01 – The Roots of our Identity in Christ

Conway Christian Resources Podcast
Welcome to the first podcast from Conway Christian Resources, Today we take a look at how we are connected to Jesus who is the root to all of the fruit in our lives

A Living Revelation of Jesus Christ – Part 1: Our High Priest and Brother

A Living Revelation of Jesus Christ – Part 1: Our High Priest and Brother

Right now you need a revelation that Jesus is just as alive today as He was during His ministry in Judea. Often, we tend to separate the two stages of Jesus’s life (divine and Son of Man), we see them as two different books on our shelves. One speaks of who Jesus was for those three and a half years, and the second one about what Jesus could be like one day.

We look at Jesus as the lamb of sacrifice, or the humble servant during the time of His ministry and assume that nothing has changed. But what does Jesus actually look like now in terms of his nature, power, authority and existence? Then we have the second question of how do we engage and relate to Him today?

From Reading To Revelation

First we must go beyond just reading or hearing the words from the Gospels and Paul, because unless these words become a revelation they will pass away from our minds and never reach our heart. Paul says emphatically in Romans 10:9-10 that we are to “believe in our hearts and confess with our mouth” who Jesus is.

We must go beyond simply hearing and understanding and arrive at a place where we become fully aware that Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ, the Messiah, the Son of God and Savior of the world.  We must come to a place where we know and believe, then we find ourselves in a place where Jesus Himself confirms who He is to us in our spirit through the Holy Spirit.

We must go beyond just reading or hearing the words from the Gospels and Paul, because unless these words become a revelation they will pass away from our minds and never reach our heart.


Galatians 1:11-12 11 But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. 12 For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.  NKJV

Galatians 1:11-12 11 For I want you to know, brethren, that the Gospel which was proclaimed and made known by me is not man’s gospel [a human invention, according to or patterned after any human standard].  12 For indeed I did not receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but [it came to me] through a [direct] revelation [given] by Jesus Christ (the Messiah).  AMPC


Not all of us get to have an experience like Paul did on the road to Damascus, but through the indwelling and communion of the Holy Spirit we can become just as aware of His presence, character and identity right now. Even if we did have an experience like that it does not excuse us from holding on in faith to who Jesus is right now despite what may be happening around us. Paul’s experience did not preclude him from persecution but it did give him faith to continue believing and preaching.

Paul’s ministry was birthed out of a revelation that Jesus is alive, right here and right now.

Paul’s ministry was birthed out of a revelation that Jesus is alive, right here and right now. Jesus was not just a story some drunk fisherman came up with, but was alive and beyond the confines of death. Paul saw Jesus and that encounter produced an awakening in his heart to follow Him no matter the cost. Many thousands of people saw Jesus during those thirty years He walked around the earth but only a couple of hundred had a revelation of who He was before Pentecost. That is the tipping point in our hearts, it is one thing for me to say that “I acknowledge Jesus existed” and it is an entirely different thing for me to believe that He exists right now!

All of this is based in the victory Jesus reaped from the cross, a victory which defied the wisdom of men and brought about His eternal plan to redeem those created in His image. Jesus through his death and resurrection has become our high priest, our covenant brother and finally our King (more next week). How we view each aspect of Christ will determine not only how we answer the Two Questions I asked last week of “who is Jesus” and “what shall I do with him”.

How we understand Jesus also determines how we will live out our own lives.

How we understand Jesus also determines how we will live out our own lives.Our faith and belief shapes our identity and what we worship and follow will decide whether we rely on our own personal strength or on Jesus’s  power and wisdom which is rooted in His eternal existence. Whichever power we choose to live by in this world will reflect back to the unsaved world around us. Those outside of the church look to us to see if what we claim to believe is true and they gauge that according to how they see us live, act, believe, speak and focus our time on.

A true witness for Christ does not come from regular church attendance, it comes from a life that reflects the reality of His existence, not just in the past but right now. A true witness for Christ is rooted in demonstrating that Jesus is real, Jesus is alive, and Jesus is King.

Our High Priest

The first way we encounter Jesus is through the His duties as our high priest. The high priests of the Old Testament were responsible for taking the offerings and sacrifices of the people and presenting them before God. These gifts were given to honor God and in the hope of continued blessing and a substitution for the penalty of sin on their lives. The highest honor for one of these Levitical high priests before the Babylonian exile was to be able to enter the Holy of Holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. Here on this annual festival the high priesst would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice endued with the nations sins upon the Ark of the Covenant.

