Three Reasons to Teach on the Fear of the Lord

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What is the fear of the Lord? Consider this definition: A trembling zeal to obey every word of His mouth. It’s a treasure He gives His favorites (Isa 33:6).

The fear of the Lord was a powerful component in the atmosphere of the early church in the book of Acts. It preserved the integrity of the church in an era of explosive growth. In contrast, we don’t hear much about it today.

Why do we tend to minimize or overlook teaching on the fear of the Lord? When we neglect it, it’s for all the wrong reasons. It’s time to dig up this doctrine, dust it off, and equip today’s believers and also our own children in this essential ingredient to a healthy Christian walk.

I’d like to suggest three reasons to teach the fear of the Lord to this generation.

  1. We don’t understand it as we should.

Some people have a skewed concept of God. For example, some think of Him as such a merciful and gracious heavenly Father that there is nothing in Him His children need fear. On the opposite extreme, others have been put off by the caricature of a God who is always in a foul mood and looking for ways to punish His enemies.

If the fear of the Lord causes you to back away from Him, you haven’t been taught in the true fear of the Lord. Taught properly, it draws us forward into His heart. Those who truly tremble before Him run into His arms, wrap themselves around Him, and in awe and reverence cling to Him for their very lives.

There is no contradiction between His fear and His goodness. They actually go together. Hosea showed us that when we understand His goodness, it sets our heart to trembling (Hos 3:5).

Somebody needs to say it to this generation, “Never fear the fear of the Lord!” Let’s show them how to run into it and wrap their arms around it. It’s the wisest thing they’ll ever do (Pro 9:10). It’s safe, clean, and it endures forever (Ps 19:9). We need to teach this stuff.

  1. Since Jesus taught it, so should we.

Jesus delighted in the fear of the Lord (Isa 11:3). In His teaching, He laid open the profound paradox that is found in Exodus 20:20. He began by charging us to fear God: “But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into hell; yes, I say to you, fear Him!” (Luke 12:5). But then two verses later He said, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows” (Luke 12:7). He said, “Fear Him! Do not fear therefore.” He taught that we are to fear—and not to fear—both at the same time.

Do I fear God? Of course not! He’s my Father! I run into His arms with brazen boldness because of the blood of Jesus. I can interrupt any conversation He’s having because I’m His son and have constant access to Him. But do I fear God? I’m terrified of Him! He’s a consuming fire, His name is Jealous, He chastens His children, and He holds me accountable for my attitudes and actions.

I fear Him, therefore, and I don’t fear Him. This is the fear of the Lord as Jesus taught it. And those who teach in their Master’s shadow will also proclaim this important truth.

  1. The benefits of the fear of the Lord are too marvelous to forfeit.

I like to listen to podcasts by Christian leaders, but I don’t remember hearing a podcast on this topic. Is it just that I haven’t found the right podcasts? Or are we generally quiet on topics that would awaken believers to the benefits of fearing the Lord?

For starters, here are some benefits:

  • God remembers forever those who fear Him (Ps 103:17).
  • He lavishes blessings (Ps 112:1), mercy (Ps 103:11), and sustenance (Ps 111:5) on those who fear Him.
  • He dwells with those who tremble at His word (Isa 66:2).
  • His fear enables us to become partakers of His holiness, and produces in our lives the fruit of righteousness (Heb 12:10-11).
  • The fear of the Lord releases grace to serve a God who is a consuming fire (Heb 12:28-29).
  • It empowers obedience (Pro 16:6).
  • He tells secrets to those who fear Him (Ps 25:14).

When you are teaching people in the fear of the Lord, you are engaged in one of the highest privileges available to God’s servants.

JESUS’ MOST COMMON TEACHING

JESUS MOST COMMON TEACHING

Recently, while doing a simple Bible search, I discovered something in the life of Jesus that brought me to a full stop. It stunned me, and I’m still trying to process it. Here’s the background to it:

There is very little from the life of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels. The reason for that is because John wrote his Gospel around 30 years after the others, and knowing what Matthew, Mark, and Luke had recorded, John wasn’t trying to be repetitive. He was writing to be complementary. For that reason, there is very little in John that is present in the other three Gospels.

Here’s what the Gospels have in common: All of them record four stories and three predictions. The four stories they all mention are the baptism of Christ, the feeding of the five thousand, the triumphal entry, and the passion of Christ (crucifixion/resurrection). All four Gospels record three predictions: Jesus predicted His betrayal, Peter’s denial, and His passion.

But there is no teaching of Christ contained in all four Gospels.

