Direct Contact
The re-formation of the church


While in the UK recently, I entered a mood of feeling “out of it”. Through prayer, it became plain that I was tired of looking at and hearing about other people’s experiences. My mind was taken back to something I sensed in the house of the famous Scottish reformer, John Knox.[1] I sensed that the centre of the Protestant Reformation – with its focus on the Bible and the priesthood of all believers, was that every Christian could have direct contact with God.[2]

This might seem obvious, but all around us this reality has been eroded. Believers are told they must follow the vision of the senior pastor, personal experience increasingly replaces the authority of scripture, which in any case is used to support principles already imported from the business world. The dynamism of a whole congregation flowing in all the gifts of grace[3] has been abandoned in favour of a few “anointed” ministries. Perhaps the most damaging of these is the role of the contemporary “worship leader”[4].

All this reveals many believers do not grasp they can be in direct contact with God without layer upon layer of mediating influences. This problem is rooted in deep spiritual warfare.

The Image of the Beast

Perhaps the most intense description of spiritual warfare in the Bible is found in Revelation 12-13. Here, three main evil characters appear – the great red dragon (Satan), the beast that rises from the dead and demands universal worship (the antichrist) and a second beast (the false prophet) which directs adoration of the beast via an image made by human hands. This means we have a hierarchy of ascending evil. The core of this evil trinity[5] is false worship.

What struck me however, was that “the image of the beast” can only be a substitute for the real presence of the beast[6]. The idol that represents the beast is only a human construction[7]. It is impossible for the beast and its worshippers to share a common life via their veneration of the image. What they have in common is not love for one another, but love for earthly power and glory. Like the builders of Babel, the beast worshippers can achieve great things (Gen 11:6), but always in the realm of material splendour.[8]

The Real Presence of Christ

I feel truly alive when the Holy Spirit vivifies me by the inbreathing of the Word of truth, that is, as I receive revelation from heaven.[9] Through their common union in the Father by the Spirit, Christians and Christ share a common life[10]. I really participate in the life of Jesus, or, as Paul can say, “Christ…is our life” (Col 3:4)[11].

Today we find it hard to understand why the Christians of the sixteenth century were willing to fight and die over different views of the Lord’s Supper. The real issue was over how Christ was present to the believer. Was he actually with us in our regular Communion celebrations because a specially endowed person, the priest, was able to make it so, or was Jesus present in “a spiritual and heavenly manner” (Calvin) to all alike through the simplicity of faith? The Catholic Church emphasised the objective and bodily presence of Jesus in the Mass, but those who followed Calvin realised that when Christians meet in the name of Jesus heaven and earth overlap.[12] When this truth impacts the conscience, submission to all hierarchical religious systems that claim to mediate the presence of God collapses.[13]

The Present Deception

As Jesus expressed his authority by commanding his apostles to disciple all nations (Matt 28:18-20), so the second beast “exercises all the authority of the first beast in its presence” (Rev 13:12). It does this by an exercise of deception[14] “over every tribe and people and language and nation” (Rev 13:7).[15] By means of the mark of the beast it controls commerce, “no one can buy or sell unless he has the mark” (Rev 13:17). This means that the discipling of the nations in the realm of evil is through a false gospel of prosperity. Essentially, this repeats the original deception of Eden: the substitution of the material world for the spiritual riches of the glory of God.[16]

Having recently witnessed the amazing diversity of races and languages coming together in the European Union, it is plain that the basis for this union is money[17]. Similarly, in the global village of the twenty – first century, what unites the leadership of China, the traditional capitalist nations of the West, the vast majority of educated Muslims and the expanding middle class of Hindu India is a vision for economic growth. This same spirit has deeply entered into the life of much of Western Christian spirituality.

Two Rivers One Life

In the writings of the apostle John we find two rivers, one is “the river of the water of life” (Rev 22:1)[18]. The other is “the river that the dragon had poured from his mouth” to destroy the church (Rev 12:15-16). If the content of the river of life is the Word of the gospel, the substance of the river of destruction is a message of consumption. Out of the inner – most being of false preachers flow “teachings of demons” (1 Tim 4:1). Of these people it can be said, “Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.” (Phil 3:19). The worshippers of the beast see themselves and their passion fulfilled in its lustful image, those who worship the image of the invisible God[19] set their minds on things above not things below (Col 3:2). Those who are “of the truth” (John 18:37; 1 John 3:19) have “crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24).

