Category Archives: Holiness: You shall be perfect

Jesus is coming for a perfect, spotless bride; and until He returns the Holy Spirit seeks to dwell in a Holy place. Holiness is not an optional extra in our walk of discipleship; it is central to Kingdom living, and its fruit is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

Our most Powerful Weapon

If we know the New Testament at all, we will know – even if we can’t quote it verbatim –  that “ the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts”, (2 Cor 10: 4-5) What we might not be quite so sure about is what the weapons of our warfare are. Some things are clear: Psalm 149 tells us that the high praises of God in our mouths and the two-edged sword in our hands will bind the enemy kings and nobles “in fetters of iron,” (vs. 6-9) so that gives us some guidance on dealing with the “principalities and powers in heavenly places” that Ephesians 6 vs 12 tells us we are struggling with. The gospels tell us specifically that we will be able to cast out demons by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus did this “with a word,” so we should expect, as His disciples with His power and the authority of His name, to be able to do the same. But more often than not, the most intense battles we face are not in situations where we can launch into high praise or begin calling out the demonic: they are in our marriages and families, and those with whom we have the closest relationships.

Jesus tells us explicitly how to deal with conflict in Matthew 5: 39. He famously says “If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.” This command has become embedded in Christian doctrine as one that promotes non-violence and non-resistance and a decision to forsake vengeance for the sake of pursuing love for one’s enemy. “The other cheek” is not commonly seen as a “weapon of our warfare…mighty in God for pulling down strongholds.” Yet that is precisely what it is. Jesus didn’t just come to Earth in order to build an alternative Kingdom of love and peace, where we all turn away from violence in the hope that others will see our example and come over to us from the dark side: He came to “destroy the works of the evil one,” so that the strongholds he has built in our lives will crumble, the knit together threads of anger and fear will unravel, and the roots of bitterness exposed and completely pulled out. The other cheek is a weapon “mighty in God” that we turn against the enemy.

Romans 12: 20-21 picks up the theme from the sermon on the Mount, but this time the act of loving one’s enemy is actually defined as an act of warfare: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him a drink. For in so doing, you will heap burning coals on his head. Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” We are not called to just ignore evil, but to meet it head-on and overcome it. The burning coals certainly imply shame and remorse, and may also be taken to suggest purification and judgement. But more than these, heaping burning coals on someone’s head strikes me as a powerful and effective act of warfare: that enemy is not going to show his face again.

To bring this back to that “other cheek:” what actually happens when we turn it? Here’s an illustration. Terry and Jean have been married 25 years and are about to celebrate their silver wedding. They both are Christians with leadership roles in church. Terry loves his wife and loves the Lord, but he has a very defensive side to his nature, particularly when accused of something that he either didn’t do, didn’t mean to do, or had a very good reason for doing. So Terry also loves his own reputation, and for 25 years he has run to shore up his reputation when Jean has been hurt by something he has done, rather than simply address the specific problem and ensure that he isn’t going to hurt Jean again. While Terry’s focus is on strengthening his own defensive shell, he is not really thinking about how deeply the wounds run that his bickering comments inflict on his wife. She feels increasingly alone and unloved; he feels increasingly frustrated and misunderstood. A problem arises concerning their silver wedding celebration plans. Jean is hurt and angry; Terry feels unjustly blamed. The enemy is rubbing his hands: can he give Terry another cast-iron reason for justifying himself and pulling down his wife? Can he make Jean feel so despondent about their relationship that she finally gives up, not just on their wedding anniversary but on their marriage itself?

The enemy nudges the argument nicely along the well-worn “You always…!” and “Well, you did…!” tracks. But what’s happening? Terry has walked away and gone into his den to sit down. He has his eyes shut. Danger! Is he praying? And now he is opening his Bible… the demon assigned to prowl around their marriage turns his attention to Jean, but she has put on some worship music, so he won’t be able to sow any negatives into her mind for a while…

Terry is pouring his heart out to the Lord. The Holy Spirit speaks to us in many different ways, but just imagine this as a dialogue between Terry and Jesus:

“Lord, why do I always end up here? Why will she never admit that she is wrong to accuse me of being thoughtless like that, and that I could never have known that they have changed the menu? Nothing I say is ever any good, and it’s always my fault! And it isn’t – in fact it hardly ever is!”

