God of the Ordinary Swan Hills AOG 24.6.07
= ex tempore
“the word of God came to John …in the wilderness. 3 And he went around …proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 5 Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, 6 and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’…I baptize you with water, but he who is mightier than I is coming, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.” (Luke 3:2- 6, 16)
=Have you ever been outside and began to hear the sound of rain approaching as it hits tin roofs, so I am hearing the sound of the coming of the Lord –it is a sound of praise and worship. = The Lord is preparing us for his coming visitation. He is bringing down the high and lifting up the lowly (Luke1:51- 53) so that his Spirit does not have to strive with the spirit of man (cf. Gen 6)and that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God” just as the Spirit was poured out on “all flesh” on the day of Pentecost (Acts2:17).
Jesus is revealing himself as the “God of the ordinary”. He is the God who delights
in “turning the world upside down” (Acts 17:6) and making the first last and the last first (Matt19:30). He is about to do an amazing work through “nameless and faceless” people.
I remember when Darren Beadman, the famous Melbourne Cup winning jockey went public about becoming a Christian, leaving racing and going to bible college. Or when we awoke to see on ourPerthbuses, “Australia, here is your idol.”, none other than our brother Guy Sebastian. Others get excited by the fact that federal politics seems teeming with professing believers – Howard, Costello, Abbot, Downer, Rudd etc. But the presence of celebrity Christians (cf.U.S.) seems to have made no difference at all to the spiritual climate of our country
A Nation in the Spiritual Wilderness
Australiais in the spiritual wilderness, it is in the wilderness that people tend to look for a Messiah that will fulfill their dreams e.g. Acts 5:37;21:38. The dreams of the average Australian/Christian seem mostly connected to money. From the Prime Minister to the pastor of the country’s largest church the chorus is “you need more money”. But , “If money isn’t God why do we worship it?” (John White) (Luke 16:13)
Hans Cronje, former captainSouth Africacricket and a prominent Christian was quoted as saying, “I love money, it can get you anything.” Shortly after he fell into disgrace and was banned from cricket for taking money from bookmakers.
The quickest way to get into the inner circle of some ofPerth’s most prominent churches is to be wealthy – because wealthy people are not ordinary people. A false spirituality of attainment and success has replaced humility and trust and the “God” worshipped is a projection of human desires to escape the ordinariness of life. The concentration on performance in the “cathedrals of today” allows no room for the limits of humanity
Always look for God to reveal himself where you would not naturally expect him to appear. The so called “three wise men” sought the king of the Jews in Herod’s palace, but found he was born in a stable. The first witnesses of the resurrection were women, who at that time had no legal authority to testify in a human court.
God works through people who know they are ordinary – Moses, who said “Oh, my Lord, I am not eloquent, either in the past or since you have spoken to your servant, but I am slow of speech and oftongue… please send someone else.” (Ex 4:10ff.), Jeremiah’s complained “Ah, Lord God! Behold, I do not know how to speak, for I am only a youth.” (Jer 1:6), Ezekiel is furious with God over the call on his life (3:14), Jonah runs away; Peter deserts Jesus, Paul experiences fear (Acts 18:9) and anxiety (2 Cor11:28)
In the eighteenth century, George Whitefield, perhaps the greatest English speaker of all time, had a huge disfiguring squint that made him the object of mockery , in the nineteenth century, William Booth, the founder of the Salvation Army started his working life as a pawn broker’s assistant, the great preacher Charles Spurgeon suffered from chronic depression, in the twentieth century, the spearhead of the Azusa St. revival, the beginning of modern Pentecostalism, was a one- eyed uneducated black preacher William Seymour (not even allowed to sit in the same room as his fellow bible college students!). As Hudson Taylor, the most famous western missionary toChinaput it, “all God’s giants have been weak men”.
This principle of God working through the ordinary has its foundations in the person of Jesus.
An Ordinary Man
In the genealogy of Jesus we find some very basic women: Tamar who secretly slept with her father – in – law (Matt 1:3), Rahab the harlot (1:5), Ruth the Moabitess (1:5) and the adulteress Bathsheba (1:6).
