Saturday, April 28, 2007
Thursday, April 26, 2007
Holiness is becoming increasingly fashionable – everyone seems to be talking about it - and as a result holiness is being misrepresented.
- Holiness is not self control
- Holiness is not self discipline
- Holiness is not self denial
- Holiness is not a desire to be one with God
- Holiness is not growth
- Holiness is not maturity
- Holiness is not Christ likeness
- Holiness is not spiritual formation!
Holiness may result in a manifestation of all of these things but none of them either separately or collectively are holiness.
Holiness is what happens when God creates within us a new heart and a new mind.
The heart is the seat of our emotions (our feelings, motives and desires) and our mind is the seat of our intellect (our will, our ability to understand and decide). The human heart and mind make Christian service impossible.
The closest that humanity has ever got to holiness without a new heart or mind is probably best illustrated in the life of the rich young ruler. Here was a man who had kept the commandments since his youth. When the disciples heard Christ dismiss his efforts as incomplete they were astounded and exclaimed ‘who then can be saved’. Jesus replied ‘with man this is impossible’.
When Jesus talked to Nicodemus he spoke about being the importance of being ‘born again’.
When David wrote his classic repentance prayer in Psalm 51 he asked God to ‘create’ in him “a pure heart.”
In Ezekiel chapter 11 God promises to replace old hearts ‘of stone’ with new hearts ‘of flesh’, and later in the same book (Ezekiel 18:31) he commands the Israelites to repent and to ‘get a new heart and a new spirit.’
In Romans 8:7-8 Paul says ‘The sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful nature cannot please God.’
Holiness happens when God gives us new hearts and minds in which, he can (according to Ezekiel) actually move us to follow his decrees and keep his laws. Human hearts cannot follow God whereas holy hearts have a natural desire to obey him.
The provision of these new faculties is conditional upon.
We must want a new heart, repent of all sin, renounce all that is doubtful, consecrate all that remains, believe in God’s power to work the change, faithfully obey God and speak to others about what he has done.
The creation of a new heart and mind (a new nature) in a believer is holiness, anything else regardless of its source or the apparent credibility of the author is bunkum.
Love and prayers
Monday, April 16, 2007
Henry Bullard noted a large number of police lining the waterfront it did not enter his mind that it was a welcome party for the Salvationists. But it was. The Superintendent stepped forward "When will the other members of the party land?" In surprise Tucker replied, "We are the whole of the Army." In evident amazement Police Superintendent Harry Brewin responded “why, we were expecting you to arrive a thousand strong.” The Army formed up, Tucker in the lead, carrying the flag presented by Catherine Booth, Bullard followed playing a cornet and Norman next beating he drum, Mary Thompson brought up the rear with the first tambourine display the Bombay crowd had seen.”
Booth Tucker (above)
Henry Bullard (right)
I recently read a Corps review for a Corps in our division, the present challenges facing this particular corps were listed as:
Immediately beneath these ‘challenges’ under the heading ‘Corps mission expectations for the future’ the following words appeared:
“Limited by the above”
This Corps in spite of its perceived limitations has significantly more resources than Bullard, Tucker et al had.
When we read in Proverbs “Where there is no vision, the people perish” is it any wonder revival tarries!
Love and prayers
Saturday, April 14, 2007
God and sin don’t mix. They cannot come into contact. They are like powerful magnetic poles forever repulsing each other. The Kingdom of God is a place bereft of sin. Sinful people cannot enter or exist in God’s kingdom.
And wicked things and beasts of prey come not there!
And ruthless death and fierce decay come not there!
There all are holy, all are good;
But hearts unwashed in Jesus' blood,
And guilty sinners un-renewed,
come not there!”
(SASB 268 – inspired by Revelation 21:8)
When Jesus died, when he descended into hell, when he ‘became sin’ he was quite literally (to quote Philippians:2 first and Wesley second) emptying ‘himself of all but love’.
Jesus is not abandoned by God on Good Friday but in order to face the penalty of sin he wilfully abandons God by committing his spirit into his Father’s care and descending into hell.
When he cries ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani!’ his words are motivated by the sudden and stark awareness of both the terrible horror and the absolute loneliness of his commission. With this cry on his lips Jesus goes into battle, armed with nothing but love, faith and obedience.
The God whose nature repels sin like a ducks feathers repel water takes on human form so that he can wrestle hand to hand with the ultimate enemy of humanity ‘becoming obedient unto death, even death on a cross.’
Jesus does not defeat death and sin from a safe distance but naked and alone creeps into the very heart of the abyss and confronts face to face the lord and creator of selfishness with the irrepressible power of sacrificial love.
Alas! And did my Saviour bleed, and did my sovereign die?
Did he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?
Was it for sins that I have done he suffered on the tree?
Amazing pity, grace unknown, and love beyond degree!
Well might the sun in darkness hide and shut his glories in,
When Christ, the mighty maker, died for man, the creature's sin.
