with some worship songs and some teaching is looking quite ludicrous right about now.
The day after I received the vision of the coming Church I was still processing through it. As I shared in the previous chapter, I decided to share the vision along with my clear, yet still limited interpretation with the class of interns at theLab.
It’s not uncommon for me and others to receive prophetic revelation such as dreams, visions and words, especially during the feverishly hot spiritual environments when theLab is in session, and it can be at least somewhat common to share those impressions with the class. It’s a prime environment to learn how to be intimately connected with the lover of our souls, and to hear the beating of his heart. It’s quite powerful to communicate just what that beat feels and sounds like!
This particular class was different in every way. I was suddenly carrying a burning coal from the embers of God’s heart, and I was undone from the inside out. A tremble was resonating throughout my being, and I knew I at least had to communicate what was happening. The problem was that I honestly didn’t have full understanding of what was going on. My spirit was burning with revelation, but how would I put it in human language? What would I say? Would it even make sense to these growing and hungry students? Little did I realize, it was about to make perfect sense to all of us very quickly.
I addressed the students and let them know that something terrifying, yet desirous beyond description was revealed to me the previous evening. I had their attention. I proceeded to share the events just as I did with you in the previous chapter. I was in a state of burning and sobriety. It was quite clear that all attention was to be on what I was saying, and that it certainly wasn’t time for interruptions.
I wasn’t long into the encounter when one of the students, Kathy, suddenly got quite animated. She was popping her hand up and down, clearly wanting to be heard. I wasn’t ready for any type of break because I was in the middle of sharing the revelation, so I asked her to wait until I finished. Throughout the remainder of the story, she was respectful as she waited her turn, but it was clear that something was awakened within. She was about to come out of her skin.
I ended by saying something like, “I’m not sure what any of this means specifically, but I do know this—the Church as we know it is about to end. There is a fearful burning that is about to replace today’s church culture with the supernatural force of God himself.”
Now it was Kathy’s turn. Our unsettled student was about to bring revelation with great clarity.
Kathy said something along the lines of, “I have been about to explode the entire time you were talking! I have to share with you something that I saw on National Geographic just before I left for class tonight!”
What she shared next launched this revelation into an entirely different realm. She shared what she saw and later sent me the link to watch the documentary myself online. It was a brilliantly produced special on the ramifications of a massive asteroid crashing into the Earth.
The parallels to the encounter I had were remarkable. The question that was being considered in this documentary was this:
What would happen to the Earth if a massive asteroid collided with it?
After listening to Kathy explain what she saw, I was provoked! I went home and watched the National Geographic special myself. I was stunned as I found myself in the middle of one of the most significant revelations of my life. As I watched, it was easy to see what God was saying. There is a coming collision and it will change everything. Here’s the specific takeaway as I compared my vision with the very timely National Geographic special:
The first point of interest was quite interesting indeed. When the asteroid collided with the Earth, it was so massive in size that the top of it was 30,000 feet in the air—where commercial jets fly! This documentary revealed the shocking ramifications of an alien rock that size colliding with the Earth. Shock and awe would not be sufficient to describe it.
Spiritual Application: God is coming in such force that it will impact not only the Earth, but the Second Heaven (the atmosphere where the enemy moves freely) as well. The strong demonic influence on the Earth from the Second Heaven will take a mighty blow as Heaven invades Earth–on a path that takes it right through his domain. This doesn’t mean the enemy will be disarmed. In fact, the demonic activity will intensify with great power, but the Church will be awakened into its authority and will see many demonic attacks thwarted. Confidence to advance the Kingdom of God will be at an all time high as a burning Church is broken and activated into its true authority. When God’s forceful entry is experienced, everything that can be shaken will be shaken.
A Pillar of Fire
The documentary went on to dramatically explain that when the asteroid hit the Earth, a pillar of fire instantly exploded and reached from the surface of the Earth up into the heavens.
