Walking in Authority Part 3

There are different sources of authority. In my last post I showed how even Jesus had authority by coming under authority through submitting to John’s baptism. To conclude this series I will look at authority derived from ‘love for’ and authority derived through ‘commission by.’ These are terms I have come up with to describe what I am writing about. Though they are not theological or scriptural terms the principles are found in scripture.

Here are verses about love leading to authority.

16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. John 3:16 (NKJV)

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)

17 “Therefore My Father loves Me, because I lay down My life that I may take it again. 18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.” John 10:17–18 (NKJV) NOTE the word power here is the Greek exousia, authority, and is translated as authority in the ESV and NASB.

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9–11 (NKJV)

In the verses above we see that Jesus laid His life down as an act of love for humanity (Jn. 3:16) and we see that the Father’s love for Jesus action gave Jesus the authority to take His life up again. In my first post in this series I referenced Matthew 28:18-20 to show how we have authority as believers. What I did not focus on was Jesus comment, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Jesus was granted this authority because He laid His life down in an act of love and obedience.

We too are granted authority when we lay our lives down in love and obedience. One of Paul’s points in Philippians 1 is that as our love grows our discernment deepens. As we see we can say – if we are seeing out of love. I see the pattern in scripture that as our ‘love for’ grows so also does our authority. Paul was sent to the Gentiles as His primary mission but he didn’t just have authority in people’s lives because they were Gentiles. He had it in the lives of those who came to Jesus through his ministry because he constantly laid down his life out of love for them. This can be seen in many of his letters but particularly in 2 Corinthians. Twice in this letter (10:8, 13:10) Paul references the authority he had been given for their edification and not their destruction. The whole letter, but especially chapters 11-13 is filled with Paul pouring out his heart of love for this wayward group of believers. So, we can grow in our authority to speak into lives if we are laying down our own lives for them, whether in practical ministry or intercession.

The last area is authority being given through ‘commission by.’ We can see it in The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20). We can see the breadth of this ‘all nations,’ or as Luke puts it in Acts 1:8, ‘end of the earth.’ The scope of authority to make disciples is as broad as it gets. We also have examples throughout scripture of authority being given through commission by the laying on of hands and prayer. A notable example is Acts 13. As this juncture Paul (still referred to as Saul at this point) and Barnabas were among the leadership of the church at Antioch and were both teachers and/or prophets. However, they both had an apostolic call on their lives but had not yet been commissioned to this ministry. We know much more about the calling on Paul’s life than that of Barnabas but we immediately see the fruit when they are both commissioned as apostles.  

As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, having fasted and prayed, and laid hands on them, they sent them away. Acts 13:2–3 (NKJV)

Therefore they stayed there a long time, speaking boldly in the Lord, who was bearing witness to the word of His grace, granting signs and wonders to be done by their hands. Acts 14:3 (NKJV)

14 But when the apostles Barnabas and Paul heard this, they tore their clothes and ran in among the multitude, crying out Acts 14:14 (NKJV)

Commissioning comes about when there is a recognition by others in the church of the gift we carry, an endorsement by the Spirit, and the blessing and release to walk in it by leadership. An interesting side note, the general pattern in Acts was the establishment of churches by the apostles. Antioch was different in that we don’t know who started it, merely that some of those scattered by persecution in Jerusalem brought the gospel to Antioch and included the Gentiles in their evangelism. The church in Jerusalem then sent Barnabas to ground them in their faith and he went and sought out Paul (Saul) to help him. At the Spirit’s direction the Antioch church then commissioned Barnabas and Paul through the laying on of hands and prayer.    

To wrap all of this up, we all have a measure and sphere of authority. Whether or not we have a more specific commission, we all have a general one and our authority to walk in it grows as we lay down our lives in love for those we seek to minister to by His grace. So, let us seek His face and grace to the end that our spiritual authority will build His kingdom.  

Walking in Authority Part 2

Obviously to walk in authority we need to have authority. To take this further I will look at how we have authority or authority becomes operational in our lives by coming under authority. In a future post I will look at the connection between authority derived from ‘love for’ and ‘commission from.’ Now to coming under authority.

