You Claim to Know God!

Many people call themselves believers and truly think that they are Christians. However, many of them are deceiving themselves and don’t actually believe.

To be a believer, a Christian, one must have an encounter with the living God that we call being “born agin.” You are born physically into the world but, to enter the Kingdom and have a relationship with the King, Jesus, you must be born again – born spiritually (John 3). 

This happens when you hear the good news of who Jesus is and what Jesus accomplished by dying on the cross and being raised from the dead. As a person hears the Gospel the Holy Spirit convicts them of their sin (John 16:8-10) and they respond with godly sorrow and repentance (2 Corinthians 7:8-10). Then they ask for forgiveness, receive it, and are born again.

To be born again means receiving the gift of eternal life from God Himself (Romans 6:13b). This gift is the supernatural ability to have a personal, in-depth, unique, ever changing, love relationship wth God the Father and with Jesus whom He sent (John 17:3). This encounter and relationship changes our whole life as you become a new creature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Then you embrace God and welcome Him into every aspect of your life. Jesus spoke these words to those who were religious and held to a set of rules that they thought made them ‘good’ with God… “But my Father is the One who will prove it and will glorify me. Isn’t he the One you claim is your God? But in reality, you’ve never embraced him as your own.” (John 8:54 The Passion Translation)

Before this Jesus commented…”I speak to you this eternal truth: whoever cherishes my words and keeps them will never experience death” (John 8:51 The Passion Translation).

So, if we will embrace God the Father and His Son Jesus – embrace Him as our God, our Lord, our Saviour – then we will believe the words that He has spoken and left for us in today’s Bible. Not only will we believe them, we will cherish them. We will actually apply His words to our lives and thus live differently. Our lifestyle, our words, our thoughts, our attitude, and the way we relate with people will be guided and directed by God and the words that He has spoken. A life that has totally changed will prove that we have had a real encounter with the living God. A life-changing encounter and a continuing daily relationship.

This is a heart thing. Being convicted by the Holy Spirit that leads to repentance is not a “head event.” Knowledge does not get us saved, born again. It is a heart event. So, a person can know the Gospel or Good News that “Jesus saves today” and still not be saved. They can know their Bible from front to back and still not be going to Heaven when they die. The words of Scripture must be “cherished” and embraced so that they become the foundation of our daily life. Knowledge is not enough – application is the key. You really only believe what you have applied and live. 

So, there are many who attend church on a regular basis and understand the message of the Gospel but have not had a heart encounter with the Living God. They have never experienced conviction with godly sorrow and true repentance. And, Paul the apostle states. that “without repentance there is no salvation.” Thus, although they are good church attenders they are not true believers, true Christians, and so will not be welcomed into Heaven by a loving God when they die. They have not embraced God as their own. 

Being a believer is more than knowing the truth. It is having had an encounter with the Living God and embracing Him and cherishing (and thus obeying) His Word. 

A Season of Change

Recently on a trip to Kazakhstan I had the honour of being in a service where the people of God prayed for a team of 14 who were heading to Mongolia on a “mission trip” to win the lost and establish house churches. I later had the privilege of speaking at length with and then prophesy over two of those involved – a couple who work in an orphanage in Kazakhstan and pastor a house church. They were excited about the 42 hour bus ride they were about to embark on to reach the nation of Mongolia and the people there who have never head of Jesus.

Paul writes, “I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’”

The Passion Translation reads: “It is my honour and constant passion to be a pioneer who preaches where no one has ever even heard of the Anointed One, instead of building upon someone else’s foundation. As the Scriptures say: ‘Those who know nothing about him will clearly see him, and those who have not heard will respond (understand).’”

