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Prayer, Power, and Proclamation
By Dr Christopher Peppler
Full book available at
Prayer, Power, and Proclamation
© C.L.Peppler All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means without the prior permission in writing from the author. You may not circulate this book in any other binding or cover and you must impose the same condition on any acquirer. Published by Chrispy Publications, 348 Beverley Estate, Concourse Crescent, Lonehill, Sandton, South Africa, 2191 ISBN 978-0-620-43583-3
All scriptural quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New International Version of the Bible.
Table of Contents
Chapter One ..................................................5 Introduction.......................................................5
Structure of the book...............................................6 The state of the church today..................................7 A narrow path......................................................... ..9 Cautions.................................................... .............11 Jesus our example..................................... .............12 Inverted kingdoms.................................................15 Mindset......................................... .........................20 Fear of the unknown.............................................. .22 Discomfort (dis-ease) with mystery........................23 Misconception of who we are.................................25
Chapter One Introduction
ometimes, people ask me, ‘Why do we see so few genuine miracles in our day?’ It is not that God is no longer capable of working miracles, yet we seem to experience so few of them. There are plenty of hyped pseudo signs and wonders on display, but few genuine spiritual manifestations. Is this your experience? A similar question which engages me, concerns why our times of prayer, both private and corporate, are often such uninspiring events. A third question I ask myself is, why do we take Jesus at his word when it comes to things like love for one another, but not when he speaks of us moving mountains with words of faith? It seems to me that the Why do we see so normal experiences of few genuinemodern disciples of Jesus miracles-in our Christ are very different from those of the first day? disciples. Does God not intend the things of today to be at least as they were in the first century? Am I foolish to think that the spiritual power of the church of Acts should be a minimum standard for the church of today?
Now before going any further, just a little information on how I have structured this book.
Structure of the book
I have divided the first part of this book into three sections. This might give the impression that I see prayer, power, and proclamation as three discrete subjects. This is not the case. I contend that the three intertwine as three threads in a golden cord that binds us to the Holy Spirit in dynamic partnership. It seems to me that we have separated these three strands. We pray, and maybe sometimes we ask the Holy Spirit for power from on high. We seldom, however, authoritatively proclaim the release of spiritual power. What would happen if we learned to weave these three threads back into one cord? Is it possible that we would start to experience something of the power of the early church? I have designed this book for you to read on its own, or use in a group setting. I have produced a DVD series and a leader’s guide to facilitate group work, and you can obtain the DVDs from www.chrispy.co.za. I have also included the Leader’s Guide as Part III of this book to facilitate group study, even for those who do not have the DVDs. I have called the second part of this book ‘Digging Deeper’, and have designed this for the reader who
wants more. By more, I mean further exegesis and discussion on key texts and topics. I have keyed Digging Deeper to the first part of the book with a circular symbol containing a page number.
The state of the church today
I just cannot believe that God wants us to be passionless and powerless Christians. If Jesus is the same Lord today as he was two thousand years ago, then he just cannot be happy with our largely Laodicean1 approach to Christian life. What do you think? Do you regard today’s Christianity as generally passionless and powerless? If so, do you include yourself in this diagnosis? Just to set the record straight, here is what George Barna’s research2 reveals: • The typical churched believer will die without leading a single person to a lifesaving knowledge of, and relationship with, Jesus Christ. When asked what constitutes success in life, few believers define success in spiritual terms. When given the opportunity to state how they want to be known by others, fewer than one out of ten believers mentioned descriptions which reflect their relationship with God. Churched Christians give away an average of about 3% of their income in a typical year,
Jesus criticised the church of Laodicea for its lukewarm attitudes – Revelation 3:15-16 Revolution by George Barna published in 2005
and feel pleased generosity. •
In a typical week, only one out of every four believers will allocate some time to serving other people. The likelihood of a married couple who are born-again churchgoers getting divorced is the same as couples who are not disciples of Jesus. Eight out of every ten believers do not feel they have entered into the presence of God, or experienced a connection with him, during the Sunday worship service.
