The events of today’s world in the area of monetary affairs provide us with a most graphic confirmation of the truth of the Bible – that there is a war going on for control of the world. One way or another, all of us are involved. According to Scripture, the long-term outcome has already been determined, but the short-term outcome has not, though it has very real bread-and-butter consequences for each of us every day. This war cannot be ignored or avoided; it affects all of us worldwide. The battleground is economic. It is over the control of individuals. It has to do with how we relate to each other.
It is at the point of relating – or relationship – that money or, more precisely, a “medium of exchange”, comes about. The medium of exchange is the way that we relate to others for the fulfillment of their needs and desires. If the “kings of this earth” can control our medium of exchange, then they can control us.
This is what inflation is all about. Inflation is nothing more than the monetary manifestation of a grab for power, to run lives and to later dispose of them. It is a form of corruption. As our ability to exchange is corrupted, we become controlled. We are controlled at the core of our being by the things we value: “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”
The final outcome of this fight has never been in doubt. It was determined from the foundation of the world. But this knowledge does not alter our responsibility to be a part of the battle. If those who have understanding don’t get involved, the battle is lost. Even though this loss will only hold for the short run, the Biblical short run can be a long time.
It may be long enough to include another Dark Ages.
I would like to tell you a true story that revolutionized my understanding of God, the “good news,” and my relationships. In fact it has been so life-changing, that I felt the Lord command me not to speak anywhere new, that I do not share this story!
Simply put, there is nothing I deem more important than this message in order to have intimate, and yes, unshakeable relationships that come from God Himself.
In 1987 I was in a patent office in Düsseldorf Germany for a fairly important business meeting. My German at the time was weak, which was all for the good because I was in a rather desperate place. Up to this particular day I had walked with the Lord for about 15 years, and had gained a greater understanding of God’s love. But I was still struggling in many areas. I had heard a gospel that basically said, “Jesus laid His life down for His friends,” but frankly this wasn’t doing me much good. Not for the state of turmoil I was in. I was feeling like my expectations had become my greatest enemy, and every time they weren’t lived up to I became part of the problem.
As I sat there in this patent office, a certain verse out of the Bible kept cycling through my consciousness, “Perfect love casts out fear.” ¹ When I finally became aware of it (you know, kind of like the moment you finally become conscious of a melody which was continually playing in your mind), my awareness took the form of, “That’s interesting – love casts out fear.” But suddenly I felt inwardly rebuked, “NO! Love creates fear. Perfectlove casts out fear!”
It then came to be that “perfect” love was explained to me, right there, in the parable of a patent. Now I don’t know if you know anything about patent law, but in general a couple of things are required to get a patent on a new idea, device, or process. The first thing is to describe what is called, “the state of the art.” This is the prior art of something, or that which is already known about it. This makes the existence of something “as good as it gets,” or perhaps more accurately, “as good as it has gotten.” Next, comes a description of what the patent applicant thinks he has that’s new, something never done or practiced before. This is called the “abstract”. Finally the clincher is the reduction to practice, or the “demonstration” of what is new.
Now there’s more, but at this point my mind was racing! I had to ask for a pen so I could write as fast as I could. What I was understanding was that previous to the Cross there was a “state of the art” love that was understood, and like patent law, was “as good as it gets.” Jesus described it as, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” ² Paul too spoke of it, saying, “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man (i.e. for a friend) some would even dare to die.” ³
But then I was reminded of the whole of Paul’s message. “For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. But God commendeth (demonstrated) His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.”, and again, “if, when we wereenemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.”
I was blown away. Jesus is God’s love patent, and He demonstrated a love that was previously not known until He came and died for His enemies. This means I was qualified! I was qualified not because I “deserved” His love. Jesus gave Himself to me on my most ignorant, weakest and sinful worst day. He extended love and forgiveness to me when I was the one putting Him on the cross!
Suddenly the gospel – and it’s relational implications – was opened up to me in a whole new way.
Now I had never seen anything like this before, and I had to ask the question, “How is that possible????” Then I heard His voice again, “The day I said I love you, I nailed my expectations to the tree.” My mind was still racing. This time it came to rest at another passage from the Bible, “And you, being dead in your sins, and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses; Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross;” (4)
In that patent office, Jesus finally went on to say, “… And if you are going to love like I love, you too are going to have to nail your expectations to the tree.”
A Redemptive Love, not a Reactive love
From what you have written, my friend, I’m guessing that you have mostly seen, and have been on the receiving end of the kind of love that’s only good for friends. Sadly what has been calling itself “church” is full of it. It is the kind of love that is based on – even reactive to – the perceived value of its object. But as demonstrated by Jesus, there is another kind of love, and it is based on the value of God: “Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” – “This is how we know what love is, Jesus Christ laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for each other.” (5)
Now obviously it gets really tricky when we have to love others on our worst days, especially the worst days of those we claim to love. It’s those days that no one really feels like they deserve love, or are able to give it. But for me this has become the most important understanding of taking up my cross daily. Because of what He did for me, I don’t have to be alienated from those I disagree with. His love empowers me to be lovingly redemptive toward them. It is capable of loving those who are bad, and making them good if they can believe it. And it is capable of opening up door to walk in true intimacy with them.
Are we up for it? Without this kind of love my friend, the family of God is bankrupt.
(1) 1 John 4:18 (2) John 13:38 (3) Romans 5:7 (4) Col. 2:14 (5) 1 John 3:16
Where the “cost” of following Jesus is concerned, you may remember He once said to a young man who wanted to follow Him, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head.”(1)
Surely, having no place to live is a great cost, so great that most of us can dismiss the idea as not having relevance for us today. In seeming contrast to this verse, however, how many of us noticed that Jesus DID have a home?