The stage is set today for a global reformation of Christianity as potent and influential as the Protestant Reformation of the sixteenth century. Our own city of Perth is called to be one of the global hubs for this movement of God.

Direct Contact – the Judgement Exclusion Zone in Perth

If Perth is to be “a city of refuge”[20] the Lord needs to establish in our midst a spiritual space where people no longer fear a merciless judgement, for men and women only turn to human mediators when they fear “direct contact” with God’s presence will bring severe punishment. As the sixteenth century saw a tremendous liberation of conscience from the fear of death our time must likewise experience a cleansing from the slavish fear (Rom 8:15) of God’s holy nearness.

This will mean an outpouring of the love that is revealed exclusively in the cross[21]. The Father is sovereign in this realm, nevertheless he is saying, “Judgement has been taken away.” When this truth breaks in on the church the broken, abused, shamed, marginalised and hopeless will be attracted to the presence of Christ in our midst in exactly the same way as they came to him when he walked the earth. This is a subject for deep prayer.

[1] Knox (1514–1572) was the father of Scottish Presbyterianism; he studied under Calvin, and through his preaching and writing was the chief catalyst for the overthrow of a Roman Catholic monarchy and church in Scotland.

[2] Nothing in this document implies that the errors of the Catholic Church of the late Middle Ages are simply replicated in that body today.

[3] Rom 12:3-8; 1 Cor 12-14; 1 Pet 4:10-11.

[4] Congregations have been taught that a special grace given to this person enables them to lead the rest of us “into the presence of God”. This understanding is dangerous for two reasons. In the first place, as new covenant believers we are always in God’s presence. Christians are “before God” or “in the presence of God” (Acts 10:33; Rom 14:22; 2 Cor 7:12; 12:19; 1 Thess 1:3; 3:9; 1 Tim 5:4, 21; 6:13; 2 Tim 2:14; 4:1; James 1:27; 1 John 3:19) and he is always “with us” (Matt 1:23; 28:19; 2 John 1:2-3). Secondly, the only person who in the New Testament has this role is Jesus, and he performs this function from heaven, in a sanctuary not made by human hands. Commentaries on Hebrews 8, especially verses 1-2 will expound this.

[5] The powers of evil are constrained by the fact that they are created, and so, unlike God, incapable of creating genuine newness. They exist as distorted counterparts and counterfeits of the divine life. Satan takes on the role of Father (“You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father’s desires.” John 8:44), the beast is the false Christ (Matt 24:24), and the false prophet’s witness, signs and breath emulate the role of the Holy Spirit (Rev 13:11-15).

[6] Who, being a creature, must be confined in space and time.

[7] The Old Testament prophets make a mockery of idol making, e.g. ““No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten. And shall I make the rest of it an abomination? Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”” (Isa 44:19). Anything made with hands is not a fit object of worship (Deut 4:28; Ps 115:4; 135:15; Acts 7:41; 17:25); God himself dwells in holy places “not made by human hands” (Acts 7:48; Heb 9:11,24).

[8] This is the Babylonian principle, the focus on earthly wealth, power, influence, numbers etc. (Rev 18).

[9] Compare, “[God] was pleased to reveal his Son in me.”(Gal 1:16).

[10] “he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source. That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers” (Heb 2:11).

[11] Similarly, “It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20).

[12] As in “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” (Matt 18:20) and especially Revelation 13:6, “And the beast was given a mouth uttering haughty and blasphemous words, and it was allowed to exercise authority for forty-two months. 6 It opened its mouth to utter blasphemies against God, blaspheming his name and his dwelling.” We are truly in the heavenly places now (Eph 2:6).

[13] The traditional Catholic position was that the church puts us into Christ, the Reformers insisted that Christ puts us into the church e.g. 1 Cor 12:13. I believe many Protestant churches today have reverted to the medieval position.

[14] Falsehood is something Satan, the beast and the false prophet share (Rev 12:15; 13:5,16).

[15] This is deliberate imitation of the redemptive purposes of the Lamb, “by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9).

[16] See Romans 1:23.

[17] Whilst I do not subscribe to the eschatology that sees the EU as a revived Roan Empire, the spiritual values associated with this position are largely correct.

[18] This is identical to the “streams of living water” that flow out of the inner being of the believer in Jesus (John 7:37-39).

[19] That is, Jesus (Col 1:15).

[20] See my Barbecues for the World: Perth as an end time city of refuge

[21] “There is no fear in love, “By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” (1 John 4:17-18).

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