So, based on statistics such as these, and on my own observations, I would say that most Christians are far from passionate and spiritually powerful. Why is this? Could it be that the pressures and pace of life have something to do with it? Jesus told the parable of the soils, in which he described how the thorns of worry and the deceit of wealth choked the plants.3 Perhaps another reason is that we just do not believe all that we profess. Contributing factors seem to be that we tend to confuse volume and energy for spiritual vitality, and psychology and emotionalism for evidence of spiritual impact. What do you think? Some attribute the current lack of genuine spiritual manifestations, not to a lack of 124 passion or belief, but to a cessation of spiritual ‘gifts’ in our day. I don’t believe that we can be true to scripture and at the same time hold this position.
Perhaps part of the reason is because we have become confused concerning the nature of prayer, the stewardship of spiritual power, and the need to proclaim in word and ministry. In this sense, we have disconnected prayer from power, and power from proclamation.
We-have-become confusedconcerning thenature-of-prayer, the-stewardshipof spiritualpower,-and the need to proclaim
One of my objectives in writing this book is to explore a way of rejuvenating our spiritual lives, both individually and in our churches. In an attempt to address this, I bring into dynamic unity the three spiritual elements of prayer, power, and proclamation. Passion originates with prayer, but ignites and explodes as we receive power and then boldly proclaim God’s will. We need to speak and act differently, but to do this we first need to think differently. Underlying our apparent lack of passion and power is an inadequate theology. Modern man just loves to reduce complexity and subtlety to simple formulas and mental ‘boxes’. We appear to have done just that with our theology of prayer and ministry. Either we have attempted to make prayer into something it is not, or we have separated it from the other elements of spiritual life and ministry – power and proclamation. In this book, I seek to integrate these three elements and to restore them to a ‘whole’.
A narrow path
I realise that in writing this book I walk a very narrow path. On the one side lies 172 esoteric mysticism, and on the other side lies pop quantum physics. Some Christians may baulk at the prospect of stepping into either of these domains, yet I believe we must travel the narrow biblical path that runs between them if we are to learn to minister as Jesus did. Perhaps we will put a foot off the path on either side from time to time, but this should not deter us. Jesus is the truth and he will lead us down this narrow path. He said, ‘wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matt 7:13-14) I am not going to base my reasoning on esoteric philosophy, nor am I going to use quantum physics as a foundation for the doctrines I propose. I do, however, intend to draw supportive evidence and illustrations from both. My source of authority is the Word of God, but I need to explain what I understand as the ‘Word of God’. The Lord Jesus Christ is THE Word of God. He is the source of all truth. In himself, and in what he said and did whilst on Earth, he is the Word of God. The Bible is the divinely 175 inspired and formed documentary record of The Word. As an Evangelical Christian, I am accustomed to viewing the Bible through ‘Jesus spectacles’. In this way, I see the Bible as the source of truth, and Jesus’ life and words as lenses through which I observe and interpret scriptural truth. I want to add another perspective. You see, Jesus himself is the object, the source of truth, and
we view him through the lens of scripture. Difficult as it may be to envisage, both analogies apply. We cannot understand scripture other than through a Christocentric lens. However, in order to apprehend truth we must see beyond the text to the source, and Jesus is the source. We look through the lens of scripture to appreciate Jesus, yet we have to put on a Christ-centred pair of spectacles in order to comprehend what the scriptures reveal concerning him. The clearest picture analogy I can think of is that of a person wearing spectacles and looking through a magnifying glass at a picture of Jesus. The spectacles represent a Christ-centred 4 hermeneutical understanding. The magnifying glass represents the Scriptures. Before proceeding any further, I must state some cautions.
We are dealing with a mystery. How God can listen to millions of prayers simultaneously, is a mystery to us. Why he appears to respond to some requests and not to others, is a mystery. What spiritual energy actually is, how we release it, and in what ways it is connected to prayer, is a mystery. Although we love to reduce complexity to simple categories and rules, mysteries cannot be simplified or reduced. They are, by their very nature, complex imponderables. The best we can and should do, is to seek to understand the underlying principles involved.
Hermeneutics is the science and methodology of interpreting texts, especially the
books of the Bible.
