New Wine for New Wineskins February 2018

By , February 1, 2018 7:00 am

happynewyear008Crossing Over (Part 2)

5778 / 2018 – The Year of Rebuilding.

5777 / 2017 was a year for responding to God’s call to come up into a place of maturity where we are ready to not only reproduce but to take responsibility for what we reproduce. Fathers who raise sons and disciples who make disciples as we begin to take seriously and enter into and fulfil the commission that we have been given.

Matthew 28: 18 – 20

18 Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

Jesus lived among us for 33 years and he demonstrated for us – particularly during his 3 and a half years of public ministry –  what a mature son of God looks like. Jesus said that anyone who had seen him had seen the Father, and so a mature son of God looks like the Father. It is the Father’s ultimate purpose for all of us to be conformed to the image of his son, to become like Jesus, to become like our Father in heaven.

Romans 8: 29

29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.

We can never fully understand the purpose of God for man unless we go right back to the beginning and where it all started. Bible scholars refer to something that is variously called “the covenant of creation” or “the cultural mandate” or “the cultural commission” or “the dominion mandate”.

Genesis 1: 28

28 Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

God commissioned man to advance his kingdom by bringing his kingdom influence to all of the surrounding culture. But to understand better what this means you have to back up a couple of verses.

Genesis 1: 26 – 28

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”  27 So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

God said let us make man in our image and according to our likeness.

Every parent wants to hear that their children are like them. You hear people say things like, “He is the image of his father,” and if you look at the father at that point you will generally see a very happy man beaming with pride. The Father’s declaration over Jesus was: “This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”

Since the fall of man God has sought to communicate his holiness and what it looks like to be holy because it has always been his purpose for us to be like him – to be holy as he is holy.

Numbers 15: 37 – 41

37 Again the Lord spoke to Moses, saying,  38 “Speak to the children of Israel: Tell them to make tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and to put a blue thread in the tassels of the corners.  39 And you shall have the tassel, that you may look upon it and remember all the commandments of the Lord and do them, and that you may not follow the harlotry to which your own heart and your own eyes are inclined,  40 and that you may remember and do all My commandments, and be holy for your God.  41 I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, to be your God: I am the Lord your God.”

1 Peter 2: 9

9 But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.

Last time we looked at the confusion that can often exist in the church regarding call and commission. The call is always to come and to be with him, to spend time in his presence, to learn from him, and to become like him.

Matthew 11: 28 – 30

28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened (labour and are heavy laden), and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

God’s heart is for us to be conformed to the image of his son so that he might have many sons who look and act just like Jesus, who are the image of their Father.

As I said last time, this conforming is the result of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit that takes place in the context of a life of worship.

Romans 12: 1 – 2

1 I appeal to you therefore, brethren, and beg of you in view of [all] the mercies of God, to make a decisive dedication of your bodies [presenting all your members and faculties] as a living sacrifice, holy (devoted, consecrated) and well pleasing to God, which is your reasonable (rational, intelligent) service and spiritual worship. 2 Do not be conformed to this world (this age), [fashioned after and adapted to its external, superficial customs], but be transformed (changed) by the [entire] renewal of your mind [by its new ideals and its new attitude], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God, even the thing which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His sight for you].

This is why the Father seeks worshipers in spirit and truth.

5778 / 2018 – A Year Of Rebuilding.

Rebuilding the church from the ground up and relaunching the church on the right side of Pentecost.

What was the church doing just prior to Pentecost?  They were locked away in the Upper Room – doing business with God behind closed doors. But when the Holy Spirit came the church was empowered and mobilised and hit the great outdoors. Jesus had said that when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, you will be witnesses to me locally, regionally, cross-culturally, and internationally. You will be empowered to fulfil your cultural commission, your dominion mandate.

The church’s mission takes place outside of the four walls of the church gathering place –  which is the place of hosting God’s manifest presence, the safe place, the place of nurturing, of preparing, of equipping, the place of personal transformation and conforming to the image of God’s Son, the place of maturing, and your spiritual home. But people who stay home all the time don’t get much done that influences or impacts anything outside of the home.

We have mistakenly focused more on growing churches than on discipling nations and so as a result we have often valued charisma over character which has sometimes been  at great cost. When character has failed churches have collapsed resulting in fallen shepherds and scattered sheep, and the discipling impact on nations has been derailed.