As I move along in my own ministry I find my passion changing. I was prophetically told that I was now in the third and final season of my ministry and that I would see many changes and much would be new. I love teaching the saints. I really greatly appreciate training, equipping, and mentoring young people in their calling to change the world. There is much that I do and have done that is both enjoyable and beneficial to the Kingdom. However, recently I have found myself impatient with the saints who simply sit and learn and seldom do anything with what they have learned. Saints who have lost their passion and zeal for Jesus and His cause. I am finding less value and even less satisfaction in giving just another teaching and then another teaching and then…

Recently in the city of Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan I had the honour of speaking to some campus leaders and some of the Christian students whom they lead. In the group were a number of new believers – less than two weeks old. Alive, hungry, full of questions. We spoke about the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit and answered many questions. Afterwards, I had the opportunity to speak with and prophesy over the leaders of the university campus ministry. Again, powerful. Here was part of the feedback:

“It was tremendous the move of the Holy Spirit after your visit of my team and students. You remember a student said that he had visions before becoming a believer and he has them after. That night Ersultan and the rest of my team and some students cast out demons from that student for 3 hours. It was shocking the way demons reacted in him. Then yesterday we continued casting out the rest major 2 demons and a devil from him for 2 hours. Everyone saw visions and then we prayed over students to release speaking in tongues, after worshipped together and the room filled with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  It’s amazing the move of the Spirit which is a starting…”

In my heart of hearts this is where I want to be. I want to minister where the gospel has not been heard. I want to see the lost saved and raised up into new life. New expressions of the Church planted. I want to speak to new believers who are hungry to be trained and equipped and to learn more. I want to see churches that have not heard the true Gospel of the Kingdom come alive for the first time and embrace their divine destiny. I want to see the true Church that Jesus is building rise up and impact the community where they are located. I want to work with leaders who are wanting to go somewhere and do something significant for the King and the Kingdom. I want to mentor young people who are hungry for more and want to fully embrace the future that God has planned for them. Young people who are not satisfied with what is and are reaching for what could be. Young people who are wanting to see the lost won to Jesus and their nations transformed by the Gospel. 

Don’t get me wrong – I love what I am doing right now. I teach, I pray, I prophesy … but most of the churches I work with are not reaching the lost. And, to be honest, they really don’t have any interest in doing so. Add to that the obvious fact that little is changing in their lives and it leads to a bit of frustration on my part. Not to mention being somewhat bored teaching the same things and seeing nothing change.

So, as I enter the third and last stage of my 40+ years of ministry I am sensing a major change as I move into a serious season of raising up young people and training them to be world changers as they risk their life and take the Gospel of the Kingdom to places that have never heard the true Gospel. I will fade slowly from a lot of what I am currently doing. I will move forward embracing the new opportunities that have already begun to open up for me in the ministry – church planting in Canada, training young church planters in Viet Nam, working with campus ministries in Kazakhstan, and continuing to work with churches that truly are committed to the expansion of the Kingdom and are not simply maintaining the sheep and staying safe and comfortable. 

Change is never easy. But, in my life, I am welcoming and embracing this season of change and look forward to all the adventures it will lead me into. 

Ministry and Maintenance

Much of what we call “ministry” today is really “maintenance.” We come to a Sunday or mid-week service and we are ministered to by the teaching. Maybe others pray for us because we have a need. Others listen as we share and encourage us. We feel loved and built up and then head out the door and go home. I question if this is really ministry. 

Why? Because it is all about us – the believers. It is about taking care of our needs and our desires. It is helping us to worship. It is teaching the sheep more information that they will likely never use and often didn’t even need to know. We are maintaining the sheep. So, I call it maintenance. Real ministry is when we go out into our work world, our neighbourhoods where we live and where we play and share the love of God as seen in Jesus with others. Praying for them, encouraging them, helping them. Then we are ministering. 

I really deeply believe that it is time we recognize that what we call ministry is really maintenance. And, then real ministry takes place outside the four walls of the church building and away from our Christian gatherings. After all, Paul comments that we are all “ministers of reconciliation” bringing people to the cross of Christ and into the Kingdom through reconciling them with God. This no longer happens inside the four walls of a church building. It happens in homes, coffee shops, and restaurants. 

So then, when we come together as believers what should be happening? We should be equipped and enabled to minister effectively in the world in which we live. Ephesians 4:11-12 states that those in leadership have the task of equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. Remembering that ministry happens in every day life away from the sacred gathering. Instead of feeding the sheep more information and getting fat sheep who do not exercise we need to equip them and send them out to do ministry and thus they become strong and muscular and mature. We need to train and equip them with the skills needed to be true ministers of reconciliation and ambassadors of the Kingdom in the world in which they live.