With one exception.

Only one verse of teaching is to be found in all four Gospels. As I continue, see if you can guess it.

Let me introduce the verse by asking a question. If you were directing the biblical writings, and wanted to emphasis one teaching of Jesus’ by placing it in all four Gospels, which teaching would you choose?

Clearly, if there’s only one teaching of Jesus’ to be found in all four Gospels, then it must be of paramount importance to Him.

Furthermore, this teaching is present in six places in the Gospels. Matthew records it twice, Mark once, Luke twice, and John once. When you study the context of these six mentions, you realize they are pointing to four distinct events:

•On His third tour of Galilee (Mat. 10:39)

•After his visit to Caesarea Philippi (Mat. 16:25; Mark 8:35; Luke 9:24)

•On his final journey to Jerusalem (Luke 17:33)

•During his final week in Jerusalem (John 12:25)

 

So there are two unique characteristics about the teaching of Jesus to which we are pointing:

1. It is the only teaching of Christ mentioned in all four Gospels.

2. It is the only teaching of Christ that we know He gave on four different occasions.

 

Now, beyond any doubt, Jesus would have repeated His primary teachings throughout the 3.5 years of His ministry on earth. But in terms of the record we have in our hands, there is only one teaching of Jesus’ that we’re told He gave on four different occasions. It must have been His most common teaching.

Do I have your curiosity up? Want to know what the teaching was?

Find your life, you’ll lose it; lose your life, you’ll find it. John’s wording is slightly different, but it’s the same teaching: Love your life, you’ll lose; hate your life, you’ll keep it. (The references are listed above.)

Hear it! Lose your life. Hate your life. This was the foremost and most-repeated word of our Master.

When this teaching gets on your screen, you’ll start to see relevant applications everywhere. Little wonder that the context in which Jesus delivered this teaching was different in each of the four events listed above. That’s because it’s a message that relates to virtually every area of life.

If this was the most common teaching of Jesus, it leaves me with this question: To what degree is this word likewise upon my tongue?

 

 

AND PAUL CAME TO EPHESUS – CONSIDERING THE IMPACT OF ONE’S LIFE AND DECISIONS

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Sylvia Evans is a personal friend and beloved teacher in the body of Christ. She serves on the faculty at Elim Bible Institute (Lima, NY), hence the reference to the Ephesians class she teaches there. You will enjoy this piece. -Bob Sorge

He couldn’t stay long.  He was just passing through on his way from Corinth.  He had to get to Jerusalem for the feast and get back to other places where he had already been.  It was a short-term mission.  But Paul “came to Ephesus.”  The significance of that little fact would manifest over the next few years…and decades…and down through time to our very day.

“And he came to Ephesus”!  The tip of the spear of the Gospel of Jesus Christ had pierced the pagan wall of the city of Ephesus. At that “point,” no one knew how penetrating it would be.

“And he came to Ephesus.”  Shortly thereafter, Luke says, Paul departed from Ephesus. He didn’t stay long.  He left, but he left something there. He left a deposit of the word of God and the truth of the Gospel, imparted in the synagogue.  He left a hunger in the hearts of those who had heard him and a desire on their part for him to stay.  He left a promise, “I will return again to you if God will.” Then Luke says, “And he sailed from Ephesus.”

But he left something else.  He left a personal deposit, an investment in the city — he left two people in whose lives he was making a personal investment.  He had brought Priscilla and Aquila there, just a humble, exiled couple whom he cared for in their major transition — Jewish tentmakers, chased out of Rome in one of those historical movements to annihilate Jews. They had left Rome and had come to Corinth.  Soon afterward, Tentmaker Paul “departed from Athens, and he came to Corinth” and met them there — “found” them, I should say, because Luke chose to say it that way — “found a certain Jew…with his wife,” and “he came to them.”  Personal connection.  He “found” a treasure of a couple with a love for God.  He may have found them on the street or at the market — or at a tanner’s shop — or maybe in the synagogue.  It may be their conversation had started over tent-making…or their common heritage as Jews…or the persecution and what was happening in Rome…and then Christians…and then Jesus.

Or maybe it had started with Jesus.  Did they already know Jesus? Were they already Christians?  We don’t know, and Luke doesn’t tell, but after finding commonality, giving hospitality, and making friendship with Paul, living and working with him, it is sure they knew Jesus! Now a love for Jesus was their common bond, and Paul didn’t want to leave them in Corinth.  He wanted them to go with him.  So he took them, and “he came to Ephesus,” bringing them with him, only to leave them there.