Because of our sinful natures, we constantly attempt to control our environment, others, and even God. We are tempted to use spiritual power as a means to our own ends. This is sin, and we need to recognise it as such, particularly before embarking on a spiritual journey of discovery such as this. Our latent desire to reduce and to control inevitably leads us to devise rules and laws. The three keys to power, the seven steps to answered prayer, the ABC of intercession, and so on. However, the multidimensional spiritual world just does not yield to our simplistic twodimensional models, laws, and rules. Most of us are very uncomfortable with complexity, but the spiritual dimension is complex. If we intend interacting with it, then we had better learn to embrace complexity. The name-it-and-claim-it brigade has muddied the waters of prayer and proclamation. Most conservative Christians are scared to drink from this well in case it poisons them (or they get drunk!). Yet, muddy water is still water. Instead of walking away and dying of thirst, we need to filter the water of its contaminants so we can imbibe and be refreshed.
Jesus our example
I believe that we should always look first to Jesus for insight into the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. Luke 9:28-43 records an event in Jesus’ life which gives us the genesis of some sort of understanding of how prayer, power, and
proclamation work together. The passage reads as follows: About eight days after Jesus said this, he took Peter, John and James with him and went up onto a mountain to pray. As he was praying, the appearance of his face changed, and his clothes became as bright as a flash of lightning. Two men, Moses and Elijah, appeared in glorious splendour, talking with Jesus. They spoke about his departure, which he was about to bring to fulfilment at Jerusalem. Peter and his companions were very sleepy, but when they became fully awake, they saw his glory and the two men standing with him. As the men were leaving Jesus, Peter said to him, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us put up three shelters — one for you, one for Moses and one for Elijah' (He did not know what he was saying.) While he was speaking, a cloud appeared and enveloped them, and they were afraid as they entered the cloud. A voice came from the cloud, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I have chosen; listen None of the to him.’ When the voice accounts of had spoken, they found Jesus casting that Jesus was alone. The out demons or disciples kept this to healing, record themselves, and told no one at that time what they him praying for had seen. The next day, the afflicted when they came down from person. He the mountain, a large simply crowd met him. A man in instructed, the crowd called out, ‘Teacher, I beg you to look at my son, for he is my only child. A spirit seizes him
and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him. I begged your disciples to drive it out, but they could not.’ ‘O unbelieving and perverse generation,’ Jesus replied, ‘how long shall I stay with you and put up with you? Bring your son here.’ Even while the boy was coming, the demon threw him to the ground in a convulsion. But Jesus rebuked the evil spirit, healed the boy and gave him back to his father. And they were all amazed at the greatness of God. Jesus went up a mountain to pray. As he was praying, he had a spiritual encounter and received an anointing which caused him to radiate light. When he came down the mountain, he delivered a young boy of a demon and healed him with words of authority. Prayer – Power – Proclamation. Jesus prayed. He communicated with his Father, who responded by speaking from the glory cloud. As he was praying, his face “shone like the sun” (Matthew 17:2). The Matthew and Mark accounts both use the word metamorphoo, transfigured, to describe this phenomenon. 2 Corinthians 3:18 uses the same words, where it says, “And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” The reference to the unveiled face is to Moses when he came down from the mountain after having met with God. The connections between this event, the transfiguration, and our experience of the Holy Spirit are reasonably clear.
After his empowering encounter on the mountain, Jesus came down and healed a boy whom his disciples had been unable to help. None of the accounts of Jesus casting out demons or healing record him praying for the afflicted person. He simply instructed, proclaimed, and declared. Jesus prayed in preparation for ministry. He received power from on high in response to his prayers. He went from the place of prayer and power, and proclaimed release, deliverance, healing, and life. So should it be with us! Before I get into the actual subjects of prayer, power and proclamation I need to deal with five interrelated underlying issues which subvert and undermine our efforts to minister as Jesus did. They are, lack of awareness that we live in an inverted kingdom, our thoroughly materialistic mindsets, fear of change, dis-ease with mystery, and a misconception of who we are.
