Do You Qualify For Ministry?

Do You Qualify For Ministry?

What are the qualifications in our day for pastors, deacons, elders and leaders in general?  Is it the ownership of several freshly pressed suits and ties?  Is it pieces of paper with a signed by someone most people wouldn’t recognize?  Is it the personal collection of books filled to the brim with other people’s personal opinions of Christ and the church?  Is it in masterful trickery of the tongue upon tickled ears? Have we ever really asked ourselves the question, “what qualifies us for ministry?”  What plumb line, or bar are we measured against that allows us the privilege of open ministry (both corporate and individual)? Or on a personal level, what qualifies us to openly display the gospel to the unbeliever?

My desire is to know what the scriptures say on this matter, of qualification.  Ever in my searching I have yet to find the verses commanding the attendance of and accredited university for 4 to 7 years.  Nor do I find the doctrine of, the issuance of golden sealed papers to be rewarded for the regurgitation of cold information.  No, in my ventures across the scripture I have found something, yes something somewhere which hints, no, declares the qualities of true leaders and servants. Now I am not discrediting the usefulness of proper education, I’m speaking as one who earned a Bachelor of Theology with highest honors (the Canadian equivalent to summa cum laude.)

However, that bachelors may be recognized by the people around me and those reading, watching and listening to my words but in God’s eyes it’s not a permit to be part of the ministry. That bachelors did not force God to place a call of ministry on my life and neither did that degree replace or cancel out 16 years of informal self-study and previous ministry experience. To be honest my years of personal experience and previous studies made getting my bachelors much easier and allowed me to complete it in record time.

I’m a huge advocate for learning the scriptures, theology, hermeneutics, doctrine and the like but possessing information, books or degrees does not equal a call to the ministry. There are a great many people who have attended Bible Colleges and Universities who were not called into ministry. On the other hand there are many who are called and are active in the ministry who have never been to school at all. Perhaps I am just jaded about this subject because I have been on both sides of the fence. I have been called and active in ministry without a degree (including teaching people with Bible school degrees) and now I have a degree and am still living out my calling.

I feel that people treat me “better” now than before, but my heart has not changed. I remember one encounter with a church I used to attend in Winnipeg, I was having a deep theological conversation with a man who was an elder in the church and a high-ranking member of the denomination. At one point he asked me where I went to school and how I became so insightful for my age. I told him that I didn’t actually have a degree and he looked at me turned his back and walked away and refused to talk with me any longer. (I should probably mention that at this time I was also the church’s volunteer youth pastor.)

Paying an institution thousands of dollars and writing theses and book reports did not stir up or validate a call on my life. Rather it merely encourages people to trust me more as I live out that calling

Paying an institution thousands of dollars and writing theses and book reports did not stir up or validate a call on my life. Rather it merely encourages people to trust me more as I live out that calling, because honestly would you rather buy a book written by some guy from Canada called Cam, or from Cameron D. Conway B.Th? We must go beyond the sights and sounds of paper and ink and begin to look at the qualities of the heart, the experience of trials, testimonies unwavering faith and a devotion to build the Kingdom as the true signs of a call to ministry in a person. The education which comes later (either formal, through discipleship or self-taught) then acts as a foundation to maintain a person in ministry. It provides the scaffolding for a heart to witness the gospel to the world. We must always remember that a heart will always cry out louder than an idea, our heart motivates us and leads us to God while knowledge and information ensure that we are correctly sharing the truths of the gospel.

How many times have we had information presented to us that was either not believed by the person speaking, flat out incorrect or focuses on the wrong things. I’ve seen fiery evangelists who have known next to nothing about the scriptures or discipleship and I have seen experts on the scriptures who have never lifted a finger to spread the gospel. We need both, we need a heart of fire and mind of raw fuel to sustain those flames and give them purpose.

We need both, we need a heart of fire and mind of raw fuel to sustain those flames and give them purpose

Paul’s Standard

Paul was an apostle in the truest sense; he built churches, raised up disciples, and provided the framework for churches to flourish without his direct supervision. Later in his life Paul approached the twilight of his mortal journey wrote to his spiritual sons Timothy and Titus what the true heart of a leader must look like.  It is a message I fear is often overlooked throughout the church. It is not a message that has to do with externals but matters of the heart. Now I ask you to gaze upon yourself in a mirror as you read the words of Paul and see his qualifications for ministry.


1 Timothy 3:1-7 “1 The saying is true and irrefutable: If any man [eagerly] seeks the office of bishop (superintendent, overseer), he desires an excellent task (work).  2 Now a bishop (superintendent, overseer) must give no grounds for accusation but must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, circumspect and temperate and self-controlled; [he must be] sensible and well behaved and dignified and lead an orderly (disciplined) life; [he must be] hospitable [showing love for and being a friend to the believers, especially strangers or foreigners, and be] a capable and qualified teacher,  3 Not given to wine, not combative but gentle and considerate, not quarrelsome but forbearing and peaceable, and not a lover of money [insatiable for wealth and ready to obtain it by questionable means].  4 He must rule his own household well, keeping his children under control, with true dignity, commanding their respect in every way and keeping them respectful.  5 For if a man does not know how to rule his own household, how is he to take care of the church of God?  6 He must not be a new convert, or he may [develop a beclouded and stupid state of mind] as the result of pride [be blinded by conceit, and] fall into the condemnation that the devil [once] did. 7 Furthermore, he must have a good reputation and be well thought of by those outside [the church], lest he become involved in slander and incur reproach and fall into the devil’s trap.” (AMPC, emphasis mine)


This is not merely a bullet point thesis of a Christian leader, this should be the calling card of everyone in the church.  This entire list is grounded upon matters of the heart and is directed towards those that have been called by God and can prove their character to not just those inside the church but to those outside as well (1 Timothy 3:7). The fruits of our inner soul is to be one third of our ministry foundation along with knowledge of the scriptures and a living encounter with Jesus. That foundation is not built upon puffed up poster boards of self-righteousness, empty actions, clever words or selfish motives.  The eyes of God see far beyond the masks we wear to our very core being and nature. Thankfully in His grace He sent Holy Spirit to recreate our core in His image and likeness.

We are called to be children of wisdom, holiness and Christ-likeness no matter our age (in the flesh or in the spirit).  We are called to be diligent within our own home before we attempt to gain authority within the translucent walls of the church.  We are forbidden to covet what is not our own and we are commanded to teach with humility and honestly the mysteries of God. We are called to be holy, not for the rewards or to maintain a public show, but because it is the desire of God’s heart.

What Applies To Ministry Applies To All

We can also look to the epistle to Titus and one again see Paul repeat and reaffirmed his view on those who are qualified for ministry.


Titus 1:7-9 For a bishop (overseer, local leader, pastor) must be blameless, as a steward of God, not self-willed, not quick-tempered, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled, holding fast the faithful word as he has been taught, that he may be able, by sound doctrine, both to exhort and convict those who contradict. (NKJV)


This is the heart of all those who carry the banner of servant, helper, teacher, pastor, evangelist, prophet and apostle.  It is not merely the collecting of knowledge, though we are not to be ignorant or ill-informed.  But our personal conduct and love will shine brighter than any thesis or quote ever will.  We are to be wise as serpents and as gentle as doves (Matthew 10:16).  For within us is wisdom, knowledge and understanding revealed by the Holy Spirit. Revelation which goes far beyond anything found in books, CD’s, blogs, podcasts, or videos because it is from the spirit of the living God within. Yet these words of mine fail to compare with the words of Paul.


Titus 2:7-8 “in all things showing yourself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence, incorruptibility, sound speech that cannot be condemned, that one who is an opponent may be ashamed, having nothing evil to say of you.”