“You’re right, Terry.”

“Sorry, Lord?”

“You’re right. Nothing you say is ever any good. Actually you’ve only got one option.”

“What’s that, Lord?”

“Love your wife.”

“Yes, I do! But…”

“No buts. It’s not about you and what she thinks of you: it’s about the fact that she’s hurting.”

“But it’s like she’s just slapped me in the face!”

“Exactly. So turn the other cheek. This is just one slap. But if you face this slap and are prepared to let her slap you again I’ll tell you what will happen: the barrier of self-defence that you have put up all your life will crumble away, and you will see Jean for who she is and respond to what she is feeling. She will see that you care about her more than you care about yourself, and your marriage will have new life.”

At that moment Terry sees a single shining tear on Jesus’s cheek. Reflected in it are streaks of red; faint reflections of His shed blood, then Jesus disappears. The tear remains, suspended. He sees that tear and that blood shed for him; he sees the dirty footprint trail of self-justification and cries of “it’s not fair!” winding through his life from as far back as he can remember, then the tear falls on the footprints and they all burn up like a fuse and are no more. When Terry goes in to apologise to Jean it isn’t just for tonight’s argument, but for every excuse he has ever made since they first met.

Jesus turned the other cheek at the cross and brought salvation to mankind. The spiritual overcame the carnal forever. When Jesus asks us to do the same it is not in a passive attempt at emulating godly behaviour, but in an active expression of His victorious Spirit that demolished the very stronghold of death itself. When we use this most powerful weapon we can demolish strongholds that bitter arguments have built up over decades. Christian marriages are always in the devil’s sights for some of his most virulent attacks, but Jesus has given us one act that will undo many years of his most careful work.

The Chain: Linked to the Body

“”I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.” (John 17:23)

The focus of Jesus’s ministry was always to glorify the Father, and to demonstrate that He was the Son whom the Father had sent, because He loved it so much, to bring eternal life to all who accepted Him. His master plan – His only plan – was to build His church to destroy the works of the enemy and reveal the love of the Father that He poured out into the hearts of His children by the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is the chain that makes the wheels of the bike go round: unless we are linked in with other believers our discipleship is not going to progress.

Paul prays: “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height— to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (Eph 3: 15-17) The pre-requisite to knowing the love of Christ and being filed with all the fullness of God is being “rooted and grounded in love.” The arena in which we fulfll the command to love one another and keep pedalling forward (as I wrote earlier in this series) is the local church, where Jesus is Lord, the Father is glorified, and the life of the Holy Spirit flows; where believers pray for one another, serve one another, minister to one and other and are accountable to one another.

If there were a  prize for the most-quoted verse of scripture, Matthew 18:20 would probably be in contention for runner -up: (the winner, of course, being John 3:16.) “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Jesus “in the midst” is the essence of church. I think if we all took discipleship a lot more seriously Jesus would probably be a lot more evident in the midst than He often is, but that’s not for this chapter. I think what is important here is for us always for us to remember where we are headed as we cycle up the mountain:

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.” (Eph 1: 7-10)

God is gathering us together in Christ, and His vehicle is the church. “He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Eph 1:22-23) This is the goal of our discipleship, and it’s why we cannot follow Jesus on our own. It’s why Jesus prayed “May they all be one as you and I are one” (John 17:21). And it’s why we cannot  be walking in the Spirit if we “bite and devour one another” (Galatians 5:15)