“… Jesus … went and lived in Capernaum…”(2)
“When Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home. So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing to him a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on. When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (3)
“… They came to Capernaum. When he was in the house…” (4)
Whether or not Jesus or His family owned the house, rented the house, or were more or less extended house guests, it is clear that there was a place in Capernaum called “home”, and it apparently included a house.
Now before Jesus went to this location, however, He was in next door Nazareth where He was raised. It was here that He announced His anointed purpose in the local synagogue.
“He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up … ”The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.” (5)
It was after this that Jesus went to the next town, even to the house where He was then living. And it was here that the man was lowered through the roof.
Broken People Break Things
Obviously Jesus’ agenda of bringing the good news and setting people free was one that He not intend to accomplish in an institutional context. His lifestyle, and that of the early Church gave evidence that it was not His heart to institutionalize people, but to meet them in their brokenness and transform their lives in a vital community of faith. He brought His work home with Him, one consequence of which was that the roof was torn off of the house where He was staying.
Institutional ministry by its very nature is limited liability ministry. The ministry of Jesus was unlimited liability. Where having a place is concerned, an unlimited liability mindset is one which does not claim even bird’s nests or fox holes. It is capable of occupation without possession or grasping.
Our point for present purposes is that having a home does not disqualify us from following Jesus. The important thing is our attitude about the things we possess, even the place where we live. If our homes are not going to be off limits to the agenda of Jesus, then we must face up to the cost. Jesus wants to accomplish His purpose from house to house. This means opening our homes, our families, and our lives, to poor, broken and oppressed people, and broken people break things. In their desperation they, and/or their friends have even been known to tear the roof off.
Are we ready for this? Are we ready for unlimited liability? Or would we prefer to go on touching lives at the relatively safe distance of our institutional programs, churches, and buildings? I need to confess that I do not lose much sleep contrasting my own ministry to that others, that of Mother Teresa, for instance. My problems of conscience come from what I am doing or not doing in my own home.
Having flirted with His purpose in the past, it is clear that isolated individuals and families are quickly overwhelmed by the enormity of the task and the world’s response to even limited success. As a result there are more broken people than occasional even semi-sold-out saints can handle. Making the effort, one quickly discovers why, in so many cases, those who take The Lord seriously do so by appointment, some place else, and for earthly compensation.
It is still my hope that a vital community of faith could both risk, and actually walk in the heart of Jesus.
Isn’t it time for the nets, torn by our institutions, to be mended, and the limits of liability be removed from the Church? Isn’t it time for “church” to cease being something that we do some place else?
1. MAT 8:19,20, 2. MAT 4:12,13, 3. MAR 2:1-5, 4. MAR 9:33, 5. LUK 4:16-24
What does it mean that is written, “And it was given unto him to make war with the saints, and to overcome
them” ? Revelation 13:7
That was the question, and the following passages came to mind as I
wrestled with God for an answer:
“And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may
reach unto heaven; and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered
abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” Genesis 11:4
“Those people are zealous to win you over, but for no good. What they
want is to alienate you [from us], so that you may be zealous for them.”
Here the beast, (man as Satan’s agent) was given power to make war against the saints, and to overcome them. How can this be, since the saints are “more than conquerors” in Christ? Surely the “new man” cannot be defeated by the beast. It must, therefore be the “old man.” The “new man” reigns with Christ, but to do so, he must first be “beheaded.” How can Christ be our head, if we still have our old one? So Satan is in the business of beheading the “old man.” As it was with Christ, so it is with us, if he had known the result, “he never would have crucified the Lord of Glory.” The beast can only do what Satan empowers him to do, and he only says what Satan says…This war against the saints is Satan’s idea. Whose idea was it to build the tower of Babel? It was Satan’s idea. They did it because they thought that they would be scattered if they didn’t have a name and a building. It was a variation on the same lie that the serpent told the woman in the Garden.
It was the wrong name and the wrong building. It has something to do with builders. It does not say, “the stone that some of the builders rejected…” Jesus is the stone that all of the builders reject, because it is either His building or theirs. He is the only one who can build His building. All man can do is submit as building material or mess it up when we try to help. As soon as we build anything, we have something to lose, and so are compromise.
The war against the saints is a war against God’s building. God builds with living stones, and He builds by placing them in right relationship with one another. It is right relationship under God that is the focus of the beast’s attack or warfare against us. “And because iniquity abounds, the love of most will grow cold.” It is the Love of Christ that binds us together in right relationship. Iniquity is a weapon against love.
If we claim to be lovers but have not love, we are dead meat or if the love that we have is not God’s kind of love, i.e. the love that was redefined at the cross, then our love cannot overcome iniquity. The “old man” is incapable of God’s kind of love. Only the “new man” of Christ in us is capable of a love that is more than a conqueror in the face of iniquity. It can only be that the beast has the power to make war against the saints to overcome them because the saints are trying to muddle through with the wrong kind of love. We must be beheaded of that muddle-headed kind of love, and the beast, inspired and energized by Satan, is God’s instrument for the completion of that task. It is the task of the cross, and He who began this work in us, to finish it in us.
Relationships that come from God are the enemy of Satan, and the builders are his agents against such relationships. They make war against relationships that come from God. You have heard that the beast is coming, even now many beasts have come. What else could Paul be talking about, that he “fought wild beasts at Ephesus”? 1 Corinthians 15:32
If our being one, “as Jesus and The Father are one,” is the way He has chosen and prayed “that the world may know..,”, then our loving one another in that oneness is the greatest possible threat to Satan. It is no wonder that the builders do everything possible to alienate us from Christ in each other, They want us to be zealous for them and their buildings.