Too often the church exists inside a sub-cultural bubble and functions in a parallel universe that is virtually out of touch with the world it is commissioned to reach.  In Jesus’ messages to the seven churches in Revelation it is in the context of their almost unanimous failure to positively impact the surrounding culture due to being inwardly focused and self-satisfied. The truth is that celebrity charisma can grow churches, but godly character with its wisdom and insight is what effectively disciples and influences nations.

5778 / 2018 is to be a year of rebuilding a church that is the vehicle from which the kingdom is advanced, a year when the church reengages with its function as the light of the world.  As we come out from the place of worship and warfare carrying the presence and power of Almighty God we will bring kingdom influence that results in cultural transformation.

Acts 15: 16 – 17

16 ‘After this I will return and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; 17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.’

Remember the pictograph for the letter Chet, the eighth letter of the Hebrew Aleph-Bet, is a tent wall.

The tabernacle of David represents a heart after God – a heart of worship, a heart for whom the primary thing is to host the manifest presence of God, a heart that recognises that marinating in his presence is the only adequate preparation and equipping to reign as kings and priests in his kingdom and to fulfil our cultural commission and dominion mandate.

The only way to become like him is to spend time with him. That is why we dealt previously with the confusion between calling and commission. The call is always to come, to be with him, to learn from him, to become like him. The commission is to go with him and transform the world with his presence – his kingdom, his power, and his glory.

Listen again to verse 17 – that’s our cultural commission, our dominion mandate.

17 So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the Lord who does all these things.

In the same way that we have confused calling with commission, we have confused charisma with character.

When Jesus went into His Spirit-filled and Spirit-anointed wilderness encounter with the devil it was character that brought Him through victorious and Spirit-empowered where many of us charismatics would probably have blown it.

Jesus was fully tested regarding the lust of the flesh – the desire to indulge; the lust of the eyes – the desire to acquire; the pride of life – the desire to impress. He succeeded because he didn’t just depend on charisma.  He went into that encounter with one response to all of the power of temptation – “It is written, it is written, it is written.” When you know and are so intimately acquainted with what is written that it has become alive in you and has formed and reinforced your character you will be devil-proof. Remember what Jesus said that finally saw the devil off, at least for a season. It is written that you shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve. It was the testing of Jesus’ character in that encounter that proved his readiness to go as the anointed of God and fulfil the commission he had been given. This is why we must always place the calling to know Him and to be conformed to his image – to have His character formed in us – before the commission.  We can’t truly make Him known until we know Him ourselves, or at least we can only make him known to the extent that we know him.

The charisma (the gifting and supernatural ability and anointing) has already been made available and is irrevocable. The Holy Spirit has come and He is not going away. His purpose in coming is to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgement. But the fact that you and I are anointed says nothing about our character because the anointing upon us is for the benefit of others, not for our benefit. However, character is about me and it is about you – it is who I am and it is who you are, and who I am and who you are is what will ultimately determine our destiny. The fulfilment of our cultural commission and dominion mandate will fail miserably if our character doesn’t match our charisma.

Character is defined as the seat of a person’s moral and ethical being. It is the sum total of all the positive and negative qualities in a person’s life – it includes our thoughts, our values, our motives, and our attitudes.

The fact that in the modern church we have placed more value on charisma than character is one of the reasons why so many church folks have been hurt, confused, and disillusioned by anointed people. Reputation can be built through charisma and so it can present a false picture, but character is the truth of who we are. That is why God always places character before charisma and that is why he is not in as much of a hurry as we are to get us on a platform and put our ministry on the map.

This is not about character over charisma, or character at the expense of charisma, but it is because of the anointing upon us that we must have the strength of character to carry that anointing.

Lucifer the light-bearer, the bright and shining one who was the anointed worship leader of the heavenly host lost his place irredeemably, and is still causing chaos and spreading confusion in the earth because his character failed and he thought the mighty anointing upon him was for his glory and for his personal advancement.

The angels around God’s throne sing a perpetual song that declares the Lord’s holiness and reminds them of who the glory belongs to. Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts, the whole earth is filled with HIS glory.

Character must be maintained if it is going to be retained. We must never allow “time” or “age” to pressurise us into taking matters into our own hands and preempting God’s will for our lives which is always primarily and ultimately to know him. It is always worth remembering that with God delay is not denial – it always serves a purpose.  We just have to look at the lives of men like Abraham and Moses to know that God is not limited by time.  In fact we don’t have to go beyond the life of Jesus who even though He was born and lived completely sinless he still had 30 years of character building and strengthening before He ever engaged in public ministry.

