Children, Fathers, Young Men
Most of the things in our lives that we call sins by any other name (jealousy, pride, lust) are really just fear; fear of what people think, fear of not getting what I want, fear of _______, and therefore are unbelief and not trusting Father. You make the choice of whether or not you are going to live a vulnerable, painful, unconditional love that's Real, rather than something that feels good but will fade away. As we learn how to submit to His desires now, stop being babies, grow up a little bit and learn to love like He loves, we become more and more free to Love, Really Love.
Pull Back Those Layers or Die
T: I was sitting with a brother talking about something recently and instead of trying to put it in the best possible light, I just talked about exactly how I felt even though it wasn’t very attractive-sounding. And for the first time in my life I felt like I opened my heart in a real way. It wasn’t about anything big, but there was a difference in my attitude. It just felt different and vulnerable too. I let somebody completely know what I was going through and what I needed help with, for real. I can’t describe it, but it was very different from just buddying around and “talking about problems.”
I’ve seen the failure I’ve had in relationships with people where I can spend all kinds of time with someone and it just not amount to much at all. But now I think I’m getting a higher understanding of what it means to walk in the light and have a close relationship. It’s not a “friendship” thing of spending a bunch of time together or liking them a lot but about fellowship with each other. It’s something very real that you can hardly describe.
M: As you continue to expand your relationship with God through these means of peeling back the layers of your heart and letting the real thing through, God will show you more. Your ability to help others will dramatically increase too. You will recognize those layers in others as you’ve been willing to peel them back in your own life. It will be insufferable for you to walk around and see those layers of the onion in others and not reach in and peel them back. You’ll just have to or it’ll drive you nuts. From your own personal experience you’ve seen the layers in yourself and you know the price that you pay for allowing those things. As a result, you’ll find yourself very much more about the Father’s business in others as well as yourself and more discerning in your involvement in other people’s lives too.
There’s another kind of involvement in people’s lives which is based on zeal, “Gotta do it, gotta do it, this is great, this is God’s will.” That kind of stuff is short-lived and filled with mistakes and a very error-prone way to approach it. You might get very involved on that level of externals and even for the right reasons. God can still work through the front door and the back door in it when we have that zealous sort of approach. But the thing that He really longs to work through is when we’ve peeled back the layers in our own life and the onion skin over our own eyes, and the veil over our own face is removed. Then we can see things the way God sees them, more and more. This automatically gives us our “commission” and energy to do things in the lives around us. You can either have your “commission” and energy come from zeal, or you can have your “commission” and energy come from compassion and discernment and wisdom and God’s power. The second is far more sustainable than the first.
We think that what we’re doing is just for us when we’re willing to peel back those layers in ourselves. We feel almost at a place where we have no choice or we’ll just shrivel up and die if we don’t pull back those layers. But in the end, it doesn’t end up truly being just for us. It has an infinite effect on how useful we are to God too.
What Will We Do Next?
M: The sad part is that, historically, religious people have viewed all of this as optional. They think it’s for the strange or the hyper-super-committed or for the leaders. If the teaching of Jesus is the way Christianity is defined, then we are only just now getting to the hem of the garment. It’s not as if what we’re talking about is an upper-level class and it’s just an option if you want it. What we’ve been talking about is really what it’s all about. There isn’t anything less than what we’ve been discussing that’s acceptable to God. It has to be that way, and if you don’t build that way, then the house will get blown away when the storms come.
T: I was thinking about that too, about touching the hem of the garment in a sense. Like what the Hebrews writer talks about, “Let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death and of faith in God…” (Heb. 6). Sometimes it feels like that’s still where we are. There is so much to undo from the religious system and what the last 2000 years have cursed men with. It seems like we’re just barely even starting in some ways. Like the time we spent a couple of weeks ago in Romans which has been so important. You see people all around listening to the tapes over and over again and talking about the things God is showing us. It’s so obviously a time of good things, and yet it’s still about such basic faith in God. Just trusting Him over your sins and over your history and over the world and what it says. It does seem like we have so much further to go.
Something that we have to get out of our religious mindset is trying to do good things and trying to feel good about ourselves. Stuff like, “Well, I shared the gospel with this guy at work, so I must be a faithful Christian, so God must love me.” Those kinds of things are still so tempting, or still so much of our nature to think that way. It’s so easy to put more weight on our history, on our performance or on the things that you hear and see in the world…than on what God says.
