New Wine for New Wineskins May 2017

By , May 1, 2017 9:42 pm

iBelieveLogoSilver01iBelieve (Part 3)

John 3: 16

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.

The Message

16 This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life.

Several years ago the Lord gave me a word regarding relaunching the church on the right side of Pentecost.

It is my belief that most of the failures we experience in the life of faith are a result of not fully completing the transition in our understanding from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant.

It is possible to slip back into what is more like an Old Covenant model of church than a New Covenant model. The Old Covenant model had a separate priesthood, and was focused mainly on the Temple and other buildings. The New Covenant model announced the priesthood of all believers, and there was also a shift among the new disciples as they met not only in the Temple but also from house to house.

The church has also often created a culture where people become accustomed to being carried, but in the beginning the church was a community of carriers. The church has developed a ghetto system where folks continue to be carried within the church’s sub-culture as it focuses most of its efforts on ministering to believers, while becoming less and less relevant to the culture outside of its walls. This ministry takes place mainly in specialised buildings but can also happen in house churches which are sometimes even more inwardly focused and can be virtually invisible to the outside world.

Too often a good church is defined as one which will minister most effectively and comprehensively to my needs and the needs of my family rather than one that will equip both me and my family to be ministers and prepare us for the opportunities to minister to others that we will encounter in our everyday lives. This is very far from the model presented by the early church who made vast leaps forward in advancing across their known world with the gospel of the kingdom.

Have you ever heard it said that it is wrong to believe God for material things? This is one of the reasons that what has been termed the prosperity gospel has received such a bad press in large sections of the church. But the reality is that there only is one gospel and it is a prosperity gospel. Jesus kicked off his ministry by announcing that he was anointed to preach good news to the poor. Simply put, that is a prosperity gospel as good news for a poor person is the promise of a positive change in their circumstances. Our Father’s heart is to see us prosper, in fact he states quite categorically that his plans are always to prosper us. His word tells us that he takes delight in our prosperity.

Only believe.

And so I want to encourage you that it is okay to believe for, and to have an expectation to receive material things. The enemy has infiltrated the church with a lie that says that asking for things is bad. He has labeled this as materialism, and has somehow succeeded in presenting it as the opposite of spirituality. Always beware of ‘isms’ because they are designed to create schisms. In some places poverty has even been sanctified when the truth is that it is a manifestation of the curse. How can this be? Our Father created all things in this material world and everything he created he declared to be good. He created all of the materials that things are made from and he said it is good. We need to understand that things are not the enemy. The enemy is the enemy and he can exploit anything as a weapon against us. There are times when something can be either a stumbling block or a stepping stone, can be a distraction or give direction, can be an assignment from the enemy or an asset for the kingdom. It all depends upon your level of maturity. For example, to children a sofa is a climbing frame and a bed is a trampoline. To a child everything can become a toy and everywhere a playground, including things and places that could be potentially very dangerous like a busy road or a railway line, etc.

In the years since becoming a believer I have heard over and over again from people and movements that they want a church that is restored to the Book of Acts model. They usually mean a church where there is supernatural activity and lots of power encounters. However, I don’t recall hearing many folks saying that they would like to see a return to a place where everyone has everything in common. Please understand that by that I don’t mean an artificially created and enforced sharing of everything in communal living, but a willingness to meet the needs of others from our own resources. The first believers used their surplus of things to advance the kingdom and to redress the imbalance that existed between the haves and the have nots. I am talking about what is described in the New Covenant accounts of what took place among the first believers when nobody clung selfishly to what they considered as their own when they saw someone else in need.

Listen to how James puts it.

James 2: 14 – 17

14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

The Message

14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

A few years ago I heard the phrase “Practical Atheist ” for the first time.  Apparently this refers to someone who claims to believe in God and yet lives as though he doesn’t exist. Most believers if you ask them will tell you that they believe everything God says. But the Greek words for believe (verb – pisteuo) and faith (noun – pistis) mean pretty much the same thing and in most cases you could translate them interchangeably.

For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son that whoever has faith in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life….(John 3: 16)

But to him who does not work but believes [from pisteuo] on Him who justifies the ungodly, his believing [pistis] is accounted for righteousness…. (Romans 4: 5)

So if we are living by faith we will live what we believe. However, I have noticed that different folks stop believing (applying what God says in their daily lives) at different places. It can be quite obvious sometimes in regards to healing or prosperity. And so, at the stage that they stop living according to what God says they could be termed a practical atheist.

Faith (or believing) is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things (Greek = pragma) not seen.

pragmatist = a person who is guided more by practical considerations than by ideals.

It seems to me that Jesus was a pragmatist. Religion places dogma over pragma but Jesus placed pragma over dogma when he acted according to the spirit of the law rather than the rigid letter of the law as demanded by the Pharisees, like in the situation with the woman caught in adultery. Paul said that the letter kills but the Spirit gives life.

Scripture is clear that the sun shines and the rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous. Our Father is an equal opportunity God. But sunshine and rain are for the harvest, and so if you don’t sow seed the sunshine and the rain will not benefit you.The righteous sow kingdom seeds that bring a kingdom harvest. If you hold on to your seed or play with your seed you will never see a harvest. Remember the parable of the talents (Matthew 25). Let’s say one guy got five grand, one guy got two grand, and one guy got a grand. The guy with the five invested it and gained another five, the guy with the two invested it and gained another two, but the guy with the one hung on to it and buried it. What did Jesus have to say about that?