The most offensive and extraordinary thing about God is that he became an ordinary human being: “the Word became flesh” i.e. weak and mortal (John1:14), [cf. “manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim3:16; Heb2:14“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same nature”).] “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we looked upon and have touched with our hands, concerning the word of life— 2 the life was made manifest, and we have seen it” (1 John 1:1- 2)
The early church fathers often expressed their amazement at God becoming one of us. In arguing against one bishop who denied that God would not take on a human mind, Athanasius said, “It was impossible to pay one thing as a ransom in exchange for a different thing; on the contrary, he gave body for body and soul for soul and complete existence for the whole man. This is the reconciling exchange of Christ.” (Contra. Apollinarium., 1.17).
In Jesus the eternal God has experienced the ordinary human sensations of joy (Luke 10:31; John 15:11; 17:13); sorrow (John 11:35; Matthew 26:37); compassion (Matthew 9:36); astonishment (Mark 6:6); indignation (Mark 10:14); anger (Mark 3:5); apprehension, grief and distress (Mark 14;33 -34); loneliness (Matthew 26:37); agony (Luke 22:43 -44; Heb 5:7).
The only difference between our humanity and that of Jesus was that he did not sin (Heb 4:15). He was not the most intelligent, creative or strongest etc. person who ever lived. In what scholars call the “wonderful exchange” he took our flesh and bone, our mind, heart, spirit, will and emotions, and purified them through his life, death and resurrection. He did this in order to share with us his own “clean heart” (Matt 5:8), so that we could have access to “the mind of Christ” (1 Cor 2:16)and oneness with his own human spirit “he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him”(1 Cor 6:17). Through his humanness Jesus opened the door to God.
The Ordinary Cross
There is nothing more human in a fallen world than death. How person dies always shows you who they really are. The total power of Jesus humanity is concentrated in the cross. Where God is most like us he is most accessible to us and God is most like us in the suffering and death of the cross. It is the power of the death of Christ that terrifies evil spirits and confronts guilty consciences with divine truth.
Our problem is not that we lack power, influence, strength or money, what we most need is forgiveness. When scripture teaches that God puts people under a “strong delusion” by allowing the antichrist to work “with all power and false signs and wonders” (2 Thess 2:9,11), it is telling us that false messiahs always come with a boastful spirit (Dan 7:8,11; Rev 13:5). The world is always seeking super heroes. This deception can also be quite subtle. cf. breakfast with Ash and Ang Barker .
The man of the cross is totally different; it is not the visitation of a “superstar” cf. the awe that greeted the Dalai Lama on his recent trip toAustralia. Jesus says of himself, “I am gentle and lowly of heart” (Matt11:29). By speaking of himself as “the Son of Man”, Jesus highlights the limits of his humanity (cf. Num 23:9; Ps 8:4; Ezek 2:1 etc.) and his vulnerability ‘the Son of Man must suffer and be rejected….’ (Mark8:31).
Jesus did not come in glorified flesh, he came to “in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom 8:3). It was not while we were strong but “while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly.” (Rom 5:6). Our primary problem is not physical weakness, or weakness of the will or disordered emotions, or deficient intellect, or economic poverty, but weakness in relating to God (Rom 8:7 – 8). The mysterious power of the cross to deliver human beings from their state of spiritual death is that Jesus shared our state of spiritual weakness.
When Jesus cried out from the cross, ““My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”” (Mark 15:34) he was not only living in the place of human loneliness, fear, anxiety, pain and untellable sorrow (Isa 53:3- 5), but feeling our spiritual impotence – he thinks and feels he has no power to relate to God as his Father.
Is there anything more ordinarily human than for a child to cry out to its parents? There is nothing more foundational to humanity than for the Son to cry out to his Father and so reveal to God in heaven on our account a heart that knows nothing but love for God and lost people (Matt 22:37). As I was out praying this morning I could sense that the heart of Jesus is the same for us today, that the heart that cried out from the cross for us is crying out from heaven for us today. And his heart is saying “It is finished” (John19:30)– I have brought all of you into the peace of my Father.