Spiritual Application: The connection between Heaven and Earth, between God and his Church, will be a conduit of fire. The burning of the Holy Spirit will be raging as the Church and God are in constant encounter at a level never before known to man.
Next, balls of fire shot out from the pillar and scorched regions far away from the point of impact.
Spiritual Application: An impacted and supernaturally reformed Church will be so volatile, so explosive, that it will ignite fires in regions far away. A single impact in a single region will be so powerful that other cities will not only feel the Earth shake, but will be hit with the otherworldly fire as well.
As I watched the dramatic presentation continue, the global impact became clear. A cloud of smoke then rose and actually surrounded the entire planet. The entire Earth was covered by the residual impact of the asteroid.
Spiritual Application: The glory of God will cover the Earth! The residue of his activity will be felt all around the planet, capturing the attention of every nation. Nobody will be able to escape the impact, though many will resist it.
Heaven Impacting Earth
Celestial elements, parts of the asteroid that don’t exist on this planet, were implanted into the ground.
Spiritual Application: This is powerful! Heaven was brought to Earth! The Church will be infused with the very DNA of God. God himself will be coursing throughout.
The time is NOW for the church to shift into its true identity as a house of prayer. What is coming cannot be supported by today’s church structure. Will you shift and trust God’s wisdom? I suggest you do. I suggest we must.
Possibly the most shocking shift coming to the church is the transition away from senior pastoral leadership.
The church army became a nursery. We want to play all day and cry for our needs to be met. Grow up! ~Isaiah Saldivar
I’m currently writing my next book titled The Coming Church, and I am continually stricken by fear and trembling as I communicate what is about to hit. The coming fire will be consuming everything that is outside of God’s design. The coming church will look so different than the church of today that we will find ourselves speechless. Everything man-made is going. Everything that God deems good but outdated is going. The coming church will be a defined by fire and it will repel the lukewarm and religious—as it draws in the hungry and desperate.
LISTEN TO THE PODCAST:
I continually hear people eagerly declaring that they are done with church as usual. Their heart is for God to move in and explode in power. I count myself as one of those people. However, the shift necessary to see this happen will upset what has been setup, and that price may be too costly for most.
Consider the radical differences between the United States Marines and a spa.
Today, the church structurally has the makeup of a spa that is setup to draw people in via programs and promises of personal attention. The coming church will function like a military that is setup to draw people in compelled by the magnitude of the mission. They will not show up to be served by to serve.
People join a spa to be nurtured and enjoy life with themselves in mind. People join the military to serve unto death with others in mind.
After 22+ years of ministry my opinion is that one of the weakest links in the church today is false expectations—expectations perpetuated by leaders who want to fill the pews. Let me explain.
In the local church context today, most want to connect in the place that will meet their expectations. There is a predetermined set of expectations that people enter the church with, and If those expectations aren’t met, negativity creeps into the camp. So, today, people won’t continue in a church if it doesn’t offer what they want, and pastors can’t imagine the thought of losing them, so they adjust course and focus on giving them what they expect.
In the Western church, the pastoral office is the natural office to lead a church that’s fueled by people’s need for nurture. After all, it’s presumed that pastors, by design, are the ones to meet the expectations of the people. They have the heart to do so. Therefore, pastoral leadership is widely embraced by those who are more inclined to receive than to give.
Does that sound like American culture? Does a consumer mentality have its touch on most every area of our lives? Absolutely, and, it has nearly overtaken the church, and we as leaders have left that problem largely unresolved.
What happens now is that pastors are overwhelmed with connecting with people, feeding them what they prefer and ensuring they are attended to—and that has compromised the strength and outward mission of the church.
Now, of course, helping people is absolutely appropriate and necessary, and pastors are the ones best equipped by God to do that, but this ministry was never meant to be the primary function of the church!
Today, churches act much like hospitals. Their key function is to deal with the wounded. In reality, they should look more like MASH units! Soldiers who are wounded in the mission are quickly stitched up so they can get back to the war!
