Sep 8, 2009

The Bride and The Kingdom

This message isn't about healing. It's what I hear God saying about the season we are in. One of the gifts Jesus gave to the church is teaching (Eph 4:11). I believe God would have us learn about the time of preparation we are in and what we are to be doing. Leaders are held accountable to God, I want to be faithful to him in all things.

I believe we are entering a new era. There is a bride that God is preparing. There is a kingdom He is bringing to the earth. That kingdom will have rulers. Some, but not all of us will be those rulers. I believe the rulers will also be ‘the bride’. Through a collection of observations, I’ll try to weave together a picture of what I think God is doing to prepare the bride and the kingdom.

When I was first converted from atheism, I began to hear the voice of God. It was very loud. It was constant. And it was very convicting. But it was also very comforting to finally know that I didn’t need to make all the decisions; God wanted to steer the boat for me. For about 6 weeks I heard that voice 24/7. It was always there in every situation telling me how to act and what to say.

The voice gradually became silent. That concerned me. Why did this happen? I was comforted when I read an explanation by C.S. Lewis; “God needs us to stand on our own two feet. He gradually removes the voice that holds us up and we must walk by faith.” It made me feel better, but lately I’ve come to think Lewis was wrong.

After 7 years of discipleship under bible-believing- fundamentalist teachers, I was introduced to the charismatic wing of the church. I began to meet folks who seemed to hear God’s voice on a regular basis, like I once did. That provoked me to jealousy.

I’ve been following the life of Todd White lately. I’m amazed at what God has done in and through a former criminal and drug addict. In him I see a man who hears God constantly, every day, in every situation, as I once did. He was saved almost 4 years ago. The voice of God hasn’t faded away, but seems to have taken over his life. This challenged my thinking. I’m coming to grips with the fact that much of what I've learned isn’t God’s heart, but man’s traditions and plausible explanations for personal experiences – much of which are contrary to scripture.

Todd’s explanation and his life stand as one big challenge to the church. He says his ability to hear God’s voice in words of knowledge, in prophesying and healing are due to one thing – holy living. He says his connection to God and the degree of anointing upon his life is directly proportional to how he lives his life in either righteousness or unrighteousness. He has chosen righteousness. He declares that for us to see the miracles and revelation Jesus did, we must walk out our walk as Jesus walked. In the words of Todd, “We must never give in to compromise with sin on any level…ever.” He refuses to tell even little white lies, “all lies are black and nasty” he says, "Satan is the father of all lies." He obeys the speed limit…always.

That challenges me. And in thinking about his theology, I’d say this: The Holy Spirit is the voice of God. He speaks God’s heart to us; both the good and the bad. He’s the revealer of God’s secrets when dispensing prophetic revelation. He’s also the One who convicts me when I’m living in sin. If revelation from God is like a river, we are in control of how much we receive. We can open the gate and let God speak to us in full measure on any subject without restrictions. But if we’re allowing sin to remain in our life, He’ll speak to that issue as well. We don’t like being convicted of sin. This makes us shut down the flow. Our conscience is safe from the voice of God convicting us, but we now struggle to hear what God wants to reveal in other areas too.

I want to hear the voice of God again, no matter what it takes. I'm not happy with a trickle, I want the river. I tend to fast when I want to hear God more clearly. It works. I thought I was going to enter another time of fasting recently. A couple days into it, God told me to eat. We 'discussed' it briefly. He won the discussion. He said that I can only fast for so long - what then? He said there's another way to do it. "If you walk in righteousness, you'll hear my voice again like before."

Let’s admit to a few things. Once the protestant reformation had its way in the west and the gospel of grace was restored – it was soon corrupted and became a license for the church to live any way it wanted to. Some have tried to live in holiness, but these are rare cases. I’ve been told for years that I’m a wretched sinner saved by grace, and I’ll never be more than that. With this identity firmly planted in our minds – is it any surprise there’s little holiness among God’s people?

The word is full of hundreds of verses telling us to live in holiness. I'll give a couple here; "Pursue peace with all people and holiness, without which, no one will see the Lord." (Heb 12:14) I think ‘holiness’ has lived with a bad rap for a long time. This message is about a bride that God is preparing in the last days. That bride is beautiful because of her holiness. She is without spot, wrinkle or blemish. God said, “Be holy, just as I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:16) Does this describe the church you see?

I don’t want to be a slave to the law. I believe the blood of Jesus has taken away the punishment for all my sin. Grace is awesome. I believe we have been given the righteousness of Christ. But I can no longer live as if I’m a wretched sinner whose salvation is nothing more than a change in my eternal address. I want to be a man of purity, honesty, integrity and love because it pleases my Father. How do we become holy with out becoming a slave to good works?

