The following is mostly from an email, sent to a hurting pastor some years ago. I trust it will find resonance in your own heart.
This morning I received another revelation, and it came as I was thinking about your situation. I was thinking about it in light of what my own experience has been. Namely, and I don’t think that there has ever been an exception, every time I have been at my spiritual best, I have been in the most trouble with others.
This morning this is the connection that finally came:
Jesus said, “Wait until you receive power.” Of course the power He was speaking of was the promised Holy Spirit, Who would not only bring us the things that are His, but conform us to His image.
He said, in effect, don’t go anywhere or do anything until you hear from me. (Who knows, perhaps if they hadn’t gone ahead and chosen Matthias, they might have been more open to receive Paul when the time came.)
Ok so far? Now put this together with something else Jesus said: “I send you forth like sheep among wolves…”
When the Holy Spirit comes.
Before that, He didn’t send them anywhere. On the contrary, He told them to wait.
Those, who go without being sent are not sent by Jesus or The Holy Spirit, they are sent by “the world, the flesh, and the devil.” So far from being “sheep among wolves,” they are “wolves in sheep’s clothing.”
I would like to suggest even another word picture of the way it works, at least, if my experience is any indication. Let’s call it, “a duck in a shooting gallery.” I don’t know how many times I have felt like that. This morning I finally realized that it is the same thing. “A sheep among wolves” is like “a duck in a shooting gallery.” “And you shall be my witnesses…”
The Holy Spirit fixes it so they can’t miss it. When my son Tim got Baptized in The Holy Spirit, his older brother, William said, “Tim is the most convincing evidence for the existence of God I have ever seen.”
So who wants to be “a duck in a shooting gallery”? Once we understand what’s going on, not many. So the tendency is to get out of the gallery, shut down, or trade places with the ones doing the shooting. I think all of these have been used as a kind of spiritual birth control. I know, I’ve tried them myself, especially shutting down and getting out of the gallery.
I feel like I’ve tried everything, and none of it works. Oh, it works as birth control, but the cry of my heart, and I think yours, is for children.
As a result, our calling is sure; “sheep among wolves,” or “ducks in a shooting gallery.” That is the way Jesus sends us, and that is what the
Holy Spirit makes us. That’s the way it was for Jesus, and He was careful to tell us that it would be no different for us. He also told us to count the cost, and there it is…
So here I am, 40 years later, still trying to get a handle on the cost, and He said that that is the first thing I should have done. ‘Go figure.’
A couple of years ago, around Valentine’s Day, I expressed it this way to a local pastor:
In Luke 9, it is written: “And it came to pass, when the time was come that he should be received up, he steadfastly set his face to go to Jerusalem.” I believe that this way of expressing it was to fulfill the passage in Isaiah 50:7: “For the Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.”
Hebrews 2:2 says: “despising, or having no regard for the shame of the cross, Jesus sat down at the right hand of God.” It was Joy in his heart that made that possible. He was beaten beyond human recognition, stripped naked, and hung up on a stick like a piece of meat, and he was not ashamed. He won back what was lost in the Fall, nakedness without shame. This was the first time since the fall that a man was naked before the one he loved, but without shame. Since that time God has been looking for those who would receive His Valentine. The problem is that the Love of God is so great that unbelievers think it’s not possible, and believers think it’s illegal.
His face was set like a flint to that end. A flinty faced lover, who could have imagined such a thing? If we are going to love like Jesus loved, we also will be ‘reckoned among the transgressors’. What do you think? Do you want to risk it?
Through our interaction, The Lord continues to give revelation. That’s not just help, that’s the kind of stuff He said He would build His Church on…
“They all hold swords, being expert in war: every man hath his sword upon his thigh because of fear in the night,” Song of Songs 3:8.
I had already seen Luke 22:36-38. “Then said he unto them… ‘he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one. For I say unto you, that this that is written must yet be accomplished in me, ‘And he was reckoned among the transgressors; for the things concerning me have an end.’ And they said, ‘Lord, behold, here are two swords.’ And he said unto them, ‘It is enough.”
This is why Peter was armed in the garden of Gethsemane. It was for fear in the night, fear that he would be reckoned among the transgressors, and rejected.
