Today marks the official memorial of my first public sermon, July 28, 1963. My first sermon title was “Saved by Hope – Romans 8:24-25. Although I have had a media library for the last 30 years, I haven’t been one to log my sermons, so I couldn’t tell you how many sermons or lessons I taught over the last fifty years. For me the point is not how many, but how many have been effective and productive.
You see when I finally did get my GED in the military and got to my first bible college experience, I failed “Homiletics.” My professors tried to get me to write my sermons out and I wanted to just talk them out. When I started in the ministry I was under the impression, “You just open your mouth and God would speak for you.” However, I did learn structure in college and eventually how to outline my sermons.
However, my journey is just that. My journey. Of course with the triumphs there were many mistakes and failures along the way. That is the beauty of survival and longevity in ministry. You learn from mistakes, repent and move on to teach others the wisdom you learned, if you learned and they will listen.
Jesus pointed out three misconceptions regarding worship to the woman at the well in John 4:21-24.
(1) KNOWLEDGE– Jesus began with the woman’s comprehension of what she practiced or knew (knowledge) as “worship.” That is the problem, many of us are trapped in traditions that were never fully explained or validated as scriptural or biblical. It is because we don’t take the time to study and research for ourselves that we come up with wrong conclusions to right ideas. Relearning what God really wants from us in worship must be sought and not imagined.
(2) LOCATION – Jesus then redefined the location of worship (the place) from a geographical structure to a supernatural reality. His attempt was to release one from the visible reality of a manifestation of God’s Glory; and then transport them to a faith-walk imprinting the presence of God in our minds. We have gotten so accustomed to physical structures that reflect worship (i.e. tabernacles, temples, sanctuaries, and churches); and mark time and space to capture the Glory, we are in essence lost in our own inventions. So we never journey to the supernatural because we see too much in the natural.
(3) PATTERN – Jesus then moved to the pattern of worship (Spirit and Truth). We must journey between the visible to the invisible and back again. In other words, our worship must invoke the presence of God as we assure ourselves that our prayer language is reaching the Throne Room. We really can’t have one without the other. The Holy Spirit is activated by the personification of Truth in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The need for Jesus Christ to become Truth, not just give truth. We are too factual and not focused on essence of truth because the wisdom of truth has not invaded our knowledge of truth.
The issue is not so much an indictment of the messengers, but recognition of satanic attacks. Having survived ministry for over 50 years, I am aware of the many dangers of leadership. Becoming a container of the message of Christ, instead of a funnel of gifting activities is a daily struggle. Especially as we learn to shift from personality praise and attention to rejection and acceptance from God. Self-deception is one of the most lethal. When you believe you are working for the right cause and motivation only to discover, you were doing the right thing in the wrong season or the wrong thing in the right season.
The kingdom has evolved from being a physical utopia to a supernatural third dimension that is somehow replacing the church as the focus of God for supernatural conquest. So today, kingdom has become this modern buzz word for a “now” voice that secretly is taking over the authority of the church and replacing church order with kingdom principles. It has invaded the church like a plague infecting our thinking and changing our perspective in the marketplace, society, and even in worship. So in order to have a real kingdom, one must enthrone Jesus as Lord and submit to the mandates established by Him on behalf of the Father and enforced by the Holy Spirit in word and deed. The kingdom then must be an individual transformation in thought and the church a collective reality in manifestation.
As the church attempted to fortify itself with the doctrine of the Apostles (Acts 2:42); the practice of its worship (Col. 3:16-17); and the fellowship of its followers (Rom 15:5-6); one thing became clear. Satan was not going to make this an easy assignment. The external persecutions (Acts 8:1; 4) and the internal divisions (1 Cor 1:10) produced a strain on the long term reality of its existence and the effectiveness of its message.
We can safely conclude that most of the early recipients were Jewish, however, it was never meant to be restricted to only Jewish thought or culture. In fact, I believe one of the early mistakes of the church was trying to find a way to blend Christianity and Judaism together or replacing one for the other. In reality, Jesus offered fulfillment in one and a future in the other .
Every time I look, there is some new title, person, or reformation declaring succession from the Apostles. Or some new revelation or concept introduced that is confusing the Church that knows little doctrine. Whatever becomes popular becomes saturated with cheap imitations until you can’t distinguish the real from the phonies.
Is God really calling for an alignment of charismatic popular leaders with style and gimmicks to rescue the church? Does the church need rescuing? Rescuing from what anyway – the world or itself? Do we need revivals, conferences, conventions, or seminars that are masked as change agents for the church? When in reality many are just capital stewardship programs that maintain luxury lifestyles instead of funding kingdom mandates.
Jesus who first introduced us to the Kingdom of God as a real concept and it was misinterpreted what He announced it would represent. Jesus announced religious and social change in His day. He also stressed freedom from evil, oppression from demons, authority over nature, and a return to God as Father. In summary, a return to embracing God in a family sense, instead of a legal sense, with Father as the patriarch. Instead of the king being the authority, Jesus would introduce a kingdom where the King Jesus would be the representative authority of the Father’s will on the earth.
Today we are really faced with wrestling with Historical Christianity and following the traditions that were established by the Church; to canonical Christianity and trying to reconcile scripture to modern living; or possibly hearing a new “Word” from the Lord for a change of course through a new prophetic voice. What course do we really take? And, how do we mix or separate all or any of these?
I want to stress that these issues need prayer and dialogue as we try to maintain stability and hope for real kingdom manifestation to appear. What we must remember is that the Lord is not preparing us for escape, but victory. However, the only way the church is going to achieve power and strength is by making a united stand against the kingdom of darkness. Not a militant stand against physical forces, but a spiritual stand against forces that are desperately trying to influence our worldview through the impact of our minds. This has taken shape in our educational institutions; in our businesses; in entertainment; and yes, even in the church herself. We are under attack with values, ethics, and character defects, while the glamor of fame and fortune intoxicate us.
Having legal power is useless without demonstrative power to enforce it. We have been given power to over come the world, the flesh, and the devil. The preparation for this kind of authority is in training and devotion to the cause of Jesus Christ. We must consider that authority and ability go hand in hand to bring us to completion and announce the kingdom of God. We must pray for the gift of patience to mature the other gifts God has given us. The ability through the Holy Spirit to get the job done at all costs. It is a living union with a living God.
I know that we are pulsing toward an end-time mentality as the Second Coming of Christ draws near. The real question is whether the body of Christ is ready for the Head of the Church (Jesus Christ) to rest on its shoulders. Until Jesus comes, I believe we will see flaws in every reformation. Although we strive to develop strong fellowship and the purity of the Faith, it is those strong religious demons in the church that are destroying us from within.