It is hard to run when you It’s hard to run are walking on your hands! when you are What a strange thing to say. walking on your What I mean by this is that hands! it is very difficult to move fast in a world that is upside-down. This would be very much like walking on our hands in a normal world. It would be even harder if we could use our legs but we had to run on the ceiling. Yet, actually, we are living in a world that is up-side-down. From a spiritual perspective, it is completely inverted; it is up-side-down, and inside-out, and back-to-front!
Before explaining what I mean by this, let me share with you a personal account. As a young man, I did a spell in the navy. After basic training, my commanding officer sent me on a course on radar and communications. After that, he assigned me to one of the fleet’s frigates. My task was to operate either the aerial or the surface plot in the ship’s control room. The aerial plot was a large circular Perspex grid, which stood perpendicularly between the ship’s skipper and me. I had a pair of earphones through which I could hear the voice of the radar operator calling out the location and speed of incoming hostile aircraft. My job was to plot these on the grid. I had to show each position as a dot joined by arrows. Next to each dot, I had to write a coded identifier for the aircraft, as well as its speed. I had to write this so that the skipper, standing on the other side of the Perspex grid, could read what I had written. I therefore had to write from right to left. When I operated the surface plot, things were even more complicated. The surface plot was a large white enamel table. In the centre was a symbol representing our ship. My task was to listen to the sightings reported to me by the radar operator, and to plot these on the table. These radar contacts represented other ships in the area. I had to plot each ship, and next to it write its code, its friend or foe identifier, and its surface speed. The skipper stood on the opposite side of the table. For him to be able to read what I was writing I had to write, not only from right to left, but also upside-down! It took a lot of time and practice before my brain was able to make the adjustments and enable me to write accurately and rapidly.
Many years ago, some psychologists conducted an experiment with a group of volunteers. They gave them each a special pair of spectacles which turned everything they saw upside-down. The poor guinea pigs had to wear these spectacles all the time. In a sense, the spectacles turned them on their heads. I can imagine the confusion, frustration, and physical discomfort they must have experienced. After We are born with many days, something inversion contact wonderful occurred. lenses. We do not Their brains made the know we have adjustment and simply them, and we have turned the visual inputs no idea that the 180º. Suddenly their worlds were the right world we see is way up again. Of course, actually upsideyou can guess what happened next. The researchers took away their spectacles, and the world once again turned upside-down! It occurred to me that, in a sense, we are born with spiritual inversion contact lenses. We don’t know we have them, and we have no idea that the world we see is actually upside-down. Because we are born with these lenses, we feel at ease and we operate reasonably well. Then, later in life, we start to realise that things are not as they should be. We become aware of a spiritual world, parallel to and interwoven with the material world. We observe that this spiritual realm seems to operate entirely differently to the world Problems occur into which we were when we still live born. Our discomfort becomes intense when as if the world is Holy Spirit the right way up; the regenerates us and we as though it were
the same as the Kingdom of God
are born again. As we read the Bible and learn to listen to the Holy Spirit, we become painfully conscious of the differences between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of this world. The values, principles, and priorities of these two kingdoms are inverted in relation to each other. For instance, in the Kingdom of God, victory is through surrender not conquest. In the material realm, we live and then we die; in the spiritual realm, we die in order that we may live. In the world, we focus on getting, but in the Kingdom of God, we focus on giving. Jesus teaches us to love our enemies instead of hating them. It is all so much in contrast to the way the material world operates. Enlightenment5, in this sense, is the experience of taking off those spiritual contact lenses and perceiving the world as it really is. Spiritual transformation, again in this sense, is the process of adjusting to the new reality, and learning to live differently. At first, it is disturbing and disorientating, but after a time we are able to make the adjustment. Our reality flip-flops, and we become conscious that we are walking the right way up in a world that is upside-down. Jesus said, “My Kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18:36). He also said that “the Kingdom of God does not come with your careful observation, nor will people say, ‘Here it is’, or ‘There it is’, because the Kingdom of God is within (among) you.” (Luke 17:20-21) The problem occurs when we still live as if the world is the right way up; as though it were the same as the Kingdom of God. We try to apply physical laws to spiritual realities – and we fall off
I use the word enlightenment as per its dictionary definition and not in the sense applied to it by Eastern religions.
the ceiling! We attempt to apply business principles to church life, and we end up with a church that looks, feels, and is … just like a business, not a church. So, the first thing we need to do as we start the journey into P3 is to realise that the principles of the Kingdom of God are very different to the principles of the kingdoms of this world. We also need to acknowledge that our thinking needs to change radically, if we are to operate successfully in the realm of the spirit
What is up in the material realm (MR) is actually down in the spiritual realm (SR).