God is raising up people who want to get challenged, not fed. ~Isaiah Saldivar
Ephesians 4:11-12 (ESV) 11 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, 12 to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
The nurturing, equipping process is important, but it is not the goal! Notice that the equipping is for a reason! To work! Additionally, we have every opportunity and responsibility to feed ourselves instead of relying fully on the church. Today there are countless teachings online, in books, on CD’s and more. There is no excuse for any of us to rely on anybody else for our nourishment. We should not be showing up to the church empty waiting to be fed. We should arrive full and overflowing with the richness of the Word that we have fed ourselves with that week!
As an prophetic apostle, my focus is over the horizon. It’s on just a few narrow topics. I need everybody on their face praying, and I’ll do everything I can to teach them how. I want everybody going after regional revival, and I’ll teach week after week on how they can do that. I prophetically have a pulse on the church and I’ll constantly relay that information to the church so they can respond. But, they will have to take it upon themselves to learn most everything else. Of course, I’m not the only teacher in my context either. Others can and do impart knowledge and revelation, but it is still limited and it’s still required that we devour the Word ourselves.
Today, pastor led churches nurture and feed as the goal so much of the time without casting the vision that they are about to call everybody to pick up their weaponry and move out to battle!
The coming shift will result in less feeding and a higher bar of committed and focused response. The problem? Pastors are not the ones best gifted or called to lead this transition. The pastor led church is functionally compromised.
Simply stated, the church is out of biblical order.
Apostles and Prophets are Coming
Prophets announce, among other things, the coming governmental order and apostles bring the order.
1 Corinthians 12:27-28 (ESV) 27 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. 28 And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues.
These offices are listed in order of importance and function in the church.
Life Application Commentary: Paul specifically ranked them as first, second, and third to show their prime importance above all the other gifts.
ESV Study Bible: First… second… third… then seems to be a ranking of importance or benefit to the church, with apostles being primary and then prophecy and teaching also contributing greatly to building others up.
The apostolic ministry is actually the first one that our Lord, Jesus, established in the New Testament church.
Lk 6:13 And when it was day, he called unto him his disciples: and of them he chose twelve, whom also he named apostles.
Why did Jesus establish the apostolic ministry first? Because it was to be the foundation of the church government in the New Testament, as the priesthood was the foundation of the ministry in the Old Testament. So, without apostles in the ministry, the ministry gifts are literally without the necessary foundation.
Eph 2:20 And (you) are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone.
There are governmental levels in spiritual realms. These are called “principalities, powers and rulers.” Each has a different realm of authority, a different authority level, and a different manner of operation.
Eph:6:12 For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.
Likewise, we have different levels of authority in the different ministry gifts. Here is where the apostle's authority is truly needed. At times, a pastor is confronted with different types of spiritual attacks. Without the spiritual covering of an apostle, he can be battling against powers and rulers that he is not actually anointed, or prepared to battle against. With the apostolic covering, he is able to draw upon the apostle's anointing, understanding, and experience in these battles. Instead of fighting alone, he has the spiritual support he needs.
The current structure or model of church ministry revolves around the pastoral paradigm (model) of ministry. A paradigm is a structure of ministry that serves as a model or pattern. It's astonishing but the word pastor, Greek poimen is only mentioned once in the entire New Testament. From one occurrence in scripture we have built thousands of pastoral churches. Yet there were no churches ever built in the New Testament by pastors. Even the one started at Antioch soon received Barnabas as an apostolic leader. Barnabas was a sent-one (apostolic gift) from the church in Jerusalem.
In reality we have created a structure of church services that is designed to bless, nurture and comfort attendees. After all, that is the dominate grace on the pastoral ascension gift to comfort, bless, nurture, protect and lead to still waters. There is nothing wrong with being a pastor. What we are discussing is the transition into an apostolic model of ministry that enables us to be more effective in establishing and advancing the Kingdom of God.
