Tag Archives: Holiness

The environment that the Holy Spirit desires in the temple of our bodies that He inhabits.

Ready to give a defense…

When we are talking about sharing our faith, we often quote the apostle Peter, who wrote “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.” (From 1 Peter 3:15). Many people who don’t know the peace and blessings of knowing the love of Jesus Christ have been turned off Him by well-meaning Christians who have been so focussed on the first part of this scripture that they have ignored the second: they have been given the reasons why it’s so good to know Jesus without ever having asked for them. Peter is basically saying that we should always be ready to answer questions about our faith to everyone who asks them. The challenge here, as I see it, is not so much having reasons that answer the questions that people ask, but to give people a reason to ask the questions. If they don’t ask the questions, they aren’t ready for the answers. If the hope that is in us isn’t evident to the people we are with, why should they be asking about it?

The fact is, that we tend to only quote half of the scripture. The full verse is this: “But sanctify the Lord God  in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defence to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15) Being ready with answers to questions about our faith goes alongside a mindset of holiness (having the Lord God “sanctified” in our hearts) and an attitude of meekness towards others and reverent fear towards the God who has commissioned us with this task.

I am not the greatest living example of these attitudes, but I do have a story of one occasion (there aren’t many…)  where I definitely had “sanctified the Lord God in my heart,” and as a result was asked a question about my faith which led to an opportunity to minister to some strangers. I have written about it in “Two Seconds to Midnight,” so if you have read the book you will recognise it. Here’s the extract:

“I sat down to start this chapter on January 4th; my eldest daughter Shelley, her husband and their three children had gone home two days earlier after spending ten days with us. Lisa, our middle daughter, her husband and their two-year-old were also with us for three days over Christmas. So the holiday was noisy and messy, with lots of clearing and washing up, governed very much by the routines of the children and punctuated by the sound of their unwillingness (the older ones anyway) to comply with them. Now I love my family, and Anne loves to be surrounded by them; but I also like to spend time in quiet solitude, reading, writing, birdwatching, doing photography or listening to music. As you can imagine, there is a clash of interests here, and I have to confess that at times in the past I have let my irritation at the level of mayhem in the house when my grandchildren are roaring around get the better of me. So I had really been asking the Lord to help me, and particularly to give me wisdom throughout the day if any tensions or difficulties arose, so that I didn’t get bad-tempered and spoil the atmosphere for everyone else.

In my morning quiet time I had been reading through the gospel of Matthew. About a week earlier I had been struck by Jesus’s words to a would-be follower: “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest His head” (Matthew 8:20). The Holy Spirit showed me that as soon as things got noisy I was looking for somewhere to “rest my head”, but that this wasn’t an option for me any more than it was an option for Jesus. Instead I was to seek His peace, which as we know is “not as the world gives” (John 14:27). This verse became a great support for me in the ensuing days, and when the family had gone Anne remarked how well I had coped with everything, and (although she didn’t specifically use the word) how much more pleasant I had been on this visit than on some previous occasions. God had sent me His word as I spent time with Him reading through Matthew, and it had been living and active through my circumstances, bringing His peace into my spirit when my flesh could find no rest:  “Her ways are ways of pleasantness and all her paths are peace.” (Prov 3:17)

But the story doesn’t end there. Anne had seen some furniture on eBay that was perfect for her plans to do some redecorating in our living room. The complication was that it was in London, and I would need to drive our company van (not my favourite driving experience) down to pick it up – three hours each way. In addition, it became clear that I needed to go immediately. It was the weekend, and I had planned to spend it recovering from the busy week before going back to work on Monday. But after Anne and I had discussed it, I was able to give the whole thing to the Lord, and I had an assurance that it was right to go. I felt a real peace about the trip which dispelled all my anxieties (I drive an automatic and the van is manual; I was worried about driving the big van through London streets; I was worried about getting too tired to drive safely, etc.), and I even started to look forward to it. A total turnaround.