Have we forgotten that we cannot have the gifts of the spirit spoken of in 1 Corinthians 12 until we have learned to walk in the fruit of the spirit found in Galatians 5:22-24? We cannot have one without the other, one cannot be a helper without love, a teacher without faithfulness, a pastor without longsuffering, or an evangelist without peace.  No prophet is without self-control, and one cannot be an apostle without kindness.  Always remember that the fruit is the “horse” which pulls the cart of “gifts”.  I cannot refrain from repeating the notion that these truths are not exclusively for those in ministry but for all within the Body of Christ.

Those who reject this truth will never qualify for ministry in God’s eyes and will forever remain vessels of dishonor at the masters table.  Yet for those who wish to attain honor at the table must live the life spoke of by Paul to Timothy


2 Timothy 2:20-26 “20 But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. 21 Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, [h]sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work. 22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, 26 and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will.” (NKJV)


A Pattern Of Commission Combined With Servanthood And Relationship

When we search the scriptures we begin to see a pattern emerge of those whom God chose for ministry roles (leaders, prophets and so on). In most of these cases a call or a commission was first given, then the life of that person would be then marked by servanthood and continual relationship with God. A relationship which included an abundance of time learning God’s nature through the scriptures and revelation.

A call or a commission was first given, then the life of that person would be then marked by servanthood and continual relationship with God. A relationship which included an abundance of time learning God’s nature through the scriptures and revelation.

We see that Jeremiah wasn’t called because he went to the right school, but rather through the sovereignty of God. Moses wasn’t commissioned because he excelled in his Egyptian homeschooling but because God saw a heart which could carry the burden of the nation. Isaiah didn’t have a Doctor of Divinity but saw the throne and God’s glory. Elisha didn’t become Elijah’s servant because he impressed the school of the prophets during their summer internship program. Joshua didn’t emerge from a great military academy, Ezekiel didn’t receive his visions because he scored better than his fellow Levites in standardized testing. John didn’t witness the book of the Revelation of Jesus Christ because of faithful tithing, and on and on we go.

What we do see is that when God commissions a person, it is the person’s responsibility to act upon that commission. To get up and go where God has commanded them to go, to live a life according to God’s standards and to make it so the words and voice of God were more familiar than their own voices. The things we associate with a person receiving a call to ministry are in reality the things people are supposed to do after they are called, commissioned or released into ministry. Education is good, oversight is good, certification is good but all of those things cannot transform a person into a pastor, prophet, teacher, evangelist or apostle. All they can do is reinforce the platform which God has appointed them to and to bring comfort to those that the person in ministry will guide, teach, encourage, disciple, train, and equip.

Paul was perhaps one of the most educated writers of the Bible but that information was irrelevant until his encounter with Jesus. Paul went to the best rabbinical school of the day and sat under the most respected teacher in Jerusalem but that didn’t produce a call to ministry or a revelation of who Jesus is. Even after the encounter on the road to Damascus Paul spent another decade back in Tarsus preparing for his launch into ministry. Paul had an experience, a commission and the knowledge to not only be in the ministry but to have success. He had the heart, mind and feet of one called by Jesus to not just witness to the message of the cross but to build the church as well. But even he needed letters form the Jerusalem Church and the accompaniment of Barnabas in those early missionary journeys to give people reasons trust him and to listen to his words.

Ministry is For All

In a frail attempt to craft a conclusion I ask that you examine your own hearts and ask God if you are lacking in any area, or if there is any place in you life that He is excluded.  Then ask if there is any place where He may use you as a vessel of honor to enlarge the boundaries of His kingdom.  For it is not by gilded golden paper that you are called, but by His spirit.  For “many are called yet few are chosen” are the immortal words of our King. The revelation of this mystery is this, that those who are chosen are merely the ones who appear when called. They are the ones who hear the call to preach, teach, encourage, pray, prophecy, disciple, write, create, support and evangelize.

To receive the call to the ministry is only the first step you must then take those steps into that new land where your life reflects that of Christ. Don’t limit this truth to thinking that I’m not called to full time ministry, these words apply to all of us because at our heart every Christian is a minister. We are all called to preach, teach and disciple so our lives, intentions, faith and time should reflect the words Jesus commanded in the great commission.

In closing may we never forget these words:


Titus 3:2-7 “to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men. For we ourselves were also once foolish, disobedient, deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures, living in malice and envy, hateful and hating one another. But when the kindness and the love of God our Savior toward man appeared, not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us, through the washing of regeneration and renewing of the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Savior, that having been justified by His grace we should become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (NKJV)

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Do You Qualify For Ministry? Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

The Key Ingredient Forgotten By Many Christians

The Key Ingredient Forgotten By Many Christians

Today it feels like there’s something missing in the lives of many Christians, we go to church, and occasionally read our Bibles but it feels if that it isn’t enough. As Christians we are good at listening, pondering, and absorbing information, revelation and insights but what do we do with all of that knowledge? Do we write it down, store it away in our minds for a rainy day, or do we replace it with whatever is heard the following week?

These are the questions we must begin to ask ourselves if we want to fully reflect Christ into this world, these are the questions we must ask if we are serious about growing and developing the Kingdom here on earth. However, being able to grow personally and corporately hinges on the fact that we must begin to practice what we preach and to apply what we have learned. It is as if many churches and Christians have become drunk on knowledge but are starving for wisdom and application.

Being able to grow personally and corporately hinges on the fact that we must begin to practice what we preach and to apply what we have learned. 

Knowledge is the accumulation of information, while wisdom is knowing what to do with that knowledge and how to apply it in real world situations and in your own life. I believe this is where many Christians get tripped up, we are good at hearing a sermon or reading a passage but we lack the ability (or discernment) to apply those truths in our own lives (or for more than a week). It is easy to sit and listen but it is much harder to act out what was heard.

Look at it this way would you invest time and money to go to a trade school (carpenter, electrician, mechanic) and never do anything except the book work. Imagine getting a master’s degree in carpentry but you’ve never picked up a hammer during the entire experience. It sounds ridiculous but this is how many of us approach church and the Bible. Each year we sit through at least 52 sermons plus all of our personal reading but rarely does a real lasting change, refinement, course correction, or new type of action materialize in our lives. What is happening here?

Christians Must Do the Do

The Christian life is based on more than just attendance and homework, it is based on action, belief and trust. You can have knowledge about Jesus and not be saved (member of the New Covenant), you can have an understanding of Paul’s writings and not be a contributing Christian and you can have insights about God and still be without a relationship with Him.

The Christian life is based on more than just attendance and homework, it is based on action, belief and trust.

What is the tipping point between knowledge about Christ and relationship with Him? James the half-brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15) wrote about how to bridge this gap.


James 1:22-25 “22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. 25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (NKJV)


You see it is not enough to read the scriptures, we must learn how to apply them to our lives and how to live them out. Paul in Romans 10:9-10 talks about believing in your heart AND confessing with your mouths, to receive salvation both must happen not just one or the other. My own salvation experience reflects this. I believed in my heart in April of 2000 but I didn’t make a verbal confession until July 2000. Jesus revealed Himself to me and gave me a choice, from that day I believed in Him but I didn’t speak it out until just over three months later. For those three and a half months I had knowledge of who Jesus really was but my actions to back that up were delayed.

We can take this truth in James 1 and apply it to more than just salvation, we can apply it to the entirety of the scriptures and especially the words Jesus spoke of in the Gospels. Jesus went and did, Jesus didn’t sit at home in Capernaum and revel in the knowledge of who He was. No, He went out and demonstrated the reality of His life and calling. Jesus didn’t just mentally frame the words of the magi, Simeon, Anna or His cousin John and look over them when He was frazzled with a His carpentry work. Jesus brought life to the words, promises, proclamations and call on His life.

