Fried Minds and Open Hearts (Part 2)
Thursday Night, September 26, 1991
Not Against Flesh and Blood
Sam: Jesus is the Head and the Source and all things proceed forth from Him. He says He doesn’t do anything that He doesn’t first see the Father doing, and He doesn’t say anything that He doesn’t first hear the Father speaking. If the work of God is to conform us to the image of His Son, with all things working together for good, then it’s also His desire that progressively we begin to operate more and more like His Son. We’ll begin to do things because we do see the Father doing them and begin to speak things because we do hear the Father speaking them. For me, that takes us out of “religion” and into relationship. I certainly don’t profess to do that perfectly all the time, but I’m on my way. More and more I want that to be the testimony of my life, and I want to be able to say it’s true. So I’m filled up today at the level I’m at today, but I want that to be perfected. I think that’s what being a prophetic people means. It means we’re sensitive to what God is doing and to what’s happening around us in a realm we can’t see with our natural eye or hear with our natural ear.
Matt: Smith Wigglesworth is a guy who some of you may have heard of. He lived in the early part of the twentieth century. Once, several hundred people had come to hear him talk about Jesus but he felt really frustrated and didn’t know why. His words were all gunked up, and his thoughts were unclear, and he wasn’t sure what the problem was. He saw a group of people in the audience who were all holding hands, and he knew in his spirit that they were “spiritualists” and not Christians at all. He kept on “preaching,” but walked down to the bench where they were sitting. Now he was a big, hefty man, a plumber by trade. Well, he picked up the end of the bench and just dumped these people in a pile on the floor at the other end and told them to get out! His comment later on was that instead of casting the demons out of them, he cast them and the demons out.
So part of being a prophetic people is discerning in the spirit these “warps” around you. “Our battle is not with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers.” You can get weird with all that and you can turn it into superstition, which is what a lot of the charismatic movement has done. A lot of it is not that much different than superstition when you get right down to it. God never called us to be weird and freaky, and to operate in that realm of strangeness. Paul and John and Peter and Jesus were strong, wise, stable men who didn’t do a lot of weird things. “The common people heard them gladly.” There was a strength and stature there, a fullness. The sinners and tax collectors saw something that appealed to them that was valid and strong, not something “religious”. There wasn’t a religious spirit to the true men of God, and so it is today.
Nevertheless, you have to understand that our battle is with principalities and powers, rather than bad manners. If we’re together talking about important things and people are dozing off, does that mean they just got up too early this morning? That may be the reason, but maybe there’s something else going on too. Our battle is against principalities and powers! You just have to understand that. It’s an undergirding of the world that we live in. The unseen world controls and impacts the seen world. Part of what God is doing is preparing a Bride to be an equal yoke for Jesus. He was a seen-world Person of flesh and blood, yet One who penetrated through into the unseen world. “The prince of this world has come, yet he has nothing in Me.” That was Jesus’ testimony about Himself. What He’s building His Bride into is a Body of people with various gifts and callings, joining them into relationships together, so they can walk as He walked, and do even greater things than He did.
So the purpose of all we’re talking about is for us to learn to walk as He walked, as partakers of the Divine Nature, to fix our eyes on the unseen things that are eternal rather than the seen things that are temporary. That’s the Christian walk: to more and more and more fix our eyes on things unseen, to walk by faith, not by sight. With the Word of God or anything else, don’t immediately assume natural things; don’t be a natural man. Primarily understand that our battle is with principalities and powers and respond accordingly. That doesn’t require that you be weird and superstitious, but it does require that you be a discerning person. Understand the nature of the universe we’re living in and respond accordingly. First to God... your first response has got to be to Him.
Pushing the Limits—Break Free!
Sam: Could you talk about hearing God?
