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Apostolic Conversion

Apostolic Conversion

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Published by Daniel Andrew

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Published by: Daniel Andrew on Jul 31, 2011
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07/25/2014

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Apostolic Conversion
PretextorReality?BeyondMereSalvation
By:ArthurKatz
Thisistheverbatimtranscriptofamessagegivenin1993toanAmericancongregationofaspirituallyimpressivekind.Thatistosay,thatithadalltheappearancesofacommittedbody,seriousintheLord,andwhoselivelyworshipseemedtotestifyofitsaboundinghealth.Nevertheless,aftertwonightsofmeetings,Ifelt,asthespeaker,anincreasingsenseofdespairthatnotmuchhadbeentransactedandthatiftheLorddidnotradicallyintervenetherewouldbelittlepointincontinuing.Thismessagewasgivenonthethirdnight,havingspentthedayinfastingandearnestintercessoryprayer.Withhardlyasingleexception,theentirecongregationwentdownontheirfacesatitsconclusioninadepthofgroaningandintensiveseekingoftheLord.Thewordislikeanarrowtotheheartoftheneedofthechurchworld-wideespeciallyinitsseeming'success'andhowmuchmoreinitsstaticpredictability.MayitaffectyouasareaderasitdidthosewhoheardandreceiveditastheLord'sword.TonightIbelievethattheLord'sheartisonthesubjectofconversion.I'mveryfondofsaying,"Manysaved,fewconverted,"andI'vecometoarealisationaftertwonights,thattocontinuealongthelinesthatwehavebeenspeakingwouldbevainunlesstherehasinfactbeenaradicalcrossingtotheotherside.Ican'tthinkoagreatercrueltyordelusionthantospeakaboutapostolicthingswhenwearespirituallyincapacitatedoincapableofwalkingthemout,especiallywhensomethingfoundationaltoourrelationshipwithGodhasnotyetbeeneffected.TheapostolicthingsthatpertaintoHisglorycanonlyfindfulfilmentinapeoplewhoareutterlyabandonedtoGod.Ifweembraceonlythevocabularyofapostalicity,weengagethecruellestofalldeceptions.Let'stalkaboutanythingelse,anduseanyotherkindoflanguage,butlet'snotembracethislanguageunlesswehaveanintenttofulfilit.Somehowweneedtopauseinthecourseofwhatisbeingunfoldedinthesedaysandraisethequestionoftheauthenticityofourownconversion.CanyouunderstandthatitispossiblesomehowtobesavedandevenbornagainoftheSpirit-evenbefilledwiththeSpirit-andyetnotbeconvertedinthesenseofanutternesstowardGodthat
apostolic 
realityrequires?SeeingthatwearefocusingonPaul,IwanttoreadanaccountofhisconversionfromActs,Chapter9.ItisremarkabletonotethatinthebookofActstherearethreeexpressionsorrecordingsofthatconversion.Perhapsitisnotanexaggerationtosuggestthattheapostoliclifethatfollowedwasaltogetherproportionatetothekindofcommencementorbeginningthatithadfromthefirst.Ortoputitinanotherway,maybewecan'texceedorgo
beyond 
whatisthepointofourbeginning.Someofusmayneedadayofnewbeginnings
orabeginningthathasneverinfactbeenmade
;whichifitisinfactnotmade,wouldcondemnustobeingfixedatacertainlevelofChristianresponsebeneathwhattheLordhimselfintenselyintendsanddesires.I'mgoingtoaskthatwestandandasktheLord'sblessingbeforewereadtheScriptures.Idon'tknowwherethatthoughtcamefrom,butsomewhereinthecourseofthedayIjusthadasenseofusstandingtoprayandIjustwanttoinviteyoutocallontheLordevennow.Nolengthyprayerfromonesaint,butjustabriefinvitingofGodtopulloutthestops,toaskHimforsomethingofanextraordinarykind.I'malwaysbelievingtheLordforsomethinglikethat,animpetuslikethatinyourspirit,sojustsoundoutfromwhereyouarestandingandthenI'llconcludeinprayerandthenwe'llgetintothewordfortonight.Sothen,firstreadingfromActs9
 AndSaul,yetbreathingoutthreateningsandslaughteragainstthedisciplesoftheLord,wenttothehigh priestanddesiredofhimletterstoDamascustothesynagogues,thatifhefoundanythisway,whethetheyweremenorwomen,hemightbringthembounduntoJerusalem.Andashejourneyed,hecamenearDamascus:andsuddenlythereshinedroundabouthimalightfromheaven:Andhefelltotheearthandheardavoicesayinguntohim,Saul,Saul,whypersecutestthouMe?Andhesaid,Whoaretho
 