We have to get over the trap of thinking that collecting popular scriptures, Christian catchphrases, dank-Christian memes, or simple pleasantries is enough to sustain our faith and life. We can squirrel away all of the quotes and verses that we can, but it is irrelevant if we don’t do something with them. Just think of a squirrel, what is the point of gathering all of those acorns if you never intend on eating them, or you constantly forget where you left them. You’re just running around from yard to yard hunting down acorns just for the reason of collecting them. You won’t benefit from eating them and depending where you are stuffing them they will never fulfill their own potential of becoming a tree themselves.

Mirror Mirror on the Wall, What Did the Pastor Say Two Weeks Ago?

It is that forgetfulness which is the great trap James is trying to warn us about, often we don’t act on scriptures, revelations or insights because we get busy or distracted or enamored by the next revelation, insight, prophecy, interpretation or whatever else gets our attention. When we read James 1:23 we take for granted the word “mirror.” For the people James was originally writing to a mirror was not a common household item. They didn’t have a bathroom with one, they didn’t have one in their purse or on their phone. No, to them a mirror was something rare, and in that culture it would have not been a clear glass mirror but a slab of polished bronze.

No matter how much it was polished it would always give a distorted view of the subject, so it is easy to see how someone could forget what they looked like. Even though we have high quality mirrors today, in our minds we are still prone to looking at ourselves through warped reflections. We are still prone to forgetfulness, we lose sight of who we are in God’s eyes and we disconnect our hands from our heart. What we read and study must influence what we do and say, it must all somehow contribute to the development of first our own lives and second the development of your church.

What we read and study must influence what we do and say, it must all somehow contribute to the development of first our own lives and second the development of your church.

Look at it this way, each insight, revelation, prophecy, scripture, interpretation, or nugget of wisdom is like a piece of Lego. Over time you gather enough pieces to build something, the more time goes on the more you can build, at times you will build only one thing, other times you will tear down and rebuild, then there are those who will build multiple things. But that is only if you use what you have received, many people on the other hand have lives that are nothing but giant plastic buckets full of unused pieces. The pile gets bigger but nothing gets built, or worse still the bucket of pieces gets periodically thrown away because there is only so much room in the bucket.

This is what our life as Christians looks like, God gives us these pieces to build with, first to build and develop ourselves and then to build and develop others. We take our pieces and develop not just our own creations but those of others as well. Yet far to often people are content with only collecting and have no foresight to at least give away what they have to people that are building and developing. We forget that we will be judged by what we do (Romans 2:13) along with what we think. We forget the price paid by the unfaithful servant in Luke 19 who had knowledge of the type of person his master was but failed to do anything despite that knowledge.

Finish the Circuit

Here is another way to understand the connection between Believing and Doing. Take a look at how electricity works in your house, you plug something into the wall and it does as it is designed to do. I plug in a blender and I can make a smoothie, I plug in a laptop and I can write a blog post. Now that electricity has a negative side and a positive side (not bad and good) both are necessary for the current to flow through the cables into the device and out again. Now we can look at the concept of believing and doing in the same way, but are necessary to get the power out of the wall, through the device and back into the current.

The Holy Spirit is the power and electricity of our lives He is looking to move through people to develop them, to fulfil the Great Commission and to strengthen the church. He like the power in your wall is ready, willing and able to jump into action if we connect to Him. But we must have the + side of belief, the – side of action and we must be grounded in Christ. Then He can move in our lives and bring about change, power, glory, transformation, giftings, wisdom and so on. If we only have belief, we can’t complete the circuit, if we only have action we can’t complete the circuit, and if we have both and are not grounded then we’re not protected if something fails or overloads in our lives.

When we look through the Gospel’s we see that Jesus didn’t bless the people who simply heard Him speak, but He blessed and healed those who had the truth of those words become real to them. It was one thing for people to see Jesus heal but it was a totally different level for those who saw Him as the Messiah and publicly declared that truth (Matthew 9:27, 15:22, 20:30).

With Jesus He proclaimed parables for the crowds but gave interpretation to the disciples. However, because of this the disciples where expected to live out what Jesus preached when He was gone. Jesus taught the disciples because He expected them to follow the words He spoke and to bring them to life in their own lives.

The Miracle of Doing

This concept of combining belief and action is not limited to the New Testament alone we see this all throughout the Bible. Abraham believed God and moved away from Haran, Joshua and the people believed God for victory and marched around Jericho, David believed that God appointed Him as the next king so he left the farm. We see over and over that you can’t please God or fulfill your purpose in life if you don’t have both of theses facets working together equally. If we only have one then we will never progress, or if we do have both but are inconsistent in one we will never reach our full potential.

Consider the story about elderly Elisha and Joash the King of Israel (1 Kings 13:14-19), in this story the king goes to the prophet to receive a word about dealing with the Syrians. Elisha tells the king to take an arrow and shoot it out the window, the king does so. Then Elisha tells the king to take some more arrows and to hit the ground with them, so the king does as he is told, but something happens that he was not expecting. In verse 19 we see that “the man of God was angry with him, and said, “You should have struck five or six times; then you would have struck Syria till you had destroyed it! But now you will strike Syria only three times.” King Joash believed Elisha to be a prophet, so he acted in going to see him and to do as he said. But his heart was not in it, I can imagine the king gingerly tapping the ground 3 times and thinking that was enough to satisfy the prophet.

There was a disconnect in the king between his belief, his action and his relationship with God. God was wanting the king to act out his trust and to go to town on the floor with those arrows to show an expectation for God’s help.

There was a disconnect in the king between his belief, his action and his relationship with God. God was wanting the king to act out his trust and to go to town on the floor with those arrows to show an expectation for God’s help through the simple act of hitting some arrows on the ground. Because of this attitude the king was only promised a partial victory and the king’s son had to endure the consequences of that partial victory.

How much different is it with us today, we take in the words of pastors, prophets, teachers, apostles and evangelists but have a heart similar to King Joash where we take what is said and just tap the ground with our arrows. That is if we even go that far, at least King Joash went to the prophet, which is more than many of us do.

Getting Involved In What God Is Revealing To You

Jesus has an expectation for us to follow His words and put them to work in our lives and world, Jesus wants us to get involved in what God is doing and that happens through the unity of belief and action in our lives. Jesus makes it clear that those who follow them will be able to be recognized not my the amount of scriptures they have memorized or how good their church attendance record is but by their faithfulness to both believe His words and to act on them.


John 15:12-14 “12 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you.” (NKJV, emphasis mine)


Our actions confirm our beliefs, what we say and do is rooted in our heart and in what we really believe about God, ourselves and the world at large. If we claim to love, honor and serve Jesus then our lives must testify about that. A bird does not have to show off its feathers to prove it can fly it simply leaps from the tree and soars in the air. This should be how we live we don’t have to boast about our relationship with God or the wealth of knowledge and wisdom in our hearts, rather we simply walk as Jesus walked and the world will watch us soar. Yet those of us who have failed to combine their beliefs with actions are no different than a chicken or ostrich, those who have wings to fly but are forever trapped on the earth.

The Apostle Jesus loved reminds us of Jesus’s expectation in his epistle.


1 John 2:3-6 “Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God [a]is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (NKJV, emphasis mine)


John combined proof of our love for God with us following His commandments, how is this different from what James 1:22 and Romans 2:23 say? It is the same truth in action? I can’t actually love Jesus if I don’t follow Him and His words. I can follow Him, I can admire Him but I can’t love Him if I don’t follow His words. Following His words entails honor, respect, trust and seeing Him as being worth listening to. It is not just a blind love based on obedience, no it is a love which is exemplified in our actions, we do as He says because of our relationship with Him, because of our faith in Him and out of our gratitude of what He has lovingly done for us.