A great example of authority gone awry is Saul, the first king of Israel. If you are not familiar with the story, Saul was anointed king by Samuel the prophet at the Lord’s command. He was positioned for success. However things went terribly wrong when Saul ignored Samuel’s commands regarding sacrifice and bowed to the people. Saul was insecure, and whether consciously or not, he saw his authority as coming from people liking him and following him. When Moses was under pressure from an unhappy nation he responded by seeking Yahweh’s face. When Saul was under pressure from unhappy people he acquiesced. A brief summary of Saul’s response is in 1 Samuel. Here Saul was waiting as per Samuel’s direction but when Samuel did not show up on time and the people were leaving him Saul took upon himself the role of priest, Samuel’s role, and offered the sacrifice. He went beyond his sphere of authority and while it did satisfy his insecurity it brought a rebuke from Samuel. The event is laid out below.

Then he waited seven days, according to the time set by Samuel. But Samuel did not come to Gilgal; and the people were scattered from him. So Saul said, “Bring a burnt offering and peace offerings here to me.” And he offered the burnt offering. 10 Now it happened, as soon as he had finished presenting the burnt offering, that Samuel came; and Saul went out to meet him, that he might greet him.

11 And Samuel said, “What have you done?”

Saul said, “When I saw that the people were scattered from me, and that you did not come within the days appointed, and that the Philistines gathered together at Michmash, 12 then I said, ‘The Philistines will now come down on me at Gilgal, and I have not made supplication to the Lord.’ Therefore I felt compelled, and offered a burnt offering.”

13 And Samuel said to Saul, “You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the Lord your God, which He commanded you. For now the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. 14 But now your kingdom shall not continue. The Lord has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the Lord has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the Lord commanded you.” 1 Samuel 13:8–14 (NKJV)

Saul’s decision that day eventually cost him everything because he never got back on the right path.

In great contrast we have Jesus only doing what He saw His Father doing, walking in continual submission to His Father’s authority.

19 Then Jesus answered and said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do; for whatever He does, the Son also does in like manner. John 5:19 (NKJV)

30 I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. John 5:30 (NKJV)

To be clear, Jesus as part of the Trinity is not less than the Father or Spirit but in His mission on earth as fully God and fully Man the testimony of scripture is that somehow He denied Himself access to His divine attributes and knowledge and walked in dependency on the Father and Spirit. This is a subject books are written about. Suffice to say for our purposes that we see it in scripture and Jesus said in Matthew 28:18 that all authority had been given to Him as a result of His obedience. Jesus authority was derived from submission to authority. That is also in scripture.

23 Now when He came into the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people confronted Him as He was teaching, and said, “By what authority are You doing these things? And who gave You this authority?”

24 But Jesus answered and said to them, “I also will ask you one thing, which if you tell Me, I likewise will tell you by what authority I do these things: 25 The baptism of John—where was it from? From heaven or from men?”

And they reasoned among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say to us, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, ‘From men,’ we fear the multitude, for all count John as a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus and said, “We do not know.”

And He said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. Matthew 21:23–27 (NKJV)

Jesus was directly confronted by the religious leaders as to the source of His authority and seemingly never answered their question – or did He? There is a direct connection to John’s baptism. When Jesus was baptized the Spirit descended and the Father spoke audibly and affirmed Jesus (Matthew 3:16-17). At the same time John was offering a baptism symbolizing repentance from sin. John recognized that Jesus had no sin, and that in fact he needed to be baptized by Jesus. Yet John submitted to Jesus request based upon what Jesus said.

15 But Jesus answered and said to him, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he allowed Him. Matthew 3:15 (NKJV)

Jesus told John that his baptism of Jesus would ‘fulfill all righteousness.’ We might logically wonder how and the answer is that John was the last in the line of Old Testament prophets. His was a transitional ministry and he represented all those who had gone before. In essence Jesus was telling the religious leaders who confronted Him that His authority came from submitting to, coming under, all of the prophets who came before Him and pointed to Him.

Thus, given that even Jesus in His humanity derived authority from coming under authority who are we to think that we could arrive at authority any other way? Let us submit to those He has placed over us and come under the authority of His word.

Walking in Authority Part 1

In my last two posts I wrote about praying for Israel. Now, whether we are praying for Israel, a family member or our neighbour our effectiveness is governed by our authority. If we have been born again we have been given spiritual authority and have a responsibility to use it wisely. 

4 Where the word of a king is, there is power; And who may say to him, “What are you doing?” Ecclesiastes 8:4 (NKJV)

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. Matthew 28:18–20 (NKJV)

While we have been given authority, our authority is only found within the sphere of our responsibility. Paul said it this way.