Lord?AndtheLordsaid,IamJesuswhothoupersecutest:itishardfortheetokickagainstthepricks. Andhetremblingandastonishedsaid,Lordwhatwouldthouhavemetodo?AndtheLordsaiduntohim, Ariseandgointothecity,anditshallbetoldtheewhatthoumustdo.Andthemenwhichjourneyedwithhimstoodspeechless,hearingavoice,butseeingnoman.AndSaulrosefromtheearth;andwhenhiseyeswereopened,hesawnoman:buttheyledhimbythehand,andbroughthimintoDamascus.Anhewasthreedayswithoutsight,andneitherdideatnordrink.AndtherewasacertaindiscipleaDamascus,namedAnanaias;andtohimsaidtheLordinavision,Ananaias.Andhesaid,Behold,Iamhere,Lord.AndtheLordsaiduntohim,arise,andgotothestreetwhichiscalledStraight,andenquireinthehouseofJudasforonecalledSaul,ofTarsus:for,behold,heprayeth.AndhathseeninavisionamannamedAnanaiascomingin,andputtinghishandonhimthathemightreceivehissight.Then Ananaiasanswered,LordIhaveheardbymanyofthisman,howmuchevilhehathdonetothysaintsaJerusalem.Andherehehathauthorityfromthechiefprieststobindallthatcallonthyname.ButtheLordsaiduntohim,Gothyway:forheisachosenvesseluntoMe,tobearMynamebeforetheGentiles,andkings,andthechildrenofIsrael:ForIwillshewhimhowgreatthingshemustsufferformyname'ssake.
[Acts9:1-16]ThankyoupreciousGod,forthelightthatshoneuponanenemyanddeeplyconvertedhim,myGod,fromthemurderertothechiefapostleoftheChurch.Whatawork,myGod,thatcomesdownfromheaveninthemomentthatyouappoint,eveninallouropposition.Wepraythattonight'sspeaking,myGod,mightbeforuswhohavenotyetfallentotheearthandwhoarestillproceedingfromourseeing,andnotyetfromyours-thatwemightbebroughtdowninorderthatwemaybebroughtup,andthatwemightlearnwhatgreatthingswemustsufferforyourname'ssake,whomyouwillbringbeforeGentilesandkings-andespeciallyintheselastdays,beforethehouseofIsrael.Comeandspeaktousoutothistext,myGod.Wethankyouandpraiseyoufortheprivilegeofawordaboutitthatmightbeforustheeventofit,inJesus'holyName,Amen.So,asI'vealreadysaid,theinceptionoftheapostoliclifegreatlydeterminesitsend.Manyofusaremalfunctioning,notwalkinginfullness,becauseofinadequatebeginnings.Icangooffonalongdissertationabouttheinadequacyofourcontemporarygospel,ofitbeingmoreofakindofformulaforsalvationthanitisaninductionintothemostholyfaith,andhowthepagansinThessalonicawhoheardanapostolicproclamationofthatgospelweresaved"fromtheiridolstoservethelivingGod,andtowaitforHissonwhocomesfromheavenandwhowillsavetheminthedayofHiswrath."(1Thess.1:9).Evidently,theyheardamuchfullerandmorepowerfulpresentationofthegospelthanmostofus,andtherefore,rightfromtheinstantoftheirconversion,aqualityofthingswasreleasedthatmadethatchurchdistinctive.Indeed,theyreflect
their 
beginningand
we
reflectours.ButpraiseGodthatifourbeginningshavebeenfaultyandinadequate,ifourpovertyofbeginninghasaffectedoursubsequentwalk,thentherearewaysinwhichGodcangiveusanewbeginning.IseeinthisakindofparallelwithIsraelandthegreat'crossingover'thattheywererequiredtomakewithJoshua.ThereisaJordan,whichmeansliterally,"adescentintodeath."AndthiscrossingleavesbehindthosewhostumbledaboutinthereligiouswastelandforfortyyearswheremanycadavershadbeenleftbehindwhodidnothavethefullnessofheartofaCaleborJoshua(Calebmeans"Whole-hearted").Onlytwooutofanentiregenerationhadtheprivilegeofbeingwelcomedintothelandofpromiseandparticipatinginthetakingoftheland.Westandatthiskindofcrossroadtoday.
Itistimetocrossove
,andthissenseocrossinghasbeenheavyonmyheartinallthedaysIhavebeenhereandeventhedaysthatimmediatelyproceededmycomingtoyou.Butdoyouknowthat
notall 
ofthehouseofIsraelcrossed,butthataportionofthetribesofGad,ManassehandReubenchosetoremainontheotherside?Theyremainedbecausethegroundtherewaslush,andthegrasseswerehighandtheywerecattlebreeders,whoobviouslyrecognisedsomethingof
immediate
value.Theywereunwillingforthatriskofafaithinwhatmightbefoundontheotherside.TheypleadedwithMosesandgotwhattheywanted,andtheywereallowedtoremainonthewrongsideoftheJordanandhavebeensubsequentlylosttothewholehistoryofIsrael.TheonlymelancholyreminderwehaveofthetribeofGad,whochosethewrongside,aretheGadarenesoftheNewTestamenttimewhoraisedpigsandwereunwilling,evenatthatlatertime,foradeliverertocomebecauseitprovedexpensivefortheirflesh.Theymuchpreferredtosustaintheirherds,ratherthanwelcomeHimwhocastingthosesameherdsintotheseadeliversfromdemonspirits!Whatacommentaryontheconsequencesofanunwillingnesstocrossover,ofalanguishingonthewrongside.Ithinkthatthereasonisalwaysthesame-becauseitisconducivetothe'flesh,'because
backthere
 