It is only then that the believers come into maturity and grow in their faith. It is by using what they know that they learn, grow, and mature. And, most importantly reproduce. Once equipped they are ready, able, and even willing “to go into all the world and make disciples.” And, in doing so, they become hungry to learn more, have questions that need answering, and are excited about their faith. And, let’s admit, it would be amazing to see believers excited about their faith.

I have recently just come back from the nation of Kazakhstan and everywhere I went the young people are excited about their faith. They are sharing their faith within the relationships they have at work, at school, in university, and in their neighbourhoods. They are even out on the streets and malls sharing their faith. I had the honour of working in three churches (with a total of 10 churches represented) in two cities. It was powerful. They were excited. People were being saved and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The believers were hungry to learn more and grow so they could be more effective. Everyone had questions. A teacher’s delight! The atmosphere was electric, dynamic, and powerful. Alive! 

This is as it should be. Teaching, equipping, and training the believers who then move out to the unsaved and minister supernaturally showing people the love of God and the power that raised Jesus from the dead. True ministry as seen in the book of Acts and the epistles (letters) to the early Church as found in the New Testament. 

The Spirit-filled Church?

As I travel and minister in various churches in different nations I have noted that the idea of being “Spirit filled” or baptized in the Holy Spirit looks different in many churches. And, in most of them there is an apparent misunderstanding of the purpose of being baptized in the Holy Spirit or what is commonly referred to as being “Spirit-filled.”

Jesus told His disciples to remain in Jerusalem until they had received the promise of the Father which was a prophetic word found in Joel, Chapter two. The promise was supernatural power…

Luke 24:49 “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

He further explains this experience just before ascending into heaven …

Acts 1:5 “… John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.”

Jesus goes on to explain the purpose of this ‘baptism’…

Acts 1:8a “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses…”

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit comes with supernatural gifts that release this power so that people’s lives can be impacted with the Gospel of the Kingdom…

1 Corinthians 12:4-11 “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. For to one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another the ability to distinguish between spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. All these are empowered by one and the same Spirit, who apportions to each one individually as he wills.”

However, in practice, in local churches we see a variety of situations in regard to the promise of the Father, the power received in the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, and the gifts of the Spirit.

 We have people trying to impact the lives of others without the supernatural power and the gifts of the Spirit – born again but not baptized in the Holy Spirit

Paul states that without the power received when Baptized in the Holy Spirit you have done only half the job of presenting the Gospel of the Kingdom

Romans 15:18-19 “For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ.”

Words and no manifestation of power is a job half done.

We have people who received the experience and simply do not use their private prayer language and certainly don’t flow in the supernatural gifts – so an experience but little else. A gift that was never unwrapped.

Their lives exhibit little of the “life of Christ” who lives in them and they are often defeated by life’s circumstances and situations. They live in a manner that makes it difficult to distinguish the believer from the non-believer.

We have people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit and simply “pray in the Spirit” but do not flow in the gifts and seldom tell others about Jesus.

It is good to “pray in the Spirit” as Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 14 but this is not one of the nine gifts of the Holy Spirit. And, the person who simply prays in the Spirit and does not use the supernatural gifts of 1 Corinthians 12 to touch the lives of non-believers has missed the point of the experience we call the Baptism in the Holy Spirit – “you shall be My witnesses…”

We have people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit, pray in tongues, and witness to others and don’t take advantage of or use the gifts of the Spirit. Again, no signs and wonders proving that the Gospel of the Kingdom is true and that Jesus really is alive and very active in the world. 

Often this is a result of not being taught how to flow in the gifts and given the opportunity to practice while with others who are more mature in the ministry of the gifts of the Spirit. Sometimes it is simply fear that keeps people from moving out and transforming lives with the power of the Gospel. However, for whatever reason the purpose of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is not released and thus is lost. 

We have people who are moving in the gifts of the Spirit and seeing people impacted with the Gospel of the Kingdom and so lives are being transformed supernaturally.

This is what the Baptism in the Holy Spirit is all about. It is real. It is more than speaking in tongues as good as that might be. It is moving in supernatural power released by moving in the gifts of the Spirit and seeing that power touch and change lives. This should be a daily experience in the life of Spirit-filled believers as we are called to “be” a witness (see Acts 1:8). So, moving in the gifts should happen as we live life and thus our whole life is being a witness to others as we move in the Spirit and speak words that impact people for Jesus in every day situations.  

Anything less is simply ”playing church.”