It was much like his meeting and apprehending Timothy, as Luke had recorded two chapters before — “him would Paul have go forth with him.” Paul came to Derbe and Lystra; Paul found Timothy; Paul wanted him to go with him.  And he did. Personal connection. Young Timothy’s life would never be the same.  It would take turns he never could have imagined, and he would take journeys he might never have hoped for, with a forward thrust into a future destiny he might never have dreamed of — all because Paul came to Galatia…and came to Derbe and Lystra.  Now Paul had come to Asia…and to Ephesus, with young Timothy at his side.  Thus Timothy came to Ephesus. One day Paul would leave him there — to pastor the church that was yet to be formed.

But before there was a church, the tentmakers were on the team with Timothy.  Personal connection.  They all “came to Ephesus” together with Paul.  Then he “left them there” — Priscilla and Aquila.  Destiny — not only theirs, but others’ — was in that leaving.

Then Apollos “came to Ephesus” to teach in the synagogue — an eloquent and educated teacher, who was “mighty in the Scriptures,” and to some degree he “was instructed in the way of the Lord.” Then he met Priscilla and Aquila.  Personal connection. His life and ministry were about to be changed.  I’m sure Apollos shared “perfectly” what he had learned, but “knowing only the baptism of John,” he needed to know “the way of the Lord more perfectly.”  That would be happening soon — because Priscilla and Aquila had come to Ephesus, because Paul had come to Ephesus, and now because Apollos had come to Ephesus.  It was the Gospel juncture in the will of God according to His purpose — for their lives and for Ephesus.

Modern English grammar rules say that the word “perfectly” can’t have degrees — once “perfect,” there’s no “more” or “most” to be added, but the old KJV translation says “more perfectly” in English, the proper Elizabethan-Shakespearean English. “More perfectly” suggests we can never get a complete and perfect knowledge of “the way of the Lord.” We always want and need to know more.  We may share perfectly what we know perfectly up to that measure we already have received of instruction, but there is more.  We are always learners. And the more of Jesus we have, the more of Jesus we want.  (I’ve often said, “The more of God you know, the more of God you have to go.”)  Infinite God!  Infinite knowledge is His, but mine is finite unless I open myself to learn more!  As I’ve often said, I want a “satisfied unsatisfaction” or maybe better said, an “unsatisfied satisfaction.”  Satisfied that I’ve found the right thing, but never satisfied that I’ve had enough.  I’m not “dissatisfied,” as though what I’ve found is not the right thing nor the thing that I need.  I’m just not “satisfied” that I have drunk enough from the infinite supply of Living Water.  I can’t drink it all all at once; but I can drink all that it is …once and again…and again…and again.  I know that Jesus is enough for all I need, but I never have enough of Him!  “More about Jesus would I know,” an old hymn says.

As a young high school teacher, I declared about myself, “I am a teach-learner.”  It seems that so was Apollos. He was hungry for more, and he was willing to learn. Now, because Paul had come to Ephesus…and had brought them…and had left them, the simple tentmakers were in place to make their impact. They, too, were in the synogogue in Ephesus.  They were learners, making themselves available to hear his eloquent exposition of the Scriptures, but they were also teachers…teachers of “the Way.”   When Apollos next came to Corinth, he had something more to give, because “he came to Ephesus” first!

Then Luke says again, “And Paul came to Ephesus.”  He was back — and this time to stay for a while.

That simple statement, “And Paul came to Ephesus,” has grabbed my heart.  I have looked back over the “comings and goings” in my own life to consider whether there was any impact for the Kingdom of God — any effect in the lives of others because I “came” to those places.  But at first I was not thinking only of myself.  As those words leaped off the page while I was teaching my opening class on “Ephesians and the Church at Ephesus,” they took on a prophetic unction as I saw before me the potential “Paul” and “Apollos” and “Timothy” and “Priscilla” and “Aquila” in this generation of Elimites.  I remembered that last year the Lord had instructed me not to look at my students for who and what they are now, but for who and what they will be — pastors and missionaries and apostles and prophets and teachers and…and…and….

So I stopped to challenge my students in the Ephesians class to consider the possible impact each of them can have just by coming to a city, a village, a country, a school, a business, a street corner.  How will the very place be changed — its atmosphere, its religion, its politics, its culture, and even its economy?  What will be the influence on that place just because this Elim student has come?    Whose life will be touched, changed, redirected, set on a path toward a divine destiny? Whom will this future leader choose to take with him?  What personal connections will she make?  Who will find a new sense of value and purpose just by being asked to “come along” with one of these leaders-in-the-making? Whom will he or she bring to that place and leave there, set in place for future impact?