I’ve been wondering, once we go on to some of this higher stuff, what does the church look like beyond that? Right now a lot of what it seems to be is people who are peeling back the onion skins of their outer nature and getting to the deeper things of God in their own lives. They are also helping other people do that too. A big part of how we spend our time seems to be getting the junk out of our own lives and sacrificing our own lusts and flesh to sow seeds of the Spirit instead of seeds of the flesh. As we do that we are turning around and trying to help other people do that too.
What happens as we grow up beyond that? It seems like so much of our energies are spent trying to deal with the junk in our lives. If we ever get past that, what would we do? Would we go to the street corner and hand out pamphlets? I can’t even fathom what we would do next.
Children, Fathers, Young Men
M: Part one of the answer to that question is that we’ll never get past helping people get rid of their junk because there will always be various levels of maturity. Maybe new people move here or there are new Christians or whatever. So in a sense we will always be involved in that process. What they are just beginning to learn will be so second nature and obvious to us in our own personal lives that it will be very easy to enunciate those things. To walk other people through it or to see it when they’re not living in it would be obvious.
So, part one is that we will always have the poor among us, as Jesus said. There will always be those that we’re trying to help that are just now coming into the basics. But on a broader scale, remember when John wrote, “I write to you children, I write to you Fathers, I write to you young men” (1Jn 2). That’s a kind of road map in answer to your question. “I write to you, children…” Why? Because your sins are forgiven. Those are the basics, right? The forgiveness of sins and repentance from acts that lead to death and baptism are the basics. It’s the foundational stuff of children who are learning how to read and write, talk and walk, and identify colors and shapes. When they get a little older maybe they can identify street signs and learn how to drive. There are even advanced childhood things, but, “I write to you, children, because your sins are forgiven.” That’s the basics.
The next step is, “I write to you, fathers, because you have known him who is from the beginning.” You know your Father and now you are a father. You’ve dealt with things in your own life, and you are now dealing with them in other peoples’ lives too. A father is someone who has children going through those same things he went through. So, there are fathers and mothers. That’s the second part of the answer to, “So what happens to the church then?” The basics are second nature to the mothers and fathers. They know how to drive and don’t have to think about it anymore. They know how to read and write and do math. It’s not a big deal anymore. It’s not that there isn’t more to learn as a father or mother, but it’s a whole different level. It’s not the fundamentals anymore. The Hebrews writer said to go on past the rudimentary or the fundamental things into more advanced things. Not only are they going on to more advanced things, but they are also helping others come through the basics, the fundamentals.
“So…then what?” Well, there are always going to be children, so you’re never really done with helping them. But beyond that, the third thing John said was, “I write to you, young men, because you’ve overcome the evil one.” Now we’re shaking the bushes where the evil one is—not just evil, but the evil one. We’re now looking at things from a much broader scope. Like Daniel, who was engaged in warfare between Michael, the archangel and the Prince of Persia. He was dealing with things on a much broader level than, “You had a bad attitude and would you please fix it.” It’s beyond questions like, “How do you pray?”
We’re dealing now with something that has to do with the very foundations the planet is built on. It’s about affecting the flow of the river of economics and climate changes and political issues in other countries and continents. We’re dealing with the whole big picture of how satan does his business and how God does his business. It’s beyond the little things like being willing to suffer rejection without losing three days feeling sorry for ourselves or being bitter and hiding. It’s beyond just being lazy whether it’s some slothful habit about food or sleep or relationship. All that stuff is nonsense compared to, “I write to you, young men, because you’ve faced the enemy himself.” It’s not just about facing the attributes or character qualities of the enemy or things that you’ve fallen into such as bad habits or the acts of the sinful nature. Now we’re dealing with the enemy himself, with his tactics and schemes. Now we’re dealing as a field general would deal with the opposing general rather than being the privates that just do what they’re told, hide in the ditches and take a shot now and then. There are now the global tactics. “We’re going to feint over here and let’s come in on his flank after we’ve gotten his attention from the air.”