Matt: Again, there are abuses out there that can frustrate us. You can flip on your TV and find people who say they have had continuous angelic visitations. Jesus has personally appeared to them every third Saturday of the month for the past fifteen years and given them a word of advice. You can find a lot of things like that. But please don’t assume that because there are abuses, that there aren’t valid things that go way beyond your previous experience! Unless you have “attained to the full measure of the stature of Christ” and are “bearing fruit unto every good work;” unless you are changing the destiny of men with every step of your foot and every breath of your mouth, don’t assume that you already know everything there is to know about hearing God or walking in the Spirit. When Jesus walked, He made a difference everywhere He went. If you’re not doing that, then don’t assume that everything you’ve experienced is the limit of what Christianity is. There’s probably more! So don’t be cut off, just because there are abuses out there, and assume that you’ve already experienced the limit of what Christianity is. Fruit is the test of whether or not you are pushing those limits. No fruit or little fruit? Assume that there is a lot you don’t know and haven’t experienced that is valid.
Let’s go back for a minute to the men who knew Jesus best. Peter said, “Though you have seen Him not, you are filled with joy inexpressible, and full of glory.” Now what was Peter’s assumption about the believers scattered throughout the known world at the time he was writing? His assumption wasn’t that they had all had personal visitations from Jesus. Peter didn’t assume that. His assumption was, “Though you see Him not...” Okay? Jesus Himself said to Thomas, “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe.” And John wrote, “How can you possibly say that you love a God whom you have not seen, when you don’t love your brother whom you have seen?” So I don’t think it should be our expectation that we’re personally going to have a visitation from Jesus or the angelic host on a regular basis, or else we’re unspiritual.
On the other hand, a man named Cornelius, who wasn’t even a Christian, had a legitimate angelic visitation. That’s not something to rule out as a Biblical impossibility. Don’t rule that out! Paul, on a ship that was about to be shipwrecked, had a true vision about the future. And when Paul was in Corinth, Jesus found a way to communicate to him that He had many people in that city. Once, Paul was even caught up into the third heaven and heard things that men were not allowed to speak. There are certain things of this kind that are possible within the realm of Biblical testimony. Some things we would even be repulsed at, like Paul’s handkerchief healing people! That sounds incredibly bizarre! And people lining up to try to get inside a man’s shadow—picture it, people diving on the ground when a man’s shadow went by. There are things that would repulse us that are very Biblical. Laying money at the apostles’ feet...my goodness, that sounds rather cultic! Imagine all of us laying money at Sam’s feet right now. We’d be grossed out by a lot of these things that are Biblical and were not repulsive at the time. I think we’d have a real hard time if someone decided to strike Susan dead right now! Then someone else walks in, and says, “The men who dragged Susan out are standing at the door to drag you out.”
Those sorts of things seem very offensive to us. But it’s best to let our senses and our minds be refined by the Word of God. We need to let our minds take a journey back to when God was really doing something and make sure we’re prepared to have God really do something in our generation. We say we want it, but do we really? Is that really what we want? Are we prepared for that if it did happen? Or would it be so offensive and repulsive to us, and so disconcerting that we’d bail out and go sit in a pew, somewhere safer? I want you to know that your past experiences are not the limit of Biblical possibility. If you really want all of God, you better be prepared to give all of yourself for that.
Once again, the Biblical record is very helpful for understanding what God is capable of and what He’s historically done—and what is yet to come, potentially, too. If someone told me that a handkerchief healed a man, I’d be a little reluctant to embrace it, if it weren’t for the Scriptures. They didn’t have a Bible to go to back then. We got a little bit of a break! But think about it: what if something happens that isn’t recorded? What if it isn’t a handkerchief, but something else? The point is that they didn’t have a Bible to say, “This is Biblical; this really can happen.” They had to deal with the reality of what was right in front of them, and make a judgment based on that. That’s tough, that’s hard. God help us to have the kind of faith they had and the kind of discernment they had, to not be prone to deception, but also to not be prone to rejecting truth, either. It’s tough. Ananias was a nice guy. He was somebody’s father, probably, and definitely somebody’s child. It’s not easy to see somebody struck down. “Cut him a break, man! It was just a little lie, so what’s the big deal? Haven’t you ever lied before?” My point is, just gird up the loins of your mind and be ready for action. As it relates to hearing God, be aware of the fact that there is probably more to it than you’ve previously experienced.