Matthew 25: 24 – 30

24 “Then the servant with the one grand came and said, ‘Master, I knew you were a harsh man, harvesting crops you didn’t plant and gathering crops you didn’t cultivate. 25 I was afraid I would lose your money, so I hid it in the earth. Look, here is your money back.’ 26 “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, 27 why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ 28 “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten grand. 29 To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. 30 Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth….’

Abraham simply believed that God wanted to bless him and so that qualified and equipped him to be a blessing. All he had to do was let go of the supposed security and the old way of doing things represented by Ur of the Chaldees. It stands to reason that the more you are blessed the more of a blessing you can be. That is why we should expect with active and aggressive expectancy to be blessed. If you grew up in a poor family then you know what it was like to wish for things that never materialised and to hear the anthem of the impoverished parent, “we can’t afford it.” Over time we were trained to not expect too much. We would look at the kids from more well off families with envy as they seemed to get everything they wanted. We would hear our parents talk about how these rich kids were spoiled but we just saw them as blessed. We need to understand that we are no longer part of a poor family with a Father who can’t give us what we want because he can’t afford it. Jesus actually told us that we can expect an abundance of the very best things if we ask our Father for them. It is actually okay to expect too much. How does exceedingly abundantly above all that you can ask or think or imagine sound?

The bottom line is that the only basis for receiving anything from God is believing that he loves you. That is why Jesus said that the first thing he is anointed to do in the context of preaching good news to the poor is to heal the broken-hearted by reconciling us with our heavenly Father. If we ever need proof of how much God loves us we just have to look to Jesus.

Romans 8: 32

32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?

You have probably heard or even used the Christian cliche that it’s okay to have things as long as things don’t have you. Sometimes this language is used to try and justify a guilty conscience in regard to having nice stuff. I would like to say that it’s not just okay but it is actually right and proper to actively and aggressively expect to have an abundance of good things. The greater the surplus of good things that you have the better equipped you are to bless others from that surplus.

Acts 4: 33 – 35

33 And with great power the apostles gave witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus. And great grace was upon them all. 34 Nor was there anyone among them who lacked; for all who were possessors of land(s) or house(s) sold them, and brought the proceeds of the things that were sold, 35 and laid them at the apostles’ feet; and they distributed to each as anyone had need….

Note the plural regarding houses and lands. These people weren’t leaving themselves homeless and destitute of personal property because that would be foolishness. They were blessing others from their abundance. The more things that we have the more things we can give.  Problems only arise when our sweaty little hands close around our things and we say, “that’s mine.” That is a maturity issue. As I said earlier, children see everything as a toy, whereas adults can distinguish between a toy and a tool. For children things are toys for playing with or on with little regard for any damage their misuse might cause. For the more mature things are tools for higher uses and purposes. And so we can get a bit upset when we see children misusing what we see as a tool and treating it like a toy.  How much more upset does our heavenly Father get, I wonder?

If you are immature as a believer you will see everything that your Father has blessed you with as a toy for you to play with. You will want a church that pampers you and ministers to your every need and then you will go home and play with your toys. Your house will be a toy, your car will be a toy, and all of your other possessions will be toys. If anyone else gets too close to your toys your inner child will rise up and say, “that’s mine.”

Listen to what Paul said in the great love chapter.

1 Corinthians 13: 11

11 When I was a child, I spoke as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things….

Donnie Stewart Paraphrase

11 When I was a child, I asked for more toys, I saw everything as a toy, I thought everything was a toy; but when I grew up I began to see things as tools….

I had a dream a few months ago in which I was reminded of the importance of having things, good things, the best things, things that can be employed as tools in the advancement of the kingdom. I woke up and my daily reading that day was in Zechariah chapter one where I read:

Zechariah 1: 16 – 17

16 ‘Therefore thus says the Lord: “I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,” says the Lord of hosts, “And a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.”’ 17 “Again proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; The Lord will again comfort Zion, And will again choose Jerusalem.”’”

The house of God is the church of the living God, a city set on a hill that cannot be hidden. If the church is to spread we need prosperity to provide the tools. Houses, land, buildings, vehicles, etc. are all kingdom tools.

If you haven’t quite grasped your role in the kingdom and are still looking to the church to carry you, you will see the house of God and your own house as your own personal playgrounds. You will play at church and you will play at home. But it is children who play at church and who play at houses. The mature know that your house and your vehicle and all of your possessions are tools to help get the job done, the job of reaching those on the outside. God is not interested in our religious games no matter how super-spiritual they might appear.

Isaiah 58: 6 – 7

6 “Is this not the fast that I have chosen: to loose the bonds of wickedness, to undo the heavy burdens, to let the oppressed go free, and that you break every yoke? 7 Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and that you bring to your house the poor who are cast out; when you see the naked, that you cover him, and not hide yourself from your own flesh?

Before Catriona and I got married we determined that our house would be a kingdom tool. That commitment allowed New Wine Church to begin in our house. Also, while our children were growing up we almost always had at least one non-family member living with us as a part of our family. And so, as a result of employing our house as a kingdom tool, I always assumed that we would be making disciples who would follow our example and that there would soon be lots of houses that were kingdom tools. But when the church is still operating in old covenant mode it is only those recognised as the official priesthood that are expected to do these things. That is why it is important to recognise that everything changed at Pentecost and that is why it is vital that the church be relaunched on the right side of Pentecost with the restoration of the priesthood of all believers. Is your house a kingdom tool? Is it a hospitality tool? It’s interesting that hospitality is an extension of hospital. Do you know how much healing there can be in just simply inviting someone who is broken into your house?

I will finish with this reminder of how the church functions on the right side of Pentecost.

Acts 2: 40 – 47

40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptised; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

Only believe.

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