While character is who we really are reputation is who others think or say we are.  One of the most dangerous things we can do is to begin to believe what others say about us over what we ourselves know about us and what we know our Father knows about us.

Colossians 1: 18 – 23

18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything.19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ, 20 and through him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of Christ’s blood on the cross. 21 This includes you who were once far away from God. You were his enemies, separated from him by your evil thoughts and actions. 22 Yet now he has reconciled you to himself through the death of Christ in his physical body. As a result, he has brought you into his own presence, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault. 23 But you must continue to believe this truth and stand firmly in it. Don’t drift away from the assurance you received when you heard the Good News.

It is obviously possible to drift which can be defined as to stray, digress, deviate, diverge, veer, or get sidetracked. We can be too quick to want Jesus’ charisma and the attention it attracts while we are still struggling against and resisting the formation of his character within us. Jesus said that there will be those who claim to have done miracles and wonders and prophesied in his name but he will have to tell them that he never knew them. It is knowing him and longing to be like him that causes his character to be formed in us.

This is not a time for drifting but it is a time for yielding ourselves completely to the Holy Spirit as he shapes us into the living stones with which Jesus builds his church – a church that will engage the world around us with the message and the influence and the transforming power of the kingdom.

The three main components of character are identity, integrity, and morality. Our Father’s main focus will always be on establishing us in true scriptural identity [who we are] as the righteous sons and daughters of Almighty God.  His heart is to establish us in true scriptural integrity [which is the state of being complete or unified] so that what we think, what we say, and what we do are not at odds with one another, so that we are practising what we preach and walking the walk as well as talking the talk.  He longs to establish us in true scriptural morality where we choose right over wrong, and where we don’t make decisions because they are cheap, or easy, or convenient, or popular or politically correct, but because they are right – the right decision, the right choice – and so that we don’t engage in relativism or situational ethics because we believe in absolute truth and not relative or subjective truth.

Reputation is what is seen when everything is alright, but character is what is seen when there is a crisis. If we don’t stand for something we will be in danger of falling for anything.

1 Corinthians 10: 6 – 12

6 These things happened as a warning to us, so that we would not crave (lust after) evil things as they did, 7 or worship idols as some of them did. As the Scriptures say, “The people celebrated with feasting and drinking, and they indulged in pagan revelry.” 8 And we must not engage in sexual immorality as some of them did, causing 23,000 of them to die in one day. 9 Nor should we put Christ to the test, as some of them did and then died from snakebites. 10 And don’t grumble as some of them did, and then were destroyed by the angel of death.11 These things happened to them as examples for us. They were written down to warn us who live at the end of the age. 12 If you think you are standing strong, be careful not to fall.

Integrity is being right, morality is doing right. We always do out of who we be. What destroys people is rarely external but is usually internal – a character flaw such as a confused identity, a lack of integrity, or a moral weakness. What the Philistines couldn’t get at Samson yielded to Delilah, and what Saul couldn’t expose David gave to Bathsheba.

And so, as we have crossed over into 5778 / 2018 and the year of rebuilding it might be a good time to allow the Holy Spirit to perform a quick character check because a building is only as strong as its foundation and our character is the foundation of who we are.

Identity? Am I true to myself?  Ego took out Elijah the mighty prophet of God.

Integrity? Am I true to others?  Greed took out Gehazi the servant and right hand man of Elisha.

Morality? Am I true to God?   Sex took out Samson the mightily anointed judge of God’s people.

Billy Graham said, “When wealth is lost nothing is lost, when health is lost, something is lost, but when character is lost everything is lost.”

People will pay some attention to what we say, more attention to what we do, but the most attention to what we are, and character is what we are.

Moses spent 40 years in Midian because he mistook calling for commission and charisma for character, and so his first attempt at deliverance ministry was a total flop. Even though one man got temporarily delivered, he stirred up a hornet’s nest of devils that put him on the run. But these forty years weren’t wasted as Moses eventually came out of obscurity and became the deliverer of all God’s people.

Romans 8: 28 – 30

28  And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30  Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Call before commission and character before charisma.  If we follow the prescribed order we will be well equipped to fulfil our cultural commission and we will see our Father’s kingdom come and his will done on earth as it is in heaven.

Bring it on, Lord!

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