13 We, however, will not boast beyond measure, but within the limits of the sphere which God appointed us—a sphere which especially includes you. 2 Corinthians 10:13 (NKJV)

Paul recognized that he had authority and used it. Yet he also recognized that it was limited. A reading through the book of Acts shows that while Paul went to Jerusalem or more than one occasion he never tried to exercise authority there as it went beyond his sphere.

As a practical example, prior to retirement my last jobs in the public service, in a Ministry, then in a Legislative Office, were Provincial in scope. That meant I had authority to make decisions on that level. However, I had no authority to make decisions related to neighbouring provinces or territories. When I led a team coordinating a national conference and people from across the country came I had authority in relation to other jurisdictions because it had been delegated to me by the national steering committee. However my authority extended only to decisions related to the conference. Now, I obviously have no authority in any of these matters given I am retired.

Spiritually the same principle holds. Jesus delegated all of us to make disciples so we can speak into the lives of others to accomplish that task. That is an authority to pray for, encourage and build up. It is not an authority over. Though I don’t know everyone who reads what I write, I am using the authority Jesus has given me to point others to a deeper relationship with Him. I do it through teaching because that is a calling on my life. There are people that I uphold in intercession at their request. Their request gives me specific authority to stand in the gap for them and to speak into their lives. If someone asks me to pray for person named Fred I can pray for them but I have no authority to speak into their lives in any authoritative way without their permission.

So, we have a general authority from Jesus for specific tasks and at times we have specific authority for specific tasks. A few days prior to writing this I did some teaching at our local House of Prayer. I am on the board and was asked by the Director to deliver some teaching on a specific subject. Yet I taught under the authority of the Director and had he placed limitations on the subject area I would have had no authority to teach beyond those limits.

In our individualistic western culture I don’t think that we have a good grasp of the relationship between having authority and embracing submission to authority. I will explore that further in my next post.  

Praying for Israel Part 2

In my last post I established that Jesus is not returning until the leadership of Israel welcomes Him as their Messiah. Here I use prophetic scriptures to highlight some of what Paul had to say about Israel in terms of salvation and the Lord’s purposes. First, think about this, we refer to the scriptures and speak of the Old Testament and New Testament. Another way of referring to them is as old and new covenants, which they are. This begs the question, for those of us not ethnically Hebrew or Jewish, did we have an old covenant? No, we did not. The Lord’s plan was to bring salvation to us through the covenant He made with Israel. Some expressions of that covenant are below.

1 Now the Lord had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you. 2 I will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name great; and you shall be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Genesis 12:1–3 (NKJV)

5 “And now the Lord says, Who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel is gathered to Him (For I shall be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and My God shall be My strength), 6      Indeed He says, ‘It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also give You as a light to the Gentiles, that You should be My salvation to the ends of the earth.’ ” Isaiah 49:5–6 (NKJV)

1 Arise, shine; for your light has come! And the glory of the Lord is risen upon you. 2 For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and deep darkness the people; but the Lord will arise over you, and His glory will be seen upon you. 3 The Gentiles shall come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Isaiah 60:1–3 (NKJV)

Salvation came to those outside of ethnic Israel through the Servant above, Jesus. He broke down all the walls and barriers and opened wide the door of salvation to all (Ephesians 2:14-20). The final process is outlined in Romans 9-11. Here Paul lays out that the rejection of the gospel by Israel led to it going to the Gentiles, bringing the light of salvation to the Gentiles. At the same time Paul sees a future where Israel is brought to salvation. He is clearest about this in Romans 11:26-36. This is summarized in 11:26-27 where Paul quotes from Psalms and Isaiah.

26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Romans 11:26–27 (NKJV)

I believe this will be fully fulfilled in the future as prophesied.  

11  It shall come to pass in that day That the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left, from Assyria and Egypt, from Pathros and Cush, from Elam and Shinar, from Hamath and the islands of the sea. 12           He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. Isaiah 11:11–12 (NKJV)

8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the ends of the earth, among them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and the one who labors with child, together; a great throng shall return there. 9   They shall come with weeping, and with supplications I will lead them. I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters, in a straight way in which they shall not stumble; for I am a Father to Israel, and Ephraim is My firstborn.

10 “Hear the word of the Lord, O nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him as a shepherd does his flock.’