Looking out on my class, I knew there was a “Priscilla” and/or an “Aquila” there who could one day instruct an “Apollos” in “the way of the Lord.”  There was a “Timothy” who would one day be set in and left by an “Apostle Paul” of our day to do what Timothy did in Ephesus.  He established a “called out” company of “holy ones” — “saints” — who would become the “church” of that city and that region of the world.  He would nurture a growing “body” and help every “member” to know its place and every “joint” to supply its part.  He would prepare a spotless “bride” for Christ, and set “living stones” into a “holy temple.”  He would bring a “household” together and see unity working in a “family” made up of “chosen ones” who were formerly estranged and “far off,” but who would now be “made nigh” by the blood of Christ and made “one” by “the spirit of adoption.” He would be the steward over God’s “inheritance,” His treasures, the “saints,” in that place. (These are all portraits Paul painted of the Church in his letter to the Ephesians.)

And many centuries later, even in our day, Paul’s personal letters to Timothy would give  structure for church leadership, spiritual principles and guidelines for church leaders, and character-coaching for leaders on all levels. They were all written to Timothy, young pastor in Ephesus.  Paul found him, Paul chose him, Paul fathered him, Paul taught him, and Paul trained him.  Paul brought him, Paul set him, and Paul left him.     And then when he was about to offer his life in Rome, Paul sent for him, to come (probably from Ephesus) so he could entrust to him the Gospel ministry. Timothy — the young man Paul had taken from his home place, the one he had often sent from place to place, the “son” who would go in his place, now the one he had chosen to set in this place — in Ephesus.

Paul had had his own season there, of course, teaching “the things of the Kingdom of God” in the school of Tyrannus for two years — during which time “the word of the Lord went throughout all Asia.”  That means both the message and the messengers spread out from the Ephesian hub into Asia Minor — and not just the message, but also the manifestations of the Gospel at work.    Miracles, deliverances, “demonstrations of the spirit and of power.”  Manifestations of the power of God as the antithesis and the antidote to manifestations of the power of Satan.  “And the word of the Lord prevailed”!

Individual men and women were being saved, healed, set free, and apprehended by the Gospel and for the Gospel.  It was a better “way” to live!  They became known as “people of the Way” — “the Way of the Lord.”   One by one and then in droves, people forsook witchcraft. They burned their expensive books and fetishes — burned and stopped buying.

Pagans left their idols.  Forsook them.  Destroyed them.  Forsook and stopped buying.  Problem!  Those idols were tied to the economy of the region by the purse-strings of the silversmiths.  Snap!  The Gospel was breaking the purse-strings.   Kingdom conflict at its peak.

The culture of the Kingdom of God was overtaking the culture of the kingdom of Satan.  The culture of the Kingdom of Light was penetrating the culture of the kingdom of darkness.  The culture of the worship of God was undoing the culture of the worship of Diana (Artemis).  The Prince of Life was being exalted and the principalities of darkness and death were raging with jealousy!  The conflict moved into the amphitheater of the community — the whole city in an uproar!  And Puny Little Paul was at fault, accused of “turning away much people” from the worship of Diana — not only in that city but in “almost all Asia.”  Puny Little Paul, with a powerful Gospel of a powerful God and a Prince of a Savior, had “persuaded” people to turn to Jesus, the Son of God.  The “persecutor” had become the “persuader” with a positive Gospel of a powerful Savior.

Demetrius accused him of “despising the temple of Diana,” but Paul was simply telling the Ephesians that they were becoming the Temple of God!   Becoming that Temple of God, they would no longer be coming to the temple of the goddess!

All this because of the little statement, “And Paul came to Ephesus.”

And with him, for most of the time, was Paul’s own “son in the Gospel,” Timothy, who “ministered unto him” and who ministered with him and who one day would minister after him.  Set in as pastor at Ephesus to establish the church, he would perpetuate the message and the ministry of the Gospel after Paul. As Paul had taught him, Timothy would find faithful men and teach them, and then they would “teach others also.”

“And Timothy came to Ephesus,” history would read — and time would tell the impact of his coming.

 

WHAT ARE THE SEVEN ANGELS OF THE SEVEN CHURCHES?

ANGELS CORRECT

Perhaps you, like me, have wondered what Jesus meant when He spoke of “the angels of the seven churches.” Here’s where He spoke those words:

The mystery of the seven stars which you saw in My right hand, and the seven golden lampstands: The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches, and the seven lampstands which you saw are the seven churches (Rev. 1:20).