Because the heart of God breaks at division in His church. Revival will sweep the nations when brothers and sisters in Christ set aside petty doctrinal and stylistic differences and gather round the standard of our Saviour to destroy the works of the devil in His name. But when one ministry denounces or criticises another, they are allowing those very works of the devil into their own ranks. For what is more important: what we think we know about what God thinks, or whether we obey His commandment to love one another? Whether we criticise and condemn one another, or whether we  are “kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you?” (Ephesians 4:32)

The Lord needs His chain to be well-oiled. Jesus is always there, ready to pour the oil of the Holy Spirit onto each one of His links.  We need to be connected to one another with links that are supple and yielding. Without the oil of His anointing we become rusty and rigid, set in our ways, insensitive to one another and out of touch with the three cogs on the crankshaft – the  Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. It is for each one of us to keep seeking the Lord so that we remain well-oiled individually in order for the corporate chain of the life of the Body to function smoothly. Again, as I wrote above, it is not for one link to assess whether another is functioning as it should, or even whether or not it should be there. We are nothing on our own: it is only through our connections to those three cogs and to one another that we have purpose. Paul writes this to the Galatians:

“If anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.” (Gal 6: 3-5)

Jesus says to the church at Sardis: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. “Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.” (Rev 3: 1-2). The “things that remain” are Faith, Hope, and Love, and the greatest of these is Love. (1 Cor 13:13). These three are the gold, silver, and precious stones that remain from our works after the wood, hay and stubble have been consumed in the fire. (1 Cor 3:12) We are alive in Christ to the degree that we are linked to one another in Love, and the body of these connections is the Church of Christ. To be disciples we must be in the chain, and we must be vigilant to overcome any thoughts and attitudes that would tempt us to break our connections.

Pedal Power: Compelled by Love

“Let everything you do be done in love” (1 Cor 16:14)

One of my grandchildren, who is not yet three, has a balance bike. It is a toddler’s bike without pedals, on which she takes her first steps in learning to keep her balance before graduating to a “proper” bicycle. She can’t go far on it, but she is learning the first principles of riding a bike.

For us, the pedals of discipleship are love. The heart of Christ is the love of the Father, who sent Jesus into the world to pay the price for our sin so that we could spend eternity with Him. Sometimes I forget that God didn’t give me eternal life just so that I can have a blissful time in Heaven when my life on this earth is over, but so that I can spend eternity with Him, as He will spend eternity with all of His children. I cannot be a disciple of Jesus unless I carry His love, the love of the Father, in my heart. Unless I do, I have no power to move forward on the path.

I write a lot about the gifts and the power of the Holy Spirit, but we must always see that power as an expression of God’s love. He heals, makes whole, and delivers because He has compassion on our pain, our  brokenness and bondage. He speaks prophetically into our lives because He wants us to see that He has a plan and a purpose for our lives, to give us a hope and a future (Jer 29:11). He brings revelation through words of knowledge and words of wisdom because He knows we cannot see the way or the truth for ourselves. He gives us the gift of tongues because He loves to see the edification that comes to His children from that connection between His Spirit within us and our own. He gives us faith for miracles because He loves to see us reaching into His abundance and believing that He is who He says He is, and will do all that He has promised to do. But He makes it clear (1 Cor 13) that all of these gifts are worthless without Love. It’s a love that serves without pride, seeks only to bless and to give, and thinks only of the well-being of others, even those whom we consider our enemies. It’s the love that has died to the flesh. Prophesy, faith, miracles, tongues, all the supernatural manifestations of the life of the Holy Spirit within us, are absolutely worthless unless they are delivered and expressed from its heart.

God has already seated us in heavenly places in Christ, and it is His good pleasure to give us the Kingdom. In Him we have everything we need as we move along His paths to bring His Kingdom to others, but it is only love that matures us, and it is only love that can take us forward. The late Bob Jones, who was a senior prophet with a ministry attested by many miraculous signs, died (for the first time – he died finally in 2014) and went to heaven in 1975. He saw a line of people on what looked like a conveyor belt on their way to eternal darkness, and a very much smaller line, the one that he was part of, walking towards Jesus. The Lord asked each person just one question, and it was the same question every time. It was this: “Did you learn to love?”