Following His words entails honor, respect, trust and seeing Him as being worth listening to.

John again in The Revelation of Jesus Christ records a life altering statement which should force all fo us to re-evaluate our own lives, motivations, and relationship with God.


Revelation 22:14 “14 Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city.” (NKJV, emphasis mine)


Now ask yourself “what will I do with this blog,” what will I pray about (personal and intercession), what will I change, what action (action, intervention, support, evangelism, ministry, service, fellowship, talking) will I take? Honestly ask yourself “what will I do with this handful of arrows?” Then challenge yourself to ask that question again every week for the next month, bookmark this post if you need to, just don’t allow what you see here to become another unused brick in your life.

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Are you looking to develop your relationship with God and better understand the Bible? Pick up a copy of one of my books today.

Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian Beliefs
Amazon.com paperback, eBook | Amazon.ca paperback, eBook
Indigo, iBook, Nook and more HERE

Six Minutes of Grace: The Key To Finding Happiness and Purpose
Amazon.com paperback, eBook | Amazon.ca paperback, eBook
Indigo, iBook, Nook and more HERE

Six Minutes of Grace Journal
Amazon.com paperback | Amazon.ca paperback

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The Key Ingredient Forgotten By Many Christians Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

A Living Revelation of Jesus Christ – Part 2: Our King

A Living Revelation of Jesus Christ – Part 2: Our King

So far in the last two weeks (HERE and HERE) in our journey of revelation we have seen Jesus as our high priest and adopted brother, we see Him not as just a man but as the Messiah. We understand that He was hidden throughout the entirety of the scriptures and Jesus lived His live to fulfill them. We are beginning to see Jesus clearly as He was before the earth was created and equally so during the time He wore a suit of dirt when He walked the earth. We have come to the place where know that He is, was and ever will be.

To fully see Jesus we must go beyond the images of Him with the disciples, or Jesus on the cross and see Him for who He is today.  No longer just a lamb, but a lion, no longer a servant but the King of kings.

The Book of the True King

Let’s look to the least read and most misunderstood book of the bible the book of Revelations, a book of mystery, images, chaos, glory, hope, and fear. A book that seems to say different things each century and one which is most often studied to find the sources of evil in our world. However we must begin to look at the book according to its full and proper title “The Revelation of Jesus Christ”.

We are looking at the Revelation of who He is today and what He accomplished on the cross.

Put aside your eschatology (end times doctrines) and just focus on Jesus for a moment, not on the end and not on any book or movie you’ve seen. We are looking at the Revelation of who He is today and what He accomplished on the cross. For a moment take off your glasses of Futurist, Preterist, Spiritualist, Historicist, Pre-Tribulation, Amillennial, Post-Tribulation, dispensational, progressive, literal, allegorical or anything else of the like and take a good long look at Jesus in these pages.


Revelation 1:12-18 “12Then I turned to see [whose was] the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, 13And in the midst of the lampstands [One] like a Son of Man, clothed with a robe which reached to His feet and with a girdle of gold about His breast. [Dan 7:13; 10:5.]  14His head and His hair were white like white wool, [as white] as snow, and His eyes [flashed] like a flame of fire. [Dan 7:9.]  15His feet glowed like burnished (bright) bronze as it is refined in a furnace, and His voice was like the sound of many waters. [Dan 10:6.]  16In His right hand He held seven stars, and from His mouth there came forth a sharp two-edged sword, and His face was like the sun shining in full power at midday. [Ex 34:29.]  17When I saw Him, I fell at His feet as if dead. But He laid His right hand on me and said, Do not be afraid! I am the First and the Last, [Isa 44:6.]  18And the Ever-living One [I am living in the eternity of the eternities]. I died, but see, I am alive forevermore; and I possess the keys of death and Hades (the realm of the dead).  AMPC


Understanding John’s Worldview

Before we go any further we have to understand that this is written in poetic imagery, prophetic language and pictures, just like the book of Zechariah or even some of the Psalms (I’m not saying that John didn’t see Jesus but rather I am talking about how he describes Him). We have to differentiate our logical and literal Western (ancient Greek) method way of thinking with the image based way of thinking (worldview) of ancient middle eastern cultures.

For example take a pencil, a Greek/Western mind is focused on its appearance and would say it is yellow, made of wood, is so many inches long and has a point made of graphite. Where a Hebrew/Eastern mind is more drawn to the purpose of the pencil, thereby seeing a pencil they would say it is something I can draw or describe things with. In the Hebrew worldview words, actions and verbs are interconnected and often are not differentiated, such as the word “sword” being rooted in the word to “cut.”

We also have to differentiate the two methods of storytelling used between the two cultures. Where a Greek/Western mind uses a steady progression of time, with beginning, middle and end, Hebrew writing on the other hand which is seen throughout the scriptures as a poetic flow, where themes and moments are repeated much like a rhyme scheme in a poem.

Where a Greek poem or song would go AABB CCDD, in Hebrew it often follows a pattern of ABCDCBA (aka chiastic structure), a progression we find often in Psalms and longer prophetic writings. The ABCDCBA is not always found in each line but can also be the progression of an entire chapter or prophecy.

An example of this Hebrew progression is found in Revelation chapter 12 we see the same story unfold from two different perspectives. Even though one account is at the beginning of the chapter and the other is at the end, both take place simultaneously on two different levels (natural and heavenly). Another example is Psalms 110:1-7 where we see verses 1 and 7 speak of YHWH establishes the king. Verses 2 and 6 speaks of going out to conquer, verses 3 and 5 speak of contrasting days of power and wrath. Then we encounter verse 4 which anchors the poetry and speaks of YHWH’s unbreakable oath. Verse 4 then becomes the most important verse in the section, unlike Greek or Western thought which generally places that importance either at the beginning or the end.

Another thing to remember is that throughout the Scriptures God is notorious for repeating Himself. In Genesis 41:32 using the hermeneutic principle of first mention we understand why God repeats Himself. It is done to draw our attention to what He is saying and to confirm that the words will come to pass. We see this played out in King James Version and other classical Bible translations when Jesus says Verily, verily or truthfully, truthfully. Jesus didn’t stutter He was declaring and confirming what He was saying not only was not only true but established by God and guaranteed to come to pass.

What Did John See?

Now that we understand all of this we can take a better look at what John is describing in Revelation 1:12-18. I will now include a version of this verse that has the Hebrew imagery included in John’s account so we can better understand what he saw.


12 Then I turned to see the voice that spoke with me. And having turned I saw seven (perfect quality) golden (purity, durability, superiority) lampstands (source of light, God’s presence), 13 and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man (Dan 7:13), clothed with a garment (covering, Mt. of transfiguration, priesthood) down to the feet (stability, authority, to be bowed down before) and girded about the chest (righteousness) with a golden band (Is 11:5, symbol of priesthood). 14 His head (kingship, authority) and hair (glory) were white like wool, as white (pure, clean) as snow (rarity, pureness, transcendence), and His eyes (beauty, gateway to his soul, God’s omnipresence) like a flame of fire (refining, purification); 15 His feet (strength) were like fine brass (metal of the altar of sacrifice, Moses’s serpent on a pole Num 21:6-9), as if refined in a furnace (refinement), and His voice as the sound of many waters (powerful); 16 He had in His right hand seven stars (angels), out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword (words and authority, Is 49:2), and His countenance was like the sun (light, source of life) shining (glory, Ex 34:29) in its strength. 17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand (power, strength) on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am (I AM that I AM) the First and the Last (Is 44:6, A to Z / Alpha and Omega). 18 I am He who lives, and was dead, and behold, I am alive (zoe, eternal life) forevermore. Amen (so be it). And I have the keys (authority) of Hades (where the dead go) and of Death (the power of sin over mankind).