God is going to return the people to the land and again open up the fountain of salvation in a national way prior to His return.

And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. Zechariah 12:10

In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. Zechariah 13:1

I pray regularly for these things to fully come to pass and hold to what Jesus said.  

28 Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.” Luke 21:28 (NKJV)

Praying for Israel Part 1

I am providing some teaching on praying for Israel as it is an important but often neglected responsibility the church needs to embrace. I begin with a focus on the why, next I will focus on the how. I recently read a long post someone did on Facebook regarding all the signs of the end times and how we should be prepared for Jesus any moment return. There was not a single word of encouragement there, no faith for the harvest, and nothing regarding Israel. Yet when I look at scripture Isaiah 19:19-25 tells me that before the end there will be a great harvest of souls in Egypt and they will turn to Yahweh and worship Him. That is just one thing that needs to happen prior to Jesus return. While it is a significant pending event, even more significant is the end time role that Israel plays.

We begin with the timing of Jesus return. Psalm 118 was one of the Hallel Psalms sung at Passover. Here is verse 26.

26 Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! We have blessed you from the house of the Lord. Psalm 118:26 (NKJV)

This was viewed as a Messianic Psalm, looking forward to the coming Messiah. The Israelites knew the significance and we see the recognition by the crowd when they proclaim it over Jesus as He enters Jerusalem prior to Passover.

Then the multitudes who went before and those who followed cried out, saying: “Hosanna to the Son of David! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ Hosanna in the highest!” (Matthew 21:9 NKJV)

Thus we have the promise in the Old Testament and the fulfillment in the New Testament. The psalm was about the coming Messiah and the crowd welcomes Jesus as the promised Messiah. This happened as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey. He was welcomed as the messianic deliverer and His next act was to cleanse the temple and declare that it was to be called a ‘house of prayer.’

Jesus then tells a parable about the wicked vineyard keepers which He summarizes by quoting an earlier verse from Psalm 118.  

42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:

‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?

43 “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. (Matthew 21:42-43 NKJV)

Thus far we have the people worshipping and welcoming Jesus as the Messiah, Jesus receiving their praise, then cleansing the temple. Right after that He confronts the religious leaders of the nation over their rejection of Him and says what they thought they had was going to be taken away. We now come to Matthew 23.

33 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? 34 Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city, 35 that on you may come all the righteous blood shed on the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation.

37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! 38 See! Your house is left to you desolate; 39 for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” Matthew 23:33–39 (NKJV)

This is a huge accountability passage. There were always some righteous in the history of national Israel. Yet over and over again the leadership rejected the prophetic voices the Lord sent to them. In referencing Abel to Zechariah Jesus is covering the entire Old Testament period. So we have Jesus pronouncing judgement over their rejection of Him, which in the next chapter leads to His declaration of the destruction of Jerusalem that took place in 70 AD. What is significant is we have an end time timing event woven in here. Jesus publicly declares that even though the people had welcomed Him as the Messiah the leadership of the nation had rejected Him, as they had all the previous prophets. Now judgment was imminent and the nation would not see Him again until the leadership welcomed Him as the Messiah.  

I think the significance of this is generally missed. Many are expecting Jesus to return at any moment and looking for a rapture prior to tribulation. I for one am not. I welcome and look forward to His return. I also recognize that it isn’t going to happen until some other events take place. One is multitudes from Egypt worshipping Him, as I noted at the beginning, but of much more significance is Israel recognizing Him as their long awaited Messiah. So, not matter how much I may long for Jesus to return now, if I want Him to return I would do well to intercede for the salvation of Israel.  

I will take this further in my next post but for now I encourage you to join me in being a watchmen on the wall for Israel and praying for the peace of Jerusalem.

I have set watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem;
They shall never hold their peace day or night.
You who make mention of the Lord, do not keep silent,
And give Him no rest till He establishes
And till He makes Jerusalem a praise in the earth. (Isaiah 62:6-7 NKJV)

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem:
“May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls,
Prosperity within your palaces.” (Psalm 122:6-7)

 (Isaiah 62:6-7Psalm 122:6-7).