Now, back to the apostolic testimony from the trusted men of God who were taught and shown by Jesus how to walk in these things. How did they walk? It’s really important to come to grips with that. First of all, they didn’t really anticipate that people would have personal visitations from Jesus. It’s not that it couldn’t happen; it’s not that it didn’t happen. But it wasn’t the norm or the expectation. They spoke in such broad terms as to say, “Though you have seen Him not,” and “God, whom you have not seen.” If those words were accurate, they didn’t really expect that anybody they were writing to had seen Him. So it’s not an automatic part of Christianity. “Blessed are those who believe and have not seen.” Is it possible to see Him in person? Yes, but it’s not automatically to be expected, and “you’re unspiritual if you don’t”.
Not a Lot of Clutter
As for hearing God and being led by the Spirit...again, check out the lives of the men who were trusted men, who you know for a fact were on target. Those were the twelve apostles of the Lamb and those who wrote the Scripture. Remember when Peter was defending the fact that he had baptized Cornelius in water, and he was under scrutiny from the other apostles? In Acts 10 and 11, he told them, “And then I remembered that Jesus said, ‘John baptized in water, but I’ll baptize in the Holy Spirit.’” What he didn’t say was, “Then the Spirit whispered in my ear this thing.” No, he said, “Then I remembered.”
In Acts 15 they were trying to determine what to do with the Judaizers and the men who wanted to circumcise as a prerequisite for becoming a Christian. They worked it all through and fussed with it a little bit. Peter thought of a scripture out of Amos, then Paul and Barnabas talked about the miracles that had been done as a testimony that they were on the right track—a confirmation of the Word by the signs that followed. And James said, “Well, what I think we ought to do is...” and they went on to write the letter. And they said, “It seemed good to us and to the Holy Spirit.” They didn’t say, “Thus saith the Lord.” They didn’t say, “God spoke to us and said this in our prayer closets.” There was something about it that was very real. The transaction had to do with digging into the wells of Life that had been planted within, and weighing the testimony of signs and wonders, and hearing the Scriptures about that. Then the collective wisdom of the elders and apostles in Jerusalem was, “It seemed good to us after we hashed it all out. We laid it before God and it seemed good to us, and it seemed good to the Holy Spirit that we should...” That’s a whole lot different than the flamboyant sort of attention-drawing, gimmicky, Hollywood version of today. But it’s also a whole lot different than, “We studied it out thoroughly, and we decided that...” The truth was very different than either of those things. “It seemed good to us, and somehow we know that the Holy Spirit smiled at it, and it seemed good to Him, too.”
How did they know that? How did they know the Holy Spirit was smiling at the direction they were taking, and He was pleased? It’s something more than “studying it out,” and reaching some conclusion. But it was something less than “the whole place shook,” and they heard an audible voice, or they were praying, and “thus saith the Lord.” That isn’t the way they portrayed it, and I think we’d have to say those men were far more spiritual than most anyone around today. They were tested. They were specifically selected by Jesus to tell the tale, and to show the world what it was He was doing.
So then you go on and read the writings of these men of God... Peter, Paul, James and John and Jude. It isn’t filled with a lot of clutter. There isn’t a lot of, “Jesus told me” and “thus saith the Lord” and “Praise God, hallelujah.” It isn’t filled with a lot of chaff. It was very solid, very practical. I would beseech you, that your speech be such as Paul’s and John’s and Jude’s and James’. Be a man like the Carpenter from Nazareth who was pragmatic, and yet led by the Spirit, full of the Counsel and the Wisdom of God, with communication that’s strong and sound and wise. Be filled with faith, and yet without all the gobbledygook surrounding it. Let your speech be such as came from those we know were led by the Holy Spirit. Let your thoughts be transformed by their thoughts, by the Word of God. We’ll be on very solid ground if we do that. Peter, John and Paul didn’t use a lot of leverage by saying, “Jesus told me this and the Spirit showed me that.” They just spoke it, and assumed that the sheep would know the Shepherd’s voice. They didn’t have to apply that kind of leverage. They didn’t have to use any name-dropping to get their point across or to impress or to add weight or authority to what they were saying. They SPOKE it. They appealed to the consciences of men and women, knowing that if the Spirit was living in them they would respond to it. Paul applauded them, because they received their message, not as the word of men, but as it actually was, the Word of God. But that was after the fact; he wasn’t trying to use leverage or manipulate them with a lot of things that would add weight to his testimony. He appealed to their hearts and their consciences. He was down on his knees in prayer to God that He would demonstrate it with Spirit and power. It was a process of very solid life.