Are we learning to love? Without love we have no pedals, and we are no more than toddlers on a balance bike.

“For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh.”(2 Cor 5: 14-16)

Next: the brakes.

The Faith of Ezra

“I was ashamed to request of the king an escort of soldiers and horsemen to help us against the enemy on the road, because we had spoken to the king, saying, “The hand of our God is upon all those for good who seek Him, but His power and His wrath are against all those who forsake Him. So we fasted and entreated our God for this, and He answered our prayer.” (Ezra 8: 22-23)

Ezra and a remnant of the Israelites had been released from captivity by Ataxerxes, the King of Persia, to go and worship the Lord in the temple that had been rebuilt during the reign of Darius. Before they set out on their perilous journey, Ezra had gathered them at the river to fast and pray. However they weren’t going empty-handed: in the care of the priests and Levites was “six hundred and fifty talents of silver, silver articles weighing one hundred talents, one hundred talents of gold, twenty gold basins worth a thousand drachmas, and two vessels of fine polished bronze, precious as gold.” One talent weighed roughly 50kg; about the weight of one adult. So along with the men, women and children were another 100 people in solid gold, and 750 more people in solid silver, plus the other precious objects, presumably transported by donkey or ox-cart, all on a journey of around 2000 kilometres.

Ezra was a priest and a scribe. He knew the word of God. And not only did he know the Word, but he believed it without compromise, trusting God and not the armies of men for protection for all those people in his care, and all the wealth that they were carrying on this long and perilous journey. He believed what he declared, and walked in it. But also he didn’t walk in presumption, but under his leadership they prayed earnestly, they humbled themselves, and they fasted; and “the gracious hand of God was upon them” to deliver them safely to Jerusalem.

For us, as we journey on the road towards Jerusalem – the New One – how much of the word of God do we believe and walk in? At the time of writing we live in a climate of virus-induced fear, exaggerated by the negative words of headline-hunting media, reinforced by the sinister image of the face mask that robs the wearer of his or her smile, and by the deprivation of warm human contact through social distancing measures. As believers we are certain that God is at work through all this, because Romans 8: 28 tells us that “all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.” However the fact remains that the virus and its ravages are the work of “the enemy on the road.” Yes, we have to comply with the law and its anti-virus measures, because the Bible tells us that as well. But do we give into the enemy of fear when we put the mask over our smile or imprison ourselves in our “social bubbles,” or do we believe that “God is my protection” and “No plague shall come near my dwelling?”

Our response to the enemy of fear in the context of coronavirus is just one aspect of many ways in which we can be selective in our faith. For example, the Bible is clear in both the old and new testaments that God detests same-sex relationships (For example. Leviticus 18:22, and 20:13; Romans : 24-32, 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10.) Do we ignore that part of the word because it’s uncomfortable and hard to swallow, like a chewy bit of gristle that we leave on the side of the plate? There are no details given, but it isn’t hard to guess what some of the “detestable practices” of the surrounding pagan nations were that the Israelites, and many of their kings, found so attractive and which led to their downfall. A liberal gospel is not the gospel of Salvation. The narrow gate is like the restrictors found now at the top of airport and underground escalators: we can’t take all our baggage through, no matter how much we might want it with us.

Healing, deliverance, the critical importance of the Gifts of the Holy Spirit, God’s promises of provision in times of hardship – how often is this food left on the side of the plate? Demons are another bit of gristle. They are a very real part of the unseen realm, but it is so easy leave them to carry on their activities instead of learning how to deal with them effectively.  And what does the Word tell us about division, backbiting and criticism, for example – what we might call the sins of the tongue rather than the sins of the flesh. Do we leave that as well? Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life. He gave Himself totally for our salvation. He is also the Living Word, and He is alive in us. If we want all that He has to give us, we need all of Him, not just the tasty bits, and we need to give ourselves totally to Him. We need the faith of Ezra in every aspect of our lives.

