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Understanding The Mind of God:
A Message To The 'Charismatic Church'
Getting Things In Perspective
What is most important for us as Christians in this life is developing the mind of Christ. This is the intellect which will last forever – the mind of God. His thinking is different in many ways to our own. It is vastly superior (Is 55:8).
One of the hardest things for the human mind to understand is what it does not want to understand. And, humanly, no-one wants suffering or deprivation! Yet they have their place in spiritual development.
The Need For Humility
An Old Testament sage once prayed:
Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ Or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God (Prov 30:8,9).
What was uppermost on this man’s mind was showing honour, love and respect towards his God. He did not want anything to draw him into sin and thereby cut him off from the Eternal One. He knew his own limitations. He knew he could so easily fall into sin’s trap, just as Paul knew (Rom 7:18-24).
These were the words of an obscure man called Agur. His humility was immense. There is much wisdom in his words, but he considered himself of little worth (vs 2,3). He regarded himself as nothing compared with Yahweh (vs 4,5).
The sentiments he expressed were those that come from the mind of God. It is to the truly humble that God imparts His mind (Is 66:2; 57:15).
Agur knew the dangers of having too much. Physical provision or plenty without hardship or difficulty can lead to spiritual inertness or apathy. It can breed complacency and self-satisfaction which destroys us spiritually. Those qualities are as destructive as the sins of commission from wrong desire.
Those who preach that God has promised us a life free of calamity, set-back, hardship, difficulty or trial are not preaching the whole truth. They are certainly preaching an appealing message, but it is not the entirety of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus warned us to prepare for opposition from every quarter!
To preach that Christ, through His death, has bought us freedom from poverty, sickness and death is fine insofar as it goes. The theory is correct. But such teaching must be tempered with wisdom and with mature elaboration to convey to the hearer the complete truth. To preach continually the same limitlessly positive message can have the effect of generating cocky, presumptuous unbalanced Christians who think we always have a right to claim what Jesus has purchased for us through His shed blood. Although we do have a privilege to claim what Jesus has bought for us, we cannot demand it! That is presumption. In that sense, you cannot claim healing, prosperity or any other blood-bought freedom. You can only accept it in gratitude and humility. God’s grace is given by Him, and received in humility by us. You are misguided if you think you can demand it as your right.
You are in danger of being presumptuous if you reduce the truth of Christ’s sacrifice to a mechanical level. Those who “name it and claim it” are missing the point. Jesus died primarily to draw us to Him – to bring us back into God’s company after sin separated us. Jesus died so that our way of thinking can be changed. We need the mind of God! We need to have a personal relationship with Him. Receiving from God is not mechanical, it is personal.
One other serious danger of such a lop-sided teaching is that charismatics often think the devil is always under our feet. This is also a dangerous presumption. When presumption replaces humility, the devil is not under our feet. He is manipulating us!
The devil is far more deceptive and ingenious than many Christians realise. Even while they are proclaiming the name of Christ, Satan has still got many of them trapped in his claws. It is an inveterate battle fighting against the enemy. No one can arrogantly claim to have got him licked. Jesus has got him licked, but we will only be able to fully partake of that deliverance when we are changed from mortal to immortal. Meanwhile, many in the Church labour under a misconception that they are free of the devil’s deceptions, while all along they cannot see where they are still trapped by error.
It is a life-long struggle, submitting to God and resisting the devil. None of us submit perfectly to God, or resist the evil thoughts of the devil as we should. It is certainly not a contest to be taken lightly! Jesus, with His superior spirituality, never underestimated the wiles of His opponent.
The prosperity gospel will claim many casualties. When the rains fall heavily, the winds blow fiercely and the streams rise and beat on the house, there will be many disillusioned Christians who cannot understand why their faith was not a match for the circumstances they came up against. The devil will beat them if they wilfully neglect to base their faith on all the Word of God (Matt 7:24-27).