Let’s face it the pastoral-only model of ministry is not working. We need something that is more effective and that’s going to be the apostolic model of ministry that we are experiencing today, the new apostolic prophetic church.
There will always be a set man over a congregation. Scripture says, “Let the Lord the God of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation” (Numbers 27:16). Apostolic ministry models may have a plurality of leadership gifts working together to equip believers known as a presbytery but there will always be one set man that is ultimately responsible before God to apostle a church.
The Holy Spirit is going to restore an effective structure of ministry that will empower you to raise-up strong sons and daughters in the Lord that will take the battle out of the church and into the city.
Apostolic ministry gifts are spiritual master builders that carry the revelation of Christ governing Church. As Paul said, “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise master builder, I have laid the foundation, and another buildeth thereon. But let every man take heed how he buildeth thereupon” (1 Corinthians 3:10).
The Purpose of the Church
The church is not a house of teaching or a house of evangelism or a house of friendships. The very purpose of the church is prayer! It is a house of prayer for all nations! If someone in the church is resistant to the call to pray corporately, they can’t consider themselves to be a functional part of the church.
This is a huge problem!
In today’s church very few live a lifestyle of prayer. In fact, most pastors don’t either!
Leonard Ravenhill said: Pastors who don’t pray two hours a day aren’t worth a dime a dozen!
Mark 11:15-18 (ESV) 15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching.
We are in a Mark 11:15-18 season in our nation. In that situation, the people were using the church for personal gain. They had expectations of personal benefit. They entered the church with the expectation of leeching off of it, of using it, and leaving with more than they entered with. This is a defilement of the church!
The call is to go into the church with the expectation of leaving with less than we enter with! We bring an offering, a sacrifice! We minister to God!
This is critical! Pastor led churches more easily seek to give people what they expect out of the church. Now, please understand me. Pastors are God ordained! But, when they function outside of their appropriate governmental position, it brings disorder. The same would be true of any of the offices. You probably don’t want a prophet trying to nurture people! Thank God for pastors!
The House of Prayer
In the coming church, everybody will pray as their primary ministry! Yes, everybody!
This means a great offense is coming as suddenly those focused on their own expectations and who are resistant to the call to prayer will have nowhere to go!
The governmental order in the church will require a mass exodus of uncommitted, unwilling hearts as intercession takes first place again. This type of dramatic shift requires the skills of an apostle to pull off.
You might presume that intercession is to be reserved for the mature, for those who have graduated from the equipping process. No! No! No!
The best equipping center is the prayer room! If an 18 year old pimple faced young person fresh out of high school with no experience, no knowledge, no wisdom can join the Marines and fight for our country, he can do the same in the prayer room!
Again, there is a place for pastors to nurture people like this, and, in fact, we need pastors not as senior leaders, but as smaller group leaders who can invest time into individuals. They need to prepare them quickly to respond to the coming instructions from the apostles and prophets. It would make sense to have serving with an apostle maybe ten to twenty pastors for every one hundred people in a church.
Islamic prayer: The second pillar of Islam is salat, the requirement to pray five times a day at fixed times. Children are often required to fulfill this daily requirement by the age of 7.
If a mosque can be jam packed full of people praying early in the morning on a weekday as happens in our area, and if children as young as 7 are praying five times a day in that system, certainly an all consuming, Holy Spirit fueled life of prayer for a Christian is not hard to imagine at all!
Act like priests!
When you stand as a priest before the Lord, you aren’t representing yourself, you are representing others in corporate identificational prayer. ~James Goll
You are a priest, and that means that you have a job to do. You are a priestly intercessor before God and the call is to pray individually and corporately continually!
In the coming church, under apostles and prophets, we all will show up and pray! That is church! Church services will be prayer meetings again!