Apparently the communication of the gospel and the propagation of the Kingdom of God was a very strong and sound sort of thing. Brothers sitting around a crackling fire, with an elbow in the ribs and a “Brother, are you sure?” It had to do with the hammer and the anvil of life and relationship in reality. Jesus was a friend of the tax collectors and sinners and was called a glutton and a wine-bibber. There was a certain strength and reality to His Life that wasn’t considered hocus-pocus or hyper-religious or anything like that. It was the Wisdom of God, the Wisdom of the Ages that shattered men’s hypocrisy and opened their hearts and minds, filled them with hope, and pierced them with conviction. It was solid with strength and wisdom. It was a Word from Heaven, it wasn’t just clutter! It was Life in a profound sense—more profound than anything they’d ever dreamed of. It was wiser than anything they’d ever considered. When people heard Him speak, their own words seemed like chaff before the words even left their mouths. Like Job speaking the words of God, and his friends were all silent. Everything else sounded like chaff after that.
That’s the nature of the oracles of God, and “if any man speaks, let him speak as the very oracles of God” (1Pet. 4:11). Speak as those men spoke in their writings, and you’ll find yourself in a place of harmony with the Spirit of God, thus having proved that you’ve heard Him. “If they had stood in My counsel, they would have turned Israel from their sin.” That will be the fruit.
Keep in Step With the Spirit
Now in a real practical way, as you continue to prepare yourself to hear God, there are a thousand things we could say about it. But here’s what I want to refresh your memories about. Galatians 5 talks about “being led by the Spirit” and “keeping in step with the Spirit.” And Paul, in between those two verses, says, “This is the nature of it: the acts of the sinful nature are obvious.” He goes through a list of grotesque things that are very much a part of every day life for many people. And he says that the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience and kindness. What he’s saying is that the Spirit and the flesh wage war with one another and the process of learning to be led by His Spirit is two-fold.
First of all, the acts of the sinful nature are the things that block your ability to be led by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit. Get rid of that junk in your life. And in the process of getting rid of it—and warring with these things and pushing them out of your life—you’ll learn how to be led by the Spirit. If you’re living in these acts of the sinful nature, they are flags that prove to you that you are NOT being led by the Spirit. If you find yourself being jealous or short of temper (“fits of rage” is what it is called in that passage), know for sure that you’re not being led by the Spirit. You need to be in tune with that.
For example suppose you find yourself out on a golf course with a curse word running through your mind after you’ve blown a shot. Whether or not you ever say it, you better know for sure that this grumbling and complaining—never mind the curse word!—proves that you had not been keeping in step with the Spirit prior to that shot. Perhaps you felt like everything was all right, but the thoughts in your heart after that shot only proved that you had not been in harmony with the Spirit. Maybe you’re not supposed to be out there in the first place, or maybe your whole attitude was off. Perhaps there was pride or ego involved, or some sort of fear of men. So take note that the acts of the sinful nature coming out in your life are flags that you’re not keeping in step with the Spirit. If you embrace or tolerate those very acts in your life, you will not be led by the Spirit, for they wage war with the leading of the Spirit.
Secondly, the fruit of the Spirit in your life are indications that you are keeping in step with the Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience... if you’re not seeing those things in your life, you’re probably not being led by the Spirit. If you’ll embrace and develop the fruit of a walk in the Spirit, then you’ll be more and more in tune with the Spirit. Add those things to your life, as Peter put it, and dig into them as an objective for your life to know and experience. You’ll be led by the Spirit if you keep in step with the Spirit. So that’s a very practical passage of scripture about hearing God, which is very much the same subject as being led by the Spirit.