Wisdom and Revelation Part 3

We now focus on the application of love motivated wisdom and revelation in our lives. I know in my life I see patterns and connections in scripture, as in the previous two posts. He works this way in my life because one of the things He has called me to do is to teach. He is working in your life based on your gifts and calling. Romans 11:29, referring to the nation of Israel, says God’s gifts and callings are irrevocable. I see this as both a corporate and individual truth. I believe if we are sensitive to His presence there is an internal restlessness and sense of discomfort if we are not fulfilling our calling and purpose. Regarding his own life Paul articulated it this way.

16 For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! 1 Corinthians 9:16 (NKJV)

Paul could do nothing other than fulfill his calling. The Greek word translated as ‘necessity’ means to press, compress or constrain. Paul is referring to an internal driver that he felt he could not turn away from. Thus we have his recognition of the need for Jesus love to motivate him.

14 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; 15 and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. 2 Corinthians 5:14–15 (NKJV)

In Greek the word compel means to ‘hold fast’ or ‘hold together.’ Putting the two passages together Paul is saying he couldn’t do anything other than preach the gospel. Doing so was a necessity on his life and he was held fast and compelled, not by fear of judgment, but of love for the lost. From this place Paul recognized the need to walk in wisdom and revelation to fulfill his debt of love.

Out of the awareness that he carried Paul recognized the need for wisdom and revelation to operate in his life to fulfill his calling. Hence his prayers for the Ephesian believers, and by extension us, all believers of all time, needing these things operating in our lives to fulfill our calling and purpose. I teach because I am internally driven and because I care about people and what happens to them. I want people to know and understand the scriptures. However, these things are needed not just in church settings. When my children were younger I needed His love, wisdom and revelation as a parent. I needed to function in it at my place of work. I still do some mediating part time for small claims court. I pray for His wisdom and revelation in mediating the conflicts of others and I regularly look for opportunities to speak into the lives of others. 

Let’s make a broader application to other gifts and callings. Evangelists need the wisdom to know what to say when and may need words of knowledge to touch lives and open hearts. They also need to share with love. Pastor needs to love the flock and call out for revelation on what to teach when and the wisdom to know how to deliver it. As parents we are called to train up our children. That is not just about giving them a Christian foundation, though that is important, it requires revelation as to their calling and wisdom to know how to train them to walk in their gifts and callings.   

Think of worship leaders and intercessors. Worship leaders impart more to others when they draw their hearts into intimate worship out of their own love for Jesus. Paired with love they need the revelation of what songs to sing, or to write their own. They need the wisdom as to when to release exuberant praise and when to lead us into quiet intimacy. Intercessors are called to lay down their lives in prayer out of love for Jesus and for His people and the lost. They need the wisdom to ground their prayers in the scriptures and the revelation regarding what to focus on when in their intercession. They need to know when to press in and refuse to give up and they need to know when they burden of prayer has lifted and they are released from an assignment. 

These are selected examples to illustrate the importance of wisdom, revelation and love. So some closing thoughts. Know your calling and purpose. If you don’t know it seek His face and the wisdom of godly people you trust. Pray for revelation regarding the scope of your calling. Is it your family, your community your city or beyond? Size is not the indicator of importance or obedience. Susanna Wesley raised 19 children and imparted to them a solid foundation in the truth of scripture. That was her focus. Two of them, John and Charles had a major impact on the Western world. Yet if she had not been found faithful with her gifts and calling we would not have had them. We are all called to seek His heart and faithfully walk out our calling wherever He leads. Let’s seek wisdom and revelation and desire to walk in love.

Wisdom and Revelation Part 2

In my last post I referenced Paul’s two great apostolic prayers in Ephesians and focused on the place of wisdom and revelation in his prayer from Ephesians 1. We now shift our focus to his great prayer from Ephesians 3.  

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14–19 (NKJV)

We will come to the importance of love and the significant connection to discernment but first we examine how Paul began this prayer, “For this reason.” Prior to launching into his prayer Paul was laying out God’s purpose for the church, of which we are part. Here is how Paul presented our purpose and the reason for his prayer.

10 to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places, 11 according to the eternal purpose which He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord, Ephesians 3:10–11 (NKJV)

Our Father has an eternal purpose to accomplish through the church! That means we can wake up each morning looking forward to our part in accomplishing His eternal purpose in the earth! After all Paul said that is what Jesus wants to do through us and he was explicit in Ephesians 6:12 that our battle is with the dark forces in heavenly places.