Finally, we need to commit to speaking and acting differently, and then diligently practicing until the 1800 shift occurs. I have written this book in an attempt to help us all to come down off our
spiritual ceilings and walk tall through the Kingdom of God.
Another way of understanding these inverted inner and outer worlds is in terms of mindset. A mindset is a habitual or characteristic mental attitude which determines how we interpret and respond to situations. We start to form our mindsets when we are born, or perhaps in the months just preceding our birth, and we lock them in at around twenty years of age. Using the previous analogy, we build our mindsets by observing a world inverted by our inbuilt contact lenses. We should not be surprised, then, to find that our ‘natural’ mindsets are intensely materialistic. We build them from what we already know and have experienced. For most people this is almost entirely materialistic rather than spiritual. Once we have built this citadel of the mind, it is very hard to breach it. Our reality is secure behind its walls, and we will summarily reject anything which does not fit through its carefully crafted gates. In other words, we become relatively immune to new ideas and experiences. There is a story, In order to break perhaps open the fortress of apocryphal, which our materialistic wonderfully illustrates the mindsets we need to defensive power of ask big questions a mindset. and to seek Apparently, when the conquistadores arrived on the coast of Central America, the Incas could not see their ships. These local people had never seen
a sailing ship before, they had no language to describe a sailing ship, and they were not expecting sailing ships. So they just didn’t ‘see’ them. The conquistadores appeared to march out of the sea like the demigods of Inca legends. The local high priest was the most educated of them all, and he sensed that all was not as it seemed to be. He noticed that there were strange currents and wavelets just off shore, which had not been there before. He pondered this and spent considerable time looking out to sea and trying to find the 132 reason for these phenomena. Then one day he suddenly saw the ships which were causing these abnormal motions in the water. He explained what he saw to his fellow Incas, and pointed out to them the exact places where the ships were. After a while, they too were able to see the ships. The sailing vessels were there all the time, but the Inca mindset had effectively eliminated them from perceived reality! We need to ask big questions in order to break open the fortress of our materialistic mindsets, and we need to seek persistently for answers until enlightenment occurs. Questions are like battering rams at the walls of our mindsets. If we keep pounding with them, then eventually the wall crumbles at that spot, and we are able to take in new ideas and experience a new reality. Jesus said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7) Another way into Fear is a powerful the walled city of our mind is inhibitor to through the gates. enlightenment. We
usually fear what we do not understand and therefore cannot
We can stand at the gate, so to speak, and then ask God to send in a cart full of revelation. In practical terms, this ‘standing at the gate’ consists of being ‘open’ to divine revelation. As Christians, we achieve this by studying and meditating on the scriptures, by praying, and by exposing ourselves to the biblically described ‘gifts of the Spirit’. However, openness to divine revelation usually includes persistent questioning. As we read the Bible, we ask the Lord, ‘Have I understood this correctly? Is this what you meant Lord Jesus? Would I see this differently through your eyes?’ As we ask these questions, and as we expect to receive answers, then Paul’s prayer is realised: “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you a spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.” (Ephesians 1:17) So, not only do we need to change our orientation, but we also need to assault our fortified mindsets by repeatedly asking questions. This is a little scary for many people. For others, this requires more mental energy than they are prepared to expend. However, if we are going to progress, then we need to make the effort and ask brave questions. In this book, I ask some big questions and, although I suggest some answers, it is up to you to find the explanations that will change your mindset.
