Category Archives: mission

The Significance of Pentecost

by Scott

During our visit to the U.S. for most of the month of April, we were able to be a part of Advent Presbyterian Church in the Memphis area over a couple of Sundays. This is the church I grew up in, and my parents are still part of the church community.

For quite some time, as a whole church, they have been working through The Story – which mainly focuses on reading through and teaching the major stories of Scripture. It looks to make the Bible very practical – in teaching and application to people’s lives.

While I was back, they had just finished looking at the Ascension (though the church calendar celebrates it this coming Sunday). And so I was asked to speak on Pentecost and Acts 2. It’s Pentecost Sunday this coming Sunday (19th May 2013), so I thought it would be worth posting this video below.

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Mission Zarephath

Check out Marv’s new ministry blog at http://missionzarephath.wordpress.com.

God is stirring some great things in he and his wife’s life.

Pneumatica according to Matthew

By Marv

Note: “Pneumatica” is a term taken from 1 Cor. 12:1 and 14:1, intended in this series as a general term for Spirit-empowered ministry and its particular manifestations. This series aims to examine how different New Testament writers present this aspect of the Lord’s plan for His Church.
 

Kingdom authority

The gospel according to Matthew presents Jesus as the anointed King. It begins by recounting His royal heritage (1:1-17) and continues with Herod’s jealousy toward the One  “who has been born king of the Jews” (2:2).  When He begins His public ministry, He proclaims “the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (4:17).

Not surprisingly then the people see that He “was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matthew 7:29).  Authority (exousia) is a key term in Matthew to characterize Jesus’ standing, His teaching, and in most evident way His power over nature, disease, death and demons. Leave it to a member of the occupying force to get it with crystal clarity, when most of Israel missed it:

But the centurion replied, “Lord, I am not worthy to have you come under my roof, but only say the word, and my servant will be healed. For I too am a man under authority, with soldiers under me. And I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard this, he marveled and said to those who followed him, “Truly, I tell you, with no one in Israel have I found such faith. (Matthew 8:8-10)

Another kind of occupying force understood Christ’s authority all too well, as the demons themselves had to beg to be commanded by Him (8:31).

Jesus Himself explicitly linked His authority over sin to His exercise of acts of divine power:

 But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he then said to the paralytic—“Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Matthew 9:6)

Note how Matthew expresses the reaction of the crowds:

 When the crowds saw it, they were afraid, and they glorified God, who had given such authority to men. (Matthew 9:8)

“To men” he writes, not for a moment minimizing that Jesus Christ is Himself God, but pointing out that as the anointed King expressing the kingdom of heaven on earth, He was Man–the epitome of man: the Son of Man–under the authority of God. He exercised authority because He was a man under authority given to Him.

Disciples as Deputies

“Men,” plural, also because in the Father’s plan, Jesus not only received authority, He deputized others with His authority:

 And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction. (Matthew 10:1)

He taught His disciples not only to understand and pass on His teaching, but to do the works of power that He was given authority to do (as He would later make explicit in John 14:12). This was essential to what it meant to be a disciple:

 It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household. (Matthew 10:25)

He assured them in acting as men under His authority, they would resemble Him in power, but also would face the same opposition from hostile elements. Why would they also be called “Beelzebul”? Because Jesus’ disciples exercise overt spiritual power, as He did. His enemies could not deny the power, but attributed it to Satan (9:34), not to the authority of God, not to the kingdom of heaven.

This first mission was practical training for them, an arrangement of  limited duration–and of limited scope. It foreshadowed and prepared them for a more vast and ongoing mission later, but for the moment, His instructions were:

Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And proclaim as you go, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. (Matthew 10:5-8)

How they knew how to do all this, Matthew does not tell us. But they were disciples (mathetai), learners. In addition to learning from Jesus, and seeing His example, He was now having them learn by doing. The trip was not an end in itself, but preparation for what they would be doing after He would leave. Though His instructions were, then and there, to remain within Israel, it would not always be so limited, as He made clear they would eventually “be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles” (Matthew 10:18). Thus the plan was not for the twelve alone, but for all the other disciples after them–until the time of His return:

 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death, and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes. (Matthew 10:21-23)

They were told–and since we too are disciples, we are told–to rely on the Spirit of God–to communicate both to us and through us. Pentecost would enable what He says here. Note that “extrabiblical revelation” is not merely allowed–it is commanded:

 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. (Matthew 10:19-20)

Faith as an expression of authority

John would later tell us “whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). No one can claim to have done this more literally than Peter, who is the only human apart from Jesus we know to have walked on the water. He did it poorly, to be sure, but he did it. And he understood enough that this was possible–but only possible–as a man under authority:

 And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus. (Matthew 14:28-29)

Authority. Remember? “I say to one, ‘Go,’ and he goes, and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes, and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.”

Authority is a key to Spirit-empowered ministry. Power is a function of authority, and authority a function of Jesus specific command through the Holy Spirit. A man under authority, even He did only and all He was commanded and authorized to do (John 5:19; 14:10). He was always listening. He means for us to be always listening, as the Spirit has given so that Jesus would speak to us, command us, through Him (John 16:14-15).