When Jesus spoke of the seven stars as seven angels, our first question is, “Was He speaking of heavenly angels that preside over churches, or human messengers that preside over churches?”

The Greek word angelos that is used here is defined by Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words as “a messenger (from angello, to deliver a message), sent whether by God or by man or by Satan.” Angelos could refer to either a heavenly angel or a human messenger. Which did Jesus mean?

The context tells us. (Note that in the following verses, “you” occurs in the singular tense because Jesus was addressing a single person.) In speaking directly to the “messenger” of each church, He said things like:

Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works (Rev. 2:4-5).

Do not fear any of those things which you are about to suffer (Rev. 2:10).

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth (Rev. 3:15-16).

It’s difficult to conceive of heavenly angels as leaving their first works, needing to repent, suffering persecution, or being vomited from Jesus’ mouth. These things obviously describe humans. We conclude, therefore, that Jesus was meaning the word angelos in the sense of “messenger,” and He was addressing the primary human leader of each of the seven churches.

Our next question is, “Why did He call them stars and messengers or angels? Why didn’t He call them pastors?” Because the primary human leader of a local church is not necessarily a pastor. Some churches are led by a pastor, but others by an apostle, or prophet, or evangelist, or teacher, or administrator, or someone with a gift of leadership, etc. Jesus used “star” and “messenger” as all-inclusive terms for the primary human leader of a local church, regardless of their particular calling or gift mix.

Next question: “Why does He call that person a star?” Stars have two qualities that characterize the leader of a local church. Stars are a luminary, and they have a strong gravity. Similarly, a leader of a local church must be a luminary who shines brightly for the Lord in a special way, and must also have a gravity about him or her—that is, the ability to draw people and galvanize them into a corporate identity so they can function as a spiritual family.

Jesus held the human leader (“star”) of each church primarily responsible for the spiritual health and obedience of that church.

Implicit to Jesus’ words are His recognition that a local church would have a primary leader. Some believers have supposed that a local church should be governed by a plurality of leaders without any one leader standing above the rest. Would you agree that Jesus’ words would not make that kind of leadership paradigm normative?

WHY ZION IS SO IMPORTANT

WHY ZION IS SO IMPORTANT

Beautiful in elevation, the joy of the whole earth, is Mount Zion on the sides of the north, the city of the great King (Psalm 48:2).

When David set his sights on Jerusalem, he was tapping into a spiritual stream of prophetic significance that was centuries old. Jerusalem had been on God’s mind for a long time. It’s a city whose profound spiritual history reached back a thousand years before David to the time of Abraham.

The first mention of Jerusalem in the Bible occurs in Genesis 14, at a time when Lot had been carried captive by invading forces. In a stunning military victory, Abraham delivered Lot from his captors and brought him safely home. Upon his return, Melchizedek went out to meet Abraham and bless him. Melchizedek was the king of Jerusalem (Salem) and also the priest of God Most High (see Genesis 14:14-24). Since Zion was Jerusalem’s safest neighborhood and thus its most ancient neighborhood—the “old city” if you will—it is reasonable to conclude that Melchizedek’s throne was in Zion proper (even though it wasn’t called Zion at the time). We could say, therefore, that Melchizedek came out of Zion in order to bless Abraham.

There was a second time when Abraham quietly brushed with Zion—when Abraham led his son, Isaac, to Mount Moriah, bound him, and placed him on a makeshift altar (see Genesis 22). Abraham intended to obey God’s voice and sacrifice his only son. A voice from heaven stopped him, and instead God provided a ram for the burnt offering. This all happened on Moriah.

Moriah is a hill within the city limits of contemporary Jerusalem. Moriah was the place where Solomon built his temple, and today it is the site of the Mosque of Omar (the Dome of the Rock). So when Abraham was on Moriah, he would have been within eyeshot of Zion and Melchizedek’s governmental seat. There is no biblical hint that he popped in on Melchizedek at that time, but the proximity would have made it very easy to do.

Melchizedek was the first priest of God to appear in Scripture, and it was no coincidence that his throne was in Zion (called Salem at the time). Jesus Christ was later declared to be a Priest in the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4). As such, Jesus is the rightful heir to the throne of Zion.

The Bible draws a great line of prophetic purpose between Melchizedek and Jesus Christ (see Hebrews 5-7). David stepped into the matrix of that divine purpose when he chose, under Holy Spirit direction, to conquer Zion.