Personal expectations will be replaced by assignments to serve, give, pray and lay down our lives! We won’t show up with our prayer lists or our own issues but rather we will represent the nations as we invest into them in prayer.
We are all priests and we all carry extreme authority! This is church at its best!
The Simple Blueprint
Apostles and Prophets
- The shift: Corporate leadership will shift from pastors to apostles and prophets primarily. Instead of merely relaying information, messages will be mostly challenging and directive with a clear expected response as the body is rallied to fulfill a corporate mission together. They will lead with the expectation that the entire unit will be moving in step with them as they fulfill the vision of the church in unity.
- The difficulty: Those that are averse to responding to prophetic instruction or who simply want a ‘pick me up’ each week to help them make it to the next Sunday will suddenly find themselves well outside of the vision of the church. There will be costly calls to serve, give, pray and function as a priest before the Lord, and that will be unappealing to many. The new aggressive, fast moving military will be challenging to say the least.
- The shift: In the coming church, pastors will mostly be relieved of primary church leadership responsibilities and will be released to spend most of their time one-on-one with people and in small groups.
- The difficulty: Pastors who are senior leaders will be asked to relinquish their positions, their salaries and their influence in favor of an apostle God is calling them to serve under.
- The shift: Many programs of the church will be eliminated, possibly including children’s ministry, youth ministry, drama, etc. and will be replaced by prayer meetings, training and outreach.
- The difficulty: People will have to change their expectations and make themselves ready to serve by growing intentionally on their own in a significant way each day. They probably won’t have close, direct access with the leader and will have to trade personal desire for close friendship for a readiness to respond to the sound of the alarm.
- The shift: Most services will look more like prayer meetings than anything else. Everybody will spend the bulk of the service ministering to God in intercession and community will surround that emphasis.
- The difficulty: The desire to be entertained and overfed will no longer be met. Mostly receiving will change to mostly giving. Rapid maturity will be required as apostolic leaders move ahead aggressively in a rapidly and ever changing culture of ministry to the nations. Those resistant to growth or to change won’t easily find a place to connect. Additionally, relational community will occur only around the mission. The prayer meeting will be the gathering point for friendships to develop. People looking for these types of connections will be disappointed if they aren’t willing to jump in the bunker in a risky mission with their fellow soldiers. Gladly, the pastors will be in the bunkers with them.
- The shift: Seeker churches will quickly fade away as the fire of the Holy Spirit rages in the houses of prayer. The lost won’t be relationally converted as much as they will be converted by fire. We will trust God’s wisdom as in Acts 2 and allow the fire of God impact a region. The prayer room will become the place of choice to bring the lost.
- The difficulty: Everybody will have to drop most everything and tend to the fire in the house of prayer. To ensure the atmosphere is supernaturally charged, everybody in the church will be spending hours a day in the prayer room together. False salvations will drop to near zero as they won’t be based on a simple prayer but rather on an encounter with the God of fire.
It’s important that I do say that many current pastors are actually gifted with apostolic and/or prophetic offices. They will help lead the shift!
We will all have to trust God as our personal finances, plans, dreams, influence and structures are threatened. God really does have plans to prosper us even in this dramatic, unsettling shift!
Five Shifts at Revival Church: You’ll want to know what our fresh focuses and key changes are!
FIRST: Listen to a key message on core doctrine and the risk of deception in the church from this past Sunday. I deal with the law, homosexuality, tithe, shellfish and more! I’ll include my notes at the bottom of this message. Listen here:
As many of you know, God has hit me hard regarding the crisis of the cross-less church this year.
There has been an awakening at Revival Church as I’ve refocused our attention to the foundations of scripture, including the call to the cross, to surrender and to repentance. The Bible tells us to judge ourselves now so we are not judged later. It’s time to take a microscope to our hearts and allow God to reveal every hidden thing for the sake of love and healing.