And this is foundational to faith as Jesus means it, obedience to a specific command, and confidence in that command to empower obedience where He has commanded it, because the authority is God’s. He showed us this with an extreme example, followed by an even more extreme teaching–which He means His disciples to take seriously:

In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once.
 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” (Matthew 21:18-22)

Understand, He means we can remove a mountain not if we simply feel like it and somehow “have faith” in the power of prayer, but when acting as “one under authority.” He expects us to believe that even a mountain goes if we say go, if He has commanded us to do this–and we have confidence in the power of His authority. Remember again, this clear understanding of authority is the “faith” he saw in the centurion.

Lest we miss it here, Matthew brings us back to understanding authority in the next verse. Jesus’ authority is from heaven–the kingdom of heaven–thought the leaders of the Nation missed it:

 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you one question, and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. The baptism of John, from where did it come? From heaven or from man?” And they discussed it among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ But if we say, ‘From man,’ we are afraid of the crowd, for they all hold that John was a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. (Matthew 21:23-27)

The irony, and also the mystery of God’s plan is that the Nation–whose legitimate King was Jesus–did not recognized His authority, for the most part. Their rejection, however, was an effective cause of the kingdom of heaven spreading to the nations, the gentiles.

Authority and the nations

So whereas He sent his twelve disciples out on a limited mission to “only the lost sheep of the house of Israel,” the ongoing mission given to His disciples has no such limitation. Like that first mission, however, Jesus sends out His disciples as people under authority:

And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. (Matthew 28:18-20 ESV)

Those words, the great commission, are so familiar, that we might miss how they fit into Matthew’s gospel and its themes.

  • Jesus, the Son of Man, under authority, sends out his disciples under authority. He thus wants them to have full confidence in the power of His authority, preaching the good news and doing the works He trained them to do, such as healing the sick, casting out demons. This is just what the first disciples did, as we see in the book of Acts.
  • He wants them to continue the work among the nations, which He began within Israel. This is what the first disciples did, as we see in the book of Acts.
  • He wants his disciples to make more disciples, who will then following His instructions, make yet more disciples. As disciples, they will also do His work, under His authority, in His power.
  • This is a mission well beyond the lives of the first disciples, the apostles, not in any way dependent on their lifespans, as disciples are self-replicating. All of them, all of us, are people under authority, and He wants us to understand, believe, and act on that authority, as the apostles did.
  • He assures them–and us–that He is with us, not meant as some kind of  sentimental reassurance–but as an assurance of His active presence, ongoing communication through the Holy Spirit, His continuing to do His works through us, in the power of His authority. And this, Jesus says, continues “to the end of the age.

Seeing, Eating, Working like Jesus

By Marv

Jesus’ prophetic conversation with the “woman at the well” (John 4) served as the proximate means, or at least the occasion, of the unveiling of the eyes of her heart (2 Cor. 3:15). The late John Wimber made frequent use of this account in calling Christians to understand and practice “power evangelism.” During my seminary days—pre-Continuationist, to be sure—such usage of the text was heavily criticized as misuse.

Down the hallway, at the same time John 4:35 was extolled as an important missions verse:

Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.

At the time I didn’t make the connection, that Christ Himself is here calling us to what Wimber called “Power Evangelism”—otherwise known as the ordinary procedure of God working through the Body of Christ to effect His works.

Jesus’ words here show us clearly that Wimber’s use of the passage was entirely correct, since He is calling us to see as He saw, eat as He ate, and work, as He worked, the works the Father had given Him to accomplish.

When Jesus told his nonplussed disciples: “lift up your eyes,” he was hardly telling them to pay more attention to their physical surroundings, lest they miss an opportunity to witness. Jesus was calling them to follow His example in how He operated. Now the second Person of the Godhead has omniscience in Himself. But Jesus was not asking His disciples to exercise their own omniscience. He constantly operated according to resources available (or that would become available) to his disciples, and to us his disciples, since He was anointed with the Holy Spirit.

His intention, the Father’s Plan, was for the church to carry on Jesus’ operating ministry after His departure from the earth. This is crystal clear from John 14:12:

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father.

Why this is true is because of Christ’s sending the Holy Spirit to anoint His Body as He Himself was anointed. The Holy Spirit has a speaking, communicational function from Christ, and ultimately the Father, toward us:

When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. (John 16:13)

Jesus, anointed as He was, perceived information through the Holy Spirit, so as to possess and employ knowledge beyond what his physical senses could tell Him:

And the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him,
the Spirit of wisdom and understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and might,
the Spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord.
And his delight shall be in the fear of the Lord.
He shall not judge by what his eyes see,
or decide disputes by what his ears hear,
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor,
and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; (Isaiah 11:2-4)

He saw what the disciples could not, that the woman bringing her jar to the well was elect of God and that her moment of conversion had come, that Jesus would be the messenger, and that the method would be prophetic exposure of her sinful life.