In this expanded picture we see several things in common, Jesus is alive and not only that but He now has power, strength and authority as King of the world. Jesus also comes to us as our pure and holy heavenly high priest to bring about redemption for our sins and provides the strength for us to stand before God. Jesus is pictured here as someone who is already endued with power and authority, He is no longer just the humble lamb but the mighty lion of Judah the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Jesus is pictured here as someone who is already endued with power and authority, He is no longer just the humble lamb but the mighty lion of Judah the King of kings and Lord of lords.

Understanding how the people John first showed these visions to would have understood and interpret this passage gives us a clearer view of Jesus as the reigning King. Hidden here are many attributes and revelations about Jesus can typically go unnoticed with a casual glance of these scriptures. Other times while trying to fit square theologies in round truths we miss out on what Jesus is trying to reveal to us.

Seeing Jesus’s True Identity

If we only see Jesus as the lamb we miss out on His full identity and we cripple our own lives without knowing it. We must go beyond the facts of Jesus being king to having a revelation in our spirit, soul and flesh that He is King over all now. Not someday, not every other day, not far in the future. He is King of heaven and earth now, He is seated next to the Father now.

Let’s now look at another passage in the Revelation of Jesus Christ and see how this event unfolded just after the resurrection.


Revelation 5:11-15 11 Then I looked, and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, and the elders; and the number of them was ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice: “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain. To receive power and riches and wisdom, And strength and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And every creature which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and such as are in the sea, and all that are in them, I heard saying: “Blessing and honor and glory and power Be to Him who sits on the throne, And to the Lamb, forever and ever!” 14 Then the four living creatures said, “Amen!” And the twenty-four elders fell down and worshiped Him who lives forever and ever. NKJV


This has only been a small glimpse into the wonder that is Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah, our Savior, our High Priest, our Covenant Brother and our King. Understanding all of this helps us to answer the great questions of “Who is Jesus (his person and identity)” and “What shall I do with Him (his purpose and destiny).”

Having this information is only one part of the great battle, we must believe these things and put them to work in this world so that the gospel can be preached and the territory under the direct control of the King (Kingdom) can be expanded. Not with force, coercion, violence but through, love, power, glory, forgiveness, truthfulness, miracles and the uncompromising reliance on God’s words. It is not enough for us to say Jesus “was,” but we must declare that Jesus “is” and “forever will be”,  our lives and hearts then must reflect that truth.

The great revelation which we can encounter is that Jesus is King right now, just as He is our Savior right now and just as He is our High Priest right new we must see Him as King. We must recognize that He is the King He spoke of in Luke 19:11, 27 who went to take a kingdom and the people rejected Him. Jesus is King but the world is still in open rebellion, it still fights back against the light of the gospel and it is our task as ambassadors to bring that light into the world. We are the representatives of the great King who is taking back the territory of hearts and spirits one person at a time so that all peoples, tribes and nations can be redeemed and join Him in covenant for all of eternity.


John 11:25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me, though he may die, he shall live.


To go deeper in your journey with Christ check out my new book Understanding Who You Are: A Survey of 21st Century Christian beliefs which is now on sale. Available in paperback (Canada or USA) and eBook! Get your copy today and discover not just your purpose but learn how you can build the Kingdom of God here on the Earth.

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A Living Revelation of Jesus Christ – Part 2: Our King Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

How To Demonstrate Our Love For God

Demonstrating Our Love For God

Do you love God, if so how can you prove it? Chapters fourteen through sixteen of the Gospel of John represents a remarkable section of the Bible where Jesus is laying out what is about to happen next to Him and His followers. Here He lays out how expects His followers to live without Him and the plan for the coming of the Holy Spirit. More often than not it is the part about the Holy Spirit that gets the most amount of attention when people read these chapters but today I want to talk about the concept of love. What does it have to do with us, our relationship with God and our relationships with others.

One of the hallmarks about the life of Jesus that even people outside of the church are not shy to talk about is how Jesus preached and demonstrated the concept of love. Often He is called the preacher of love by others and while that may be true it is only a small glimmer of the total picture. Usually when we think of love we either look at it as being physical love between two people or we see it as family love between parents and a child. When it comes to God and His concept of love it supersedes any and all expressions that we are used to seeing among people.

When it comes to God and His concept of love it supersedes any and all expressions that we are used to seeing among people.

Which is why the Greek word agape is used repeatedly by Jesus rather than the other Greek words for love. Agape (which is theologically connected to the Hebrew word chesed) speaks of selfless, covenant bound, unbreakable, respectful, committed love. Not the kind of love that fizzles out after a couple of years, or the type of love which is conditional on happiness, it is true love from its true source.

The Great Command

In John 14:21 Jesus says something truly astounding, and I will include it here in multiple versions so we don’t miss what is being said.


ESV “Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.”

NLT “Those who accept my commandments and obey them are the ones who love me. And because they love me, my Father will love them. And I will love them and reveal myself to each of them.”

TPT “Those who truly love me are those who obey my commands. Whoever passionately loves me will be passionately loved by my Father. And I will passionately love you in return and will manifest my life within you.”

AMPC “The person who has My commands and keeps them is the one who [really] loves Me; and whoever [really] loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I [too] will love him and will show (reveal, manifest) Myself to him. [I will let Myself be clearly seen by him and make Myself real to him.]”

NKJV “He who has My commandments and keeps them, it is he who loves Me. And he who loves Me will be loved by My Father, and I will love him and manifest Myself to him.”


 

What Jesus is saying here is that those who claim to love Him are those who have listened and applied His words to their own lives. This love is reciprocated by the Father who will ensure that those people will have Jesus be living and active in their lives. Here we see a love being demonstrated that goes beyond our usual cultural understanding of love. Jesus is not speaking about a love based on meeting someone’s needs/wants, or being attractive enough, or even the type of love which is feigned when one settles for less than they originally hoped for.

No, Jesus is telling us about a love based on faith, assurance, expectation and respect. Think about it how do those who you love treat you? Do your children/siblings have any respect for you or do they see you as a walking shopping mall? Is there an expectation that the other person loves you back and do they do things which confirm that? Do you have an assurance that you spouse equally loves you in return, or are you carrying the entire burden and hoping they don’t run off like a bird that has had their wing repaired? Do you have faith that those people who claim to love you will be there in an hour of need, crisis or pain?

Jesus is telling us about a love based on faith, assurance, expectation and respect.

Think back over these questions and then ask yourself how do these questions describe my own relationship with God?

Do You Love Me?

In John 21:15-17 Jesus challenges Peter three times on whether or not Peter still loved Him despite the multiple denials the morning of the crucifixion. Each one of us needs to read this account and instead of shaking our heads at Peter we really need to ask ourselves the same question. Peter was asked three times if He loved Jesus and Jesus replied to Peter’s confession by telling him to feed (watch over while grazing) and tend (take care of, shepherd, oversee) his fellow believers.

In the English versions of the New Testament this is as far as the story goes, “Peter do you love me,” “yes Jesus I love you” the end. But there is something great and grand hidden in the Greek versions of this encounter. In Greek Jesus is asking “Peter do you agapo me” to which Peter replies three times “yes Lord you know that I phileo you.” It isn’t the same word, Jesus is asking one thing and Peter is replying with something else. What is happening here?

Jesus is asking Peter whether he loves Him with the same power and capacity that He and the Father do. That is how this word agape/agapo is used in the New Testament. It is a way to highlight the exceeding love of God towards us and it provides a blueprint on how we are to love not only God but each other. Peter’s reply to Jesus’s question is that he phileo Jesus, which is his way of saying that he loved Jesus at the highest capacity that was available to him as a human. Agape is God’s standard and phileo is our standard, which is why phileo is also defined as brotherly love and the kind which lays down its life for another.

