In yesterday’s blog we saw how an individual can forfeit intimacy with God, even when they hold a very favored position. Can this be true of a church? As I scan the landscape of today’s church, I see so many that seem ‘dead in tradition’ (Revelation 3:1) and a manifest absence of the Holy Spirit. Have they forfeited their intimacy with Christ as their Head?
I find my answer in a church that held a very special place in God’s plan as the gospel rapidly moved westward from Jerusalem. It was planted by Paul and Silas on Paul’s second missionary journey and they spent three years establishing and equipping this church (Acts 20:31). The record of Paul’s investment in this church is unlike any other, especially in the elders who were to shepherd the flock by the Holy Spirit (20:28). The presence of the Spirit was known among them.
About thirty-five years passed and they received a letter; not from anyone, but from the Lord Jesus Himself. From outward appearance, they were a very successful church. They worked hard and endured the pressure of opposition. They refused to allow counterfeits and false teachers into the church and protected right doctrine. Even with all they faced, they never gave up. So why would Jesus write them a personal letter?
The church at Ephesus had fallen from the best and most important part of their love for the Lord Jesus, their Head! The seriousness of what they had done is revealed in Jesus’ words, “you have abandoned (let go, to send away) the love you had at first” (Revelation 2:1-7, verse 4 here). Intimacy with the Lord as the Head of the church requires first love in priority and importance! If we as a church have not maintained this priority, we forfeit intimacy with the Head.
The results are staggering! Jesus said to Ephesus. “I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent” (2:5).
This leaves us with a question; ‘why is the church not repenting today?’ We become so preoccupied with our programs, traditions and denominational structures; making sure we stay in line with guidelines that have been handed down that we fail to STOP AND RETURN TO SCRIPTURE! Repentance only takes place after we compare ourselves with the “first model”. That is why Jesus told them to “Remember therefore from where you have fallen” (2:5). Yes, a church can forfeit its intimacy with Christ the Head, but it can be restored through this path of repentance.
There are times when we allow sin (pride) to seize control of our heart’s desires and we forget the consequences that follow. Adam had the sweetest possible intimacy with God that a human could enjoy. Yet, in one deceptive moment, he forfeited this intimate relationship and was ‘driven’ out of the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:23-24).
Though this marred the whole human race, it never stopped God from His original plan – intimacy with His special creature. We are given a porthole into the heart of God in 1 Samuel 13:14; “The Lord has sought out a man after His own heart.” David was that man! J. Oswald Sanders says of David; “Few Bible saints experienced and expressed so deep an intimacy with God as David. His psalms are studded with expressions of worship and devotion that betoken an exceptionally close walk with God. That walk was maintained even in the midst of constant peril and adversity.” (Enjoying Intimacy with God, page 43).
As time passed, David became lazy about his relationship with God and he allowed lust followed by cover-up and murder to forfeit the intimacy he had experienced. David was afraid that his sin would take away God’s presence entirely. “Cast me not away from your presence, and take not your Holy Spirit from me.” (Psalm 51:11). Knowing God as David did, he prays, “Restore to me the joy of your salvation, and uphold me with a willing spirit.” (Psalm 51:12).
I have no idea who is in my audience, but I can guarantee that someone is struggling as they read this with forfeited intimacy with God because of secret sin. God is reminding you now that true repentance and confession before God brings forgiveness and restoration (Jeremiah 31:34; Luke 7:48; 1 John 1:9). Ask Him to restore intimacy between you and Him. There you will find JOY!
After giving my limited and poor description yesterday of the name of Jesus, let us look at what God says through His Word about this name and what it embodies. “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).
“To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through His name” (Acts 10:43).
“Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46–47).
“These are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31).
The words in the classic song below is the words of my heart.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus
Sweetest Name on earth,
How can I, a sinner,
Come to know its worth?
Oh! the sinful sorrow,
Oh! the strangest shame,
That I saw no beauty
In that sacred Name.
Never felt the sweetness!
Never knew the grace,
Never saw the love-pain
In that wounded face!
Never found the mystery
In that simple word--
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,
Savior, Lover, Lord.
Now ’tis past and over.
Gone my guilt and shame;
Jesus, Jesus did it,
Glory to His Name!
Reaching even me;
Bows my humbled spirit
Jesus! Jesus! Jesus!
Loved me in my shame.
Oh! the joy and rapture
Of that sacred Name.
Many names in history have come and gone. Some remain on the pages of books and in the halls of museums and memories of some. Some names are hated for what they represent, and some are revered for what they accomplished.
But there is one name that embodies more than all names ever given and has accomplished more than all names combined could ever achieve. It has more power than all kings and dictators, yet more healing power than all doctors and nurses in all human history. It has more attraction and praise than any other name, and it speaks of a plan that is timeless, and a life that carried out that plan so it could not be changed, modified or reversed. This name speaks of a person who resolved every human problem through a single sacrifice, himself. It is a name that binds up the broken-hearted, gives strength to the weak, and immerses together into one body those who love his name from every people group in every age. This name will last beyond the end of time when every other name is forgotten. So rich is this name that it will be written on every forehead of those who will reign with this sovereign throughout the endless ages of eternity.
It is totally impossible for me to explain the extent and meaning of this name. It would take ten times a billion galaxies to contain the value and glory of this name. The highest intellect or the most profound prose, could never exhaust the profoundness of worth. What I have written here is only a tiny drop of water in all the waters of the world. Yet, I love this name more and more and I want you to love it too!
Who is this person and what is his name? Log in tomorrow and follow the amazing glory of this name!
(Tim shares his joy and excitement for all of us). I must share the following email with you. We cannot believe this can happen in just one visit of training introduction in Nairobi, Kenya! Unbelievable! But this is joining God at work...three days there…we leave, and then it takes OFF without us even being there. I cannot believe this! It is so exciting! This is the apex of my life and ministry. Being 70 years old, I want to work where God is at work, so I do not waste my time.
