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Innovations XXVIII

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“You say, ‘I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing.’  But you do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked.”

Detoxification and withdrawal of the church’s dependency on material wealth, worldly wealth, is a much needed thing, and it is so painfully obvious that it is really no innovation.  Nevertheless, before the innovation can be introduced, this is a matter that must be dealt with, for the lukewarmness of Laodicea comes from their overconfidence in their wealth, be it wealth of gold, selves, land, building, traditions, knowledge or even size of their very congregation.  Like all detoxifications and withdrawals, sudden cessation without proper safeguards is even more harmful and probably needless.

Our addiction to acquisition of wealth began in Acts 4… as from time to time those who owned lands or houses sold them, brought the money from the sales and put it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to anyone as he had need!  These were very sensible and generous acts by the early believers and certainly no one can denigrate them as great acts of faith, charity and contribution to the commonwealth of the church, but unfortunately, they were very ‘good’ deeds that resulted in the death of Sapphira and Ananias and a 2000 year history of our dependency on the wellbeing of the kingdom of mammon to keep our congregations maintained and the ‘work’ of the church going.  A need that would not have arisen and never would have arisen if the eleven had gone to Galilee that morning and the twelve returned from there in the full power and joy of the Holy Spirit as Jesus did when He emerged from the dessert after 40 days and nights… as it is written:  Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit… 

If Jesus would emerge from 40 days and nights from the desert in the power of the Spirit, then what would the twelve be like if they had emerged from the cloud of glory after 40 days and nights on the mountain?  If that had happened, then right from the beginning not only would the Gospel be preached with signs and wonders of healings and demons driven out, but the very needs of the church would have been met with signs and wonders of multiplication of food and oil, and water changed to good wine, and if the church were to need money, like the oil of the widow in Elisha’s days, the oil and good wine could have been sold for Roman gold.  Indeed, if that was permitted by God, the church would have been able to run such a profitable business that it would have bankrupted the nations around, for then we would be providing our oil and good wine at no cost.  Certainly it would still have bankrupted economies that relied on valuing wealth based on scarcity and lack.  Abundance, the abundance of the Kingdom of God, where by the power of God food multiplies, water is changed to good wine and precious oil is multiplied, would destroy the strength of the nations of the world that depends on their riches through lack and scarcity.  Indeed, had they succeeded to make silver and gold as abundant as wood and stone again as it was in the days of Solomon, we would have bankrupted Rome and taken away her power.  Not to mention having the power to blind whole armies like Elisha did so they can be invited to lunch, whole legions of Romans would have been neutralised. 

The reality that the twelve did not return to Jerusalem from Galilee after spending 40 days there, but hid in Jerusalem, then went fishing, then went to the mountain and then to the Mount of Olives before returning to Jerusalem to wait and pray in the temple of Herod until Pentecost day came, produced the worst of all situations – Laodicea.  A situation so bad and so sickened the Lord that He said, “So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit (vomit) you out of My mouth.”

A situation that we now all find ourselves in whether we are a ‘rich’ first world congregation with our carpeted and air conditioned mega cathedrals or a ‘poor’ third world congregation with our mud floors and thatched roofs.  All are dependant on various people selling houses or lands for profit from trading to leave the proceeds at the feet of those who are reputed to be elders so that the congregations can be maintained and expanded.

So before any innovation can be introduced to counter Laodicea, its condition of wretchedness, pitifulness, poverty, blindness and nakedness must be corrected.

Wretchedness that comes from a lopsided emphasis on avoidance of sin, yes, like Paul wrote in Romans 7.15, because we do the things we ought not to do, but we forget that there is now no condemnation for those who are in Jesus Christ.  As such, the remorse that comes from acknowledging our wretchedness must be counter balanced by the joy that comes from the reality that being in Jesus Christ removes the condemnation.  As such, avoidance of sin is to be achieved not by abstinence from sin, but rather, a full commitment to practising all the words of Jesus unceasingly… for no one who is practising the words of Jesus is able to practise sin.  The wretchedness traps those who have only been taught to avoid sin into becoming a person of guilt and self condemnation, reinforced by the condemnation of those who appear to be righteous in their own eyes… literally most of Christianity today.  The restoration of the command to listen to Jesus and practise His words, beginning with repentance to empowerment, removes the wretchedness.  That is when even Paul realised… there is now no condemnation for one who is in Christ, and the eating and drinking of His flesh and blood takes on a higher relevance, for these words, “Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me, and I in him,” allow the Holy Spirit to set anyone free from this wretchedness.  But to be free from the wretchedness, the church itself must learn to see that it is not rich for all the wealth it has acquired.  Indeed, it is in need… not of more gold or silver of the world, but of the gold of Jesus… His proven words.

Nothing is more pitiful than a person who is unable to do what he should and could, yet refuses to admit it.  For all its wealth, Laodicea could not fulfill the commands of Jesus.  They could not finish the preaching of the Gospel.  They could not make disciples of all nations.  They could not even avoid being rebuked by Jesus.  Such a condition is removed when a person acknowledges the truth and begins to put into practice exercises that would allow them to do what they should and could.  It all goes back to listening to Jesus.