In my experience, the war is horrendous.
Yours in Christ,
P.S. “The Wild Beasts of Ephesus” … That is where they tested them that say they are apostles, wasn’t it?? :-)
The following post is a message by Jay Ferris originally shared in July, 2007. The place was a Searching Together Conference in the mid-west. Jay once said that this was possibly one of his most inspired times of speaking, and some might agree. It’s probably best to listen to the audio if you can, but either way the transcript of his message is also available below.
Last year in Salem Oregon, my prayer was that those who were present would be unoffendable, and that I would be just as offensive as possible. I have the same sense walking to the podium here today.
Carleen and I are very glad to be with you again.
This is such a wonderful, gracious environment to share in. There’s a big difference between searching together and knowing alone. I’ve done it both ways, and really like the “together” part of it. I’m praying that great grace will be upon us, and we will really be unoffendable. The things I share I’m very passionate about, but I’m ready to repent if you can show me a more excellent way. So it’s just nice to have that kind of environment where there is the liberty to share our heresies.
I wasn’t sure if we would be able to make it this year, but the Lord had me in a place of desperation. I called Jon out of that desperation, and Jon made me an offer I couldn’t refuse by giving me a topic, “The Needs of the Bride of Christ.” I mean that was “be still my heart.” That settled it.
A recent book that I’ve looked at was Desire by John Eldridge. Has anyone else seen that book? Desire. Good book. Oh yes, it’s a good book. So I’m going to get my talk over with real quick. The needs of the Bride of Christ.
We can move to questions now or I could share just a couple of sound bites to stimulate some conversation. I really like conversation! You know, I think the reason that conversation isn’t very popular with what’s calling itself “church” is because it’s very hard to take up an offering for a conversation. But that’s already precluded, so we can talk. I love it.
As I’ve been looking at relationships and living in them now for over 35 years, rather than repenting, I’ve become more and more convinced that this is what Jesus prayed and died for. That somehow we would be one, as He and the Father were one before the foundation of the world. The “Us” that said, “let Us make man in our image, male and female,” knew what He was doing.
We’re not quite sure what to do with it yet, and so it’s really important to get the point of male and female, because if you don’t get the point, you are left hung up on the plumbing. And that’s where what’s calling itself “church” seems to be. The more repressed and the more in denial what’s calling itself “church” becomes, the more moral failure, even pedophilia, we wind up with.
So it’s time to get the point. And I think “searching together,” and talking about… can we talk about this? God said in Isaiah, “Come let us reason together, saith the Lord…” Remember the context? They were “shot.” They were really “beat.”
In April of this year, I said a couple of things that got me in some trouble. Some of the speakers left a conference after my first comment before the conference even got going.
How many of you know Nate Krupp or heard of Nate? Well Nate asked me to moderate the speakers meeting that would determine what we would talk about and who would do the speaking and what kind of venue. (I hate to do that stuff. I just don’t like being in charge.)
On the way to the front – actually it was a circle… (I like circles better) to sit in the moderator’s seat; I was prompted to say, “To what then shall I liken the Kingdom of God? It’s like a drop dead gorgeous woman who walks into a room full of women.” And there was a silence after that. It was kind of an awkward silence. And then after a little while I said, “gender neutral.” I don’t know what got me into more trouble, the drop dead gorgeous woman, or saying “gender neutral,” but I was in trouble by then. And it was going down fast after that.
Well, the topic that I had for the general session was a city with 12 gates and only one street.
Does that ring a bell with anybody? It’s in Revelation 21. It’s kind of interesting because where that conference was held people were getting lost trying to find their way to the conference center. I got lost – and it was my second year going. So when I was on my way to the front of the room I raised my hand and asked, “Did anybody else get lost on the way to this place?” And most of the people had gotten lost! I said, “I have really good news for you: we’re heading for a City with only one street.”
Before my day of final embarrassment came, about 3:00AM the Lord awakened me, I thought it was the Lord… I’m pretty sure it was because I’ve had a few go rounds with Him… He usually wins. Across my ticker went, “a street called ‘stupid’.”
My subject is going to be “12 gates, one street,” and at 3:00 in the morning I’m awake with “a street called stupid.” I was pretty excited about it, because the “house church movement” is beginning to develop brand names. One of the real popular brand names now is something called “simple church.”
Anybody here heard of “simple church”?
About the time that 3:00 in the morning rolled around, I was convinced that was just way too complicated. Because the word “church” has become so loaded. All of us have had an experience with “church,” one way or another, and I haven’t met anybody that hasn’t been offended by what’s calling itself “church.”
I use that expression because there’s what God calls Church, you can read all about it in the Bible, and then there’s what’s calling itself “church.” And I don’t like to say anything against what God calls Church because by one sacrifice He perfected it forever. And I dare not touch that.
But then there’s something that’s calling itself “church,” and it comes in a whole lot of packages. One of the recent ones is “simple church.” I don’t think it’s very simple. I think it’s still loaded with agendas. Just take the agendas out of special buildings and put them in living rooms and create a lot of spiritual down line and networking and things get complicated. But one of the ways of understanding a City with only one street is that it’s distinct from the “information highway.” Especially a “street called stupid.” There’s the information highway, and then there’s the street called “stupid.”
(A couple of years ago it occurred to me that The Power of the Holy Spirit is a lot like human chemistry. You know the kind. You are out in a restaurant, look around and see a couple who has it, they kind of glow in the dark. Made me really appreciate why The Lord didn’t want His representatives to leave Jerusalem without it. So I asked The Lord, which came first, the body language or the chemistry. As I searched for an answer, it occurred to me that on the day of Pentecost before the Holy Spirit showed up, they were all together in one accord. They had been in the upper room for about ten days together with the women and children. I hadn’t ever seen that, and asked The Lord how is that possible, and I felt like the answer came: “They were stupid.”