Give me your rubbish

We often talk about “The Father’s Heart” but it is not so often that we actually feel it. Clearly the intensity and depth of God’s emotions would overwhelm us – we would be like ants in the Atlantic – but when He reveals something of His emotions, even at an ant level, we need to pay attention.

When Jake was given the following word, he says he felt something of God’s heart breaking as He pleads with His Church to dump their rubbish and turn back to Him wholeheartedly. The last dream that Dana Coverstone reported showed that persecution of true believers would come from those within churches who did not accept the Christian message in its entirety. God is calling passionately to His Church to dump the rubbish that is in our hearts and our belief systems, and come back to the purity of the Gospel that unites us to Him.

Jake writes:
“A bin lorry came while I was  praying on my break.  My thoughts were: “Go away!”  But then the lord spoke to me with this picture and word for the church, both locally and the wider church.

The image of the bin lorry was like magnified 100 x at least. The noise was irritating; but the banging and clattering that I saw and heard in the natural was all being magnified hugely. I felt the Lord  say: “I am sending round my bin lorry to individuals and churches.

I want to take away all your rubbish. Have you swept and sorted out the houses of your lives and my church? Yes it will be irritating, annoying, disturbing and even painful. Are you bins full? Are you ready for me to collect your rubbish? Are you ready? For I’m looking for a people holy and set apart for me.

Are you ready for my spirit to break in?”

The Golden Shields

“It happened in the fifth year of King Rehoboam that Shishak king of Egypt came up against Jerusalem. And he took away the treasures of the house of the LORD and the treasures of the king’s house; he took away everything. He also took away all the gold shields which Solomon had made.   (1 Kings 14: 25-26)

I felt the Lord spoke to me through this passage. He said: “What golden shields do you have in the temple? There should only be one shield, and that is the shield of faith. All of the others are made from the gold of this world, and belong to the ruler of this world. You need to remove your golden shields from My temple.“

The shields can take many forms. But they all have the same purpose: we look to them for safety and protection, and hiding under them we keep ourselves away from the Lord. We can let them become our security. They can be financial security, emotional security, reputation, religious systems, our traditions – any number of things. But the Lord wants us to clear His temple so that He can come and fill it with His glory.

God gave Solomon wealth and wisdom beyond measure, but in the end his heart went after other gods. He, and He alone, is our strength and our shield; His presence and not the gold He gives is our security. This is our shield of faith. If we wrap ourselves in him and place our trust in Him alone, His glory will eventually come and fill the temple. And then the answer will be “yes!“ to the question that Jesus put in Luke 18:8: “Will the Son of Man find faith on earth when He returns?”

I received this word around the same time that Jake received the prophesy posted as “My body is not in shape.” It is worth reading them together, as they convey a similar message.

light and dark don’t mix

Jake was talking about chocolate with Adele , and had the picture of cadbury dark milk chocolate which was intended to have best of both milk and dark chocolate in one bar. He felt the Lord say “I didn’t intend my church to best of both; I want my church to be a light and to shine for me without being mixed with the darkness of this world. I want my church to be sold out for light and me, and not have the best of both.”

The following is an extract from ”Wheat in the Winepress,” where I am writing about the fleece, and what I felt there is for us to learn from this particular portion. The message is the same. I believe God wants us to get serious about Light.

Wet ground, dry fleece

“An old friend from Gloucestershire, whom I see occasionally at prophetic gatherings, had a vision recently. In the vision she heard the sound of an old-fashioned typewriter, very loud, filling the room with the clack-clack-clack sound of the keys on the paper. Then she saw the typewriter, an old black upright machine. According to the way she told the story, there was no hand actually on the typewriter, but words were being formed. Instead of coming out of the top, the paper was coming out of the side, so the message was creating a banner. It said – this was in normal sized type –

“Some of my people are living dangerously”

Then in very large letters, the single word: MIXTURE

Some of us are mixing the flesh and the spirit; the Kingdom of God and the kingdoms of the world. Perhaps a public ministry – and a little bit of private sin. Declaring God’s faithfulness – and being faithless in marriage. God in our Sunday conversations and in our quiet times – and a critical spirit and judgemental tongue for those close to us at other times. There are many ways of living this mixture, but there is only one truth: “the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another” (Gal. 5:17).