Fear of the unknown
Fear is a powerful inhibitor to enlightenment. We usually fear what we do not understand and
therefore cannot control. We have carefully constructed a fortress-like mindset specifically to protect ourselves from the unknown and the uncontrollable. It is fearful to even contemplate thinking differently, let alone experiencing a different reality. So, how do we overcome this fear? We overcome it by focusing on Jesus. On the mount of transfiguration, the three disciples were afraid when Moses and Elijah appeared, they were very scared when the glory cloud rolled in, and they were terrified when God the Father spoke. They fell, face down, onto the ground, but Jesus went to them, touched them, and told them to get up and not to be afraid. When they looked up, they saw only Jesus. The things which had made them so afraid were all gone, and only Jesus remained. The antidote to our fear of the unknown is the realisation that Jesus is a reliable guide. He is entirely trustworthy, and he knows exactly what lies ahead in the cloud of unknowing. If we put our faith in him, then we have no reason to fear. He says to us, as he said to the synagogue ruler so long ago, “don’t be afraid; just believe” (Mark 5:36). This book is thoroughly Christ-centred and, because of this, some of the proposals I make are very different to much traditional thinking. When you encounter these proposals, simply ask, “what did Jesus say and do concerning this?”
Discomfort (dis-ease) with mystery
Inverted kingdoms, mindset, and fear are all interrelated, as is the fourth impediment to spiritual progress, the discomfort with mystery. We love a mystery story, so long as in the end we are told that the butler was the one ‘who done it’. We get very frustrated when the TV set goes on the blink just before the villain’s identity is revealed. We love formulas and rules. Most of us are uncomfortable with ambiguity. Look at the titles of the books which sell best in the spirituality/selfhelp/psychology section of the local bookstore. They carry titles such as ‘Seven steps to prosperity’, ‘Three keys to abundant health’, and so on. We seem to be happiest when someone else has given us a formula for living or understanding. ‘Pastor, how much should I give to the church?’ If the dear man says ‘ten percent’, then we are happy because either we can disagree and rebel, or we can feel righteous by putting a tithe of our earnings into the offering bag. We are happy to paint by numbers, so to speak, but unhappy to paint on a blank sheet. Perhaps the solution to our Mystery is a discomfort with the unknown fundamental is to acknowledge that part of spiritual mystery is a fundamental reality. part of spiritual reality. God’s thoughts are higher than our thoughts (Isaiah 55:9), and that is just the way it should be. The New Testament contains references to several ‘mysteries’, and Jesus constantly spoke in parables and then used the mystery, saying, “he who has ears to hear let him hear”. God will reveal some things to us, but not all things. So, we must reconcile ourselves to walking, as Peter and
company did, in the glory cloud of mystery. What an exciting prospect this is! Failure to acknowledge that we live in an inverted kingdom, a materialistic mindset, fear of the unknown, and dis-ease with mystery are impediments to living and ministering with passion and power. One other underlying cause is, I believe, the single most significant reason for our spiritual anaemia – we do not realise who we really are.
Misconception of who we are
The account of the transfiguration describes Jesus setting off for Mount Hermon from a place called Paneas. In his day, people also called this little village Caesarea Philippi, but today we call it Banias. The waters from the melted snow on Mount Hermon come to the surface in Paneas. Many pagan cults and religions regarded this source of the Jordan River as a sacred site. They called it Paneas, because worshippers of the pagan god Pan had built a temple there. When Jesus visited this village, it must have been the location for several shrines and temples. It was here that he asked his disciples, ”Who do people say I am?” Then he asked them who they thought he was and Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God”. (Matthew 16:16-17) I wonder how Peter would have responded if Jesus had asked him, “and who do you say that you are, Peter?” Perhaps we need to ask ourselves this question. When I was a teenager, Peter Sellers starred in a comedy called ‘The Party’. He played the part of a
bumbling, accident-prone Indian, complete with sandals and turban. After doing something particularly outrageous, a woman indignantly asked him, “Who do you think you are?” He looked at her pityingly and responded, “Madam, in India we don’t ‘think’ who we are, we ‘know’ who we are.” Do you know who you are? It seems to me that many Christians suffer from a deep misconception of who they really are. On the one hand there are those who think they are ‘little gods’, but fortunately they are in the minority. The majority of Christians believe themselves to be servants of God, if not slaves of the Almighty. What about you - who do you think you are? Perhaps a little pop quiz will help you discover what you really think. Many Christians suffer from a deep misconception of who they really are. This is a most ‘unfair’ quiz. Don’t you hate it when, in a TV court drama, the attorney says to the unhappy witness, “Just answer yes or no, please”. Most often there just isn’t a satisfactory yes/no answer. Life is complex. However, despite this I am going to ask you to make black or white responses to the quiz – no shades of grey. You see, I want to give you the opportunity to wrestle with one of life’s most important questions ‘Do I perceive of myself as a son6 or a slave of God?’ So, please tick either the White (w) response or the
I use the word ‘son’ to denote all children of God. I do this because it makes a nice contrast to the word ‘slave’ or ‘servant’ and because texts such as Ephesians 1:5, Hebrews 12:5-8 and Galatians 3:26-4:7 use the word ‘son’ to describe the family relationship between God and his children. Obviously, the context is not gender specific and could equally refer to ‘daughters’. If you are a woman then please read ‘daughter’ for ‘son’.