The true apostle understand that the heart –cry of Jesus is the fountain head and source of all testimony, and of every Word of God; so that every word we speak to and on behalf of the Father is grounded in the cry of the cross (. 2 Cor 11:29) This is why Paul boasts only in the cross (Gal 6:14). This is why when he comes to the confident Corinthians, a fleshly, confident worldy – wise church like so many today, preaching “in weakness and in fear and much trembling” (1 Cor 2:2) “lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” (1 Cor1:17). In his spirit he knew that the only way of bringing people into the manifest experience of their total impotence with God was to manifest it in his own life and ministry- there is no experience of resurrection power without a prior experience of crucifixion weakness. “always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.” (2 Cor4:10- 12)
How on earth do you think we can have a genuine revival i.e. bringing the dead back to life, unless we are first immersed in Jesus death. (Jesus’ death = total God- orientation)
The God of Ordinary People
The agony of the cross teaches us that there is no special “God- sphere” in life. Let me use an example. What Christians today call “worship” has become more important in many places than the ministry of the Word of God, and a huge commercial interest. It has not however shown any ability to produce a holy church. Part of the reason for the gross failure of the worship movement to produce disciples is that it does not seem to understand the difference between worshipping God through “the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim 2:5) and worshipping an image of “God”.
Let me explain what I mean. In one of the most helpful teachings on “worship” in scripture Paul says, “I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1). What are “the mercies of God” but the fact that when Jesus offered his body as a living sacrifice on the cross for us he has given the Father spiritual worship (Rom 3:20ff.). Our worship is a share in his worship and it involves the totality of our human existence cf. special people, buildings, times (OT Christians).
What we need in the church today is a revelation that we can share God’s life in Christ in all of life – in the home, school, office, sports ground…
I am waiting for God to raise up prophetic song writers who like the psalmists can express lament and compliant over the struggles of life. I was struck by the story of a student revival in communistEthiopiain the 1970’s, the young believers started to write songs about the dangers of Marxism, faithfulness in persecution and so on. Where are the scripturally based songs of today challenged us to resist materialism, sexual temptation, and conformity to the world, where are the words speaking to the struggles in marriage and family, and so on??
When we receive this revelation of God in ordinary life, it will open up so many things, the understanding, as a wise friend put it, of “3 in a bed” will deal with the enormous sexual problems in the church. We will see people praying in parks, streets, restaurants, schools…JY GDOP met another believer in toilets another walked in and said “interesting place to have a conversation” but it was God and I know had the capacity to change the life of the man I was ministering to permanently.
When the people of God understand that God accepts them as they are they will become unashamed of their ordinariness and begin to move in the testimony of Jesus everywhere. (cf. introduction of a famous sports star – since fallen from grace- to a small group of Christians who “talked him up” one however didn’t and as he said, “Everyone dribbles in their sleep.”) This is the only way “all flesh shall see the salvation of God”; why do we restrict the prophesying (Rev19:10) of “sons, daughters, young men, old men, women” (Acts 2) to special buildings and times – Pentecost happened on the streets.
Peace in All Things
I started with a quote about the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist because “every valley lifted… every mountain brought low..all flesh see salvation” relates to the totality of human life. But John’s creating a level playing field of the heart was dependent upon his gospel preaching of “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”.
I believe the Lord showed me one specific thing to focus on to pray for this congregation – it is peace. I want to explain how gospel – peace is the key to allowing Jesus to share his life with our lives.
Firstly, the peace of which I am speaking is not a state of mind, an emotion, an advanced spirituality etc. but an awareness of Jesus himself: “he himself is our peace,” (Eph 2:14Peter speaks of “preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all)Acts10:36). There is no part of life that has not been reconciled to God, “in him (Jesus as a human being cf. 2:9) all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven (cf. Gen 1:1), making peace by the blood of his cross” .Col 1:19- 20 All of creation belongs to Jesus and is under the power of his God- pleasing sacrificial death = “blood”. This means peace is at the very centre of all things.