What I like about Todd’s White is his passionate, untamed love for God and those around him. I know people who talk about love all day long. Talking and walking are two different things. I can’t think of anyone who displays love the way Todd does. He loves the kind of people most of us in the church won’t even look at, much less hold their hand, hug them and pray for them. Todd excels more in love than anyone I can think of. Love is the only way the bride will become beautiful in her holiness. There are a million reasons why we do any given thing. And love is the supreme motivational force – period. Holiness comes from having an extreme love for God.

Jesus has much to say about our hearts in his letters in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation. Some of us are lukewarm, some live in compromise, some in outright idolatry, some in blindness, some in pride and some have let their hearts grow cold. But where He chastises us, He also remarks about the few who haven’t compromised, who’ve kept themselves in humility, meekness, faithfulness, love and holiness. He gives them special promises and these believers are the ones who will be the bride of Christ. They will be a handful of people who’ve embraced total and complete surrender of their lives to the husband of the church - Jesus. They do it because they love not their own lives, but passionately love God and thus, they love others.

A bride spends a lot of time in preparation for her wedding. It’s about becoming beautiful. This picture is what we are supposed to be doing right now as we hear that the groom is approaching. We are in the last moments before the Lord will see us face to face and take us into the promised kingdom. Beautification and holiness come through sanctification. That can only take place through the power of the Holy Spirit as He removes the garbage in our lives when we lay ourselves on the altar of sacrifice and become a love offering to God.

I had a series of dreams over the last few months I didn’t understand. In each dream I spent a weekend in a hotel with a woman who wasn’t my wife. My concern forced me to ask God what was going on. I was afraid there was something wrong in my life that I wasn’t aware of. My fears were confirmed. God said to me, “Don’t you think I see what you see? Don’t you understand that I know your thoughts?” The dreams of fornication were symbolic of a problem with my thoughts. I wasn’t having an affair, living in fornication or viewing pornography. Yet I do at times entertain thoughts in my mind of women I see. It goes no further than merely thoughts, but that’s how we begin to compromise with sin. God wants to remove it from my life. He wants me to be sanctified and holy.

God has great plans for my future. I’m going to love doing all He’s planned for me. That’s how He is. His plans for us are perfectly suited to our talents, desires and personality. They’re also bigger than anything we could plan for ourselves. But there are dangers. We watched Todd Bentley walk in an insane amount of power and revelation – but he fell hard. What he lacked was holiness. Revivals come and go. Outpourings of the Spirit seldom last. The road is littered with the names of people who fell into sin and brought the move of God to shame. God doesn't want me to be another example of a ministry and life ruined by careless living. He is purifying my life because the challenges and temptations ahead will be more difficult than the ones I face today.

If you look at movements in the church over centuries you’ll find this phenomenon. Denominations arise and establish permanent status. They’re founded on doctrine, teaching and discipleship. Revivals spring up unexpectedly and enjoy short-lived blessings, then quickly fizzle out. They’re founded on the operation of the Holy Spirit. Their lack of sound doctrine, teaching and discipleship prevent their long-term success. This has to change. We won’t experience a permanent culture of revival until we’re fully committed to the rigors of teaching the word consistently, making disciples who walk in holiness and operating in the gifts of the Spirit.

Matt Sorger is trying to get us to see the need for developing maturity of character and walking in holiness. There are others doing it too, but they aren’t getting much support. Most people don’t want to hear it. Like the church in Corinth, they just want to see miracles and have fun with the glory. It reminds me of the time when Jesus told the crowd of thousands they had to eat his flesh and drink his blood to be his disciple. It thinned out the crowd quickly. The only ones left were those who burned to follow after the man who had the words of eternal life, no matter how hard those words were to receive. Few in the church are interested in holiness. That’s unfortunate. But Jesus can do a lot with a few people.

I believe the few who receive His words of correction and repent will reap an incredible harvest. There is much at stake. As the world systems fall apart, and the earth is shaken, world leaders will look for someone who has the answers. God’s wisdom will be given to those who are walking closely with Him. These people, like Daniel and Joseph, will receive unexpected promotion from ungodly men who recognize the spirit of God is upon them.

There is an unprecedented soul harvest just around the corner. Those who are living in righteousness will be given the power of miracles, signs and wonders and a message of hope to those who are lost. They will see revival unlike anything in history.

There is a kingdom on its way. Those who haven’t defiled themselves will be given the keys of authority to rule in the kingdom. Many people are receiving keys through dreams and visions in this hour. I received one, with the promise of an outpouring of the Holy Spirit in my town. I also received a sobering warning about the key – don’t lose it.

I’ll bring this to a close by thanking you for going this far with me. My prayer is that God will speak and we’ll be moved out of love for our groom to make ourselves beautiful and lovely in holiness. He deserves our best, doesn’t He?

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