Interestingly the top of the ark was referred to as the mercy seat, which represented redemption along with God’s throne. Those priests stood before the LORD to offer sacrifice then immediately left the room, however when Jesus offered Himself as a sacrifice in teh Heavenly Holy of Holies He was able to sit down and remain (Hebrews 12:2).

Jesus was not just another adherent to the order of Levi/Aaron, His is a more ancient order one that traces back to before the covenant of Moses was ever cut. The writer of Hebrews compares Jesus to Melchezedek (king of righteousness) the King of Salem (king of peace). This is seen as a higher order beyond the capabilities and responsibilities of the priesthood of Aaron.  For a more detailed account of Jesus as our high priest we can turn to Hebrews 10:1-18. In this section we see that the sacrifices of old were only temporary, like plastering over holes in drywall but when Jesus came He metaphorically tore down the house and rebuilt it.

The old system under the natural high priests were only a band-aid solution to sin, it provided a stop-gap remedy until the true healing of the heart could come. The Old Testament system would take a person who figuratively lost a limb and stitch up the stump and provide a crutch to continue on, but Jesus came to restore and replace that lost limb. From the beginning God had no desire for a crutch to be the answer for sin, He knew that the day was coming when the great Healer would come.

He would not just come for one generation, one nation, one people, or one city, no Jesus came so all nations and peoples could experience His forgiveness and restoration. A gift which exists not just because Jesus died so many years ago but because He lives right now and continues to be our high priest who restores us and cleanses us from sin and works to make our hearts look like His.

Our Covenant Brother

Through Jesus we have forgiveness, remission and annulment of sins.  The wall of separation had been torn down, the veil of the temple had split and the Holy of Holies now lives in those who receive and believe in Christ.


Hebrews 9:15 [Christ, the Messiah] is therefore the Negotiator and Mediator of an [entirely] new agreement (testament, covenant), so that those who are called and   offered it may receive the fulfillment of the promised everlasting inheritance — since a death has taken place which rescues and delivers and redeems them from the transgressions committed under the [old] first agreement.  AMPC


God did not stop with redemption alone, when we accept Christ we go beyond merely just believing in what He did.  No, rather we are adopted through Christ into the New Covenant.  Jesus spoke to Nicodemus about being born again, not of flesh but of spirit.  This is what happens we when we are brought under the new covenant we are re-born spiritual and adopted as a child of God (1 John 3:1, Galatians 3:26-29).

We are born anew to a greater Father, our true father, we as sons/daughters of God become alive and awaken to a more abundant life (this goes beyond just prosperity). Yet at the same time through the cross we die to sin, to the curse and to the power of the enemy.  Now being dead to these matters we are free from their judgments (Galatians 3:13-14, Deuteronomy 28:15).

In John 17:2 and Romans 10:10 we are assured that whoever believes and confesses in the name, authority and actions of Jesus will be saved.  None of this is by our own works, but by the works already done by Jesus.  We have simply been grafted like a vine (John 15:1-5) into His reward, and now we have access to God through Him. You could say that we have been added into Jesus’s rewards plan and have full access to it because of grace and our faith. Not only that but the Holy Spirit has access to come into us to lead us into our lives partnered with Jesus, so we can follow Him and He insures that our lives reflect His heart and nature.


1 John 2:1-2 1 My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not   sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. 2 And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.  NKJV

Galatians 2:20-21 20 I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.  NKJV


Jesus then is not just a far off God hiding in eternity but He is a living part of our lives, He is not just Supreme God but our brother and friend. He bridged the gap between us and the Father so we could have relationship with them. That is a key piece of covenant, to bring two people, families, tribes or nations together in a way which would be impossible otherwise.

We live our lives to try and please not just a divine judge but a loving father and faithful brother that is duty sworn to be there for us in our times of need.

We live our lives to try and please not just a divine judge but a loving father and faithful brother that is duty sworn to be there for us in our times of need. In return we turn away from our old sinful ways and demonstrate to others the great things that have happened in our lives since the day God entered it. In covenant what is God’s is now available for us and through grace Jesus takes the brokenness, vanity, and emptiness we bring to the table and exchanges it for healing, purpose and love.

But this is only half of the story next week we will take the next step in this journey of revelation and a look at Jesus as our King!

