Monthly Archives: February 2014

Be Joyful

“Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

 The kingdom of God is characterized by “righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” A revelation of God will produce great joy in the heart of the believer. Paul frequently petitioned the Father to give the Ephesians “the Spirit of wisdom and revelation….” Jonathan Edwards’ account of the First Great Awakening contains reports of extraordinary manifestations of joy. He writes:

 “Extraordinary views of Divine things and the religious affections were frequently attended with very great effects upon the body… .The person was deprived of all ability to speak… .the soul so overcome with admiration and a kind of omnipotent joy as to cause the person unavoidably to leap with all his might in joy and mighty exaltation.”

My daughter attended meetings in St. Louis conducted by Rodney Howard-Browne in March of 1994. Mr. Howard-Browne has been used powerfully by the Lord. During one of the meetings, She had a revelation that led to great joy and faith. She became drunk as it were in the Holy Spirit and began to have visions of angelic beings pouring huge buckets of water over the assembled congregation. She saw a vision of the Lord Jesus dancing with a beautiful bride. The Lord spoke to her about His affections for His bride. She was then miraculously healed of a scoliosis of the spine which she had suffered with since childhood. She remained unable to speak for three days. She also experienced emotional healing that enabled her to develop relationships on a level she had previously been unable to attain.

 The scripture does not condemn outward expressions of joy. Indeed, it says that “the joy of the Lord” is our strength.” Certainly, being regularly out of control would result in a bad witness, but occasionally being overwhelmed with joy at the revelation of God’s love and mercy is understandable. This reaction might also occur when experiencing deliverance from oppression or pain. These momentary outpourings can be vital in maintaining that inner peace and joy that would cause others to see Christ in us or to ask what it is that sustains us. Perhaps this is what Peter was referring to when he wrote, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.”

Certainly this scripture would apply to questions regarding our personal testimony, but it could also apply to curiosity aroused when we display peace and joy through trials. It is significant that Paul couples the exhortation to be ‘joyful in hope,” along with, “patient in affliction,” in Romans 12:12. Sometimes, only the joy that comes down from above can sustain us through the afflictions that come at us from the forces of hell.

The lasting significance of the “Great Awakenings” was the moral foundations that were re-established. The bars and prostitution houses closed and families were preserved. The Cane Ridge Revivals of 1801 radically transformed the frontier. “Instead of gambling cursing and vice, spirituality and genuine Christianity characterized the early westward movement. It was God’s great hour. Revival stopped skepticism in its tracks and returned the helm of the country to the godly.” Pratney points out that sympathy for the poor was affected by the 1857 Awakening. The work of the Salvation Army was born during this revival.

A willingness to be touched by the power of the Holy Spirit and to yield control to God is a mark of godly zeal. In speaking of Whitefield and Wesley, C.H. Spurgeon has noted,  “The world said they were mad; the caricature drew them as being fanatical beyond endurance; but there it was, their zeal was their power. Of course the world scoffed at that of which it was afraid. The world fears enthusiasm which is kindled by the thought of the ruin of men…, the enthusiasm which believes in the Holy Ghost, which believes God is still present with His church to do wonders.”

Our mortal bodies sometimes experience unusual manifestations when we are touched by God, but if we have the faith and trust in God to let Him touch us, He will radically change us. And in doing so, He will use us to radically change our world.

The scripture I refer to here, Romans 12:12, ties a joyful attitude to faithfulness in prayer as well: ”Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.” The outpouring at Pentecost came about after the disciples were “All together…with one accord, steadfast in prayer.” It is nearly impossible to be steadfast in prayer without the joy of the Lord in one’s heart. The two concepts are inexorably linked together here. The most important thing Christ’s church can do is pray. When God raises up an army of prayer warriors who are obedient to be in one accord with Him, our world will be won to Christ.


 

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Govern Diligently

Romans 12:8 continues, “If it is leadership, let him govern diligently.” The American Heritage Dictionary defines diligently thus: “Marked by persevering, painstaking effort.” Many “ministers” in the church today labor diligently. They practice a style of servant leadership that Jesus modeled. But, servant leadership is not the sum of the leadership that Jesus taught and practiced. It is clear that Jesus established the direction and method of His ministry and when His disciples attempted to change the course He rebuked them sternly. Unfortunately, few pastors really govern their churches. This scripture clearly ties leadership to the business of governing. It is part of the pastoral ministry not just to feed, but to lead. Most Christians see their pastor as the leader of the local church, but unfortunately in many cases, pastors do not govern the church. That responsibility has been given to a “governing board” that makes decisions for the church. The pastor serves “at the pleasure of the board” like a sort of “hired hand.”

 

I believe this to be an unbiblical model of church government that developed as an outgrowth of the Protestant Reformation and as a reaction to the misuse of ecclesiastical authority that occurred in the Roman Catholic Church. The abuses were a result of the church’s failure to recognize the authority of scripture, not a result of the structure of church government. Unfortunately, like we are so prone to do, the reformers “threw out the baby with the bath water.” Could you imagine Moses serving at the pleasure of two million men? In those cases where Moses’ authority was questioned or challenged, God’s judgment was swift and sure. The rebellion led by Korah, detailed in Numbers chapter 16, resulted in him and his followers being swallowed up by the earth. In American Christianity, it is not uncommon for pastors to be fired by a board or told what and what not to preach about or what ministries can receive financial support.

 

I have had the unfortunate experience of attending one church where the senior pastor, who had served in that church for twenty-one years, was forbidden by a church board from starting a contemporary worship service. This man had been impressed by the Holy Spirit to reach more people for Christ and was hampered by church government.

 

The Presbyterian or congregational form of church government is especially appealing to the democratic and independent American spirit. But this spirit will not be tolerated in Christ’s kingdom and it should not be allowed to influence how we govern local churches in this age. We are not independent; we are part of a body. A body does not function by having the parts vote about what it should be doing. The spiritual leader of the body is the head and decides where the body goes. Pastors, as Christ’s ordained representatives, should be the spiritual leaders in the local church.

 

Pastors of local churches should also be in submission to those who are performing the functions of the apostolic office. That is, those responsible for overseeing entire movements or denominations. While there are no new Apostles in the church, there are those that perform some of the duties of an apostle. They would be in authority over pastors, teachers, evangelists and prophets within their movement and would have demonstrated faithfulness and fruitfulness in all of the other areas of ministry. There is nothing in scripture to indicate that the local church should be completely autonomous. In fact, in Acts chapter 15 we read of an example where local disputes were settled by a council with higher authority, which was led by one particular individual. The Roman Catholic structure of authority is not necessarily unbiblical, nor was it necessarily responsible for the abuses of power by those in authority. Those abuses may have been avoided had the church accepted the final authority of scripture in matters of faith and practice.

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