Poverty is not removed by financial wealth nor by intellectual wealth and neither by political stability nor scientific progress or military might.  The reality of this world teaches us that daily.  Poverty is removed only when abundance is shared freely and generously.  Abundance alone does not remove poverty, for some nations have remained poor in their spirit and soul because they do not freely and generously share, but rather, would throw away their abundance to maintain the status quo of lack to maintain a financial advantage.  Thus, the poverty of the church is seen in its rules and regulations that do not permit freedom of unlimited ministry to all who desire to do so.  It ignores this truth of Jesus that “…anyone who has faith (believes) in Me will do what I have been doing.  He will do even greater things than these…”  As such, poverty is not removed just because we have the power to heal the sick, multiply the food and so on.  It is only removed when we do so freely and generously.  Jesus knew only the Samaritan leper would come back to thank Him, yet He still healed the other nine… freely and generously.  As such, just because a blind man sees does not mean he must believe and convert… neither does it mean only those who are converted believers who have held fast to the word are eligible for healing.  No, it is “Freely you have received, freely give,” and generously.  The generosity of God who is kind to the ungrateful.

Blindness is not the inability to see… but rather, the ability to see yet not know how to see or what to see.  True blindness is to be able to look and still not see.  There is no one who is more blind than a congregation that can see its needs, even the needs of the world, yet is blind to the needs of God.  For Laodiceans to say, “I… do not need a thing,” then they have failed to see the needs of God… God’s need for disciples to listen to Jesus… God’s need for His Son’s testimony to be witnessed and for His Son to be glorified on Earth as He is in Heaven.  A servant, son or friend who can only see his own needs and not the needs of his master, father or friend is the one who is truly blind.  But then God has said, “If I were hungry I would not tell you…” and that was because Israel, His people, never cared for His needs.  When the dispute broke out in Luke 22.24 about which of them was the greatest, who saw Jesus’ needs?  Not one of them saw His need as Mary did at the previous dinner.  Little wonder wherever this Gospel is preached, what she has done is made mention of.  As long as our focus, our sight, is fixed on our wellbeing, we are blind.

And naked, naked because we fail to see what God sees, for we are not looking the way God looks.  Fine clothes and wide phylacteries do not cover the nakedness of our sinful nature, which was exposed when we ate of the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.  Naked because we have no knowledge of God without which we will die and even our bones will be exposed.  A nakedness that can only be covered over when our words become flesh as well, as Jesus is the Word who became flesh.  Nakedness that is covered over when whatever we say is the truth because we are men and women of truth, for we work for the glory and honour of Him who sent us and we are not ashamed to be found in Him, crucified with Him on that cross so that we are clothed only by His flesh and blood.  No, not like the well dressed Pharisees watching Jesus hang, but rather, stripping off all our righteousness, we climb on that cross and identify with Him who was made sin for us that we might be the righteousness of God.  There is none so naked as those who cover themselves… but none so clothed as those who would walk with God naked as Adam did in the beginning.

It is the correction of these five states – wretchedness, pitifulness, poverty, blindness and nakedness – that makes ready those who are lukewarm for the innovation that prevents any coldness, but gives and maintains them in the heat that can come only from God’s word made flesh.  It is only those who have the words of Jesus abiding in them even as they abide in Jesus who have their will and wishes done for them, and that by God.  A heat that even moves God who is a consuming fire and whose word is like fire.  For when you grow cold, love grows cold.  Jesus said, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot.  I wish you were either one or the other!”  Jesus tolerated the ‘cold’ ones in a sense… only to show us how He hates the lukewarm ones, that is, a dedicated enemy is far better than an unreliable ally… but a loyal and faithful servant, friend or brother (sister) is the best.

Therefore, the innovation that is needed is one where the congregation does not exist for its own benefit… where a congregation does not exist so that it is blessed or where it is a blessing to the world… but rather, it exists purely and solely for the benefit of God and God alone.  It exists to enrich God, not anyone else.  It exists to meet the needs of God as well as to fulfill the wishes and desires of God, not anyone else, and it does so first by miraculous means and then by non-miraculous means if it is convenient. 

This makes the release of full power an absolute necessity… but before that power, before such power can be released, there must be first such a congregation.  That is, before what God had planned on resurrection morning at Galilee can be revealed, there must first be a group of disciples who are prepared to believe and obey the Good News and command brought to them.  As such, until there is such a group of disciples, not believers, for the message was to disciples and not only that, disciples who are brothers who are prepared to go immediately to Galilee as soon as the message comes, then the fullness of the power that was destined to be released at Galilee cannot be restored, much less resurrected.  So now, 2000 years later, is that possible?  Of course… for with God nothing is impossible.

God who searches the hearts and minds of all knows if there are one and ones who would have gone that morning… if He had allowed them to be born for that time and place.  So now… it is those who would have gone if they could have gone because they were born in a different time and place by God’s will, who will see the resurrection of this Galilean congregation that never existed, but will now come forth by the will of the Holy Spirit.

A church, a congregation… the church of Galilee whose ‘Angel’ or Spirit is the Holy Spirit Himself… and who needs no letter from Jesus.  For all the letters were not really addressed to the church… but look and see, they were all written:  “To the angel of the church…”  As much as the church was at fault, so was the ‘spirit’ of the church… but the congregation whose Spirit is the Holy Spirit needs no such letter, for the Holy Spirit already knows the mind of Christ and will make it known to those who are led by Him.  As such, it is still possible… and indeed essential that the congregations descending from the church of Galilee be now raised up out of those who descended from Jerusalem.  Indeed, the Jerusalem congregations will be offered this choice first and if they refuse, then from even rocks and stones God can raise up one and ones to finish the work His Son gave His church.

So then the innovation, which is really no innovation, is to raise up the congregation that will take the counsel of Jesus, who will “…buy from Me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”  Disciples who would pay for the words of Jesus even with their lives so that the white robe of the martyrs is given to them so that they can see what no eyes have seen, hear what no ears have heard nor mind conceived… the church at full power.

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