That’s the level that God’s going to allow us to deal on as we faithfully fulfill our childhood and walk out the path of being fathers, caring for children and helping them walk out their childhood. The next level for the Church and those in the Church that are faithful to go through those levels is to deal with satan in the large scale tactics of how he does his business and demolishing his strongholds.
Who’s in the Room
T: I know I have so much to learn. I feel like I am still a child in most ways. Sometimes I get so frustrated, in a good way, with not being able to see what else to do with my night besides eat dinner at someone’s house and listen to a tape. A lot of times the tapes are really good, but I know that what I’m doing can’t be all that the Kingdom of God is about. It’s got to be more than, “This tape would be good” and so we eat at someone’s house and listen to it and then go home. Do you know what I mean? It drives me nuts sometimes!
M: Think in terms of those three things that we just talked about. First, there are specific issues of character and issues of the inner man that you know you either have yet to deal with in yourself or are in the process of dealing with. You need to perfect those things, so have them clearly in your mind. Those are the childhood issues. Secondly, it’s not so much what tape is playing as it is who’s in the room that’s the issue. Or who’s not in the room? By all means, pour yourself into paying attention to what’s on the tape, but go a little deeper, because that’s the father issue. That means that I care about who is listening and who is not really listening. Who is walking in it and who’s not walking in it? Who’s smug about it that ought to be on their face crying? And who’s on their face crying, but it’s really despair and not conviction because they’re still in babyhood. They’re just whining. Watch—who’s here and who’s not here? Why aren’t they here? Where are they? It’s those issues of fatherhood. The only reasons for dinners and tapes are because there are people involved, and it’s good to sow seeds. But more importantly, we watch and care for the environment around us and desire to raise other people up into the most holy faith. Those times together are just a springboard to get reactions out of people. It’s a time to plant good seeds, but even more importantly it’s a chance to see who people are so that we know what we’re supposed to do next.
The larger, global issues of, “I write to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one”—those global issues will then come to you. They will be on your doorstep. You don’t have to invite the enemy to your front door. He’ll be there, and you don’t have to chase him far at all. The global things will show up on your doorstep if you’ve fulfilled the first two areas of being a child and father and you move on in your own personal life. Those other things will come, and there will be no way to mistake them. They will be there because satan has far more interest in destroying the testimony of those that are walking closely with God. He’s like a roaring lion, seeking those whom he can devour. He’s pursuing the ones that he most wants to devour. The dragon goes after the woman and her offspring. All we have to do is to be God’s man or God’s woman, and the young man issues, the global issues will end up on our doorstep in a hurry.
You have to seek out the first two things though. You have to pursue your own character issues, your own personal walk with God and deal with the fundamentals in your own life. And secondly, you have to seek out making sure that everybody you know—everybody in your sphere of relationship—is also pursuing God. For instance, I don’t personally know how you are doing, Sam, but I sure hope some people do. I hope you’re not just a blond-haired, blue-eyed drifter, and everybody says, “There’s Sam. I sure do love ol’ Sam, a good ol’ person,” and that’s the end of it. I hope people know whether your life with God in prayer is alive and vibrant. I hope there are people that know what kinds of character issues you’re dealing with and how you’re progressing with them. People ought to know how you’re doing with other situations too, like how you interface in the world and in your job situation. Do people know what’s at stake there and the nature of the people and even the names of the people you work with? Are other brothers involved with them as you’re attempting to help them?
That kind of care and involvement with each other just has to be the case. That is a mark of, “I write to you fathers…” There is that kind of responsibility-taking. Likewise, Sam, you also should be totally involved in those kinds of situations with helping other people. You should know how Jim’s doing, and you’re taking responsibility beyond just the good ol’ boy tape/dinner routine. That has to be the case. Anything less, and there’s no chance we’re going to get to young men and confronting the enemy on his level. There’s no chance if we’re not even willing to walk out the fundamentals because we’re sloppy or lazy or ignorant of what God is really after. Or maybe we don’t care enough to pursue it.
There should be no “mystery people” anywhere in the sphere of our relationships. Zero mystery people. There shouldn’t be a single person that doesn’t have several people that know how they are doing spiritually and are involved in the process of wrestling to present them perfect in Christ. Again, that’s a product of those that have grown out of their own babyhood. They’re not just attending a tape time to listen to it for the fourth time, but they are attending to see how they can watch and pray for other people that have different ways of approaching these truths in their own life—or not approaching these truths in their own life.