And like Melchizedek before him, David was called of God to function in both a kingly and priestly capacity. This is why we see David putting on a linen ephod—which was a garment for priests to wear—at the procession of the ark to Zion (1 Chronicles 15:27). As a king, David was claiming also to be a priest. We know, however, that David was not pretending to be a Levitical priest since he was not of the tribe of Levi. Of what priesthood was he, then? There is only one remaining possibility. Clearly, David saw himself serving the Lord as a priest in the order of Melchizedek—a priesthood that is both priestly and kingly. David had no right to serve as a priest in the Aaronic order, but as a priest in the order of Melchizedek he was given divine permission to place the ark in open view, sit before it, and minister to the Lord.

While serving in this priestly capacity, David was shown that Messiah would serve before God in the same priesthood. This is why David wrote, “The LORD has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’” (Psalm 110:4). David’s zeal for Zion was rooted in his understanding that one day Messiah would rule in Jerusalem as a Priest/King, just like Melchizedek did centuries before.

Jerusalem is a city like none other! It holds the distinction of being the only place on earth God chose as His eternal home (see Psalm 132:13-14). This is why history revolves around this city and God’s agenda for it. There are said to be 685 cities in the earth with a population larger than Jerusalem, and yet Jerusalem makes international headlines consistently more than most of them. What is the deal with Jerusalem, anyway? Why is it the most important city on earth? What makes it so different from other cities?

The answer is that God’s eyes and interests are riveted upon Jerusalem and, consequently, so are Satan’s. No location on earth matches Jerusalem for intensity of heavenly attention and spiritual warfare.

Zion and Jerusalem

The name Zion was used initially in Scripture for the small citadel inside Jerusalem where David placed his throne. Over time, however, the Holy Spirit began to broaden the concept of Zion in Scripture until it sometimes referred to all of Jerusalem (e.g., Psalm 76:2), or even the entire nation of Israel (e.g., Isaiah 3:16). When Zion is mentioned in the Bible, therefore, the precise meaning of the term can vary a bit depending on the context.

I find the following definition helpful. Zion is Jerusalem, particularly in regard to her Davidic inheritance. By “her Davidic inheritance,” I mean the promise of God to establish the Son of David upon the throne of Zion forever (Psalm 89:3-4, 29, 35-37; 132:11-18).

God had this to say about Zion: “For Zion’s sake I will not hold My peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until her righteousness goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a lamp that burns” (Isaiah 62:1). No wonder Jerusalem is in the news almost every day! God Himself is resolved to labor without rest until Jerusalem’s righteousness and salvation shines brightly in the earth.

Jerusalem’s salvation is not even remotely seen right now. Men look at her today and see reproach, strife, stubbornness, and religious wars. What will it take to transform Jerusalem from its current condition to a city that shines brightly before the whole earth? Only one thing can effect that kind of transformation—the physical return of Jesus Christ. Only when Jesus establishes His throne in Zion will Jerusalem become a praise in all the earth (see Isaiah 62:7).

Zion: Political and Worship Capital

God chose the most impenetrable fortress in the entire land of Canaan as the geographical seat of Christ’s throne and authority. Zion’s reputation as unconquerable reflected the enduring nature of Christ’s Kingdom. “His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed, and His dominion shall endure to the end” (Daniel 6:26).

David established his throne in Zion as a prophetic declaration that eventually his Son, the Messiah, would reign in that exact place. In David’s time, Zion’s primary identity was the governmental seat for David’s throne. Using an American term, Zion was David’s “White House.”

Once he established his political capital in Zion, David then used his authority to establish Zion as a seat for 24/7 worship to the Lord (1 Chronicles 25). David understood the pattern of worship in the heavenlies (Psalm 119:96). He observed that wherever God’s throne is established there is incessant worship arising before Him. To fulfill that divine pattern, David inaugurated 24/7 worship and prayer in the stronghold of Zion. That 24/7 house of prayer represented the worship and praise that will arise incessantly to Jesus when He returns to earth and places His throne in Zion. Davidic-style worship will continue in Zion forever.

Zion, therefore, represents two things. Zion is:

•The seat of governmental authority, and

•The seat of incessant worship.

When David conquered Zion, it was so that he might establish both realities in Zion in their proper order.

We are watching an unprecedented phenomenon taking place in the earth right now. 24/7 houses of prayer are arising throughout the earth. As incessant worship is established before the Lord of God, it provides an atmosphere where the governmental authority of Christ in the earth can be exercised. And the inverse is also true: Whenever the kingdom of God is established with authority in a region, it makes a way for 24/7 houses of prayer to be raised up in that region.