The problem by now is that we all know too much to get into the same room together – plus we still seem to have some gender problems.)
And the next line that went across my ticker, because any time a thought hits me like that, my scanner starts scanning whatever Scriptures I’ve got in me, and the scanner came across “a street called Straight.” (Right about then I was wishing I had my Concordance with me, but I was in a strange place and I didn’t have my Strong’s. I consider my Strongs my first line of defense against scholars.) I wasn’t sure if it was a “strait jacket” or exactly the kind of “straight” it was, but it was a “street called Straight” that Paul went to.
I had been wrestling with, “Lord, why am I not in the Spirit more often, and why don’t I stay there longer. I had been on that street a few times, and I’ve become convinced that there’s nothing that’s in the Kingdom of God, except by the Spirit. Nothing is allowed in, except by the Spirit.
The other thing that is kind of a determining factor as to what’s in and what’s out is blood. Nothing is in the Kingdom of God, except by blood. So, the blood and the Spirit are both essential. Not an “information highway,” it’s not programs, it’s not “let’s make a deal,” it’s not “so you think you can dance.” (The previous speaker had used the dancing word picture through out his presentation.) There’s only one way to get in there – it’s by the Holy Spirit. He’s sovereign.
Actually, during the conference in April, it struck me that you can stand at the foot of the Cross all day long, but it won’t do you much good unless you stand there as a “menstrous woman.” She is gender neutral in the Scriptures – Isaiah 64:6: “For we’ve all become as one unclean, and all our righteousness as menstrous rags.” “Menstrous.” The Hebrew root word there is “periodic.” We get to mess up time and time and time again, and it’s about the time we feel messed up that is our best chance to get in. About the time we think we’ve “got it” we don’t. When you think about it, of all the women God could have chosen in the Scriptures, to call “Mother,” He picked a desolate woman.
Is that fair? I mean did I say anything unbiblical here?
I mentioned last time I was here… I guess a number of you were here then… that I’ve been having 2 question conversations with “church” leaders for years. I ask them, “What page is that on?” and they say to me, “Who do you think you are?” This just to say, my heart commitment is that you might be able to ask me, “What page is that on?” If I say something that scandalized you, and I say “scandalized” – they were really scandalized, still scandalized from April, but, I just long for an opportunity to give an answer for the hope within me. So, if you’ve got a problem with anything I’m saying, and it’s “too adult,” why you can get me in private afterward or take me out behind the wood shed, or we can talk about it here. I’d love to be able to talk about it here!
Only one person asked me, after the session determining the speakers and venues, about the “drop dead gorgeous woman.” Is that too Gnostic or hard to get for any of you? Does that communicate at all? Can you picture what happens, the dynamic and the body language when she walks in the room?
Then, the “gender-neutral” part – this gal asked me about it – so here’s the “gender-neutral” part:
What women bring to the table doesn’t require that they say or do anything. They’re a problem just the way they look. Huh? I mean, let’s be honest. And the Eldridges in their little books, Wild at Heart on the one hand (what the guy brings to the table), and Captivating (what she brings to the table), do a great job of elaborating what the image of God, “male and female,” brings to the table so that we get a complete picture of what God is. The woman is imaging – the glory of God. The little book, Captivating, if you haven’t seen it, I mean it made me look at Carleen with whole new eyes and I was already looking quite a bit.
The difference is you get the same effect, gender neutral. A man generally has to either say something or do something. And if a man either says something or does something that is prettier than what the other men in the room are saying or doing, it’s the same dynamic that goes on. It’s seen best when Jesus came to Jerusalem. All the experts who were experts before He got there wanted to kill Him.
That’s a real problem in what’s calling itself “church.”
We need to get “the drop dead gorgeous woman.” And how do we get that? Where are we going to find that? We find that at the cross.
We come to the cross as a desolate woman, a woman who’s got nothing going for her. She’s not fruitful. She’s not effective in her space. She doesn’t feel beautiful. I mean, even in the old creation a drop dead gorgeous woman entering the room may be loaded with insecurities and guilt and all sorts of problems. The reaction of the rest of the women has nothing to do with what’s in her, it’s just by the very nature of her appearance – she’s causing trouble.
Worship comes to mind:
To me, foundational worship is agreeing with what God says. It’s agreement with God: worship is agreeing with God. We can get real excited about agreeing with God. But the most important thing that we need to agree with God about is, “what did He say about me?” What did He say about you? Do you believe what He said about you? Do you know how beautiful you are to Him? Do you want to see the measure of how important and how precious and how valuable you are? Look at this one who is marred beyond human recognition. He’s marred beyond human likeness. He’s beat up to the point where He is like a piece of meat on a stick. That is what our mother, the desolate woman of Isaiah 54:1 saw, had revealed to her, believed, Isaiah 53:1. That’s for you – He loves you that much. This is how we know what love is. Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. Do we believe it, is the question.
(Introductory to the Isaiah 53 passage is a statement in Isaiah 52:14. The N.A.S. has it, “Just as many were astonished (KJV-“astonied”) at you, my people So His appearance was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” In the original, the word here translated “astonished” or “astonied” is the same word that is translated “desolation” in the “abomination of desolation of Daniel. For the Hebrew reader there would be a connection, an important connection, I believe. With that in mind we could understand it to read, “Just as there were many who were made desolate at the sight of you, my people, in the same way His appearance is also enough to make one desolate. I believe this is what the Woman, the “desolate woman,” (same word in the original) saw, and realized, and embraced, His desolation was her desolation. His desolation was the response of His love for her. It is His love that transforms her into the “drop dead gorgeous woman,” but first, she must own up to her own desolation.)
