New Wine for New Wineskins May 2009

By , April 29, 2009 8:45 am

Let the Weak Speak

 

 Part 9 – Noah – Learning to Say No! (2)

 

 

Remember – God’s plan is for us to be signs and wonders and to be the most exciting thing that is going on wherever we are!  The power of the Holy Spirit that Jesus was anointed with is no longer limited to one person or restricted to one geographical location! 

Isaiah 8: 18

18 Here am I and the children whom the LORD has given me!
We are for signs and wonders in Israel
From the LORD of hosts,
Who dwells in Mount Zion.

And our foundation scripture for this series – Let The Weak Speak! 

Joel 3: 9 – 10

9 Proclaim this among the nations:
“Prepare for war!
Wake up the mighty men,
Let all the men of war draw near,
Let them come up.
10 Beat your plowshares into swords
And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’”

There are many voices in the earth competing for our attention.  There have never been so many ways to bombard people with messages and the enemy of our souls exploits them all in order to expose the weakness of our flesh and bring us under his control.  That is why we must tune into the voice of the Holy Spirit – the Spirit of Truth – who comes to lead us through the minefield of temptation and keep us free from the consequences of sin.  Although our flesh is weak our spirit is willing to hear and apply what the Holy Spirit is saying to the church, and so it is essential that we not only tune in personally and individually but also corporately as a church because none of us is an island and the effect of sin rarely stops at one person.

Genesis 9: 20

20 And Noah began to be a farmer, and he planted a vineyard. 21 Then he drank of the wine and was drunk, and became uncovered in his tent. 22 And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brothers outside…24 So Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done to him. 25 Then he said: “ Cursed be Canaan; a servant of servants he shall be to his brethren.”

We have been looking at the effects of not saying, “NO FLESH!” in the life of someone who has achieved success in a lifetime of saying’ “YES, LORD!”  Remember – we are not talking about out and out charlatans here who have infiltrated the church with the deliberate intent of exploiting and manipulating God’s people for their own dishonest gain.  We are talking about the ‘good guys’ who sometimes get caught up and intoxicated on the fruit of their own success and so their ability to say, “NO, FLESH” is seriously impaired and their weakness and their  nakedness is exposed.

Jesus saw this in the church and this is how he addressed it:

Revelation 3: 17 – 22

17 Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing’—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked— 18 I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. 19 As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. 20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. 21 To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne.
22 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”

Remember – the blessing is contained in the word of God and we walk in the blessing by faith.  The blessing can become a curse when we don’t learn to say, “NO, FLESH!”  It was Noah’s inability to recognise his weakness and say, “NO, FLESH!” that caused him to succumb to the temptation to get drunk, and it was also Ham’s inability to deal with the weakness of his flesh that prevented him from saying, “NO, FLESH!” that turned the blessing of God into a curse for the generations after him. 

Any desire that we have to expose the sin or shortcomings of someone else and uncover their nakedness simply exposes a weakness in our own flesh.  Sadly, too many people in the church are looking for something in other people’s lives that they can pull them down with rather than lift them up with!  There is a mistaken and deceptive understanding prevalent in the church that we somehow have something to gain by removing someone else.  This is not the heart of God! 

Proverbs 10: 12; 17: 9

12 Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all sins….9 He who covers a transgression seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates friends. 

LET THE WEAK SAY, “I AM STRONG!”

It is important that we remember that all church discipline is designed to be redemptive.  When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth regarding their lax attitude towards the man who was sleeping with his mother-in-law he reproved them for not dealing with it.  In a sense their attitude was similar to a recent incident that attracted media interest when a well-known preacher returned to the pulpit after being arrested for assaulting his wife and was greeted by the congregation with a round of applause.  However, later on when this man in Corinth had repented Paul wrote to the church again and instructed them to welcome him back into fellowship.  For many people the second letter would be much harder to follow through on than the first.  Similarly, in the case of the wife beating preacher, his even more well-known preacher spouse stands to make a big deal out of the fact she can now identify with all the other victims of domestic abuse and so her experience will probably be broadcast over and over at convention after convention and conference after conference.

Again, this is not God’s heart!  God doesn’t want us to get bitter – he wants us to get better!  Any negative experiences that expose the weakness of our flesh can be turned into strength if we bring them to the place of Divine exchange!  But we must leave them there!  We must receive God’s strength that will enable us to bless those who curse us!

Some time ago something began to stir in my spirit concerning the way that the church too often deals with the exposure of the nakedness of the ‘good guys’ who have experienced failure.  

Galatians 6: 1 – 3 (The Message)

1-3 Live creatively, friends. If someone falls into sin, forgivingly restore him, saving your critical comments for yourself. You might be needing forgiveness before the day's out. Stoop down and reach out to those who are oppressed. Share their burdens, and so complete Christ's law. If you think you are too good for that, you are badly deceived.

Whatever side we find ourselves on – whether we are the one who is sinning or the one who is called to forgive and restore – we all must learn to say, “YES, LORD!” and “NO FLESH!”  The flesh loves an opportunity to expose someone else’s shame.  The wicked spirit of gossip feeds on the misfortune and failure of others.

LET THE WEAK SAY, “I AM STRONG!”

2 Timothy 3: 16 – 17

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

1 Timothy 5: 19 – 20

19 Do not receive an accusation against an elder except from two or three witnesses.
20 Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.

Romans 7: 20

20 Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.

Galatians 2: 19 – 21

19 For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. 21 I do not set aside the grace of God; for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.

It has troubled me for a long time that when prominent leaders in the church have had moral failures they have been immediately discarded by the church and there have been stones thrown by those who obviously consider themselves to be worthy of the task.