When times get rough in the near future, such Christians who have lived on the lie that things will get better and better regardless of the state of the nation and its economy, will find their faith shattered as their financial positions get worse! Some will even lose faith in God completely! They were living under false hopes. There is coming a time of unparalleled suffering and difficulty which the world has never before experienced in such intensity! Jesus warned us about it in Matthew 24:21. The Church must be prepared! Teaching a prosperity doctrine does not prepare the Church for endurance (Matt 24:13; 10:22); it prepares it for sudden disillusionment and defeat!
What Jesus Really Promised Us
Although Jesus promised us victory despite the opposition and difficulties we will face, we must discern what His primary intent was. It was not for total physical provision and deliverance. It was one of total spiritual deliverance!
As Christians, we must be prepared to lose our all, physically – our possessions, our homes, our families, even our lives (Matt 10:16-39).
Jesus did not promise His disciples physical abundance or prosperity. It is true He desired that for them; and He desires that for all of us now (III Jn 2). But He knows that such eventualities are not necessarily realistic in every personal circumstance. Nor does God always pluck us out of our circumstances. He helps us through them. What Jesus promised us in this age was not prosperity and plenty, but hope in tribulation (Jn 16:33). He said, “Take heart! I have overcome the world.”
If God had promised us physical abundance, physical success and freedom from difficulty in this life, why would He also talk about the need for His sons to be disciplined from time to time? (Heb 12:6). How could God discipline His children if He has given them the right to total physical provision continually? The two concepts are not compatible.
God has to withhold healing on occasion, if His children are not living in His will for them to receive it. God has to deny us physical abundance if that abundance would hinder us or destroy us spiritually. (And continual physical abundance is one of the best means the devil has to destroy us! It can side-track us from the more important spiritual priorities and can cause us to become lukewarm spiritually.)
The fact that Jesus expects us to fast – to deny ourselves – from time to time in physical discipline, is indicative of the fact that God never intended life to be a continual bed of roses. Fasting is humbling and helps us to absorb the humble mind of Christ. But there are also times when even self-imposed discipline like fasting cannot help us to see where we are going astray.
David had the mind of God, and God caused David to see that there were occasions when God had to allow affliction – in this case through physical sickness – for him to see his spiritual deficiencies.
Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I obey your Word (Ps 119:67).
David knew that God was good and that what God allowed was for David’s eventual benefit (v 68).
It was good for me to be afflicted so that I might learn your decrees… I know, O Lord, that your laws are righteous, and in faithfulness you have afflicted me (vs 71,75).
That is not to say that all sickness indicates a need for personal correction: not necessarily. Likewise, it may or may not be satanically imposed. However, we must always learn from it. Sometimes that learning is for our humbling or to wake us up spiritually. Other times, it may be to teach us to fight the spiritual enemy.
There is a great need in our Christian lives for continual self analysis. Are we truly humble? If we are suffering, is it because it is the only way God has to reach our minds and correct us? We must learn to discern why we are suffering and be willing to learn from it.
Seeing Wealth In Perspective
Jesus told us that a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things which he possesses (Lk 12:15). At one time in Jesus’ ministry, He told a rich young man to give away all his wealth to the poor (Matt 19:21). Jesus could see that it was a hindrance to the man’s spiritual growth. It had become an idol to him.
God will not bless you physically with riches if those riches are going to defeat His spiritual objective in your life.
Furthermore, physical plenty is not a sign of spiritual plenty. Physical plenty will often come as a result of spiritual obedience, but not always. It depends what other factors come against believers at the same time, and in what environment they live. For example, in third world countries, God is not in the habit of pouring out remarkable physical abundance on a scale which would astonish western Christians. God works within certain parameters which He knows are appropriate in the circumstances. He can and does work miracles, but those are always according to the purpose He is working out. It is sometimes difficult for us to understand God’s mind and purpose.
Remember, to the Church in Smyrna, Jesus said:
I know your afflictions and poverty – yet you are rich! (Rev 2:9).
From this one text alone we ought to be able to deduce that physical riches and freedom from adversity are not the highest priorities on God’s list. He counted spiritual riches far more valuable.
The reason for Smyrna’s physical poverty and affliction was that Satan had robbed them through human opposition.
I know the slander of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan (v 9).
Their suffering was not a result of lack of faith. ‘Confessing out the promises’ would have made no difference to them in their particular situation. It was a situation that God had willed – according to the design He was working out. It was inevitable.