Isaiah exhorts God’s people (Isa. 48:20) to “Go forth from Babylon”, and many scholars read this as being an exhortation to be separate from the world’s systems. Looking to the book of Revelation, when the cry goes out from the third angel that “Babylon has fallen”, we read that anyone who receives the mark of the beast “shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God” (Rev. 14:10). There is no certain interpretation of these scriptures, but one thing is clear: as God’s chosen people we have been called out of the world, its systems and its ways; out of darkness and into the “marvellous light” of the Lord Jesus. Anything that is not separation is mixture, and God tells us that mixture is dangerous. And so we come back to the fleece, which on the second night was not touched by the water all around it.”

(From Wheat in the Winepress Chapter 6: “Know your God: the fleece.”)

Transporting the Tabernacle

Not a tame Lion

In Numbers 3-4 we read of the specific tasks allotted to the Levites. Unless our Bible study resources take us to the books of the Law, we (or is it just me??) tend to pass over these sections of Scripture in favour of the sweeping narratives of Samuel and Kings, the beauty and the raw emotion of the Psalms, the wonders of the prophets and of course the Grace-filled New Testament. But if we want to encounter the holiness of our God we will find Him above the place of atonement in the tabernacle of Moses. We too easily humanise our Heavenly Father. Yes, He is Abba. Yes, He welcomes us into His arms. Yes, He sings a song of love over us. But His accessibility by the blood of Jesus and His presence among us does not dilute the awesomness of His majesty. As C.S. Lewis famously said in the Chronicles of Narnia, He is not a tame lion. While we inhabit our tents of flesh we cannot see Him as he is (1 John 3:2), but this does not diminish who He is among us. Because Grace had not been given (one could say that Moses was the exception) the Levites only had a detailed set of regulations to keep them safe from destruction as they carried out their duties. The power that emanates from His being and permeated through all the sacred objects is like the electricity coursing through overhead power cables: touch it and you die. Such was – such is – the power that if any of the Kohathites, whose job was to transport the ark on their shoulders, even looked at a part of the load that was not their designated area, they would be destroyed. When God was allocating the tasks He gave specific instruction to Moses regarding the Kohathites “that they may live and not die when they approach the most holy things.”

The pure perfection of creative love that made and powers the Universe is not cuddly daddy. This is the power that raised Jesus from the dead. This is the cable that is coiled inside our spirits. Because we have the insulation of the blood of Jesus we can grasp the power line, but because we can grasp it without being destroyed does not diminish it at all: it just gives us an understanding of the power the blood of Christ.

Gifted for Service

We are called into the Kingdom, and gifted for our service to the King, for the same purpose that our Old Testament counterparts were appointed to, which is to is to take the land. Romans 11:29 tells us that “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This was written about the salvation of the nation of Israel, but it applies to each one of us in the church today.

The Kohathites, and the other two Levite families, the sons of Gershon and Merari, were given their tasks for a specific purpose: the Tabernacle where God dwelt among His people had to be transported into the promised land, where He planned for His holy presence to drive out the occupying  idolatrous Canaanites.  In the Old Testament, as in the New, the servants of God were appointed tasks so that the works of the evil one could be destroyed and the Kingdom of God established in the Land. As we move forward in the giftings and ministries that we feel God has called us into let us be aware of the holiness of the tabernacle that we are carrying.