I didn’t pick on you, Sam, just to pick on you. : ) I just brought you up as an example because you’re someone I don’t know very much about. That doesn’t mean it isn’t happening, but I don’t know personally. So, you illustrate the point pretty well. I hope you’re doing marvelously, but if you’re not, make sure several people know it. If you are, then spread the Good News and be vitally involved in other people’s lives.
An Extreme Sensitivity
T: That’s really helpful because I want to be a lot more involved in caring about other people. Sometimes I have a hard time figuring out how to do that. I want to, but I just don’t know what to do. I guess it’s because I’m listening to tapes and totally concentrating on applying it to myself and not even thinking about other people very much. Probably that’s a byproduct of thinking I have to take everything personally.
M: Well, of course you should take it personally.
T: I never saw that as a place I could look around and see how everyone else is taking everything in and noticing what kinds of attitudes they are having and praying about them.
M: If you are being a father for real, even before you walk in the room you’re going to take note of the people that just walked in the room. You’re going to know that this person is struggling with this certain difficulty, and this other person is zoning out about something. You’ll already have a starting place before the tape even starts. You know this certain person is going to be tempted to ignore that part of the teaching because they’ve been ignoring that way of life all along. So, maybe you will pull them off to the side beforehand and say, “Make sure you listen carefully because this has to do with you, and your weakness is brought out very clearly on this tape. So be sure and listen to this part.” You can see there’s an awareness even before anything “starts.” It’s not just looking for reactions, but it’s being involved in people’s hearts and lives in advance so you know where the strengths and weaknesses are. Again, that’s part of fathering and mothering in the faith, is that there is a great sensitivity. It’s like a mother in a nursery full of 100 babies who can hear which baby is theirs. How do they do that? It’s because there’s a sensitivity. There’s a connection and a love and an extreme sensitivity that’s uncanny. They describe it as a mother’s sixth sense. She can be out to dinner and ten miles away. “I’ve got to get to a pay phone. I wonder how my baby’s doing.”
“She just fell down, how did you know?”
It’s well documented that mothers have a very strong sense about life as it relates to their heritage, their children. It’s got to be the case spiritually even more so than in the natural, that we have very strong sensitivity to where the strengths and weaknesses and the current state of affairs are with the children God has put into our lives.
T: It’s like what Paul talks about, “Who among you is not tempted that I don’t inwardly burn.” How long does it take to get to a point where you’re such a threat to satan and he’s coming after you like you were talking about? Is that something that could happen in a single generation, or does it take multiple generations of building on something else?
M: I don’t guess there’s a way for us to know because we can really only answer that question from the context in which we currently live. Someone could say, “How long does it take to get from here to St. Louis?” If they asked in the 1830’s, they would judge it by the available means of transportation at the time. They wouldn’t know that land vehicles would one day travel 800 miles an hour and air vehicles much faster than that. It’s just out of the realm of capacity to comprehend the different kinds of answers you could get to that question as time goes on.
From our standpoint, in the generation we live in with the available “technology” to carry the analogy, I would say it takes 20 years. But if 20 years from now there are a lot of people walking in God’s grace with the power and authority that God intends, they might be very well equipped to raise up other people in only 7 or 8 years. Whereas in our generation it might take 20 years, and in the last generation it took about 150. If you lived long enough and had a bunch of people around you that were 151 years old, : ) you might get what you need if you worked real hard to extract the best. After 150 years, you might move up a notch.
I think God’s call to this generation exceeds any previous generation, which isn’t unlike God. He’s always been that way. “In times past I winked at ignorance; now I command all men everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). And, “Moses allowed this because your hearts were hard, but it was not so from the beginning. Moses said…but I tell you” (Mat. 19:3-9). God’s always been that way where He looks at the next generation and says, “The past generation is over. You don’t live by those rules anymore. My standard is raised. Here is where I want you to be. Here’s what I said to Abraham and to Isaac and to Jacob. Here’s what I said to Isaiah and Jeremiah and John the Baptist. Now it’s my Son.” So the standard isn’t the law of Moses. Now it’s the fullness of the measure of the Stature of Christ. God is even raising our awareness of what that means year by year. Again, with current technology, with our current state of affairs, I would say in 20 years of being fully devoted to the task of our own hearts being refined and laying down our lives for others, we could go through into that place of being young men in the way God intends. God’s grace and provision is there from God for it. It’s up to the individual, though. May it be done to you according to your faith.