In light of what I had already seen about swords, and in light of my understanding that the flaming sword of Genesis 3:24 was for the purpose of keeping the way, rather than obstructing it, it appears to me that; one, Jesus is the way, and more specifically, the way was opened through His flesh, when He was beaten and crucified. Remember, “… by abolishing in his flesh, the law which stood against us and was opposed to us, He took it away, nailing it to the cross.” or words to that effect; two, the way back into the garden is through the cross. In instructing his disciples to get swords, Jesus’ purpose was to fulfill the Scriptures that He might be ‘reckoned among the transgressors’. The swords were not for the purpose of keeping Jesus from being crucified, (Peter’s heart) but for insuring that he was crucified. The way back into the garden is through the crucifixion of Jesus. The swords were “to keep the way.”
What was in the garden?
Intimacy with God and each other.
Hebrews 10 tells us that, in His death the veil was rent from top to bottom, and explained that the veil was His flesh. The shadow veil, the veil of the sanctuary had two cherubim embroidered on it, each with a flaming sword to “guard the way.” Peter’s two swords were certainly “enough” to make the connection complete.
A couple of weeks after that at a “leader’s meting” in Charlotte, NC the topic came up again, and I was moved to say, “being wounded in the house of our friends is part of the process.” It is the way that Jesus was perfected, and it is the same with us. Someone was shocked enough to ask, “Are you saying that we are supposed to be wounded in the house of our friends?”
It is only in the house of our friends that we can get to know the difference between make believe love, and the real thing. God’s kind of love doesn’t go away when “iniquity abounds,” Matthew 24:12. Make believe love is for make believers, and God’s kind of love, the kind that knows the cross, is for true believers.
Make believers can be very convincing until they are willing to be in the house of friends. That’s where the truth comes out. We need to love one another deeply, because the first ones deceived by make believers are themselves. We need to find out sooner rather than later, so we can repent now and avoid the rush.
The only thing that we have of value is the revelation of Jesus Christ that comes down from above, “…you are blessed Peter, because flesh and blood has not revealed who I am to you, but my Father in heaven...” I hope you can put up with the liberty I have taken with that passage long enough for me to make a point.
Jesus said he would build his church on that revelation, the revelation of who Jesus is, that comes from above. Notice, He did not say that He would build His church on information about Him, but on revelation of Him.
Here’s the problem as I see it. Each of us only has a part of that revelation. It’s all about Jesus, but our individual hearts and minds are not big enough to take it, (Him) all in. So we only know in part, and while some of the revelation overlaps; that is, we have it in common, a lot of the revelation we have is very personal. Our problem is that we tend to reject a revelation that differs from our own.
We think that we are big enough to have it all, but the truth remains, we only see in part. Given our present difficulties with our ability to see, what we need is something to hold us together in the absence of a common vision. That is called the love of God, the kind that knows the cross, the kind that’s good for enemies.
It is quite clear that this is a lot to ask, even coming from Jesus, so, what we do is sacrifice the corporate revelation, the revelation of Jesus that is bigger than any one of us, the revelation that causes Him to increase, and ourselves to decrease, and we substitute the vision of the leader. Call him; Church Planter, Bishop, Apostle, Prophet, Pastor, Reverend, Rector, Elder, Father, Elder Brother, Mother… and on , and on, and on. It’s still ‘the image’, oops, the vision of a man, and not the revelation of Jesus.
We really ought to check our titles with the sheriff when we come into town, and strap on Love. There is no telling what we might see, even in each other, and having seen and loved it, (the Jesus in each other) even the world might see and believe.
At least, that’s the way I think it’s supposed to work, if John 17 isn’t just “whistling Dixie.” (Perhaps you can excuse me for that one. I’m now living in the “Bible Belt”.)
So, to share the gospel, is to put people at risk of wounding. This needs to be shared early on, and done so with the revelation that this is the only way that we can get to know the Love of God. Because, getting to know the love of God is what it is all about, and God’s kind of love is not make believe.
Blessinngs my dear brother. Some loud amening here…thught it might have woke nancy but alas i didn’t. Yu have much work to do so i exhort you to keep your eye on the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. Surely the enemy wouldlove to silence you, but he cannot. Continueto speak boldly and lovingly. Bless you my ddear friend.
A tremendously broad and insightful piece, Jay…
Love & prayers, Marge Porterfield
“Tim is the most convincing evidence for the existence of God I have ever seen.”….I love this since our Lord said about after receiving the Spirit, …”and you shall be my witnesses…” Shall be…not you shall go and witness but you shall BE my witnesses…As mom would sy the proof is in the pudding. If we wait UNTIL then God will fashion us into witnesses…we shall be his living proof texts…and by looking at us the world will know!
I love the humour in the way you put it sometimes. Your like Mary Poppins. A spoon full of sugar makes the medacine go down.
:-) It just doesn’t work without the love of God. Faith works by love!