Orthodox Christianity has been compromised by a desire for something new—and this is a serious threat to the mission of Kingdom advance on the Earth. If the new thing ever minimizes the old thing—the eternal thing—the gospel, you can be sure that there is error in the message. We do want the new wine, but the new will always emphasize the ancient and non-negotiable truths of the Bible. The blood, the cross and our call to die daily must be in front of us night and day.
I have received remarkable reports from people who have been deeply convicted, troubled and awakened by these messages. Especially provoking and liberating for many was my XPmedia teaching on the False Grace movement. I want to STRONGLY recommend you block out one hour and watch this video that deals with the sober reality of our eternity. Watch it here: http://www.xpmedia.com/JK9d86jAPOyr
- SHIFT ONE: Revival Church will be more intent then ever on solid and deep foundational teaching of the Word. I believe a true prophetic ministry is one that is rooted in scripture and allows the truth to explode out of us with power. Prophetic ministries are also to be alarms and warning systems that alert the world to eternal danger, and I am more devoted than ever to slow the flow to Hell.
- SHIFT TWO: theLab Prayer Events have shifted on Friday nights! We are developing teams that will be hitting the streets most Friday nights through the summer on strategic prayer assignments. This is a GREAT way to connect in what I consider the most vital ministry of the church. At 10pm at Port Detroit (most Friday’s, see the schedule at www.revivallab.com) we start in violent and fervent corporate prayer as we overlook Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, Canada, and then we break up into our teams, led by some amazing captains, and hit the streets! We are collecting spiritual intelligence so we can pray and act in a much more focused fashion.
- SHIFT THREE: Social Networking! Not Facebook or Twitter… old school, face to face relationships! (What a brilliant idea!) We value friendships and want to make it EASY for you to thrive at Revival Church! The third Sunday of every month is our Meet, Greet and Eat social event right after service. We also are having a blast with our new softball teams and I’m very excited about our Culture Groups which are a great way to grow deeper in the Lord with other men and women of God!
- SHIFT FOUR: theLab School of Fire is being reworked as a six month school (and ultimately a nine month school). This year I am investing in training a team of about 20 leaders every Thursday and Friday night. This infusion of Revival Church DNA and vision into this phenomenal team of leaders will be carried and released into our next class of students in January, 2013!
- SHIFT FIVE: Our prophetic mandate is, with love and tears, to trouble people into freedom. I’m humbly embracing the call of God to awaken the church and sound the alarm regarding anything that keeps people away from God. Over the last couple of years, every single prophetic dream I’ve had has been quite sobering, severe and troubling. God is preparing the church to react when crisis comes to our nation and the world, and this demands we live as prophetic alarmists. This is driven by a deep love and passion for people—many of who think they are safe yet are in extreme danger. We must see them saved.
So, I want to INVITE and ENCOURAGE you to run this fun and important race with us! We will do everything we can to help connect you and enjoy your church family! You are valuable!
Revival Church meets at CENTRAL CHURCH, 1529 E. 12 Mile Rd, Madison Heights, MI 48071.
Here’s my personal notes that I used to teach from this past Sunday. Again, you can listen to the teaching here: media.johnburton.net/2588973
i. The word Bible simply means ‘book’. (biblos)
1. It’s also called scripture and the Word of God.
2. 66 books, 55 of which it’s clear who the authors are.
a. 39 OT books
b. 27 NT books
c. Over 40 different authors
d. Moses authored the most OT books. (first five, the Pentateuch)
e. Paul wrote the most NT books (14, over half of the NT).
f. The NT was canonized in 375 AD.
g. It became the collection of books or writings accepted by the apostles and leadership of the early Christian church as a basis for Christian belief.
h. The KJV isn’t the original Bible!
i. The first English version was translated in 1382 A.D., by John Wycliffe.
j. The Holy Bible has been translated into 2,018 languages.
k. The Bible was printed in 1454 A.D. by Johannes Gutenberg who invented the "type mold" for the printing press. It was the first book ever printed.