This is where love comes in. You are likely familiar with Paul’s discussion of the role of spiritual gifts in 1 Corinthians 12 and 14 and how he inserts chapter 13, the love chapter, in between 12 and 14 to show that love needs to be the motivating factor in the exercise of spiritual gifts. Not our weak human love, His love. Hence Paul’s prayer for us to corporately encounter His love in an overwhelming way.

In Philippians’ Paul makes a further point. He explicitly connects His love in us to the depth of our discernment and reinforces what Jesus told us about being like our Father and loving our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48).

And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, 10 that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, 11 being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9–11 (NKJV)

The more we are filled with His love, the deeper our discernment and the more able we are to function effectively in our calling to demonstrate His wisdom in the heavenly realms to the forces of darkness we battle. We can do this every day by living with a kingdom perspective knowing that the King desires to reveal His love to us and through us.

Let’s join in and ask for the wisdom and revelation to live out of this great prayer in Ephesians 3!

Wisdom and Revelation Part 1

About thirty years ago, yes I am getting old, I wrote an article about the importance of Ephesians as a template for the end time church. I still believe that. While I won’t cover all the areas here, I will focus in on Paul’s two great apostolic prayers in chapters 1 and 3. In chapter 1 Paul focuses on the need for ongoing wisdom and revelation to know the Father’s heart and in chapter 3 he focuses on the need for a strengthened inner being to be able to know Jesus love in an experiential way.

We start with Paul’s two prayers.

17 that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, Ephesians 1:17 (NKJV)

14 For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, 15 from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, 16 that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, 17 that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height – 19 to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14–19 (NKJV)

To begin delving into these verses a couple of points need to be made. Paul was praying that the Ephesian believers would have experiences he had already had. He wasn’t presenting a theory. Secondly, his message and prayers were for a corporate body. He wanted the congregation to have these encounters.

To understand Paul’s prayer for wisdom and revelation it is helpful to see the importance of each. They can be compared to the gifts of a word of knowledge and a word of wisdom in 1 Corinthians 12:7-8. Most people that I know who embrace the spiritual gifts for today place a high value on words of knowledge. A revelation of something about an individual. Note however that Paul places wisdom first. The significance is that revelation is a ‘what’ while wisdom is a ‘how.’ Think of it as going to the doctor and receiving an accurate diagnosis but no treatment. If I have an undiagnosed affliction it is helpful to know what it is, it is even more helpful to know how to treat it.

I will share an example. A few years ago in a small group I was helping to lead I had a sense that a young lady had a prophetic gift that needed to be released (revelation). I took my friend Ivan and explained what I sensed and asked if we could pray for this gift to be released in her. She had no grid for what I was sharing but was open. We prayed for a prophetic release then I asked her to join us in praying for someone else, which we did. I then asked if she had received anything. She said no. I sensed she had so asked her to simply share what was on her heart. She did and gave very accurate details about the other person’s life.

In breaking this encounter down further there was revelation, a what, about something inherent in her but not yet released or activated. The wisdom came in both praying for the release of the gift followed by an opportunity to exercise it and see it released. Paul knew that on an ongoing basis we as the church needed to know both what and how to fulfill Jesus calling and purpose, in every age. Hence his prayer.

In our present hour there is much that is happening politically and culturally. We need wisdom and revelation to navigate what is taking place within the church and our culture. However, to do this effectively we also need to walk in the love that Paul prayed for in Ephesians 3. I will cover that in my next post.

Living out of Scripture

In Proverbs we are told that hope deferred leads to faintness of heart. In Hebrews we are told that faith brings substance to our hope.

12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick, But when the desire comes, it is a tree of life. Proverbs 13:12 (NKJV)

1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 (NKJV)

We can look at this pithy proverb and conclude that Solomon is merely letting us know that we can get excited when we receive what we want after initial disappointment. Alternatively we could go a little deeper, which I will do here. If we have been alive any length of time we have experienced disappointment, the sense of loss when we failed to realize something we desired. Whether tied to relationships, material things, a job opportunity or a myriad of other examples, the end result is we are negatively affected by how we feel as a result.

Hope deferred needs to be acknowledged and dealt with if we are to get to the substance of things hoped for. That means facing pain or loss so that we can move past it. While this is important on an individual level, it is deeply significant on a cultural scale. Let’s look at the situation when Israel was living in a state of ‘hope deferred.’ When Jesus appeared on the scene they had no actual control over their own nation and were functionally a province of Rome. Look at the verses below.