Continues to Unroll the Scroll
K: How does He raise up people into the fullness?
M: Well, that’s a similar question to what we’ve been talking about already. One hundred and fifty years ago God’s grace allowed Finneys and Murrays and various people to come to a certain level. But there are a lot of things he didn’t show them. He didn’t burn into their hearts some of the most important teachings of Jesus, so they never spoke of them. It wasn’t because He didn’t say them, but because they didn’t comprehend the words. It wasn’t something that clicked, like Ephesians 3:10 where He said, “It’s God’s purpose and intent that now through the Church the manifold wisdom of God be made known.” For a long time, I had no idea what that verse meant, but then God unfolded it. That verse may never even have come into the conscious mind of some other men that are far greater than any of us in terms of their willingness to walk in what they knew at that time. But Jesus continues to unroll the scroll.
So, His grace and provision and revelation increases over time. I won’t say they are given seasonally, because that implies that they come and go, come and go. But they are progressive, in the sense that He is now giving more grace. And God help us if He doesn’t give us even more grace in the future and more gifts in the future. We are sadly lacking overall in sovereignly distributed gifts. There are insufficient gifts to live up to the revelation that we already have. As He continues to pour out revelation, He surely will also pour out more gifts. He will, and He asks us to pray to the Lord of the harvest that He would send laborers. He will because it’s His commitment to us.
New Level of Exposure
F: When God puts people together, it seems like it’s a bowl of catalysts. There are people who have insight and care about what God wants, and they’re going to care to look into your heart and see what needs to change. If I’m going to live in close fellowship with people, they’ll see through my fakeness. I’m grateful for that. It’s like there’s the fear of God element in there and the mercy of God element too. In the bowl of catalysts, people are mutually helping people. It’s not like that’s a new thing, but it seems like lately it’s becoming more real, that we’ve understood that. People who have insight to see into each others’ lives will always be taking it higher.
M: I’d say God has helped us in that regard more in the last nine months or so than in the previous eight years put together. There are certain things He’s been teaching us beyond some of the old lessons. You have to learn how to add 2+2 before you can go on to differential equations and calculus. I would say that we’ve had eight years pressed into the last nine months in terms of overall value of what God’s been showing us and how to walk these things out.
The growth will get us into more and more trouble too. There’s no doubt about that. I just heard last night of somebody in this city talking about us. Some brothers went to a tennis match, and they were talking to this woman who was sitting with some people behind them. They were just talking about Jesus, and she started asking, “So, what church are you a part of?” And they said, “Well, it doesn’t have any name.” She said, “I thought after hearing you guys talk, that you’re part of that ‘church with no name.’” Her comment was, “I don’t remember anybody ever saying anything good about it.”
Why was she saying that kind of thing? It’s because people get verbal that have an opinion and have had their life exposed. People who have had every kind of corruption in their life were exposed over time and they go off shouting bloody murder about it. It’s because some people love the light as Jesus said, and other people hate the light. Those that hate the light flee, He said, and they are available with a megaphone to throw out their corruptness of heart and life.
These last nine months or so has brought us to a new level of this key issue of the exposure of men’s hearts, like you said. The end result of that is a far greater potential of having people that don’t love the light. Raw nerves are being exposed, and the danger level gets greater and greater. That’ll always be the case, the more we see of Jesus and His Standard and the more we see Him high and lifted up. If even angels who have nothing to hide have to hide their faces when they see Jesus, how much more is it going to be true if we really exalt Jesus and really live out His life in a pure and a holy way? How much more, if we truly expound on His knowledge and revelation and expose what His light exposes? If angels have to hide their faces, what in the world will people do that have a lot to hide? They’ve got their own agendas, their own sin, and their own pride and darkness. So it’s going to be a big deal. If God has pushed more into the last nine months in terms of teaching us His ways, than He has in the previous eight years, if He keeps up that pace, then there will be some very serious things happening in the next year or two.