Are we on… oh, by the way, the street in that city is called “Love.”
What is a city, what is a street? A city is a place of human proximity and interaction. A street is a way that you get someplace. Well, the city that comes down from heaven is a spiritual city, and the only way to get anyplace in God’s city is love. It’s His Love. You go ahead and try to get in there without God’s kind of love. It can’t be done. You see, when a merchant goes to town, he’s got an agenda. He’s going to town for what’s in it for him. That doesn’t get on that street. The “Shadowlands” of the Old Testament, the “Promised land” was a place that had been occupied by Canaanites. It was even called “the land of Canaan,” Exodus 6:4. God’s shadow people were instructed to drive out the Canaanites. “Canaanite” means “merchant.” They are not allowed in: Zechariah 14:21.
An interesting kind of dynamic has been taking place for me for the last couple of months. I have been working, essentially, since 1974, on a book about Gold, and I’ve been reworking it again recently, and have gone through a number of titles – it was published in 1982. A Wall Street firm contacted me four years ago and wanted me to rewrite it, targeting devout Jews and Catholics on Wall Street. I thought, well, that’s kind of a challenge. I was kind of hoping I had gotten beyond that whole thing.
Anyway, we’ve been thru a number of possible titles for the rewrite. At one point I wanted to call it, The Messiah Code: Understanding the Parable of Gold.
Gold is a medium of exchange. There’s a better one, however: it’s love. Love can take things from where they are and put them where they’re needed and leave the transaction debt free. But it’s not just about the difficulties of being in love with friends; it’s about a love that’s unoffendable. It’s about a love that is so great it’s willing to die for you while you’re God’s enemy: Romans 5:10.
This is not about somebody laying his life down for a friend. That kind of love has an agenda. You’re a nice person… I like you… we get along… you’re important to me. But a love that is willing to die for me when I’m its enemy, what can you do to make that kind of love go away? You can’t. That kind of love doesn’t go away. So not only does the city have one street, it’s a one-way street. And it’s straight…. Oh I won’t go there.
Now, it says of that street, “… it’s pure gold, clear as glass.”
As I was trying to explain to this to my Wall Street publisher – I don’t think he was a believer when he wrote me, and he wanted a kind of Gary North take on gold. Now Gary is the wisest guy I know, but when I get in a conversation with Gary, I think it comes down to wisdom versus revelation… wisdom versus revelation. That street is built on revelation… it’s a revelation. And the core revelation is that God loves you so much He gave His life for you on your worst day. Now if you believe that, it’s going to make a difference. “We love because He first loved us…” “… this is how we know what love is…” He died in order to make lovers out of us.
If we think we can get our act together on our own, that’s just not going to work.
Luke 7:36-50 – remember Simon the Pharisee’s house? He’s in there, and a woman of the city who’s a sinner came in. At the beginning of the evening, Simon thought he knew more about manners than Jesus did. But by the end of the evening it’s clear that a prostitute knew more about manners than Simon did. I think I mentioned last time I was here, “when a prostitute falls in love, she’s out of business.” Sad to say, figuratively speaking, Simon is still in business.
So I thought when I said drop dead gorgeous woman it was just a parable. It turned out to be kind of prophetic. You get killed talking like that, I found out. Gender neutral, you get killed.
The most recent newsletter coming out of Africa from Roland and Heidi Baker – any of you familiar with that ministry? Mozambique and Delgado or something or other. Very interesting, they’ve been 5 years planting churches there… 700 churches in 5 years… wow… that’s quite amazing, and in the process they discovered the importance of relationships – How central they are. They had gotten beat up pretty bad… they suffered a lot – from all kinds of people: false prophets and teachers, stuff and people like that that they thought were on their side. I thought about it some. They’re really clear on the centrality of the relationship with Christ. That is absolutely core, that’s foundational.
But Jesus said, “How can you say you love God, who you haven’t seen, if you don’t love your brother who you have seen?” And I don’t think it’s a big stretch to go from there to, how can you claim to have a relationship with God when you don’t have a relationship with one another? I mean that’s “evidence that demands a verdict.” “That you love one another that the world might know.” I mean, that’s good, is that a one step? (Alluding the previous dancing word picture once again.) That’s a revelational one step. But the core revelation is how much He loves you.
So I don’t spend too much time on how much I love others – I’ve got enough trouble trying to keep in mind how much He loves me. When I lose sight of that I’m no longer a lover – His kind of lover. I don’t have that kind of love that loves enemies. But He does.
A couple of years ago now we were out on a pontoon boat – we had our “Sunday gathering” there. We just rented a pontoon boat and spent the day on the water. It was really fun, you could jump overboard and get back on, you could get into a conversation, take some time to think about it, go for a swim, cool down, come back. And you could have all together conversations or little private conversations. At the time there was a song that was very popular, “It’s All About You, Jesus, It’s All About You.” That song was bothering me quite a bit. I mean, that’s kind of a confession, I guess. I know that’s the lingo. And I was wondering, why is that song bothering me.
I was trying to explain it to this girl who was about 20 years old, and in essence, this was the conversation. I said to her, “Picture the hottest hunk you could imagine, somebody who really turns your crank, and one day you get word that He has eyes for you. Not long after that, you get your chance and you go up to him as say, ‘It’s all about you.’ And he says, ‘Yep, it’s all about me.’ How’s that going to make you feel?”