Dear Saviour, I can ne'er repay the debt of love I owe!
Here, Lord, I give myself away; ‘tis all that I can do.
Yours mesmerised and humbled
Thursday, April 12, 2007
Whilst there is some wisdom in the above response it is largely a cop out. On the whole God gives his prophets access to the meaning of the messages they are asked to deliver:
“The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. For God is not a God of disorder but of peace…”
I recently posted two prophetic words on in the interner, one based on Isaiah 1 and the other based on Ezekiel 36 & 37. A couple of people have contacted me concerning the contradictory nature of these two words. I felt it therefore appropriate to respond.
First of all, let me say that Old Testament prophets gave many apparently contradictory words – just take Isaiah as an example. He constantly berates the people for their sins, calls the nation to repentance and talks of judgement yet almost in the same breath speaks about hope and restoration. Look at Isaiah 58 and 59 – Here (in chapter 58) we have a comprehensive and critical tirade against Israel and her sinful practices. However, hot on its heels comes chapter 60 an overwhelmingly optimistic chapter concerned with the restoration of Zion and her fortunes. (Incidentally I believe that all three of these chapters have significant relevance for TSA western territories.)
Secondly, there is an important question in the second word which by its presence makes the whole word conditional and backs up the threat of the first word.
“Salvation Army can you live, can I trust you once more with such a calling as this? You are so dry, look, walk up and down the aisles of your halls, and mingle midst your musicians and soldiers, look how dry you are – can you live again? Preach, prophesy, command yourselves in my name to stand up and fight again. I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the LORD.”(37:1-6)
God has always struggled to express his hope for the chosen when so many of them are in open rebellion. Much of the bible is like a ‘good cop / bad cop’ transcript. Look at Isaiah 1 (the chapter which inspired the first word) all of that anger followed by ‘come now let us reason together… though your sins are as scarlet they shall be as white as snow.”
The two words published in JAC only appear contradictory if considered out of context.
The first word, I believe, is spoken to the wider Salvation Army; it is a dismissal of evil practices and a clear call to repentance. It reminds TSA of both the negative consequences of ‘sin in the camp’ and the positive consequences of repentance. It states that the next ten years are critical and will decide the future of the Army. This doesn’t mean that continued rebellion and disobedience will signal the end of TSA (in some form) – the world is full of fully functional discarded denominations that God uses as best he can (‘fully functional’ as a nominal denomination and ‘discarded’ only as long as they remain apostate). However, our collective response to this word will determine whether we become the cutting edge of the militant church in the centre of revival or a tired dysfunctional organisation whose evangelical effectiveness is akin to moving sand with tweezers.
Whilst the warning is unequivocal there is a ‘remnant’ who have tried to remain faithful to the Army’s true principles and it is to this remnant that the second word is directed.
As our repentance addresses corporate and personal sin and as we slowly begin to take ground in the spiritual realms so we hasten revival. This revival will come - of that I am sure - and it will come within the next 10 years (I am equally certain of that too.)
My certainty is based on two things – God wants revival and so do the remnant – as long as those two stay together then revival will happen.
However, the revival will deliver two things. It will wash away all that is superficial and unrefined (this is the threat contained in the first word). It will also refresh and strengthen that which remains (this is the hope expressed in the second word).
It is important (as stressed in the second word) that the credit for this revival is taken by God. The remnant needs to be made aware that the revival is not their doing. Repentance is not so much a virtue as it is a necessary evil. Like lancing a boil or sucking poison from a wound (in this case a self inflicted wound). If there was no sin there would be no need for repentance. If revival follows repentance then it is possible that an unpleasant self righteousness may develop among the remnant who might be tempted to see their ‘virtuous’ repentance, prayer and fasting as the means of revival. When God restores TSA it may be in response to the prayers of a few who have turned from sin and embraced holiness but the glory and praise will be his and his alone.
Another thing which I am reluctant to add but do so out of obedience! TSA is to be at the heart of this revival because God has chosen it not because of anything meritorious in its make up or members. TSA, even in the future glory years, will still be a leaky craft capable of corporate capsizing on a grand scale – just as it was in the 1880’s and 1890’s (see Railton’s criticism of the early Army’s burgeoning commercialism, the shift from evangelism to social work, the idolatry of music etc) The second word also makes it clear that just as the glory is not ours individually neither is it the property of the Army corporately– the glory will go to God and to God alone.
Finally, on a personal note, I have always believed that revival would be preceded by some enormous corporate humiliation, something that makes TSA look foolish and damages its undeserved reputation for good works and integrity. However, I have not had any confirmation on this point so I have not published it. It would though tie in with the calamity of the first word followed by the promise of the second.
As with all prophecy – both words are dependant upon the response of those who hear – those within the Army who cling to their dead works, reputation, social status etc will be subject to judgement. In the same way as those who find themselves at the heart of revival and take the credit for it will also be subject to judgement.
I have always felt that the word in Revelation to Sardis is most appropriate to the SA and it contains the spirit of both words published in JAC.