20 He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ.” 21 And they asked him, “What then? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?”  And he answered, “No.”

22 Then they said to him, “Who are you, that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?”

23 He said: “I am ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Make straight the way of the Lord,”’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

24 Now those who were sent were from the Pharisees. 25 And they asked him, saying, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?” 26 John answered them, saying, “I baptize with water, but there stands One among you whom you do not know. John 1:20–26 (NKJV)

There are a few things here. The religious leaders, in fact the nation, was expecting the Messiah, a deliverer as promised in scripture. The Old Testament had closed with a promise of Elijah coming (Malachi 4:5-6). This Elijah figure was to prepare the way for the Lord (Isaiah 40:3). The delegation from the Pharisees asked John why he was baptizing if he was not the Christ (Messiah in Hebrew), Elijah or the Prophet. They expected a Messiah King (see Psalm 110 for example) and a Prophet like Moses to lead them (Deuteronomy 18:15-19, Acts 3:22-24). They did this while not recognizing that the Messiah and Prophet were one person.  

They were living in hope deferred when Jesus arrived on the scene. What is significant for us is John’s statement, ‘there stands One among you whom you do not know.’ The answer to their hopes and dreams was there. He had been living among them for three decades and now was about to be revealed in power.

Perhaps some of you are like me. I have been living in an expectation of a significant move of the Spirit for decades. I am too young to have experienced the Jesus movement and too old to wait decades longer! I have been to many conferences. I remember over a decade ago going to one promoted with great promise. I was deeply disappointed in what actually took place but when I read the subsequent write up describing the conference I said to a friend, “I wish I had been there.” I remember going to a conference in another country in 2008 with my wife. What took place at one point was described as ‘revival.’ There were some very good things that happened at the conference but after experiencing some of what was described as revival I said to some friends that if that was where the church was going I didn’t want to be part of the church!

I won’t belabour my point. I have also over the years had deep and profound encounters with Jesus among His people, yet nothing that I would describe as revival, and I have studied a number of them. I have like many lived in hope deferred concerning a significant move of the Spirit. Now I have far fewer years ahead of me than behind me so I look more closely. This leads me to ask some questions. Is revival now standing among us? Is what many of us have interceded for among us and we do not yet see it? Are there indicators and signs? I don’t want more reports of something happening elsewhere, I want to be one giving reports of what is happening among us. I want vision like Elijah to see a great outpouring in a cloud the size of a man’s hand.

My present response? I continue to pray and look for revival and cultural transformation. At the same time I need to live out of what He has spoken to me. In the fall of 1995 while praying with some friends He spoke to my heart and said, “It is required in stewards that one be found faithful” (1 Corinthians 4:2). So I seek to do that. I want revival but I can’t make it happen and He has His timing. Jesus came in the fullness of time and I believe the coming move of the Spirit that so many have prophesied for decades will come. What can I do while I wait? What can you do? Be found faithful. I know His relationship with me isn’t dependent on revival. It depends on my willingness to draw near to His heart on a daily basis. So while I wait for a hope deferred I can also live in the substance of continued intimacy with Jesus and knowing His heart. I can live out of something else He spoke to me decades ago, “In quietness and confidence shall be your strength” (from Isaiah 30:15). Reflecting on what He has done and spoken while waiting for more brings my heart to a place of peace and rest with the one who stands among us. Please join me in that state.  

Shifting the Burden

Back in 1990/91 I read a book by Peter Senge called the Fifth Discipline. I have reread parts many times and focused on it in my major paper on leadership when I did my Master’s degree as I found it to be a very significant book. His focus is on the broad application of Systems Theory, more particularly in a business context. In my career I also studied Family Systems theory and decades ago in a theology course discovered that Systems Theory goes back to the early Greeks and predates Christianity. Systems theory looks at patterns that play out over time and the interrelationships between the different parts of a system that lead to these interactions.

One of the tenets of Family Systems theory is that all behaviour is positively intended, similar to the idea that people are doing the best they can with what they have. I believe neither of those tenets as life experience, history, and most importantly scripture, demonstrate them to be false. However it is clear to me that all behaviour is goal directed. Knowingly or unknowingly we are trying to accomplish something through our efforts.