Bear in mind here that I had been reading, thinking and praying about God’s peace for this chapter of the book. The furniture (it was a three-piece suite) was being sold by a Greek family. I spent six months in Greece in my backpacking days before I met Anne and had learnt to speak it fairly competently, so it was a touching point that I was able to say a few words to them in their language. Soon we were sitting down and drinking tea in the kitchen. One of the first things that the man I had been dealing with (I’ll call him John) said was how much more peaceful I seemed than other people. (Interesting, I thought. “My peace I leave you . . .”) We chatted a little more, and soon they were telling me how John’s sister had died suddenly, aged 21, less than two years ago. The mother – I don’t know her name, so I’ll call her Mama – was fighting to hold back tears as she talked. I told them about our baby Miranda who died at ten weeks. I began to feel that this visit was not just about a three-piece suite. Then Mama said something really unexpected. She said, “As soon as you came in, I saw that there was something about you, and I got goose-bumps all down my arm!” John then repeated to Mama what he had said to me earlier about the peace that he saw on me. I explained that what they felt was the presence of the Holy Spirit, and soon I was praying with them, asking the Lord to comfort them in their grief, and that they would know His presence. Then I was on my way home.” (Adapted from Two Seconds to Midnight by Bob Hext, Malcolm Down Publishing)

The chapter goes on to develop other points, but I think this is a helpful real-life example of 1 Peter 3:15 in action. Because I had sought God to put my heart right in an area where I knew my behaviour could easily become ungodly, the light of sanctification that shone in me as I submitted to the word of God also shone out of me onto other people.  I’m not aware of any other occasions when the presence of the Holy Spirit on me has given anyone goose-bumps, but one is a start… The point is this: we are called to be light in the darkness, but unless we have our light switched on nobody is going to ask us why we are shining. Being a witness is drawing others into our light; witnessing is shining a torch in their faces.

Not by might nor by power

We know that “nothing is impossible with God,”  and that “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. We also know that it’s “not by might nor by power” that the Kingdom of God is established on Earth, and we know that we walk by faith and not by sight. The stories and the imagery of Scripture is full of the opposition between flesh and Spirit, or the kingdoms of the world and the Kingdom of our God and His Christ; Saul and David; Babylon and Jerusalem; Egypt and the promised land. We only have to spend a few minutes reading the news headlines to have an idea of what is happening and, sometimes, what to expect in the world of the flesh. But there are headlines being published in the spiritual realm as well, and if we pay attention to them we can also have an idea of what is going on in that dimension, which is important as It will directly affect what we see on the news. As Amos 3:7 says “Surely the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing His plan to His servants the prophets.”

The headlines in the spiritual realm

Just as we don’t believe every newspaper headline we read, there are some “prophetic messages” that have more credibility than others. Nevertheless there is a clear narrative from recognised individual prophets and groups that has two main threads. One is that we are moving into an unprecedented time of darkness and chaos, most probably that which Jesus prophesied in the “wars and rumours of wars” passage recorded in Matt 24: 4-25. Woven in with this thread is a second one, announcing that a great revival is coming onto the Earth as prophesied by Smith Wigglesworth in 1947, and that it this outpouring will be unlike anything hitherto experienced. Both these headlines can be found in Isaiah 61:1-3:

Arise, shine;
For your light has come!
And the glory of the LORD is risen upon you.

For behold, the darkness shall cover the earth,
And deep darkness the people;
But the LORD will arise over you,
And His glory will be seen upon you

The Gentiles shall come to your light,
And kings to the brightness of your rising…”

The point is not that these words have been around for thousands of years, but that, as Peter declared in Acts 2 when he preached at Pentecost, “This is that which was spoken of.” The headlines of prophesy today are essentially this: now is the time that was spoken of by Isaiah in verse two. It’s now. And in this context, it’s imperative for the church to separate itself from the darkness. Just as God separated the light from the darkness at the dawn of creation; just as Jeremiah – and the voice from Heaven heard by John (Rev 18:4) – called God’s people to “come out of the midst of Babylon” (Jer 51:45), so it is time for the church to separate itself from the world and be serious about consecration to a holy God.

Swept up, or swept away

As we allow God to reveal more of His holiness to us, so He reveals more of His majesty, and as He reveals more of His majesty so He reveals more of His love. The attributes of God are bound up in His identity, and we find them all in Jesus, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), and equally in the Holy Spirit, whom the Father “sends in the name (the identity) of Jesus” (John 14:26). The Kingdom of God is established “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit” (Zech 4:6), and His Spirit is holy. Holy comes before Spirit: as the Holiness movement preceded the Pentecostal revival at the beginning of the last century, so the “story” behind those prophetic headlines today is that God is calling the Church today to wake up to His holiness: those who do will be swept up by the power of His Spirit, but those who do not will be swept away.