Now lets look at that verse again Jesus asks Peter three times “do you love me the way I love you” to which Peter replies “I love you will all I have, but it’s not as much as you love me.” Now doesn’t that sound like Peter, despite his denials he still loved Jesus to the fullest capacity that he had at the time, a capacity which increased weeks later at Pentecost.

Love Demands Action

This brings us back to the Gospel of John, in John 14:15 Jesus declares “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments” (NASB). The love Jesus is speaking of here is based on faith, assurance, expectation and respect but we demonstrate that love through obedience/action. This isn’t blind obedience where we just jump up and do whatever someone who sounds spiritual says. I am talking about obedience where the simple commands of Jesus are concerned.

The love Jesus is speaking of here is based on faith, assurance, expectation and respect but we demonstrate that love through obedience/action.

Think about it this way, is it enough to tell your spouse you love them? Is there anything else you need to do to prove it, how are your actions, intentions and attitude involved here? Does it mean anything if you say you love someone but act in a way which says otherwise, either through avoidance, arguments, adultery, lying, hatred, apathy and so on? Our relationship with God is no different our actions must line up with our confession, if we say we love Him then the least we can do is follow God’s instructions on how to live. Because those instructions in themselves are revelations of God’s love towards us. Without those instructions God would be encouraging anarchy, selfishness and host of other evils to become the plumb-line of our lives.

God demonstrated His love through the words spoken of by Jesus, God is not looking for people that are marked by hatred, violence, unforgiveness, bitterness or religious obligation. God is looking for people to love Him and He is looking for people who will in turn love others according to His own standards so more people can come into relationship with Him.

Take Matthew 5:43-46 along with the entire Beatitudes for example:


Matthew 5:43-46 43 You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” (NASB)


 

Later in the gospels Jesus is asked about the greatest commandments and the answers given were to love God with all of their heart, mind and soul and to love one’s neighbor as themselves. These commands are the totality of the Old Covenant, but we live under the New Covenant and those two commandments have been changed to love God with all of your heart, mind and soul and to love others as Jesus has loved them. In John 13:34-35 Jesus raises the bar and tells the disciples that they are to love (agape) according to His standard and not their own. Not only that but that love/agape would also act as a witness of their faith and convict people that they are followers of Jesus.

Jesus raises the bar and tells the disciples that they are to love (agape) according to His standard

This is why we cannot just have a lip service love towards God and each other, because Jesus commanded us to go much further than that, and the thermometer of our love is marked by our obedience to this command.

God Loves Us

A key part of what Jesus is saying in John 14:21 is that those who follow Jesus’s commands to love are not just loved back by Him or other people, but they are loved back by God the Father. I believe this is something many people take for granted, as most see God as being angry, judgmental and ready to smite at a moments notice. Very few accept that God Himself loves us and rather see that God tolerates us because of the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus.

One week I asked the question to a group of people I was teaching, “if you could ask God a question and were guaranteed an answer what would it be.” The people responded with questions such as “why do bad things happen,” “why is there evil in the world,” “why did this disaster happen” and so on. Then a couple of weeks later I asked the same question but replaced God with Jesus and the peoples instead asked “why do you love me so much,” “why did you die for me” and so on. Theologically speaking there is no separation between God’s nature and Jesus’s, if we see Jesus as being good and loving that means we have to see God as being that way. Conversely if we see God as being angry, vindictive and judgmental then we have to see Jesus in the same way.

Jesus took great effort to explain to the people of His day that God loved them we have verses such as John 8:42 and John 16:27 that declare this love to God’s people. We cannot forget what it says in John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.” We quote this verse more than any other but it feels as if we are not registering the first six words. When we combine those six words along with Romans 5:8 and 1 John 4:8-12 we begin to realize that God actually does love us.

He loves us with a love which is bound to the New Covenant and our obedience to it, not that we can break that covenant but our blessings from it are grounded in our faith and daily application of it (1 John 3:1).

Love Is The Key To The House

According to our key verse our obedience to Jesus’s commandments to love and follow Him transforms into a living witness of our relationship with Him. A relationship which is reciprocated by first Jesus and then God the Father who loves us because we loved His son the one true King and the means of deliverance and atonement. I argue that no one can actually love Jesus outside of atonement, because our atonement begins with our faith and confession that He is who He is and that allows us to be loved and adopted by Him. What choice is there after that but to love Him and to do as He has shown us.

This is what we see in John 14:23-24 23 Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him. 24 He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father’s who sent Me.” (NKJV)

God creates this abode in us through the Holy Spirit who is the manifest presence of God in not only ourselves but in the world. Love becomes the access point by which God literally comes into our lives. God loved us so He sent Jesus, then we in turn accept and believe in Him and come into a loving relationship with Him. This is not a works based love or salvation, the work has already been done and our responsibility is to accept, believe, confess and live a life that reflects that choice.

God loved us so He sent Jesus, then we in turn accept and believe in Him and come into a loving relationship with Him.

This isn’t a one-way street as God continually looks out for us and trains us like a loving parent (Revelation 3:19) and is not seeking our suffering but our fulfillment of our calling and living a Christlike life.

Love Has No Plan B

One of the true hallmarks of love (agape and phileo) is that the person who loves doesn’t have a plan B or an escape contingency. A husband who loves his wife does not keep one eye open for someone better, the same goes for the wife who does not give mental real-estate to other potential suitors to better meet her needs (or wants in disguise of needs). When we love with an expectation of failure we are never truly able to love another person. If we sit beside someone we love we cannot think of “what if” scenarios if the other person runs off or a better offer comes up.

This is how Israel lived in most of the Old Testament they looked to the Baal’s, Moloch, Ashtaroth and other idols as Plan B if YHWH didn’t show up or if the harvest wasn’t looking too good. It is no wonder why God compared Israel prophetically (Ezekiel 16:33, Hosea 9:1) to a wife who wandered the streets looking for lovers to pay off and enjoy. It isn’t much different today except we’ve replaced the Canaanite Pantheon with self-sufficiency, humanism, technology, feelings and pride.

How can we truly love God if we follow up each prayer with a plan B on how to get what we want ourselves. We cannot say we trust and love God in one breath and in the next talk about what if God doesn’t care or isn’t actually listening. We have made it popular to hedge our bets just in case God isn’t exactly how the preacher makes Him out to be. So we keep Him in our back pocket for when we run into a wall we cannot climb over.

You cannot live a life where you proclaim the teachings of Jesus but go on acting contrary to them. This is why Jesus amalgamated the ideas of love and obedience, not because He is a dictator but because our following of His Great Commandment tells all those around us that we love God because He first loved us and wants everyone to come to that place of love, acceptance and forgiveness.


John 15:12-15 “12 This is My commandment, that you love (agapo) one another as I have loved you. 13 Greater love (agape) has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends. 14 You are My friends if you do whatever I command you. 15 No longer do I call you servants, for a servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I heard from My Father I have made known to you.”

1 John 3:23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love (agape) one another, just as he has commanded us.


 

 

Creative Commons LicenseHow To Demonstrate Our Love For God Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

 

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Why The Church Fails To Conquer The Gates Of Hell

gates of hell
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What kind of impact is the church supposed to have in the world? Is it a continuing impact or one that ebbs and flows? Does yesterday’s victories guarantee that the territory taken by a church will remain indefinitely? These are questions that are rarely asked by people in the church and the state of most congregations attest to this ignorance. Far too often we assume that all of yesterday’s work, prayers and victories will be enough to sustain us continually. That we essentially rest on our laurels following a brief and intense season of spreading the gospel, making disciples and expanding the territory of the Kingdom of God here on earth.