And then, it crossed my ticker. I don’t know how you guys operate, but my… (we were talking about multiple intelligences last night) mind works kind of like CNN or Fox News. I’ve got this streaming thing that’s going down here all the time, the Bible is streaming all the time, and I’m watching the created things, and suddenly they line up and I hear, “this is that.” What hit me was, “The glory of the former house is the glory of the fellowship of the Godhead before the world began, and the glory of the latter house is the glory of the fellowship of the Godhead, including us, when the world comes to an end. Jesus died for the difference. It’s all about that.”
I have a problem with trying to do church as a program. I mean I’m making a confession here, because there’s a lot of it – program – around, and I might even get injured before I get out of the room here today. But I programs and clinics and stuff like that – I can’t find what page that’s on. I see that Jesus made a promise, that there’s no one who’s left… mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, children, houses, fields, for My sake and the Gospel, who won’t receive a hundred times, mothers, one gospel says parents, brothers, sisters, children, fields, in this present age – and with it persecution… and it has to do with “this present age.”
So it’s a promise that we know is for this present age. Whatever you think about the millennium and stuff like that… right now there’s a promise that comes from Jesus. It’s not a generic relationship promise, it’s a specific relationship promise. In other words, He didn’t just say, if you leave brothers, I’ll give you 100 times brothers…”
Mothers and Fathers… that’s two different genders, and I think that that’s part of the promise. I mean Paul claimed to be a father. He saw himself as having been made a father, Corinthians. John, the revelator, in his epistles, “My dear little children,” “I write to you, children, because of this”, I write to you young men, and I write to you fathers.” Paul to Timothy, “My true son in the faith.” Philippians 2:20: “I have got no one like Timothy, who takes a genuine interest…”
That’s distinct from having an interest that has an agenda? When a multi-level marketer comes to your house, or they call and they say, “Oh, I’ve got something I’m really excited to tell you about,” I get a nervous tic in my left eye. Yeah. Especially when it’s going on in the house of God. Cause it seems like, of all the things God’s not too happy about it’s when we make a market place out of His house. It’s got something to do with the mind of merchants.
So, is there another way? Yes, there is – Revelation.
Being kind of stupid, the Lord just introduced that to me… blew right by all my intellectual defense mechanisms, and He bonded me to someone early on. It was embarrassing. God, there’s that word again – embarrassing. It was because I wasn’t used to getting all emotionally wrapped up with someone other than my wife. Fortunately it was a male, and I had a doctrine of the brotherhood of all believers, so I ran it thru my hopper and it was okay. It was from God… it was a relationship that came from God. I mean if Jesus makes you a promise, don’t you think He wants to give you relationships from Him? He’s the one who made the promise. It’s all about promises.
In fact, going back to this recent report from the Bakers, they saw the absolute centrality of the relationship with Christ, but then they just touched a little bit on the horizontal symptom of that, or outworking of that. And it was generic.
Oh, man. I got a problem with getting passionate in a generic relationship. I’m just not spiritual enough for it. And it looks like what’s calling itself “church” has a problem with that, too, because the moral failure is amazing. And as bad as the actual physical moral failure is, the adultery of choice among believers is the kind you do by just looking. By now, even that is beginning to become passé. I mean, it’s terrible, what’s calling itself “church.” All up and down, the whole scale, little groups or big mega things, the immorality is terrible. Well, the question is, what is the point?
I think it was since I saw you guys last I was at a restaurant with my son, William, and we were in Louisiana, which is much more Catholic than North Carolina – which is mostly Baptist. (The fish are biting better in Louisiana than they are in the Bible belt.) My son had done some research while I was running back and forth doing laundry and stuff, and he said, “Dad, this gal (the waitress) is going to school here, majoring in biology, and she doesn’t understand men.” And it was clear from what he said that it wasn’t that he had come to the conclusion that she didn’t understand men, she told him outright she didn’t understand men. Better than even chance there’s an intimacy problem with her. She’s experienced problems with intimacy, (our subject here, just in case I lost you).
It had been a boring week on a job site far from home, so I said, “I’m going to give this gal the Gospel with both barrels, and if you can sit still and behave yourself, you can stay in the restaurant. But if you can’t, you’re going to have to go outside.” She came over to the table, and I said, “I understand that you’re majoring in biology.” And she said, “Yes.” I said, “Oh man, that’s exciting. I wish I could go back and major in biology, because I’ve been studying biology a lot lately. And it is tremendously important.” I said, “Do you ever read the Bible or anything like that?” She said, “Oh yes.” And so I said, “What I found out was that probably the biggest, most powerful and strongest parable in the scriptures and in the creation, for that matter, is sex.”
Well, you would have thought I punched her in the face. And I could feel the earth tremble next to me, where my son was sitting. But I had her undivided attention. And she said, “I don’t really read the Bible, I’m Catholic, and right now I’m having problems with the church.” And I said, “Well, maybe you know more Bible than you think. Have you ever been to a wedding?” She said, “Oh yes.” I said, “Well even in a Catholic church I bet you’ve heard this expression: … ‘and for this cause, a man will leave his father and mother and cleave to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.’ Sex, right? The one who wrote that immediately went on to say… ‘this is a great mystery, but I’m talking about Christ and the Church’.”
And she started to cry. She said, “Oh, it’s God that you’re here.” And we had quite a conversation. She had no idea. She said, “Oh, I want to talk to God. I want to get in touch with God so bad.” I said, “You think you want to get a hold of God? You have no idea how much He wants to get hold of you. You think you love God? He loves you so much that He wants to meet you where you are. Do you know where you are? So why don’t you take some time… not right now, but think about where you are, and then ask God to come meet you there. He will.” And I think that’s kind of where we are. Do we know where we are?