Paul includes everything in this realm of peace “5 The Lord is at hand; 6 do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. 7 And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:4 -7)
JY – have learned that several times a week I NEED to deliberately pray without asking for anything, infallibly enter into a wonderful sense of peace. A sense of peace that conveys to me that before the judgement seat of God there is no condemnation in any area of my life (Rom 5:1; 8:1). We have complete liberty (Gal 2:4; 5:1, 13)to express in our emotions and actions who Jesus is for us, and to bring others into the peace of God. (JY with DT’s secretary etc.)
The peace that we are sensing more and more deeply is a fruit of the power of the gospel’s forgiveness (Rom1:16; “the gospel of peace.” Eph6:15), and it is a preparation for the coming of the power of the Spirit.
The first thing that Jesus spoke to his disciples when he was raised from the dead was , “Peace be with you.” (Luke 24:36; John 20:19, 21, 26). This word of peace stilled their guilty consciences so their hearts were ready to be “clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:49cf. Rom 5:5ff. love..hearts… Holy Spirit weak..died ungodly..). Likewise in the preaching of Acts, there is no expectation of receiving the Spirit without a promise of forgiveness (Acts2:38;10:43- 44; cf.22:16-9:17). In the case of the first Gentile converts in the world, the household of Cornelius, God “cleansed their hearts by faith” by first speaking to them of forgiveness (Acts 15:8 – 9) in order to open them up to the outpouring of the Spirit with “speaking intongues and extolling God” (Acts 10:46).
An outpouring of the Spirit is coming, but it comes with great danger. Most revival movements burn out in a few years because people have not been prepared in the Word of the gospel for the coming of the power of the Spirit. Only with proper preparation in the gospel does the peace of God fill every area of the life of the church so that no area is hidden from the Lord through fear of judgement (1 John 4:17 – 18). Cf. Acts 2:2 “the entire house”. Without this preparation, when the Spirit comes he fills many rooms in the house of a person’s life, but not all, the hidden spaces become infiltrated by a Satanic counter -attack that soon derails the work of God. Gospel peace is the necessary preparation of God for pure reception of his presence and power and that is what the Lord wants for us!
Christians sensing God in every area of life – this is what the Spirit is seeking to impart.
What John the Baptist saw, and what “the spirit of Elijah” is speaking today is that if the lamb of God had come to remove “the sins of the world” (John1:29) then “he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Luke3:16) and that this must be about to happen on a universal scale. God’s truth – “What the cross cleanses, the Spirit fills” (Roy Hession), is first true for the individuals heart, then for congregations, communities, cities and nations until when the Lord returns, “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab 2:14). The Spirit is saying that w are moving towards a global Pentecost.
If heaven and earth have been reunited through the humanity of Jesus (his blood cf. all other mediations, touches heaven and earth, 1 Tim 2:5 etc.) then the Spirit from heaven cf. Acts 2:1, 33 must be poured out on all flesh (Acts 2:17) because he (the Spirit) longs to see the glory of God (Luke 3:6)in all things (Eph 4:10 etc.). The Lord is surely coming soon with power to reveal himself as the salvation of the world (John4:42; 1 John4:14).
Economically we are in a huge boom, but spiritually we are in a wilderness- and if we pray into this combination we will see a marvellous outworking of the wisdom of God. You can only believe for peace in all things if you have a revelation that in the wisdom of God Jesus is already Lord of all and working to fill all things with his life (Eph 4:10). The tragedy of life today, the reason why people can never get enough no matter how much they have, is that they do not experience God in the everyday circumstances of life.
The revival that Jesus is bringing, while it may involve large church meetings, rallies etc., will bring a sense of the presence of God throughout every sphere of society – in homes, marriages, businesses, the media, politics, entertainment, the arts, schools, colleges, sports clubs …. I believe this because about 13 years ago I had a revelation of the Lord in heaven restoring to himself “all things” (Acts 3:16ff); but we will never see this transformation until we learn, as I have been slowly learning, that it is only through our weakness and ordinariness we experience grace. This is one reason why I have not had normal sleep for over 10 years.
No matter what you are facing, what you are going through in the struggle of your ordinary humanity (this is how the first Pentecostals experienced it) the Lord is near and can give you his peace. This is what I would like to pray for you today.