I am also thankful for the banners which we took with us that enable us to connect and communicate the total picture of God's Plan for His Church, start to finish. Let us also remember the same Word that tells us to “GO” (Matthew 28:19), also tells us to “shake off the dust from your feet” if God is not at work (Luke 9:5). What a privilege to serve our Savior! I want to get this news of our "Lord at work" to the world. I am expecting this to expand like we are seeing in Vietnam, except this is with many key leaders instead of one. As you read the following, may God inspire you as He has us!
“I am traveling today going to Mtwara, South Tanzania…amongst cousins. I have with me the chart “GOD'S PLAN FOR HIS CHURCH” which I intend to introduce to them as a pattern for rapid movement of disciple making and church planting. Please, pray with us.
In one of house church meetings yesterday, I presented God's Plan for His Church and it was a great blessing. We had a wonderful interaction and so humbled by the NEED OF THE HOLY SPIRIT TO BE IN THE CHURCH. I also talked to 2 of my closest leaders and trainers about the teachings and have given 2 books for them to read and will have regular meetings for the discussion.
The biblical teachings came to us on time (the right time). Since the beginning of this year we have been led to talk and discuss about the Holy Spirit in our house churches and with leaders from the field. We have been much encouraged through our encounter with you” (Edited for clarity).
This is truly a movement of God and a conviction of the Holy Spirit. It is now up to us to join Him in what He is doing. This requires prayer, repentance and a return to what God gave the church at first (Revelation 2:4).
You will be touched by the testimony of a dear brother in Liberia who attended the training in Nairobi, Kenya last week. He gives perspective from a student’s view point on the results.
“I give God glory and praises for you, for the wonderful fellowship we had together and for revealing to us the hindrances that are affecting the today Churches and the Biblical solution through the power of the Holy Spirit.
I once more thank you again for all the care, support and words of encouragement to do ministry that works in line with the practices and function of the Early Church. I personally feel challenged as the only pastor from the western part of Africa to be the one who will carry the vision of "God's Plan for His Church" to my Jerusalem which is my country Liberia, and to Judea and Samaria which are the neighboring countries (Sierra Leone, Guinea & Cōte d’Ivoire) and the uttermost parts of the World.
I thank God for the safe traveling mercy upon all of us that attended the training. My regards to all your families and ministry partners. Thank God for my fellow faithful pastors for the love and fellowship we shared in Christ. The Lord bless the ministry work that He has called us to carry out in our various countries.” (Edited only for clarity)
It should not surprise us that when the Word of God is faithfully proclaimed, the Spirit works with “full conviction”. This was true of the Thessalonians. “Our gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction. You know what kind of men we proved to be among you for your sake. And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia” (1 Thessalonians 1:5–7). What a powerful result! This is what God is seeking in every ministry, and in every place, so expansion is a natural outcome from the Spirit’s work.
I am taking my inspiration from 1 Sam. 25:36-38. How confirming to see God work on our behalf in ways that are far better than what we would do. Abigail is still the key player in this scenario because of her godly spirit and knowledge. She knows how to wait on God’s timing as well as act with urgency when the circumstances demand it. There was no point in saying a word to Nabal when he was drunk. His mind would not be able to understand the implications of what had been done against David and his men, so she waits until he is sober.
Often we are too much in a hurry to resolve issues that we are unprepared to wait dependently on God for His moment and the right conditions. In waiting, God is given the opportunity to work on our behalf as he did with Nabal. After hearing the details from Abigail, “his heart died within him, and he became as stone” (25:38). Whatever the medical terminology would be for this condition, the result was that he was dead in ten days. Looking at the larger picture, I doubt that God’s intervention was just on account of David and his men, but as a “worthless fellow…and folly is with him” (25:25), there was a very serious character flaw that must be ended, and God arranged his demise. We must be patient, wait on God, and be sensitive to how He wants to work in difficult situations.
I end this blog with a quote from Andrew Murry: “Waiting on God is the keynote of life…there is no salvation but God’s salvation, and how waiting on God for that, whether for our personal experience or in wider circles, is our first duty, our true blessedness.” (Waiting on God, Renaissance Classics, 2012, page 3).
1 Sam. 25:32-35 has lessons that leaders need to learn. These verses are packed with insights and principles that are absolutely necessary for a good leader. I want to lay these out in bullet points because they are so important.
As you have shown an interest in what God is doing through the meetings in Nairobi, Kenya where key leaders from six African countries met, I want to add fuel to your prayers. Yesterday’s blog reveals how God is moving through a leader from Liberia. God has moved in his heart to reach the Krahn people group in Liberia and Western Ivory Coast (Cōte dˊlvoire). With that in mind, I want to give a small slice of the Krahn culture which will help in praying for them and this key leader.
Nearly all of the Western Krahn still practices various forms of animism, believing that non-human objects have spirits. In particular, ancestor worship (praying to deceased relatives for guidance or protection) is practiced. It is believed that the supreme god is too distant to worship directly; therefore, the only way to serve or worship him is through a spirit. Often they worship a statue or other object believed to "house" a spirit. In return, the spirit gives the worship to the supreme god.
This should remind us of Paul’s burden as he entered Athens and “saw that the city was full of idols”. “What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you. The God who made the world and everything in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not live in temples made by man, nor is he served by human hands, as though he needed anything, since he himself gives to all mankind life and breath and everything…that they should seek God…He is actually not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:16, 23b–25, 27).
Let us pray for this leader (Abraham) in Liberia, that the Holy Spirit will instill in him that same effective power that was in Paul so these people can be reached with the pure gospel of grace.
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