“I know your deeds; you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have found your deeds unfinished in the sight of my God. Remember, therefore, what you have received and heard; hold it fast, and repent. But if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what time I will come to you. Yet you have a few people in Sardis who have not soiled their clothes. They will walk with me, dressed in white, for they are worthy. Those who are victorious will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out their names from the book of life, but will acknowledge their names before my Father and his angels. Whoever has ears, let them hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”
Yours set apart, by Christ for the lost, in the Army,
Saturday, April 07, 2007
I am in a caravan at the Vine Hall School near Battle (hidden by the trees in the bottom right of the aerial photograph!) Tracey has returned to St Mary Cray to lead Good Friday services, the girls are busy in Junior Adventure Camp and I am all alone.
It seems a good time to consider again the demands of holiness. I have decided to go through Allister Smith’s ‘Made whole’. He splits holiness into 6 sections.
Section 1 – Conversion
You can’t be holy unless you are converted. Smith says to do so is like trying to swim without getting into the water. I was converted on Sunday May 8th 1994. I was filled with the Spirit the following Tuesday. These experiences changed my life beyond all recognition. Shortly after my own conversion and spirit baptism Tracey was also transformed. The change in our own lives impacted dramatically on our Corps at Strood. We entered into the most productive period of our lives to date and the ‘Strood refreshing’ saw many people get saved and we witnessed real miracles. So I can tick off box number one on Smith’s list – in spite all of that has happened I am certain that Christ lives within my heart and that I am born again.
Section 2 – Craving
Smith says that we must really want holiness before God will bestow it. We have to want it above and beyond anything else. Smith explains that if there are things in our lives which demand more time than that devoted to the search for holiness then we obviously don’t want it enough. Certainly God has given me a hunger for holiness and this hunger has increased over the last few years – especially over the last few months. However, I still sometimes choose to sit down and do a crossword rather than seek the blessing. I must set aside all doubtful uses of time until I am secure in the knowledge that I am truly set apart – then holiness will determine how I spend my hours.
Section 3 – Confession
I have confessed my sins to God and he has forgiven me. I have made a full and frank confession of my sins. I have sought to make redress where I can. I have not allowed my sin, through confession, to pull other people down. The burden of my sin is mine and my confession has been to God alone. It has been specific and not general – there has been much sin in my life – looking at the Ten Commandments there is only one which I have not broken! My life has been steeped in sin and the cost has been enormous. However, God’s word says: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”
Section 4 – Consecration
“This consecration, or yielding, includes all that we have and are. All must be laid on the altar, even the dearest and the best.”
There are issues in my life that need to addressed in regard to consecration. Last year at Roots I drew up a personal holiness manifesto – I have no doubt that this manifesto came from God but I haven’t kept the resolutions within it. The manifesto can be found here.
When the manifesto was published in the Journal of Aggressive Christianity, Issue 43, June 2006 – July 2006 I added the following comments “These are resolutions not regulations and as such are about purpose and motive rather than legality. Sometimes obedience to God may require me to break them; sometimes I may be allowed to enjoy times of God-ordained celebration when to keep them would be self-righteous and exclusive. They are simply a framework within which I believe my witness will be more effective and my limited resources better utilised.”
I can now see, one year on, that the manifesto was a result of God’s call to consecration and I want to endorse them again today. The truth is that it only takes 50p to keep a small child alive and therefore every 50 pence spent on non-essentials is murder (which means I’ve broken all the commandments) – incidentally as I’m writing this the following Keith Green song has just started playing:
“I find it hard to turn away a billion starving people, But what can one do I’ve heard you say – “You can't save someone’s life" – I want to save a life today!”
In order to tick this box “all my days and all my hours, all my will and all my powers, all the passion of my soul – not a fragment but the whole shall be thine dear Lord” must be a literal and clearly visible commitment. God by your grace I give you everything.
Section 5 – Claiming
Smith says “The step of claiming is an important one. Some linger so long on the verge of blessing. They confess their sins many times, and yield their all to the Lord; but they fail to take the simple step of faith.”
I think I fail to claim because it is easier to doubt the completeness of my cooperation with God than to expect a blessing. However, at this moment in time my confession and consecration is in line with God’s revelation and therefore I do claim the blessing of a clean heart. I ask God to fill me and use me exactly as he wills. As stated above “I am a resource in God's hand made freely available for him to spend as he wishes. I give myself totally and without any reservation to God and the Salvation War.” Having, to the best of my knowledge complied with all the terms I claim the conditional blessing of holiness.
Section 6 – Continuing
At this moment in time I am fully forgiven, fully clean, fully surrendered and therefore fully saved! This blog (among other things) is a record of my holiness journey and will reveal my willingness to continue along the path that God is unveiling before me. One thing is certain – I have no desire to go back – I have wasted enough time and money and I don’t want to waste a second or a penny more.
I am now going to pray and read again the Easter story and then by his grace 'trust and obey'.