We have seen over and over again stories of revivals of times past, or outpourings which rejuvenated regions become just that, stories. Did the Welsh revival guarantee that Wales would always have a strong and vibrant church in it? Did the Azuza Street revival cancel out all of the problems, idolatry, brokenness, and wickedness that came to California afterwards? Did the Great Awakenings do enough to make it so that there was no more need of the gospel to be preached because everyone was assumed to be a believer? I am seriously asking these questions, because this is how many people think and when you question this mindset people don’t know how to respond.

We first must accept the fact that the borders of the Kingdom are not set in stone here on Earth.

We first must accept the fact that the borders of the Kingdom are not set in stone here on Earth. Those borders are able to expand out into the world like light pressing into darkness but it also means they can contract back in as well. As it is with light the issue is not that the darkness overcame the light but the issue is that the light dimmed until it could no longer shine into the darkness. This is the story of the church, this is the story of many churches and this is the story about many denominations and organizations.

Hell’s Gate

What did Jesus say to Peter in Matthew 16:18? Jesus spoke of the strategy the church would use to expand the Kingdom by saying “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against.” This is a very common verse among both Protestants and Catholics (a debate I’m not getting into today) but I want us to focus on the last part of that verse that says “the gates of hades (hell) shall not prevail against it.” This is a revelation given by Jesus that has been continually misinterpreted for generations. The common thought is that here Satan and his forces are on the offensive and that his gates are marching against the mighty city of the church. As long as the church remains behind its walls it will remain safe and vibrant because those gates will never prevail against the church.

In reality what is happening here is the exact opposite of what people assume, it is not the gates of the enemy which are on the offensive it is the church. Jesus is saying that as the church goes out and proclaims the gospel of “Jesus is Lord and the Son of God” Satan will be unable to hold back the tidal wave that has been unleased upon him. You see the gates of hell will not prevail as long as there is constant pressure against them, they will break open and allow its territory to be reclaimed and restored through the gospel. However once that pressure which opened up the gate is gone the gates will be shut, repaired and are reinforced.

It is not the gates of the enemy which are on the offensive it is the church.

We look at verses in the Bible such as Revelation 12:17 and forget that this is a war which we are in against the darkness. This is not a last stand like the Alamo or Helm’s Deep but open warfare that we are engaged in. The gates of hades/hell came into being following Adam’s fall and during those generations Satan walled off fallen mankind from God in order to keep them in slavery and in darkness (John 3:19, 8:12, Ephesians 5:8).

Always Forward

What we have to understand is that there is more than one gate into the territory of the enemy, think of if as an open prairie land with concentric circular walls every 50km or so. When the kingdom is active and expanding it pushes through a gate like a torrent of water and it spreads throughout that entire 50km territory and eventually begins to bump up against the next wall and gate of the enemy. When the church fails to continue pressing into Satan’s territory it resembles flood water that is slowly receding from the reclaimed land. Eventually the water will dry up and the old walls and gate of the enemy will be repaired forcing the church to have to retake the land all over again.

This is the story of the church, it is the story of tidal waves of prayer, power and progress which tears through one of the enemy’s gates. Then the church (or a local congregation) moves into its new territory and within a generation it becomes complacent. Then like water after a flood it slowly recedes back to where it came from. At times the kingdom has been able to push through several layers of the enemy’s entrenchments but those victories are not indefinite. Constant pressure must remain against the walls and gates of the enemy to maintain the reclaimed territory. This pressure comes from prayer, evangelism, holiness, justice, love, acts of power, acts of kindness, an unwavering devotion to the great commission, praise, worship and unity.

Far too often places which used to be fortresses and mighty lighthouses of the faith have crumbled from the retaliations of the world and the absence of a living church. Think about it, there was a time when Turkey, Alexandria (in modern Egypt), and Carthage (in modern Libya) were capitals of the Church, but not any more. Places such as Germany and England were the carriers of the gospel to the New World and the Far East but now relish in having nothing to do with Christ any longer.

The territory taken by the Kingdom through the church is not guaranteed to remain part of the church indefinitely. Each generation must take up the mantle and continue the pressure against the gates of the enemy.

The territory taken by the Kingdom through the church is not guaranteed to remain part of the church indefinitely. Each generation must take up the mantle and continue the pressure against the gates of the enemy. There’s an old saying that goes “freedom is always one generation away from extinction” and the same sentiment can be applied to individual churches, each one is only one generation away from collapse. This is not some pie in the sky idea, research shows that inevitably each congregation will come to a tipping point where it must rejuvenate itself and begin to advance again or if it does not, it begins a slow steady decline into death.

I’ve been a part of several churches that faced this crossroad; two of them no longer exist, two went through massive leadership and congregational upheavals and one is still making its decision. This is the real battle which churches face: how to remain alive, like a seed they are planted and they grow up into a tree but time, wind, rain, snow, ice and even fire come against it. Eventually the tree has to come to a point where it begins to drop seeds so the land around it can be covered in trees. Or the tree can succumb to the pressures of nature and begin to wither, eventually it will collapse into the ground and slowly be converted to earth (dirt). The choice is life or decay, one brings reproduction and the other brings death.

The best the fallen tree can hope for is to become fertilizer for the other trees around it which endured the pressures of the world. That is of course if the entire forest isn’t cut down and carried away to be made into lumber or paper to be used by others. Which leaves nothing but barren dirt and rock to try and begin the process of restoration all over again, a process which could take generations.

Ancient Israel’s Infatuation With The Gates Of Hell

To see these receding waters in action among God’s people we can look back at the history of Israel, especially after the division of the monarchy. This was a time that came after the pinnacle of the kingdom after the reign of David and Solomon. It was a time of decline, lost territory, no faith, and reverence towards God was replaced with appeasement and idolatry. It was an age of compromise where the people wanted both God and the ways of the world.

The people once again wanted to be like the nations around themselves and fell into idolatry. This was an age of child sacrifice, the construction of false altars paid for by the kingdom, pagan festivals and assimilation into the cultures around Israel. This process did not begin under the divided kingdom but under the leadership of Solomon, who in an attempt to please his wives allowed them to continue serving the gods of their homelands (1 Kings 11:1-8). Solomon commissioned the building of altars, he even made sacrifices to idols on them and eventually he drifted away from God (1 Kings 11:9). In the heart of Solomon a prophetic picture of what was happening to the nation as a whole began to emerge.

The people wanted enough of God to retain their identity and covenant blessings but they also wanted all of the other gods as well to get their blessings

The people wanted enough of God to retain their identity and covenant blessings but they also wanted all of the other gods as well to get their blessings. The people only worshiped YHWH when they saw the other gods were not listening, and when YHWH did help them it was only a matter of time before they went back to their idols. The people were infatuated with the ways the Philistines, Assyrians, Edomites, Moabites, Egyptians and Babylonians to the point that they also worshiped their gods. Israel saw gods which appealed to their flesh because they replaced relationship and holiness with service and obligation.

It wasn’t long before the seeds scattered by Solomon corrupted the nation as we see through his descendants who sat on the throne of Judah.