If we lived in an ideal system, in which there was no spiritual opposition, then naturally, all the physical blessings for obedience would accrue. Undeniably, blessings for obedience to God’s ways would be so obvious everyone would be jumping on the ‘bandwagon’ and ‘getting saved’. (This has actually happened to a large extent in America where false hopes have generated a false revival.) However, that situation in itself would defeat God’s purposes.
One cannot get salvation, it is given, to the lowly.
International evangelist Benny Hinn recently stated that the faith teaching has gone too far. Some are misunderstanding and have reduced the teaching of the Bible to a “give to get” principle. That is a farce. One cannot give to get. One does not tithe or give in order to be blessed. It simply won’t work. The underlying motive is wrong.
One gives from the heart – without seeking to get something in return – and that giving attitude is rewarded by God. The rewards will be commensurate with the situation and circumstances in which the believer lives. Therefore they will often be relative to the person’s particular environment and living conditions. God is not going to make millionaires out of bushmen in the Kalahari desert. He will bless them in a way which will best suit their circumstances and in a way in which they will be most able to help others as a result.
God is always thinking of how your blessings can be put to the maximum use and how your wealth will be a blessing to others – especially spiritually.
Some want to see how much they can gain by serving Him. They will be sorely disappointed. God is not in the business of pandering to our selfish desires. He will often bless people physically in some ways in order for them to see His love for them – especially initially while they are young in the faith. As we mature, He awaits a more mature response from us.
Some Christians have regarded the faith teaching as a means to a selfish end. Others have regarded faith as an end in itself. But faith is not the destination. Your destiny is to become like God. You are made in His character image. He wants you to have a personal relationship with Him, that you can become like Him.
He is able to achieve this objective whether you are rich or poor. For some Christians it would be spiritually damaging to be wealthy; for others it would be equally spiritually damaging for them to be poor. God wants to bless all His children and He knows how to do so. There is nothing intrinsically wrong in being rich (although there are many abuses in this world). Likewise, there is no inherent shame in being poor. There should also be no human glory in either.
Let us look beyond the physical level to the spiritual plane and view everything with the eyes of God.
Paul suffered physical deprivation in conducting the ministry which Jesus had given him. He had to work for his own living and provide the physical necessities of life when the Church should have been providing for him (I Thes 2:6; I Cor 9:4-15). He suffered for the negligence of those whom he was serving. It was not his faithfulness (faith) which was remiss, but the obedience of Christians who were failing in their duty towards him.
Paul had learned to cope with adversity. He declared he knew what it was to be in need, and what it was to be in plenty.
I have learned to be content whatever the cir- cumstances (Phil 4:11). I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through Him who gives me strength (vs 12,13).
Such sentiment was the evidence of a man who could look beyond the physical, to more important spiritual realities. He had the right perspective.
If Paul had been reared on a ‘prosperity gospel’, his faith would have been shattered through the ordeals he had to endure for the name of Christ!
Returning To Our Roots
We discussed earlier the value of some of the statements God recorded for us in the pages of the Old Testament. They help us to keep some New Testament teachings in proper perspective. They help us to retain a correct balance. The Old Testament is a foundation for Christian belief and understanding. Without the Old Covenant we would never have had the New. The moral teaching God gave us in the Old is the unchanged basis upon which Jesus has established believers’ conduct in the New (Matt 5, 6 and 7).
Paul – despite what the majority think he espoused – never detracted from the purity of the moral principles and commands of the Old Covenant. He reminded Timothy:
We know that the [OT] law is good if a man uses it properly (1 Tim 1:8). All scripture [the scripture they had then was the Old Testament] is God- breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correct- ing and training in righteous- ness (2 Tim 3:16).
Paul’s proviso was that the holy scriptures were handled correctly (2 Tim 2:15). In most of the Church, both evangelical and charismatic, frequently they are not handled correctly!
Unfortunately, many think the Old Covenant is now totally irrelevant. Had they understood the Old Covenant principles and customs as Paul did, they would be able to understand better the way God operates and what He is achieving at this time.