3. Jesus wrote it all.
4. 2 Tim. 3:16—"All Scripture is given by inspiration of God." (God breathed)
5. "By the word of the Lord were the heavens made; and all the host of them by the breath of his mouth" (Ps. 33:6)
6. 2 Pet. 1:21—"For not by the will of man was prophecy brought at any time, but being borne by the Holy Spirit, the holy men of God spoke."
7. The Holy Ghost was especially and miraculously present with and in the writers of the Scriptures.
8. FofPT: God is a God who desires to reveal Himself. He does not remain silent like the gods of the heathen, both ancient and modern. The Lord takes pleasure in making Himself known to His creatures. He is pictured as a God of love; love must always communicate itself, and that revelation must come from God Himself.
ii. The word testament means covenant.
iii. By the end of the 2nd century, the terms OC and NC were established.
iv. The Old Testament deals with the record of the calling and history of the Jewish nation, and as such it is the Old Covenant. The New Testament deals with the history and application of the redemption wrought by the Lord Jesus Christ, and as such it is the New Covenant.
1. Now, it’s a serious mistake when we presume the OT is no longer valid.
a. We’ve discussed that God is the same yesterday, today and forever.
b. He didn’t change OT to NT.
c. He has always loved, has always been just, has emotions of anger, has always wanted us to know him intimately.
2. When considering what was fulfilled and is no longer applicable, ask whether it’s part of the Mosaic ceremonial, moral or civil laws or not. Ceremonial and civil laws no longer apply. There are moral laws in the OT that absolutely do still apply.
a. This is critical!
i. The call to morality doesn’t cease in the NT—it increases!
ii. Remember, in the OT you couldn’t commit adultery. In the NT you can’t WANT to commit adultery!
b. The Mosaic law came 430 years after the Abrahamic covenant. This is the law that was fulfilled.
3. Some people try to interpret biblical laws with this rule: "Old Testament laws are valid unless the New Testament specifically says they are not." But this rule is not true. It’s opposite. It is proven false by Hebrews 8:13.
a. Hebrews 8:13 (ESV) 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
b. "If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!" (Gal. 2:21)
4. Michael Morrison The laws we keep today may be in the old covenant, but if so, we keep them not because they are in the old covenant, but because they are also in the new.
a. For example, both homosexuality and the eating of shellfish were prohibited in the OT.
i. Leviticus 18:22 (ESV) 22 You shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.
ii. Shellfish: Leviticus 11:11 (ESV) 11 You shall regard them as detestable; you shall not eat any of their flesh, and you shall detest their carcasses.
iii. In the NT Jesus ended the prohibition of shellfish, but reaffirmed sexual morality.
iv. Mark 7:14-23 (ESV) 14 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15 There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” 16 17 And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18 And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19 since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” ( Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20 And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21 For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23 All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”
v. Also: Acts 10:9-16 (ESV) 9 The next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the housetop about the sixth hour to pray. 10 And he became hungry and wanted something to eat, but while they were preparing it, he fell into a trance 11 and saw the heavens opened and something like a great sheet descending, being let down by its four corners upon the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of animals and reptiles and birds of the air. 13 And there came a voice to him: “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is common or unclean.” 15 And the voice came to him again a second time, “What God has made clean, do not call common.”
vi. God wanted him to eat snakes and lizards! (Alligator is great!)
vii. So, the OT law on sexual purity remains.
viii. 9 of the 10 commandments remain. (some people get tripped up about the Sabbath.)
5. The OT is critical for us to understand holiness.
6. In fact, in the NT we see that all scripture… which includes fulfilled laws… is profitable for instruction in righteousness:
a. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 (ESV) 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, 17 that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.
b. Hebrews 13:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, 21 equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.
c. The Bible cover to cover reveals how to live, while the NT reveals that we are empowered in Christ to actually fulfill the mandate.
d. Jamieson-Fausset-Brown: The Law elicits the consciousness of sin and the need of redemption; it only typifies the reality. The Gospel, on the contrary, actually communicates reality and power from above
7. The law of Moses included laws of ritual purification, prophecies about the Messiah, rules about treating livestock, and civil laws about penalties for religious crimes.