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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
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Six Minutes of Grace: The Key To Finding Happiness and Purpose
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Six Minutes of Grace Journal
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Creative Commons License
A Living Revelation of Jesus Christ – Part 1: Our High Priest and Brother 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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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

Understanding The Glory Of God

Understanding The Glory Of God
Go even deeper with the podcast of this message

Glory to God! This is something that most Christians have heard at one point, maybe in a song, or while someone was preaching or even while reading the Bible. But what does it mean, what is glory, what does it have to do with God and how to we give glory to Him?

Depending on which branch of Christianity you are apart of you may be familiar with pictures of God’s glory being anything from the sick being healed to people singing and dancing, to a magnificent cathedral decked out in gold or fine art or it could be a picture of a person coming to know Jesus. While there may be some traces here and there of God’s true glory in these pictures it is far from an accurate picture of what God’s glory actually is.

What Is Glory

Usually when we look at the concept of glory outside of the church we usually see pictures of grandness or power. The old phrase “for the glory of Rome” comes to mind which spoke of Rome’s power, dominance, authority, expansion and control of the people so that the state itself would grow and continue to consume. Or we see in sports where glory is seen as the afterglow which comes from a mighty victory where the champion(s) are exalted and recognized for years because of their accomplishments.

What these interpretations of glory have in common is that they are fleeting, based on works and are easily erased by others who come later. No longer is Rome the master of the Mediterranean but is the capital of a struggling nation a fraction the size the empire once was. Those who attained glory through sports are replaced by new champions and they become a fading memory or a statistic quoted by a color commentator on occasion.

When it comes to God’s glory we are dealing with something which is eternal, powerful and unstoppable.

When it comes to God’s glory we are dealing with something which is eternal, powerful and unstoppable. In the scriptures we see that God’s glory is spoken of constantly in places such as Psalms 24:7-10, 29:3, Exodus 33:18-23 and Isaiah 40:5. The glory of God at its core is the manifestation of God’s power and presence throughout creation (both natural and spiritual) it is the sonic boom that ripples through the air when God speaks. We see this in Exodus 24:16 when God’s presence came down upon Mt. Sinai, it came with clouds, thundering, smoke at a great billowing voice that terrified the people.

This same presence came again during the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 7:1-3, where the power and presence of God was so overwhelming that the priests couldn’t even go into the temple. The glory of God is power, transcendence and holiness in full display for people to recognize, it is the wave which rises from the sea to crash upon the shore. The water is always there but at certain times the waves rise up for all to see and come crashing upon the shore. At times the waves are so great that they sweep inland and cause great destruction because the structures created by men and women cannot resist the force of the water that rose up out of the sea and entered their domain.

The glory of God is power, transcendence and holiness in full display for people to recognize, it is the wave which rises from the sea to crash upon the shore.

So it is with God’s glory at different points throughout history God has risen up and released His presence upon the world of men and women. At times He has swept away the structures made out of pride or ignorance, other times He comes to bring much needed water the barren fields and still other times the water has come to renew, restore and heal the people. At its core the glory of God is His nature, power, dominion, love, holiness, justice and will released into creation.

Living In The Shadow Of God’s Glory

We understand Heaven as the place where God’s presence and glory are able to shine without any hinderance , but if that were to happen here on earth nothing would survive. It would be like staring into the sun at high noon on a clear day, however this is possible when there is an eclipse. You see Jesus acts as a proverbial eclipse which allows the light of the sun to shine and allows us to gaze upon it. Jesus is that protection which allows us to behold God’s glory in a tangible way (rather than just an intellectual or theological way).

Now I’m not saying that the glory of God is absent from Jesus I am actually saying the exact opposite. The glory of God is just as strong in Jesus as it is in the Father, however through the atonement and covenant relationship we have been offered through Jesus we are able to behold that glory. Unlike Uzzah who died touching the presence of God on the Ark of the Covenant we are made alive by that same presence through the Holy Spirit within us.

At the mount of transfiguration in Luke 9:31 we see God’s glory radiating from Jesus, but it did not consume Peter, James or John but rather moved them to revere and worship Jesus because He is God. Jesus in Matthew 19:28 speaks of sitting on a throne of glory (or glorious throne in some translations), where He will rule over creation as God.

Notice that Jesus is not in competition with God because through the Trinity they are both equal (Hebrews 1:3). Just look at what it says in 1 Peter 4:7-11 and focus on what it says in verse 11 “that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.” We see this idea of one brining glory to the other go the opposite way in John 11:4 where Jesus was to receive the glory for the resurrection of Lazarus.

What Does It Mean To Bring Glory to God?