I recently read the following inept statement from a preacher. It was made to the partners in his ministry. “…you are a big part in taking the world over for our Lord, Jesus Christ.”
God is not taking the world over for Jesus Christ at this time. Jesus has all power in heaven and earth (Matt 28:18). If He wanted to take the world for Himself at this time, He would do so. He does not need your help nor mine! (Although, He has chosen to work through human instruments.) The statement reflects his sad lack of understanding of the plan of God. This plan was revealed to Israel in symbolism through the festivals God gave them, but because false teaching has caused the Church to reject these, it has lost sight of God’s overall plan.
As strange as it may seem, this is not God’s time to call everyone. This is not the only day of salvation. This is a day of salvation, but not the only day of salvation (see the exact Greek of II Cor 6:2). The Greek says “a", not “the”. It makes a world of difference to our understanding. God is not trying to save everyone now. If He were, His efforts look pretty puny against those of Satan who seems to be thwarting Him in so many ways.
No, God’s purpose is actually to cause some to be hardened at this time to such truth and to fail to see the glory of Christ (Rom 9:14-18; 11:32). That is a deliberate act on God’s part, not a failure to act. He will gather them later (Jer 31:10,33; Is 11:12; 56:8;). For some others, however, it is different; He is opening their minds and drawing them to Him at this time (Jn 6:44).
Israel, for the most part, will not be saved until many of the Gentiles have come into the Kingdom first (Rom 9:18; 11:7,8, 25). Thus, the last shall be first and the first shall be last (Mk 10:31; Lk 13:30).
This plan of God has been a mystery to many, even in Christendom. One reason, above all others, has led to this ignorance. It is because the Church as a whole has lost contact with its ‘Hebrew’ roots and become a ‘Gentile’ Church. It has become separated from its ‘Judaic’ past.
The early Church was a ‘sect’ of Judaism (Acts 28:22), keeping the ‘Old Testament’ festivals which picture the plan of God from Creation. Gentiles, too, were grafted into this Israelite heritage (Rom 11:13,17,24) and observed the same festivals (Acts 17:2,4). Luke, a Gentile, wrote Acts. And, after Paul’s declaration that he would now reach out exclusively to Gentiles and no longer to Jews (Acts 18:6), Luke made a point of mentioning the Feast of Unleavened Bread in his narrative (Acts 20:6). The region where Paul had been preaching was Gentile Macedonia. Many of the believers there were Greeks and other non-Jews. They were clearly keeping the same festivals which today are often sneeringly labelled ‘Jewish’. Likewise, in Paul’s letter of 1 Corinthians, to a church with a substantial proportion of Gentiles, he adjures them to keep the Passover and this Feast of Unleavened Bread with right spiritual attitudes (1 Cor 5:7,8).
This knowledge of correct festival observances has been almost completely hidden from the contemporary Church. Had the bulk of the Church retained its Hebrew legacy, it would not have embraced so much misunderstanding and error. Satan vigorously attacked true Christians who obediently clung to these true biblical customs. They became labelled ‘Judaizers’ in the early centuries of the common era, so much so that systematic persecution wiped out the Church’s true Hebrew identity in Christendom. That identity, which God gave to ‘the woman’ He loved, fled into the wilderness for its own survival (Rev 12:14).
The roots of anti-Semitism intertwined the persecution instigated by the false Church (Rev 17,18) against these truths of God.
But anyone who fights against such truths, fights against Jesus, who established them as signposts for Israel and later for His Church. Jesus was a Jew. Paul was a Jew. The twelve apostles were all Jews. Salvation is of the Jews (Jn 4:22). The New Covenant was first made with Jews. All who are saved are spiritual Jews (Rom 2:29). And all the true festivals, which God wants His chosen to keep, were first given to His people Israel.
The basis of all New Testament teaching is that of the Israelite Old Testament which has not been done away in the way most Christians erroneously think. Jesus was adamant about that! (Matt 5:17-20.) The New Testament rightly has a Hebrew ‘flavour’, despite the fact that salvation is now open to Gentiles too.
When the Church returns to its Hebrew roots, it will be able to better appreciate the plan God is working out with His people. Then you will be able to put things into proper perspective.
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