And I think what you’ll find is that the substance of Jesus’ life wasn’t that He went around with a hand to His ear, “What’d You say, Father? What’d You say? What’d You say?” That was not how He functioned. He functioned in harmony with His Father, with His flesh crucified and His hands open to the Father each step of His life. But it wasn’t an external “What’d You say? What’d You say? What’d You say?” It was a relationship that He had with His Father. And His life was, “When you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father. I and My Father are One.” Hearing God has to do with being One with God, not getting a message in a bottle for every new move that you make. Hearing God isn’t, “What? What? What was that?” But hearing God is being in harmony with Him. He lives inside of you. That’s the nature of the New Covenant... “I’ll put My Spirit in you.” The nature of the thing isn’t that God’s out there, and you’re trying to hear Him. The nature of it is that you’re crucifying the flesh, and as Nee would say, you’re releasing the Spirit. You’re not so much gaining the Spirit’s direction; you’re allowing the Spirit of God who’s dwelling inside of you to rule your life. It’s a release, not an apprehending. That’s the primary thing of the New Covenant.
Now occasionally God may send one of His messengers. Hebrews 1 says that the angels are His messengers sent for the purpose of serving those who will inherit eternal life. Now if you consider yourself one who is a Christian and will inherit eternal life, and you don’t have any knowledge or evidence whatsoever that angels have anything in the world to do with you, you’re missing something. Because the angels are real—they are as real as you and I. They’re meant for the purpose of serving those who will inherit eternal life, which means that they’re involved in tangible things.
My reason for bringing them up is that occasionally God will utilize them. A “for instance” from a Biblical perspective is if you are in a situation where you need some sort of intervention or communication to get you on the right course. It’s entirely possible that you could entertain angels, unawares, as the Hebrews writer says. Angels could be involved in redirecting the path that you may be on. You might be misguided, though sincere, or you might be discouraged, as Paul was in Corinth. You may need some key information about what to do with a food supply on a ship, as he did. There may be some purpose where God would need to send you some messengers as servants. You need to be aware of that realm, is my point, not that you’d be focused on it or superstitious or hyper-spiritual about it. But it is real. It’s just as real as you and I sitting here. If you’re not aware of that, you’re going to miss the blessing. You’re not going to utilize the tools that are available in serving God’s purposes. You’re not going to appreciate the things that God has done, and you’ll write them off as circumstances or coincidences.
Fried Minds and Open Hearts
If I’ve fried your minds with anything we’ve talked about, I’d encourage you to do the only thing you’d want to do anyway. Get on your face before God and ask Him to give increase to any seeds that are from Him and tell Him that you’re going to have a good and honest heart. Jesus said that people with good and honest hearts will refuse to do anything other than hear and persevere in the Word of God and produce fruit. If you make an agreement with God that you will respond to His Word and plant His Word in your heart, and you’ll beg Him to give increase to it and you’ll do anything He wants you to do, then you’re in good shape. If that’s your agreement and pact with Him, it will turn out well. His Word is a seed. Plant it in your heart. You don’t have to remember everything, because the Holy Spirit will bring things into remembrance. You don’t have to make everything happen, because God gives the increase. All we can do is plant and water—God makes it grow, we know not how. It isn’t some “thing” you have to accomplish. It’s just a heart you have to have towards God... an openness to embrace His Word that He’s planted in your heart, and to persevere in it and not be foolish or lazy hearers. Have a heart to grab hold of it!
George: Can we pray for our fried minds, guys?
Father, I know that I could be overwhelmed, but these things are from You. I pray that we would have open hearts that would allow the seeds that were planted tonight to sink in. We don’t want our minds closed to new truth, but expanded so our hearts can receive more of Your Son. We pray that you will allow the things that were shared tonight to grow in our hearts. Help us not to react or rebel. Father, we want to be useful in Your Kingdom. Help us be known by our fruit, not by the doctrines we talk about. Purify us so we can produce it. We trust You!