David’s First Order of Business

David was promised by Samuel that he would be king of Israel, but it did not happen all at once. First he went through approximately ten years of refining in the wilderness. The latter part of that season was spent in exile in the land of the Philistines. Once his preparation was complete, he was given the kingdom of Israel in two stages.

In the first stage, David was crowned king only of the tribe of Judah. Being of the tribe of Judah himself, his relatives were first to crown him. He reigned over Judah for seven years from the capital city of Hebron, while Ishbosheth, Saul’s son, reigned over the other eleven tribes. During this time Jerusalem lay within the boundaries of the tribe of Benjamin and was, therefore, outside David’s jurisdiction.

Seven years later Ishbosheth died. Then the eleven tribes of Israel gathered together and asked David to reign over all twelve tribes of Israel. For the next thirty-three years, David was king over the entire nation.

Once David was crowned king of the twelve tribes, Jerusalem came under his jurisdiction. David had been waiting for this moment and immediately sprang to action regarding Zion.

As you read the biblical passages below, notice how one event followed the other. First came David’s coronation as king.

Then all the tribes of Israel came to David at Hebron and spoke, saying, “Indeed we are your bone and your flesh. Also, in time past, when Saul was king over us, you were the one who led Israel out and brought them in; and the LORD said to you, ‘You shall shepherd My people Israel, and be ruler over Israel.’” Therefore all the elders of Israel came to the king at Hebron, and King David made a covenant with them at Hebron before the LORD. And they anointed David king over Israel. David was thirty years old when he began to reign, and he reigned forty years. In Hebron he reigned over Judah seven years and six months, and in Jerusalem he reigned thirty-three years over all Israel and Judah (2 Samuel 5:1-5).

I want you to notice, now, the next verse in the Bible. What was David’s very first act as king of Israel?  Look at it.

And the king and his men went to Jerusalem against the Jebusites, the inhabitants of the land, who spoke to David, saying, “You shall not come in here; but the blind and the lame will repel you,” thinking, “David cannot come in here.” Nevertheless David took the stronghold of Zion (that is, the City of David) (2 Samuel 5:6-7).

First came the coronation over the twelve tribes; then came the conquest of Zion.

David’s very first order of business as king of the entire land was to target the stronghold of Zion. Clearly, Zion was in his crosshairs all along, but he could not engage the stronghold as long as it lay outside his political jurisdiction. Once he had the authority to do something about it, he did not pause for the slightest moment but headed straight for Zion.

 

ARE ALL SINS CREATED EQUAL?

All sins created equal

When discussing sins such as homosexuality, some leaders in the body of Christ today are saying things like, “It doesn’t really matter what your sin is. Sin is sin. All of us are sinners, and all of us need forgiveness.” It’s true that we all need forgiveness, but it’s not true that all sins are equally sinful.

One reason the enemy wants us to believe this lie is because he wants us to trivialize sin. He wants people who are bound in great darkness to think lightly of their sin. He doesn’t want them alerted to how destructive some sinful behaviors can be to themselves and others.

When Jesus said, “Therefore the one who delivered Me to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11), He was acknowledging that some sins are greater than others.

In the Bible, greater sins incurred greater punishment (Deut. 17:8; Matt. 26:24; Heb. 10:29; 2 Ki. 23:26; 24:3). Similarly, our legal systems recognize that it would be wrong to assign the same punishment to every kind of legal infraction. Our courts properly acknowledge that not all sins are created equal.

Just as some sins are greater than others, some demons are more wicked than others (Lk. 11:26). One of the negative consequences of greater sins is that they attract the attention of more wicked demons. Demons are attracted to darkness. When they see us giving place to darkness, they fan the flames of temptation and seek to lead us into even greater darkness and condemnation.

Now it’s true, any sin will send you to hell. If you break just one command of God’s law, James 2:10-11 tells us that you are guilty of all God’s law. Once you’re in hell, I suppose in one sense it hardly matters what got you there. However, Jesus made clear that some sins incur more terrifying judgment in hell (Matt. 18:6).

When participating in today’s debate regarding homosexuality, we must be faithful to speak the truth: Sexual sins are worse than many other kinds of sin. And among sexual sins, some are worse than others.

One reason sexual sins are greater than many others is because of how they adversely affect other people. Fornication defiles not just you but another person as well. Adultery is a sin both against the other person and the spouses involved. Molestation and incest are such evil sins because of their power to traumatize the victims. Some people suffer emotionally from these kinds of sins for years and years.

