15 – Why The Church Fails To Conquer The Gates of Hell

CCR PC 15 Why The Church Fails to Conquer the gates of Hell

You can check out the article behind this podcast at:
https://conwaychristianresources.com/2018/10/blog/gates-of-hell/

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.

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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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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Indigo, iBook, Nook and more HERE

Six Minutes of Grace: The Key To Finding Happiness and Purpose
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Indigo, iBook, Nook and more HERE

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

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
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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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.

Why The Church Fails To Conquer The Gates Of Hell

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Go even deeper with the podcast of this message

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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