This is not alien to the expected experience of the church. Far from it. The apostle Paul urged the Corinthians to prophesy, with expectation of similar results:

But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all,the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (1 Cor. 14:24-25)

It was lunch time and the disciples brought back food from the village, but Jesus enigmatically said to them: “I have food to eat that you do not know about” (v. 32). They didn’t get it, of course.  He explained: “My food is to do the will of him who sent me and to accomplish his work” (v. 34).

He had been down this road before:

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). Not just every word of Scripture (since when Jesus quoted that verse, He was constrained by a direct instruction through the Holy Spirit and not by a written Bible verse), but every word communicated by the Father to His anointed worker. Just as He is calling His disciples to see as He saw, He called them to hear as He heard—and so do the work of the Father.

And this is how we work as he worked. “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes in me will also do the works that I do; and greater works than these will he do, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). It calls for us to be in that ongoing state of open communication with Christ and the Father through the Holy Spirit by which He works through us those “good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10).

 

Maintaing the Status Quo

by Scott

In my recent renewed revelation of the power of God, one thing that has continually been highlighted to me is the reality that, so many times, we are content with simply maintaining the status quo.

As I noted in my article earlier this week, in every situation of life, there is a way things are supposed to happen. At work it might be that we arrive at 9.00, have coffee break at 10.30, lunch at 12.30, and so on. That is the status quo. And we have plenty of examples within the church, the people of God.

And while this is not inherently bad, I have recently become very aware that God is not calling His Spirit-empowered people to simply maintain the status quo. You know how this plays out in the life of the church. Well, for starters, we end up ‘playing’ church. We end up coming to our gatherings with a prescribed layout of the way things should and ought to be done. Kind of like children playing house. They aren’t really adults with their own house and children and stove to cook meals on. They just act as if it’s true.

And how much of what we do is centred around ‘playing’ church, rather than being and walking out all that God has called us to. I’ve been so caught up with this for two years now. Of course, I wanted pastoral wisdom in helping a multi-cultural, multi-national, multi-church background community at Cornerstone move forward in the things of God. But God finally made me aware that it is time to move forward with purpose and power. No maintaining the status quo any longer.

Listen, we have to hear and obey the voice of God. That is what this present stirring is all about for me. But hearing and obeying God will not be about maintaining the status quo. It will not be about simply keeping things as they are. If anything, the body is headed towards maturity. We are preparing a people to marry Jesus. Just getting by doesn’t prepare anyone.

And so I don’t want to get caught up in the meaninglessness of simply holding things together, maintaining how its ‘supposed’ to be. It’s not healthy, and it definitely doesn’t give much room for the reality of the power of God and the message to Belgium and beyond that God Is Alive! How tragic if, at the end of our lives, our greatest story is that we maintained the status quo! How tragic! But, at this point, many of us are simply satisfied with such. I know I was. I only hope that a shake up comes when we realise that our end story will simply be that we maintained the status quo.

And, even more, we can so easily get caught up in making a contract with Jesus on a regular basis of how we want this thing to go: Jesus, I’ll follow you, but let’s just set out some things that I would like. I’ll follow you, just make sure that I have not only what I need, but a few extra’s on the side. Or a nice amount of extra’s if at all possible. Make sure that I don’t have to give too much of my resources, not too much of my time, not too much of my finances. Jesus, I’ll follow you, but let’s just make sure that I don’t get put in too many uncomfortable situations. Yeah, I think I can follow you if we can agree on those things.

Now, of course, to maintain the status quo, we would never verbally admit such. But we do live our lives with that modus operandi. It simply has taken over life in the western world.

Listen, you have to understand. I don’t usually talk like this. I don’t usually bring strong rebuke. But I am completely aware of how ungodly and how selfish and what an idol maintaining the status quo has become in my life and our lives in the west. It has simply become the way of life and we don’t even recognise it for what it is.

And so this sucks the life and power of God right out of us. No wonder the Chinese, who are currently seeing the masses turn to Christ and seeing the power of God on display in a real sense, are praying that persecution does not stop. They don’t want to maintain the status quo. They want to maintain a pure faith.

I am now very aware that if I want to see the power of God active in my life and in the life of God’s people universal, then we have to lay down our god-idol of maintaining the status quo. The goal is not that we now become crazy’s, though I do recognise that God has called His people at times to crazy things – think Isaiah walking around for naked for three years (Isaiah 20:1-3), think of Ezekiel baking his bread over fecies (Ezekiel 4:15), think of Jesus and His spitting ministry when healing others (Mark 7:33; 8:23; John 9:6-7).

But we don’t do things for the sake of doing things. We don’t become crazy for the sake of being crazy. We hear God…….and then we obey. And God is making clearer and clearer that a Spirit-empowered people are not called to maintain the status quo. We are called to so much more, starting with being witnesses, as well as moving towards unity and maturity.

Awake, O sleeper,
and arise from the dead,
and Christ will shine on you. (Ephesians 5:14)

Oh, that we might be saved from such an ungodly bondage as simply maintaining the status quo.