After reading this Baker thing, I was thinking about revivals. (I don’t know if it’s right… when it’s the first time do you call it “revival” or is it just a “vival”?) They got a “vival” going on where the Gospel hadn’t been preached. And I thought, well, yes, we’ve had some revivals here, too… but where are they? What has the impact been on our culture? How’s what’s calling itself “church” doing in the light of all of these revivals?
And then it went across my ticker –
“The inheritance of God is not passed down thru servants; it’s passed down thru children.”
Do you need Bible for any of that? Does that work?
You remember the cry of Abraham’s heart? God wanted to bless him. “What are you going to do for me, God? I got no place to put what I already have. A servant in my house is going to get what I’ve got.” God said, oh no, I think God resonated with what Abraham said, saying in effect, “Oh, man, I hear that heart.” He heard that heart, and said, “No, I’m going to give you an heir.” And by the time the heir showed up, God had promised him the sand of the sea and the stars of the sky. It was all right there, in that heir. He makes that promise to us.
But you don’t get it by a program or in a clinic or an orphanage. The thing about knowing each other after the Spirit, knowing each other thru a blood relationship, is it’s not based on “let’s make a deal.” If something goes wrong, you don’t get to walk away. When you’ve got a child, there’s no question as to whether that’s your child, it’s only a question of whether you’re going to be a good parent. It’s not “let’s make a deal,” and neither a building nor a living room is Lord of relationship, Jesus is. Remember how His prayer went in John 17: “Father, they were yours – You gave them to me. I didn’t lose one except that one.” Jesus only had the ones the Father gave Him.
And we think we can go out and do multi-level marketing and stuff in the name of the Lord, and build something that is going to last. No. The way God’s Kingdom is built is on the death of the Founder, and the ongoing death of the subjects. It’s built on Blood, Spirit, and revelation. The proof that we’re subjects of the Kingdom is our willingness to die. And that’s what blood will do to you. When you have a child who gets into trouble, someone else dresses you and you go where you hadn’t planned on going. Is that okay? So, it’s specific, the relationships are specific, especially at the point of being and function.
Just talking about generic relationships is great for the dog and pony shows and the multi-level marketing and the networking stuff, but that’s not real. That’s not what Jesus promised us.
There are two levels where the Lord is impacting our lives. One is the doctrinal, so we do have this understanding: in Him we are all brothers; He’s the first-born of many brothers. That’s true. Do we belong to God? Yes. Are we a tribe? Yes. That’s good cause tribes have lots of families in them. They’ve even got clans. And tribes are not just willy-nilly. They’re places where life puts you in your place. As opposed to human decision and husbands will – which is more like what’s calling itself “church.” And this knowing our place is the “in particular” level. This, the body, not as a doctrinal concept, but as a jointed functional reality. The body word picture has to do mostly with doing, but the family word picture has more to do with being and identity. Before we go about doing we need to know who we are. Who we are is discovered in relationship.
I haven’t got to a “hundred times” yet. But I have gotten killed a number of times from those who the Lord has given me. And I want to tell you that after 35 years of living in it, it’s the joy of my life. I could be the biggest spoiled brat in the Kingdom of God. I talk to institutional pastors all the time and they weep because of their loneliness. I’m not lonely. God has given me the stars of the sky. Not just in one, but in a number. Some of them are sons and some of them are daughters, and I’ve had spiritual fathers in the faith. And I realized the relationship before they did, and shared with them what I understood, and they cried – because that’s the deepest longing in our heart. Our deepest longing is for intimacy. And our greatest fear is rejection. Well, when you get to look at the cross and see how much Jesus loved you the day He said, “I Love You,” you know He’s not going anyplace. And if you really get it, you’ll love like that, too.
And every time I think I’ve really gotten it, (an understanding of God’s love) one of my kids kills me. Then I realize…. “OOOOOHHHH, I thought I had it.” And I have to go back to Him and say, “God, do I have to put up with this?” And He says, “Yes, I fixed it so there’s nothing you can’t forgive.” See, when something gets in your eye other than love, you can’t see to help anybody. The first thing you’ve got to do is get whatever that little thing is, that turns out to be a beam, out of your eye so that when the person who God’s given you looks at you and… they don’t see love, they see something else – and so they’re really nervous about being around you. That’s gotta go. The only place to get rid of it… you’ve got to go back to the cross. Because that’s how we know what love is. Not once, but all the time. “I’m put to death,” Paul says, “all day long… considered sheep to be slaughtered.” I don’t know any other way to do that, except having that cross right there. So, when I take a hit, when I’m tempted to be offended, or get offended, I go to Him and see, (He says:) “Yes, I fixed that, too. You can forgive that. You can love that person.”
This publisher from Wall Street, wants to impact the Wall Street – financiers and so forth. Well, that’s a market place. It’s called “Wall Street… the “stock market,” that’s what’s there. So, we’re about done. We’re almost ready to go to the printer, and one of my chapters quotes from Zachariah, “On that day, there will no longer be the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Hosts.”
The Wall Street publisher wrote and asked, “Are you saying that merchants are evil?” I felt like the whole book project, with this publisher, at least, was hanging in the balance. In less than 24 hours, The Lord gave me the answer, “Not evil, just not good enough.” (The same can be said for all the human conditions found in Galatians 3:28.)
The Promised Land in the first instance was a place occupied by merchants, and the fear was that if they tried to move into the same place where the merchants were, the merchants would rub off on their children, and the whole thing would go bad. And so God was pretty clear about slaughtering all the merchants/Canaanites – and I don’t think God is just a God of mindless slaughter.
It’s because merchants have an agenda. You know? So they’re not allowed on the street. We can think we’re in the Kingdom of God, we can think we’re in the city of God or, are the city of God, but if we’ve got an agenda that isn’t rooted in the love of Christ, we’re not there. We’re kidding ourselves, and we’re somewhere outside one of those gates. We may come from a lot of different directions, but Jesus is the only way in.