Black (b) response to each statement. Do not tick both responses to any question, and don’t skip questions. Nobody is going to see the results – this matter is just between you and God. The big thing here is to respond honestly; not what you know the ‘right’ response should be, but what the true response is. Please don’t get sidetracked with a theological debate about the validity of the choices.
1. I regard God primarily as my Lord and Master (w) OR primarily as my heavenly Father (b). 2. I hold God responsible for most things that happen in my life (w) OR I am responsible for most things in my life (b) 3. In church life I am motivated by fear of consequences (w) OR by love for God and his people (b) 4. (w) 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. I am performance driven in terms of my Christian life OR I am relationship drawn (b) I have an arm’s-length relationship with Jesus (w) OR I have an intimate relationship with him (b) My spiritual life is oriented towards getting (w) OR towards giving (b) In church life, I tend to do the minimum (w) OR I invest the maximum (b) I believe that God needs me to do things for him (w) OR that he loves me to be who I am (b) God predetermines human destiny (w) OR he gives discretion to his children (b)
out of 9
out of 9
The White (w) responses indicate a ‘slave’ mentality while the Black (b) responses indicate a ‘son’ mentality. If you have more White responses than Black ones, then I suggest that you probably regard yourself predominantly as a servant, or even a slave, rather than a son. So, do you see yourself as a son or as a slave? Here is the truth. For anyone born again of the Spirit of God, in the name of Jesus, then Sonship defines who we are and servanthood defines what we do. There is a distinct priority order here: who we are determines what we do. More accurately, who we perceive ourselves to be determines what we are prepared to do. John 13:3-5 records Sonship defines who that “Jesus knew that we are and the Father had put all servanthood defines things under his power, what and was and that he had come from God we do. returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” Because Jesus knew who he was, the son of God, he was prepared to serve his disciples in the most menial way. So what are you – son or slave? Consider the following texts: Ephesians 1:5 “he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will.” Instead of arguing about God’s predetermination of all things, 128 perhaps we should simply note that God has predestined us to be HIS SONS AND DAUGHTERS!
1 John 3:1 “How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are!” What a powerful and decisive statement. Galatians 3:26-4:7 “You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptised into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate. He is subject to guardians and trustees until the time set by his father. So also, when we were children, we were in slavery under the basic principles of the world. But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons. Because you are sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, "Abba, Father”. So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.” Note the final verse “so you are no longer a slave, but a son.”