2 Chronicles 28:1-4 Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his father David had done. For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the [a]high places, on the hills, and under every green tree. (NKJV)

2 Kings 21:4-6 “He (Manasseh) also built altars in the house of the Lord, of which the Lord had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” And he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of the Lord. Also he made his son pass through the fire, practiced soothsaying, used witchcraft, and consulted spiritists and mediums. He did much evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger.” (NKJV) (See Deuteronomy 18:10)

Jeremiah 32:35 And they built the high places of Baal which are in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, to cause their sons and their daughters to pass through the fire to Molech, which I did not command them, nor did it come into My mind that they should do this abomination, to cause Judah to sin.’ (NKJV)  (see also Ezekiel 16:20-25, 20:31, 23:37)

For those of you who think that “passing through the fire” is a metaphor here is an account from a first century Greek historian by the name of Plutarch who made this observation about Carthage (a similar culture to the Philistines who are both of Phoenician origin) “… but with full knowledge and understanding they themselves offered up their own children, and those who had no children would buy little ones from poor people and cut their throats as if they were so many lambs or young birds; meanwhile the mother stood by without a tear or moan; but should she utter a single moan or let fall a single tear, she had to forfeit the money, and her child was sacrificed nevertheless; and the whole area before the statue was filled with a loud noise of flutes and drums that the cries of wailing should not reach the ears of the people.”

Then there is this 12th century rabbinic commentary written by Rashi about Jeremiah 7:31 “Tophet is Moloch, which was made of brass; and they heated him from his lower parts; and his hands being stretched out, and made hot, they put the child between his hands, and it was burnt; when it vehemently cried out; but the priests beat a drum, that the father might not hear the voice of his son, and his heart might not be moved.” That is how far Israel fell into idolatry and the ways of the world despite being God’s chosen people and having a covenant with Him. It is no wonder that God allowed the Babylonians to come in and remove a faithful remnant from the land before it was cut down like a forest which was nothing but dead and decayed trees.

Even in modern times the allure remains, just consider this article (another here ) about Uganda in 2010 a nation supposedly in the midst of revival:  “The Ugandan government told us that human sacrifice is on the increase, and according to the head of the country’s Anti-Human Sacrifice Taskforce the crime is directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly… They capture other people’s children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits… They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming, Asked how often clients brought blood and body parts, the witch-doctor said they came on average three times a week – with all that the spirits demand from them.”

This is the same mentality which was alive in Israel once they had fallen away from God. They saw the idols as a means to achieve wealth and power, which is why Baal was widely worshiped because he was the god responsible for rain and the harvest. The parting of the Red Sea and the reign of David did not spare Israel from the responsibly to faithfully serve God, they trusted in previous victories and used that knowledge to excuse their behavior and sins because they assumed that God would never do anything about it (Jeremiah 14:13-14).

The parting of the Red Sea and the reign of David did not spare Israel from the responsibly to faithfully serve God

 

The Church’s Failures Against The Gates Of Hell

Often it seems that the church better resembles the Samaritans after they were relocated into the Kingdom of Israel by Assyria. Those who brought their old gods with them and only recognized YHWH because of the troubles they encountered in the land.

2 Kings 17: 32:34 “32 So they feared the Lord, and from every class they appointed for themselves priests of the high places, who sacrificed for them in the shrines of the high places.33 They feared the Lord, yet served their own gods—according to the rituals of the nations from among whom they were carried away. 34 To this day they continue practicing the former rituals; they do not fear the Lord, nor do they follow their statutes or their ordinances, or the law and commandment which the Lord had commanded the children of Jacob, whom He named Israel” (NKJV)

They sought appeasement and not relationship, the Samaritans wanted to live as they did before but wanted the benefits of YWHW so that they would not be tormented by the lions in the land. It seems that the modern Western church has fallen victim to the same mindset, except instead of serving Baal or Chemosh it serves the gods of money, programs, humanism, self-idolatry, lethargy and appeasement. The gospel becomes a hindrance to the branding of the church and the name of Jesus has become too offensive scaring away many potential customers… I mean members .

The Gospel becomes a hindrance to the branding of the church and the name of Jesus has become too offensive scaring away many potential customers… I mean members.

It doesn’t help that as a body we are constantly gorging ourselves on our brothers and sisters in Christ, the church better resembles a roving band of cannibals than the loving sheep Jesus called us to be. We are divided on every issue from theology to music to the color of the carpet, each church is an island to itself because everyone inside of it as also a lone island unwilling to work with the others. And when we are united the problem faced by many today is that they are too busy to serve God because they are under bondage to the gods of debt and obligation.

The Holy Spirit has gone from being the witness of the power and nearness of God to having to be the master bridge builder just to get enough people together to pray that the gospel would be preached. The church is unable to maintain its constant pressure against the gates of hell because each droplet of water is arguing (Luke 11:17) with the other about which direction to push in, how hard to push and how much better the old days were when we lived in a cloud.

What should be a tidal wave dissipates into a mist which does nothing more than crash and condense along the walls of the enemy and evaporates as soon as the sun rises.

What should be a tidal wave dissipates into a mist which does nothing more than crash and condense along the walls of the enemy and evaporates as soon as the sun rises. Why is it that we look at this mist and call it a tidal wave? Why do we ooh and aah at what is ineffective and call it glorious? We create the Church of the Mist to commemorate the day the mist finally reached the wall. Then a couple of years later the Church of the Mist divides and the Church of the Fog is born and we have two congregations worshiping something that never did anything to expand the kingdom all the while convincing themselves that they are changing the world, even though they can’t see that world because of the wall and gate they are unable to overcome.

Eventually entire theological books are written to justify the mist, they study the mist to discern if it is the mist spoken of in Genesis 2:6 or if it is a cloud which came down from the sky all the while ignoring what God actually wants us to do. They praise God that occasionally on a good day some of the mist can make it through the gates and God willing perhaps a puddle could form on the other side. “Oh Lord we pray that we could be as that puddle then in the last days a remnant could bypass this gate and enter the other side.” This sounds absolutely ridiculous when you compare it to how the church is supposed to operate in this world.

Look At Me I’m The Kingdom Now!

The church and the Kingdom of God are interconnected but they are not always the same thing. We need to see the Kingdom as the overall territory where the gospel has taken hold, where people are delivered, healed, restored and discipled. While the church acts as fortresses, watchtowers and schools within that territory which is controlled by the great King. Scriptures such as Romans 14:17, 1 Corinthians 4:20 and Luke 17:20-21 don’t speak of the Kingdom as being a natural entity but something which is demonstrated through us and exists within us. It is described within us as being joy, righteousness, peace, power and the presence of the Holy Spirit.

The Kingdom exists in Heaven and in the spiritual realm but God is looking for people and congregations who are willing to bring that Kingdom into the Earth in a tangible way. The problem is that people no longer see their place in the Kingdom beyond sitting in a chair on Sundays and paying their tithes. We have lost the personal urgency to be a witness of the Kingdom wherever we are and in the midst of the place God called us.

We have lost the personal urgency to be a witness of the Kingdom wherever we are and in the midst of the place God called us.

I’m reminded of something Leonard Ravenhill once said “Sunday morning shows how popular the church is; Sunday night shows how popular the preacher is; prayer meeting shows how popular God is.” What is it that drives people into a church is it programs, music, day care, coffee, conversation, activities or is it the living presence of God. I’m not saying that all of those other things are bad but they must collectively come second after God. Otherwise we run the risk of all of those secondary things taking priority over the gospel, discipleship, the moving of the Holy Spirit and God’s presence.

We need unity, prayer and action to maintain this pressure upon the gates of the enemy so that they will crumble and all of those trapped within those walls can be freed from sin and eternal death. When we take our hearts out of the world we are finally able to see things according to God’s vantage point. Then when enough people have this heavenly perspective unity is born and the faint mist begins to transform back into the might tidal wave of God’s power which is able to topple over the gates of hell allowing the church and the gospel to press into new territory to see people healed, saved and delivered. Just don’t forget to always keep up the pressure against the enemy’s defenses so we don’t lose what God has given to us.

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Creative Commons LicenseWhy The Church Fails To Conquer The Gates Of Hell Cameron Conway is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.