8. The Abrahamic covenant was characterized by God’s promise while the Mosaic was characterized by God’s law.
a. The law was temporarily necessary to deal with sin… it revealed how common sin is…
b. Romans 7:7 (ESV) 7 What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”
i. This is powerful! The OT helps us with analyzing our lives, being aware of sin.
ii. There’s a skewed teaching out there that says we must not have sin consciousness, but this is in opposition to what we see in the Word of God.
iii. It’s the law that is good, and sin that is bad, not the other way around.
iv. Today we hear that the law is bad and that sin is not an issue!
v. Just because the law cannot sanctify does not make it sinful or unnecessary.
vi. The law reveals sin, then the applied blood of Jesus heals us of it.
1. The law is the xray or the MRI and then the blood of Great Physician deals with that issue.
c. Matthew 5:17-20 (ESV) 17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
i. Here’s an example of how sin can be dormant instead of eradicated… and how the OT brings revelation to that issue:
ii. Romans 7:8-9 (ESV) 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin came alive and I died.
iii. Sin lies dead means that sin was latent rather than nonexistent.
iv. Revelation of God’s commands are critical! Is there any dormant sin in us that would surface if we let the Word of God deal with us?
1. Life Application Notes: Where there is no law, there is no sin, because people cannot know that their actions are sinful unless a law forbids those actions. God's law makes people realize that they are sinners doomed to die, yet it offers no help.
2. Dake: I do not blame the law, for it is just and good in its demands.
b. Now see how the fulfillment of the law is addressed by Jesus in Matthew…this is a long passage, but Jesus felt it was important to explain this clearly:
a. Matthew 5:21-48 (ESV) 21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. 25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny. 27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. 31 “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ 32 But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery, and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. 33 “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ 34 But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, 35 or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. 36 And do not take an oath by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. 37 Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. 38 “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ 39 But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. 40 And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. 41 And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. 42 Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. 43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
d. The part of the OT that was addressed in the NT is quite limited. The law of Moses, with its worship rituals, civil laws and other customs, was temporary. In the NT, the ceremonial law was dealt with by Jesus.
e. The clearest way to understand what still applies is by studying to see what is re-emphasized in the NT. What OT law was reaffirmed in the NT?
f. Example: Tithing was both pre-law and affirmed in the NT:
i. Matthew 23:23 (NIV) 23 "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices–mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the more important matters of the law–justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former.
g. Nine of the Ten Commandments were reaffirmed in the NT (all except to keep the Sabbath).
i. For example, in the OT, stoning was the penalty for those caught in adultery (based on the Mosaic covenant)…
1. Leviticus 20:10 (ESV) 10 “If a man commits adultery with the wife of his neighbor, both the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.
ii. …but in the NT Jesus affirmed that the sin of adultery was not acceptable, but he would be the one to take their punishment… if they repented.
1. In the OT, physical death was often the most obvious penalty… in the NT, spiritual death is.
iii. In the OT, wrath of God was on that person. In the NT, Jesus took the wrath on himself… UNLESS the individual is unrepentant!
1. John 3:36 (ESV) 36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.
2. Living without Christ in the NT is very similar to living pre-Christ in the OT.
h. The OT is an excellent resource to learn how God feels about certain activities, sins, behaviors.
i. God never changes. He still hates sin. He hates murder. He hates adultery. He hates sexual sin.
ii. However, his wrath was placed on Jesus instead of us, which should compel us to make Jesus our Lord and Master with expedience!
i. In the OT if you see regulations and ordinances that are a part of the law, you can be sure they no longer apply—unless they are either reaffirmed in the NT or are covered by the Great Commandment—to love God and others.