When Jesus was confronted with the woman who had been caught in the act of adultery I personally believe that he wrote on the ground what he had written on the tablets of the law – “You shall not commit adultery”.  It is written and it is not up for debate.  God doesn’t lower his standard to accommodate our sin – he invites us to come up out of sin and live by his standard!

This woman didn’t come to Jesus and confess her sin – she was caught in the act!  She was completely at his mercy with no ground for appeal.  She made no attempt to justify her actions and in so doing acknowledged her guilt.  However, in this courtroom she was granted an unconditional pardon and was sent on her way with a brand new opportunity to live a brand new life in a brand new way – free from the destructive effects of sin.

When someone in the church is caught with their proverbial trousers down it is right to bring the word of God and reaffirm the standard.  But where there is no attempt at self-justification and an acknowledgment of guilt they should receive the same measure of mercy as Jesus showed the adulterous woman. 

Obviously, more is expected from someone who is in a position of authority, but it is also true that such a person is generally more prone to attack and the subtleties of temptation.

Have we possibly created an environment in the church where we only want to see the strength of our leaders – where the outwardly strong are promoted – but woe betide them if a weakness appears.  This is unhealthy and unrealistic in a fallen world full of fallen, weak people.  If we are not encouraged to bring our weakness into the light then we can never access the strength and the support systems of encouragement, counsel and accountability that God designed the church to provide.

A number of years ago a very prominent TV evangelist was exposed in the international media for moral failure.  When he was asked why he hadn’t sought help for his weakness he replied that he felt that there was nobody he could go to.  At the time I misunderstood what he was saying and thought that he considered himself to be so above everyone else that he couldn’t humble himself in  confessing his weakness to anyone.  However, I have since come to believe that he was actually highlighting the fact that there is no allowance made in the church for weakness manifesting in the lives of leaders.  In our celebrity culture we have elevated many of those in ministry to such a level that at the first sign of weakness there is only one way to go and that is down.   Paul called such exaltation of individual ministers carnal.  Carnality breeds carnality and so the excessive exaltation of those in ministry can create an atmosphere where falling becomes easier.

And so, back to the woman caught in the act of adultery.  We can only imagine the anger and self-righteousness that later would have arisen in the hearts of those who had been this woman’s accusers, and how bitter they would have felt against Jesus’ thwarting their right to stone her.

Sadly, not a lot has changed in people’s attitudes today.  It is no wonder that many experience a lonely struggle against sin in the dark when they are aware that to confess their sin would probably result in their being pilloried and hung out to dry.

How many good leaders have been lost to the church because there was no opportunity presented to them to “go and sin no more”.  The power of sin is broken when it is brought out of the dark and under the spotlight of God’s word.  It is at this point that deliverance can come and restoration take place.  But sadly, the church has often failed to do what Jesus did and so many ministries, gifts, and callings have been lost to the church.  Leaders who have built good churches and ministries and blessed and helped many people are dropped like a hot potato and denied the help and the grace and mercy that they have extended to others.  Is it any wonder that a lot of fallen leaders become bitter?

1 John 1: 5 – 10

5 This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. 6 If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. 7 But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.  8 If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. 9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives.

James 5: 13 – 16

13 Is any one of you in trouble? He should pray. Is anyone happy? Let him sing songs of praise. 14 Is any one of you sick? He should call the elders of the church to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise him up. If he has sinned, he will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

If we could live in the reality of this then perhaps the fall-out from moral failures would not be so devastating and far-reaching and the world would see us looking after our own instead of throwing them to the wolves!  After all, did Jesus not say…

John 13: 34 – 35


34 A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

 
The action of Noah’s son in exposing his father’s sin resulted in a curse being placed on his descendants.  Has the church had a curse released against it through it’s failure to cover sin in a proper and scriptural manner?  Love does not ignore or condone sin but it does seek to cover sin until such a time as healing and deliverance can come.  Jesus said that it is the merciful who are blessed in receiving mercy.

Am I saying that there should be no disciplinary and restoration process?  Absolutely not!  That would contradict the clear direction given us in Scripture.  What I am saying is that sometimes we need a closer grip on the Scriptural guidelines so that we don’t yield like Ham to the temptation to go on a full-frontal attack to expose the sin of the fallen, but like Shem and Japheth we go in backwards and cover the person – not the sin – with a fresh commitment to love them through the restoration process! 

Galatians 6: 1

1 Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted.   
 

Remember – the only antidote for the curse is the blessing – the supernatural strength we receive when we come acknowledging and willing to exchange our weakness!

And so, the lesson we can learn from the life of Noah is two-fold.  Firstly, following a lifetime of saying, “YES, LORD!” and having achieved a measure of success we must always be diligent to say, “NO, FLESH!” to the temptation to get drunk on the fruit of our success leading to a  lowering of our inhibitions and so causing us to abandon God’s standard, and overlook social, moral, and legal considerations.

Secondly, we need to learn to say, “YES, LORD!” to the love and mercy and grace of God that doesn’t excuse sin but does go in backwards like Shem and Japheth to cover our fallen brethren so that there is no temptation to benefit from the failure of another.  And we must learn to say, “NO, FLESH” to the self-righteous and judgemental spirit that would exploit someone else’s shame in order to make ourselves look better!

Are you ready to come to the place of Divine exchange?  Remember – none of us are strong enough in our own strength to make it!  We all need to come and exchange our weakness for his supernatural strength that can enable us to say, “YES, LORD!” and “NO, FLESH!”

IT IS TIME TO LET THE WEAK SPEAK! LET THE WEAK SAY, “I AM STRONG!”

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