wehaveanassurancetothingsthatpertainto'herds'(i.e.,ourimmediateself-interest).Sothereisnow,asthen,arealnecessityfor"crossingover,"lestourowncarcassesbefoundonthewrongside,orthatwedegenerateintothemelancholythatbecametrueforthetribesofGadandManasseh,whorefusedtogooverbutremainedfixedfortheir"cattle'ssake!"WejustreviewedwhatthelandoftheGadareneshadbecomebythetimeofJesus,centurieslater;theyarelostevennowtoanykindofhistoricalremembrance,letalonevalue.Consequently,theconversionofPaul,and
ou
conversion,iscritical.Itbeginswiththephrase,"Ashe journeyed"IthinkthereismorehopeforanenemyofGodjourneyinginfullsincerity,eveninhiserror,thanforthosewhopurporttobethefriendsofGodandhavelongsinceceasedjourneyingandarejustkindo'treadingwater'oroccupyingsomekindofsafeplace.Thereismorehopetoconvertanenemywhoisinmotion,howevergrievoushiserror(andtheerrorisaconsequence,even,ofanintensityforGod,howevemisconceived),thanthereisforthoseofuswhoaresafelyensconcedincorrectcredosanddoctrinesbutarenotmovingatall!So,thereissomethinginmyspiritthatrisesupinthewordsweread,"Butashejourneyed"Youwonderif therewouldhavebeenaconversionifSaulwouldhavebeencontenttorestonhisleesandtobesatisfiedwiththeconventionalcategoriesoforthodoxythatsatisfiedmostofhiscontemporaries."But
as
he journeyed, suddenly 
therecamealightfromheaven,"andI'mwonderingif
journeying 
isaconditionofthatlightforusaswell?IsitthatwhentheLordseesaquestingthereismorehopeofourbeingarrestedbythelightofGodthanifwearemerelytreadingwater,satisfiedwiththespiritualstatusquoofourlives?Butuntil
that 
lightshines,
until 
somethingcomesdowntousfrom
above
,wearefixedintheplacewhereweare.Everythingisfromthegreat,sovereignhandofGod.Whoseeye"rovestoandfrooverthefaceoftheearth,seekingthatonewhoseheartisperfecttowardHim."Ifthatwerenotso,Iwouldnotbespeakingtoyounow.Iwouldnotbeinthefaithbutwouldhavebeenadeadmanalongtimeago.Butevenasanatheist,andasanenemyofGod,"pouringoutthreatsandmurder"againsttheChurchthirty-sevenyearsagointhesamekindofvehemenceandoppositionasSaul,Iwasarrested.(SeeArt's"OdysseyofaModernJew,"thetestimonialbookofhisownconversion).Probablyforthesamekindsofreasonsthateveninmyerror,eveninmyoppositiontotheChurchandthefaith,unabletomouththenameofJesus,exceptasablasphemyandacurse,Godsawaheartthatwasdesiringtruth,thatwaswillingtobeontheway,'journeying.'IthinkthisisadispositionpleasingtoGod,even