If God’s glory has to do with his power, nature, holiness, dominion and will then how can we bring glory to God. How can we give Him what He already has in abundance (it’s actually limitless)? To understand this we have to go back to the original Hebrew and Greek. The word translated into glory was also translated into several other English words. In Hebrew that one word is translated into English as beauty, splendor, fame, honor, admire, magnificence, weight, power, majesty, heaviness, and importance. While the Greek word doxa is translated in the New Testament into the words glory, boast, praise, honor and glorious.

Our ability to give glory to God is not tied up in us giving God more of His own presence but it has to do with us recognizing that power, presence, love, holiness, justice, dominion and will through us honoring and loving Him.

Our ability to give glory to God is not tied up in us giving God more of His own presence but it has to do with us recognizing that power, presence, love, holiness, justice, dominion and will through us honoring and loving Him. The two go together God moves in power, love, conviction and we move in gratitude, obedience, honor and love. Look at what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 3:15-18


15 Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts. 16 But when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. 17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. 18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.” (NKJV)


Through Jesus we are able to witness and partake in the glory of God being poured out into the world. No longer do we hide our face from the sun but now through the atonement and the protection of Jesus we can look upon God and what He is doing through the spreading of the gospel, the expansion of the Kingdom and the working of miracles. Rather than being burned up by the light and power of God that shadow cast by Christ allows the glory and nature of God to transform us, it strips away the filth of the world but does not destroy us, so how can we help but to worship, honor, thank and proclaim God.

We can now see a clear progression of glory which looks like this:

God > Jesus > Believers > Jesus > God

Does that progression seem strange? What did Jesus say in John 17:20-23? In verses 22-23 Jesus said “The glory that you have given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you sent me and loved them even as you loved me.” God moves through Jesus and his adopted brothers and sisters to unleash upon the world the words and power of God so that the world will be able to witness the truth and presence of God.

The works of Jesus done through believers brings glory to God by testifying of his goodness and power towards other people so they can accept and believe the gospel so they to can be part of the same relationship we have with God so others can be delivered through the gospel

We should look at ourselves as being living and breathing representations of the Ark of the Covenant. The ark was the symbol of God’s presence among Israel and it housed God’s words, a testimony to His power (Aarons rod and the manna) and it was infused with God’s presence and glory. All of those facets live inside of us so we to must see ourselves as being like the ark instead of just and average Christian who may or may not have a prayer answered and just hopes for a quiet life where no one is disturbed.

How Do We Hinder God’s Glory?

Our ability to limit the expression of God’s glory upon the earth and our ability to glorify God is tied directly to our ability to sin. When we sin it is like building a dam to hold back a mighty river, our actions attempt to throttle the power and presence of God being released into the Earth. When we rebel, or disobey, or ignore what God has called us to do He lifts His glory off of us until we come to a place of repentance.

When we are in sin we cannot honor God because our actions show that we honor ourselves and our own desires more that God. When we sin we are declaring to the world that God is weak and powerless because despite our claims we still live and do as we please without fear of reprisal or correction. When we sin we no longer look at the sun through the eclipse of Christ but rather bury our heads in the dirt and end up like those Paul spoke of in Romans 1:21-23.

When we sin it is like building a dam to hold back a mighty river, our actions attempt to throttle the power and presence of God being released into the Earth.

Is this any different than what happened to Israel, they failed to see the Ark of God as the symbol of God’s glory and presence among them and instead treated it like a good luck charm. Eventually this logic led to the Ark being captured by the Philistines (1 Samuel 4). Then later on in the days of Jeremiah the people used the presence of God in the Ark at Jerusalem to excuse them of how they were living in idolatry and sin. It is ironic then that after the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon that the Ark disappeared never to be seen again.

If the glory and presence of God in your life can be compared to a crown then sin can be seen as you lifting that crown off of your head. However through the forgiveness and atonement made available to us through Jesus He comes and places that crown back on our heads, at which point we honor and thank Him for that forgiveness. That is how we glorify God by publicly showing love, honor, thanksgiving and testimony of what He has done to us to the world around us.

We now see how the glory of God is His love, power, holiness, dominion, justice, mercy, and will released into the world like and unstoppable wave. We also see how we are to respond to that pouring out but honoring, thanking and proclaiming to others what God has done to us. Therefore, don’t wait any longer and go out and proclaim what those in heaven declared in Revelation.


Revelation 5:11-13 “11 Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, 12 saying with a loud voice, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” 13 And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying,  “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (NKJV)


 

 

Creative Commons LicenseUnderstanding The Glory Of 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.