A Caleb Spirit

“But there are giants!” whimpered all the leaders except Joshua and Caleb. And indeed there were. But it seemed like those giants knew more about the power and presence of God than the Israelites He was dwelling among: “They have heard that You, LORD, are among these people; that You, LORD, are seen face to face and Your cloud stands above them, and You go before them in a pillar of cloud by day and in a pillar of fire by night.” (Num 14:14) We know the story. Caleb and Joshua knew their God: “Only do not rebel against the LORD, nor fear the people of the land, for they are our bread; their protection has departed from them, and the LORD is with us. Do not fear them.” (Num 14:9). Sadly, their compatriots didn’t. Caleb, we are told, “had a different spirit”. Joshua had an insatiable hunger for the presence of God, which we read about in Exodus 33v11: “So the LORD spoke to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. And he would return to the camp, but his servant Joshua the son of Nun, a young man, did not depart from the tabernacle.” When God speaks of Caleb and Joshua the phrase He uses is that they “wholly followed the Lord.” They were yoked to Him.

For us to take the Land that God has led us to, wherever and whatever it is, two things are needed. We need that Caleb spirit, that knows that whatever the difference in strength and power may be between ourselves and the giants we face, that pales into insignificance when compared to the difference between those giants and the God who is with us. And we need to realise that it is not us who take the land, but God, by the supernatural power of His Holy Spirit. There will be giants, and giants can only be defeated supernaturally. If we, the church, will transport the holy presence of God into enemy-occupied territory, the gates of hell shall not prevail against us. God will clear the ground before us and we will sow seeds that bear fruit. What a high calling! And what satisfaction, what rest for the soul, to know that I am carrying my bit of the Ark on my shoulders.

Holiness: you shall be perfect

You shall go to the ball…

If you are married, it is very likely that you and your spouse became man and wife because you loved one another. If your marriage is successful, one of the reasons is probably the fact that you were attracted to the qualities you saw in your spouse. You loved – and hopefully still love! – your spouse because of who they are, and because you love the qualities and the attributes that characterise them. We worship God, and tell Him we love Him. It’s reasonable to say that God’s standout attribute is His holiness. So do we love holiness?

If we put a poster on the wall saying Be holy, for I am holy,” our response to it at any given time would be a good litmus test of whether we are walking in the flesh or in the Spirit. The flesh is corrupt so it will always want to avoid even the thought of holiness, so in the flesh we would most likely just want to take it off the wall and put a photo frame there instead. If we want to run from the poster there is no point praying about anything, because we won’t be praying in the Spirit and our prayers will have no Life – unless of course we are praying about not wanting to run from the poster. However in the Spirit we will see those words and be drawn to Jesus, and coming from our heart will be a cry that He will continue to work in our lives to remove anything that stops the light of His holiness shining in our lives. That would be a good time to pray.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus sets us a goal which is more or less interchangeable with Holiness, when he says “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matt 5:48) Seated in heavenly places, as we are, it is true that our spirits are “the righteousness of God in Christ,” and when the Father sees us in His Son all He sees is perfection, and the Beauty of Holiness. But earlier in the same chapter (verse 16), Jesus exhorts us to “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Our mission on Earth is to live our lives in such a way that the world also sees what God sees. Paul uses the same Greek word for perfect – telios – when he writes to the Ephesians that the purpose of ministry is “the edifying of the body of Christ till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Ep 4: 12-13)

As we have already explored, the words of Life that Jesus is sowing, the seeds of the Kingdom of God, would not be activated until the Holy Spirit came and watered them in. So we too need to hear them in the Spirit: perfection, just like holiness, comes by faith and by intimacy with Jesus – “the knowledge of the Son of God.” The pursuit of perfection is for the Church on earth: now, so that the light of Christ in us is not clouded by the flesh but shines strongly into the darkness that covers the nations; and ultimately so that when the groom returns He finds His bride pure, spotless, and “without blemish.” In these last seconds, (see “three seconds to midnight”) the Holy Spirit is reminding the Church that Jesus meant what He said in the sermon on the mount. And if we listen with the hearing of faith, we hear the promise as well as the instruction: “You shall be perfect, just as your Father in Heaven in perfect.”

Cinderella church, you shall go to the ball. But in our story, the ball starts at midnight…