If you get in, and I’ve been there… for seconds… maybe sometimes minutes, maybe half an hour. Not nearly as long as I’d like to. I think it’s because what I know becomes an agenda. Even The Christ I knew yesterday becomes the “I Was” of today, who makes war against the “I Am” of the moment. God is not, “I Was.” He is, “I Am.” And He loves me right now. He loves you right now. And, so, if you’ve ever been in love, you need to remember the height from which you’ve fallen, lest we lose our candlestick. That’s the lack of credibility: we’ve lost our candlestick. That’s it…
By Jay Ferris
Originally posted onMarch 15, 2013titled, “One of the Battles in a War of Many Fronts”
” This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law,” Galatians 5:16-18.
In this context we are touching on one of the battle fronts in this war between flesh and Spirit. Certainly this is an important part of the war, but not the front I have in mind for present exploration. Rather what I am thinking about and wanting to address in this post is the war that goes on between flesh and blood family members and the presence of the Spirit in our lives.
“Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division: For from henceforth there shall be five in one house divided, three against two, and two against three. The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against the father; the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother; the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law,” Luke 12:51-53.
This is the war that we have in view in this post.
Interesting that Jesus begins His answer with “For from henceforth…” This suggests a point of demarcation between how things once were in flesh and blood families, and how things are about to be in families. The last thing that Jesus said before this, as recorded by Luke was:
“But I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished!”, Luke 12:50.
This suggests the possibility that what Jesus is looking at here in His Baptism of sorts has consequences that might also impact our lives, and especially our family lives once we have undergone the fall-out from His baptism, in our case, the baptism of The Holy Spirit. The baptism changes our position or location, certainly our priorities where relationships are concerned. Baptized in the Spirit we find ourselves in a new love, with new and different people, and this is very threatening to those we have been associated with to date, especially our own flesh and blood.
This is much like what happened in the heart of Cain when Abel came along and displaced Cain from his central place in the lives of his parents. This kind of displacement can and most often does cause a relational war. Flesh and blood relationship is no longer our highest priority, and unless the flesh and blood people in our lives come under the influence of the same Spirit with some understanding of the magnitude of the difference that makes relationally, as likely as not they will make war on our new lives and relationships in Christ.
Make no mistake, this is a real war. It is very painful all around, because it is born out of woundedness, resentment and not love. It is the number one killer of spiritual relationships. Flesh and blood will put up with this intrusion provided it is limited to flesh and blood marriage, and that, likely as not, for the sake of the perpetuation of the flesh and blood family.
Spiritual relationships, however, are not bound by or to the flesh. They may be reproductive in the Spirit, but that reproduction has to do with the family of God, not the family of the flesh.
This front in the war between flesh and Spirit is one of the most telling, where our ability to move forward in Christ is concerned, because moving forward in Christ is first and ultimately about Spiritual relationships first with Him, and ultimately including each other. This transition in relationship begins in this present age where the war is still going on. It is little wonder that Jesus addressed this reality early rather than late, because it is such a big obstacle to receiving Him and Him in each other.
The Holy Spirit changes our relational priorities, if only we are strong enough in The Spirit to Let Him have His way with us.
Please note, this is not a call not to take care our own, where flesh and blood is concerned, but only to be aware that in Christ we have a new “our own,” and taking care of them is also a priority of the highest order.
The following post was one of Jay’s earlier, and more foundational posts after first starting this blog in 2011. An ‘oldie but goodie,’ and definitely worth revisiting … again. :)
“Getting it right” has to do with getting Him right.
What I hope to do here is to take a step back to a question that was asked of me about 10 years ago now. Here it is in context:
I had just arrived late for a leaders gathering in Charlotte, NC. I couldn’t help but note a rather common, almost pleasant look on the faces of those already present – like a group of cats who had just shared a canary.
Before I could take my seat, the presiding leader asked, “Jay, what does the Church in this city look like?” I hesitated a second or two and then responded,
“It looks like the sum total of all of those who belong to Christ in this city, who know who are theirs in Him. Everything else is show business.”
I share this by way of further introduction to what I would like to blog about here. The kind of intimacy that we are looking for is not likely to be found until we accept Jesus as Lord of relationship. We need to know and receive one another as from Him. What God calls church is not about “let’s make a deal” on a human level.
In a subsequent leaders meeting, but still back in that same time frame, I shared that,
“There are places in all of us where we have never been. We can’t get there alone because, if we did, it wouldn’t be the same place as it would be if somebody was there with us. The problem is that there is so much garbage between here and there, that we are afraid to go there, either alone or with someone else. We need to have a place to put the garbage. That is a place that only Christ can provide, and has provided. ‘Behold, The Lamb of God who takes away the ‘garbage’ of the world.’ He is not only our garbage man, but He wants to make garbage men out of us for the sake of those He has given us to love. We don’t have to take away the garbage of the whole world, but we are called to, and can, take away the garbage of those He has given us to love in Him.”
Having said that, which I know sounds very nice in theory, I must quickly add that in my experience it only happens in the intimacy that is possible when He is Lord of relationship. Unless we discover who we are in Him, and in relationship to others in Him, we dare not get that close.
Jesus wants to give you, and has, in fact, promised to give you significant others in Him. Keep your eyes open, because you never know when He is going to give you the gift of another person. Opening the package can easily take a life time. Oh yes, the package can only be opened in the presence of God’s kind of love, the kind He demonstrated on the day He said, “I love you,” when He and His expectations were nailed to the tree.
We need this revelation if we are ever going to love like God.