after
one'sinitialencounterwithGod!IlovethewaytheLordencounteredSaul,whofelltotheearthandheardavoicesayingtohim,"Saul.Saul,whypersecuteththouMe?"Ithinkthatifweareexaminingtheanatomyofconversion,ofwhatitisthat
must 
beradicallyturned,itis
this
fatalerror,ifitisallowedfinalexpression,willultimatelyresultinthepersecutionofGodandtheChurch.Andwhatisthiserror?Itisthis-puttingour'thou'beforeGod's'Me.'"Whypersecuteth
thou
Me?"Whydoyoucelebrate,andput
your 
self-interest,howeverreligiousandsanctifiedyouthinkitis,before
Me
?HereiswhereIhavetotrusttheHolyGhosttotakethatsimplethingthatliestoodeepforwords,andrevealthecruxofthematter.WearenotconverteduntilHis'Me'is
before
our'thou.'That
is
thefatalmishap,wegothroughanentirelifetimewithour'thou'
 preceding 
His'Me,'evenreligiously.Somethingneedstobewrenchedabout,radicallyalteredandcorrected;theonethingmustbebeforetheother-His'Me'beforeour'thou.'Ifthatdoesnottakeplace,beassuredthatinoneformortheother,wearepersecutingGod;weareopposingGodevenwhilewepurporttobelabouringandservinginHisinterest!Isn'tthatexactlythepictureofSaul?Notethathereisnotsomecalculatedatheist,indifferenttoGod,butherewasaman
zealous
forGod.TheerrorthatledtothepersecutionofGod'sownpeople,andGodHimself
in
Hispeople,wascommittedbya
religious
maninerrorwhose'thou',howeverwellmeaning,wasyet
before
God's'Me.'Howdoesitstandwithyoutonight?Ifthatbasicandfatalerrorispossibleforamanofreligiouszeal,who,witheveryrightintention,soughttoserveGodandtoseekoutopportunitiestorounduphereticsandbringthembacktoJerusalem,howmuch
more
thenarewecapableofexactlythesamefatalerror?Whyweputour'thou'beforeHis'Me'
is
thenubofthematter,
solongaswehavemadeourselvescentralandpriortoHim
.That,Ithink,isessentiallycharacteristicoftheChurchtoday,eveninitsbest'charismatic'form.Itisstillour'thou',itisstill,"Howareweaffected?"Thatstubborn,spirituallyegocentricattitude,howeveunconsciousandexpressed,canonlybedislodgedbyprofoundconversion.Forthisinfactiswhatconversionis.Wecanbesaved;wecanbefilledwiththeSpirit;andyet,thiscentralthingcanremainunattendeduntilalightshinesdownuponusfromheavenandbringsusdowntotheearth.Havewenot,eveninthesetwo

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