God’s Eyes on Us
T: Once someone asked me, “Do you fear God?” It kind of jolted me and cut me to the quick. “Are you devoted…to Me?” It cuts me now to think about it. I fear God some, but I realized I “fear God” sometimes because I don’t want to look bad in front of people. I need to have a deeper maturity! I want to see God in other people and have it strike fear that’s not a shamed fearfulness but an awe and love that’s deep-changing. That’s the kind He uses amongst His people. Amongst a prophetic people, it will put the fear of God in you that’s a pure, honest, fear of God.
M: I think that’s what Paul was getting at when he wrote to the Ephesians about the workplace and he said, “Don’t only obey when their eyes are on you. But because of your consciousness of God, also obey when their eyes aren’t on you. You are doing it for the Lord, not men.” The Lord does see. Jesus does see.
The same is true when we respond to authority in government, like a policeman. I was remembering recently how dreadful it was for me whenever I saw a policeman in the rearview mirror or if he would pull alongside of me. It was such a dreadful thing because who knows what I had in my glove compartment? It was very real for me. Whenever I saw flashing lights anywhere behind me, my heart was in my throat because I was trying to remember what I had under the seats and in the glove compartment. It was a real problem. But it’s not an issue with me anymore. It doesn’t bring fear to see a policeman anymore because my conscience is clear. Praise God for that.
I hadn’t realized how much fatigue it brought always looking over my shoulder. It’s a very fatiguing thing to be looking over your shoulder all the time. The same is true with God even now. If you don’t have peace with God and your sins are still held against you as the Scriptures say, it can be a very wearisome thing. You’re always dealing with pride, and fear of judgment and with other people’s opinions. Your conscience is not clear of guilt in regard to sin, as the Hebrews writer would say.
When I was on the job at Rand McNally, I didn’t mind anybody looking at my work because I was doing a good job. I wasn’t worried about it. If I wasn’t doing well, then I had an authority to deal with. If I hadn’t followed instructions, then I would have to try to hide something or make it look like it’s somebody else’s fault. Or I would have to come up with some other reason or excuse for my poor work. All of that is gone when we are doing what we do for the Lord directly. Certainly God is in the authority at work, according to Romans 13, Ephesians 5 and Colossians 3. God is in authority in government. He’s in those kinds of authority. But God’s heart is that we would respond to Him even when their eyes aren’t on us. We would keep the tax laws even if we knew there would never be a tax audit. We would keep the other laws of society and it would be impossible not to because we know God’s eyes are on us. If we knew we couldn’t get caught and no one would ever know, would we still respond out of grace and a desire to please Him because God’s eyes are on us—heartily, as unto the Lord, as Paul would say?
The same is true with having a fear of God. Is it more a fear of getting caught or a fear of consequences? Or it could even be a fear because there is some knowledge that the pillar and foundation of truth is the ecclesia, the church. A person could have a right perspective that it is the Body of Christ and not just a bunch of people. They know this is the same body of Christ that Jesus spoke of to Paul: “Saul, Saul why do you persecute Me?” When people persecuted the church, Jesus took it personally. When He sent them out He said, “If they reject you, my church, they’ve not rejected you, they’ve rejected Me” (Luke 10:16). There is a very definite spiritual connection between the head and the body. They are inseparable—you can’t have the head without the body. It’s impossible. In a sense then, to “fear the body of Christ” if you will, is legitimate. That doesn’t have to be a totally false motive. But it’s still, as you suggested, very short of the mark.
God is not calling us to be afraid of the law because a flashing light might show up behind us. He’s not calling us to be diligent at work because if we don’t we might lose our job. He’s calling us to walk in the light and obey Him from the heart and to have good attitudes and to do the right thing with our time and money because we are conscious of Him. He’s not calling us to live a life of involvement with others because we’re afraid someone might ask us if we aren’t. We live intertwined rather than self-centered and gallivanting around independently because we want to “find out what pleases the Lord.” It’s not because somebody might see us and blow the whistle or ask us about it. We don’t want to deal with people asking so we just fake it. That would be pathetic. We do what we do because we are conscious of God. The body may make us aware of what the Head is thinking, but that’s not the end of the matter. We have to go to the Head to realize that our desire is to please Him. We’ve maybe been made aware by others, but we can’t stop there. We can’t focus on the pane of glass as though it’s the end. We have to look through the pane of glass to see God.