“Who do you say son and a slave mentality that you are?” “I is profound. A slave is not an heir, but a son is. A am a son of the The real underlying living God!” reason we are A slave defines generally so who he is in passionless and terms of what powerless is that he does. A son we have failed to determines realise that we are what he does
The distinction between a
slave does not own, but is owned. A son has a vested interest in the family affairs, but a slave does not. A slave is obliged to obey his master under penalty of punishment, but a son obeys his father because he loves him. Slaves jockey for position and status, but sons know who they are, and that status cannot compare to their privileged position. Slaves focus on getting, because they have so little; sons focus on giving, because they have so much. Slaves have only masters, but sons have a father. Sons are responsible and accountable. Sons are motivated by love, not by fear. Sons measure themselves by the quality of their relationships, not by their performance. Slaves do the minimum required, while sons invest the maximum, for their field of endeavour is their inheritance. A slave defines who he is in terms of what he does. A son determines what he does because of who he is. If you regard yourself as a slave in God’s household, then this will influence your behaviour in church. You will tend to want others to tell you what to do. When you do it, you will most likely do just enough to avoid a negative reaction from your pastor. You will want others to acknowledge and thank you. In all probability, you will expect God to do things on your behalf. If he does, then you will praise and applaud him. If he doesn’t, then you will most likely sulk or actively rebel. To you the commandments in the Bible are laws designed to prescribe your life and limit your freedom. Please understand I am not trying to be unkind here; I just want to give you the opportunity of evaluating how you see yourself. This is such an important issue!
A son uses his resources of time, talents, and treasures in a fundamentally different way to that of a slave. A son invests in his father’s kingdom and household. A son takes pleasure in giving his time and money to the things which are important to his father. A son initiates and takes responsibility. A son meets needs where he sees them without anyone commanding him to do so. A son desires the wellbeing of the household. “Who do you say that you The natural are?” “I am a son of the response to a Most High God!” This is a realisation of who foundationally important matter. I believe that the we are is one of real underlying reason we passion and are generally so passionless and powerless is that we have failed to realise that we are children of the living God. Our understanding reflects in the way we pray, in the way we handle spiritual power, and in the way we step out with bold authority. God’s great overriding plan for us is that we come to know Jesus, grow to be like him, and help others do likewise. To grow to be like the Son of God is to develop the character and ministry of a child of God. To help others to God’s great know Jesus, and to overriding plan for become like him, is not us is that we come to an exercise in religious know Jesus, grow to conversion, it is be like him, and help discipling in sonship!
others do likewise
Oh, what a price the Father has paid so that we might be sons and not slaves! Sin separates us from the Father; salvation reunites us with him. The price of that salvation was the earthly life and
death of God the Son himself! Oh, what grace, mercy, and longsuffering the Father extends to us in order that we can develop into his mature children! Oh, what a cost the world pays when we live in apathetic disregard for our responsibilities as sons and daughters of the Most High! As children of God, how then should we use our resources of time, talent, and treasures? Surely, we should use them to; • Build up the household of God – the church. • Extend the Kingdom of God in our spheres of influence. • Give to others for the glory of God. • Impact the world with his will and purpose. • Subdue the rebellious spirit world with his authority. Isn’t it difficult to be apathetic about things like this? Surely, the natural response to a realisation of who we are is one of passion and power? Consider some of the implications of sonship: The privilege of prayer, both personal and corporate: As children of the Most High God, we have the privilege of boldly approaching his throne of grace. Hebrews 4:16 has, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Because we are his children we can approach God, and we can ask him for mercy and grace. What a privilege! We also have the right and responsibility to gather with other children of God to intercede for our communities and our nation. This too is a great privilege.
The prerogative of revelation: We, as God’s sons and daughters, have the privilege of receiving revelation from on high. God has entrusted the Bible to us to mediate his truth to the world. He has gifted the church with preachers, teachers, and prophetic voices. He speaks to us because we are his children. The potential for empowerment: The promise of the Holy Spirit is for us, the children of God. He is prepared to fill us with power from on high. He is willing to empower us so that we can glorify him, and powerfully extend his kingdom. The response of service: Sons serve! It is because we are children of God that we serve. We serve because the love of God is in us, and because his compassion courses like spiritual blood through us. We serve because this pleases our Father. We serve because it is our duty and joy to give – freely we have received, and so freely we give. The catalysts of revival: The churches of the world are full of children of God who just do not know it. They regard themselves as slaves or, at best, as distant cousins. Revival comes when those who know who they really are proclaim freedom, power, light, and love to those who do not. Isn’t it difficult to remain unmoved by such a mandate? How can we be anything but powerfully passionate when we realise who we are?
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