Given our behaviour is goal directed I want to look at a behaviour that Senge describes as “Shifting the Burden.” The idea in shifting the burden is that we put our efforts into managing symptoms rather than addressing the real problem. Shifting the burden is a behaviour that tends to exacerbate the original problem and it shows up all through scripture. We see it in Genesis 3 when Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent and the serpent has no one to blame. In fact Adam blames both Eve and God when in Genesis 3:12 he refers to ‘the woman You gave me.’

Another example of the pattern is with Ahab and Jezebel in 1 Kings 16 and on. Ahab worships Baal and marries Jezebel, who also worships false gods. How does Ahab respond when he sees the prophet Elijah who has confronted his idolatry?

17 Then it happened, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said to him, “Is that you, O troubler of Israel?” 18 And he answered, “I have not troubled Israel, but you and your father’s house have, in that you have forsaken the commandments of the Lord and have followed the Baals.” 1 Kings 18:17–18 (NKJV)

Ahab shifts the burden and blames Elijah rather than acknowledging his own culpability. Later in 1 Kings 21 Ahab pouts because Naboth refuses to sell him his ancestral land containing a vineyard that Ahab wants. So Jezebel schemes to have Naboth killed so Ahab can take possession of the vineyard. Elijah confronts their evil and pronounces judgment on both of them. Nowhere in the story do Ahab or Jezebel ever take responsibility for their behaviour. It is always someone else who is the problem.  

Every time we shift the burden we exacerbate the problem and drive the roots deeper. Our goal in shifting the burden is to avoid responsibility or avoid dealing with the consequences of our behaviour. We have two types of issues, sins of omission and sins of commission. One is not doing the right thing and the other is doing the wrong thing. In either case the burden of responsibility rests in the wrong place. Those of us engaging in commission or omission need to step up. When we fail to do so we allow sin to infect or affect our lives and the lives of others. Hence it is systemic.  

The key to change in this area if it is an issue in our lives, home or work culture is to turn to and address roots not fruits. A good example of addressing the roots is Jesus messages to the seven churches in the first chapters of Revelation. Jesus speaks to some symptoms but then addresses the roots. Here is one example.

20 Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols. 21 And I gave her time to repent of her sexual immorality, and she did not repent. 22 Indeed I will cast her into a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of their deeds. 23 I will kill her children with death, and all the churches shall know that I am He who searches the minds and hearts. And I will give to each one of you according to your works. Revelation 2:20–23 (NKJV)

The fruit here is sexual immorality and false worship. Jesus addresses the issue and His main concern is not the behaviour of Jezebel. It is the behaviour of the rest of the church. He says, ‘you allow that woman.’ The NASB says ‘tolerate’ rather than allow. The word can also be translated as ‘permit.’ In essence Jesus was telling the church in Thyatira that the root of their problem was allowing this behaviour in their midst as they gave blatant sin permission to operate. He was also clear that if they didn’t deal with the problem He would. Note, the issue of ‘Jezebel’ operating in the church isn’t about gender. It is about people allowing themselves to be led astray to false worship through seduction and manipulation.

A final example that addresses the same behaviour as the problem in Thyatira takes place in Corinth. Paul writes the following.

1 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly – and indeed you do bear with me. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it! 2 Corinthians 11:1–4 (NKJV)

Paul’s concern is the Corinthians being deceived. What opens the door to deception? Putting up with something they should not be tolerating. If we read all of 2 Corinthians we discover that some in the church were challenging Paul’s authority and apostleship, instead of testing and rejecting false teachers they shift the burden to Paul. He responds by speaking to the root. Their tolerance and acceptance of falsehood.

Given the current state of the church in North America this is a major issue. Much of the church tolerates false teaching because it is comfortable. The most outrageous example I recently encountered was something posted in an Apologetics Facebook I follow. A story was posted of a recent church plant in San Diego with a couple who co-pastor. They claim to preach the gospel but the husband is in business and seems to be promoting hype rather than truth. His wife is in an ‘actress’ in the ‘adult entertainment’ industry. A fancy euphemism for the pornography industry. I thought it was a joke, sadly it isn’t. Yet they claim to be “Christians.” Just like in Thyatira however, I think the issue is the congregation. They have shifted the responsibility for discernment elsewhere and have abandoned any commitment to the scriptures.

In this current season in the church let’s embrace the burden of following truth and reality by taking to heart Jude’s exhortation.

Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. Jude 3 (NKJV)