Paul showed that sexual sins are often worse than others when he wrote:

Flee sexual immorality. Every sin that a man does is outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body (1 Cor. 6:18).

The construction of the Greek is emphatic, “Every sin whatsoever,” pointing to the unique ability of sexual immorality to defile the body. Some sins defile only a part of your being, such as your mind or your spirit. But sexual sins defile your entire person—spirit, soul, and body.

When we understand how destructive certain kinds of sin can be, the hope of the Gospel shines even brighter. Jesus came to save sinners! He commands us to repent, receive forgiveness, turn from our sin, and dedicate our lives to obeying Him.

What great news!

If you’re looking for more a more in-depth resource on the subject of sexuality and consecration to the Lord, click here to learn more about Bob’s newest book, A Covenant With My Eyes. 

THE GOSPEL IS IN THE GOSPELS

The Gospel is in the Gospels

When did the Gospel era officially launch? Where should we draw the line between the Old and New Covenants?

The answer to this question is immensely important. There are voices in the body of Christ that place the line in the wrong place, producing teachings that are very harmful to the body of Christ. Hence, this post. I am writing to identify where this line needs to be drawn, and why this is so important.

The line is drawn usually in one of two places: Either at the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry, or at the Day of Pentecost. The second option is the wrong answer. When some suggest that the Gospel era was not launched until the Day of Pentecost, they assign the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus to the Old Covenant era. In so doing, the teachings of the Gospels get labelled as Old Covenant truths—truths which are not as compelling or binding upon believers as the truths in the epistles. Thus, the teachings of Christ are improperly assigned secondary weight or significance. This error is contributing to much false teaching in the body of Christ, both past and present.

There ought to be no question as to when the Gospel era began, for the Bible itself tells us clearly in two passages. First of all, Mark in his Gospel identifies “the beginning of the gospel” with the advent of John the Baptist’s ministry:

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. As it is written in the Prophets: “Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You.” (Mark 1:1-2)

The second witness is from the mouth of Jesus Himself, who drew the line between Malachi and John the Baptist:

And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. (Mat. 11:12-13)

The Gospel era was launched with the ministry of John the Baptist. Get this clearly: The Gospel is in the Gospels.

Those who place the teachings of the Gospels in the Old Testament era do so because they want to be free of some of the constraints in Christ’s teachings. Jesus, who taught in the fullness of grace (Jn. 1:14), taught things that guard the gospel from excesses. When Jesus’ teachings are brushed aside, the stage is set for teachings that appear to produce freedom, but in the end lead to permissiveness, indulgence, imbalance, and even sin.

God came from heaven, became flesh, and walked among men to communicate to us the heart of the Father. There is no higher authority in all Scripture than the words of Christ. Any theological system that assigns secondary value to the teachings of Jesus Christ is to be avoided like cancer.

John G. Lake wrote, “I consider all the Word of God the common court of the Gospel, but the words of Jesus are the supreme court of the Gospel.” To this I lend my hearty amen.

When the words of Christ are relegated to second place, it makes a way for imbalanced teachings about the grace of God. The grace of God can be presented in a way that enables believers to turn liberty into license.

And when the words of Christ are relegated to second place, it makes a way for imbalanced teachings about money and prosperity. Jesus’ teachings about money become viewed as legalistic, and His example of a simplified lifestyle is jettisoned in favor of lavish lifestyles.

The topic of this post is personal for me because of a time when the Lord visited me and rebuked me. I had been influenced by some authors in a certain stream in the body of Christ, and had adopted some ideas about the power of Pentecost that had, by default, minimized all that preceded the cross, including the teachings of Christ. I did not realize how wrong that line of thinking was until the Lord came to me in a clear way, rebuked me, and re-aligned my understanding in something not unlike a chiropractic adjustment. He rebuked me for viewing the teachings of Christ too lightly. I saw it clearly: “The Gospel is in the Gospels.”

Someone might argue, “But didn’t Paul say that Christ was ‘born under the law?’” (Gal. 4:4). True enough. We were not fully liberated from the law until the resurrection of Christ. John the Baptist and Jesus ministered in a unique window of time during which the teachings of the Gospel were introducing a new era, while the full provision of this Gospel was not released until the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Acts 2). He had to be born under the law in order to satisfy the law’s requirements. While satisfying the law, He announced a Gospel of repentance that was greater than the law.

John the Baptist was “more than a prophet” (Mat. 11:9) because his ministry wrestled the Gospel era into human history. He paved the way so that Jesus could give us the glorious teachings of the Gospel.