Under the Old Covenant, the only route to holiness was through obedience to the many external requirements of the Law.  In Christ, holiness dwells within us by His Spirit and we are given just two commands to obey: to love God, and to love one another. When we obey these two, we “obey the whole of the law,” (Romans 13:10) and the holiness that dwells in the immortal part of ourselves, our spirits, can reach out through our mortality to bring light and life to a dying world. In calling the church to holiness, God is calling us to love: to worship Him and to love one another. It is where “lawlessness abounds” that “the love of many will grow cold,” (Matt 24:12) and it is because of that lawlessness that “darkness shall cover the earth and deep darkness the people;” and it is when we separate ourselves from that darkness by submitting to the Royal Law of love that “The Gentiles shall come to your light, And kings to the brightness of your rising.”

There is no other way. It is not by might, nor by power, but by the Holy Spirit that this prophesied revival will come. To bring these thoughts to land in Scripture, 2 Cor 3:18 spells out exactly how it will come about:

“But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

We will see the Holy Spirt at work through us and the light of Christ reflected in our faces when we remove the veil that separates us from His holiness.

Our eyes will see the King


The river of God’s mercy flows from Cross, and because we stand in that river we are able to come before a holy God. But as we stand there God is doing a new thing in us: He is bringing us to a higher level of sanctification. He is bringing us to a place where He will say “Take off your shoes, for the place where you stand is holy.” Our shoes have walked in the dirt of the world, but His presence in us will become so strong that we will be able to separate ourselves from the sin that has stalked our lives and so often overpowers us.

When that time comes we will be able to say with David: “I was also blameless before him, And I kept myself from my iniquity,“ but it will not be because of our own righteousness, but of the righteousness of the God that dwells within us.  Our eyes will see the King, and conviction of sin will be strong in all who are submitted to Him, as it was in the days of Azuza Street; but the Lord says that Azuza Street was just a forerunner of what is to come: as we stand in that place of sanctification He will lift our eyes to new heights of love that only a very few prophets and apostles have known until now. What a few have just glimpsed, many will grasp, and those who do will know His power going before them and into the fallen world to establish His Kingdom.

We are standing before the walls of Jericho, and He says to us now “I am drawing you into the Holy Place, where I will give you your instructions and prepare you for moving into the land ahead.” For when we obey the commander of the Lord’s army we will see the walls come down.

“In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts;
The whole earth is full of His glory!” And the posts of the door were shaken by the voice of him who cried out, and the house was filled with smoke. So I said:

“Woe is me, for I am undone!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King,
The LORD of hosts.”
(Isaiah 6: 1-4)

“And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted his eyes and looked, and behold, a Man stood opposite him with His sword drawn in His hand. And Joshua went to Him and said to Him, “Are You for us or for our adversaries?”
So He said, “No, but as Commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” And Joshua fell on his face to the earth and worshiped, and said to Him, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” Then the Commander of the LORD’s army said to Joshua, “Take your sandal off your foot, for the place where you stand is holy.” And Joshua did so”
(Joshua 5: 13-15)

“For I have kept the ways of the Lord,
And have not wickedly departed from my God.
All his judgements were before me,
And I did not put away his statutes from me.
I was also blameless before him,
And I kept myself from my iniquity.“
(Psalm 18:21-23)

Being Filled with the Holy Spirit

The roar of rushing waters at Lauterbrunnen falls.

There is a waterfall in Switzerland called Lauterbrunnen, where the glacier melt from high mountains pours down through the rock into the valley below. The water pours at a rate of 30,000 L per second: the roar of those rushing waters and the power of them is breathtaking. Yet when you look at the stream in the valley that runs away from the foot of the waterfall there is nothing impressive to see. It is just a little river running over some stones.

We often sing in church of the greatness and all surpassing majesty of God; the God of the heavens, the creator of the universe. When I look at Lauterbrunnen I am reminded that the same power and majesty dwells within us in the person of the Holy Spirit. All the power and resources of the kingdom of heaven are within us, yet most of the time our experience of the God who lives within us is more akin to that trickle over the stones than the roar in the rock. In our awareness of this reality, we cry out to the Holy Spirit to come – even asking him at times to “come down“ – and fill us some more; to pour in the waterfall to cover our barren stones.

Yet he has already come down: we don’t need to ask Him to come again – He hasn’t left part of Himself behind. When God pours out his Holy Spirit He doesn’t pour it from a cloud that somehow floats our head; He pours it from His own presence that is already here on Earth, living in every believer that makes up the church. When God pours out his Holy Spirit he pours from us, not into us. Rivers of living water flow out; they don’t flow in. We are exhorted to be filled with the Holy Spirit – that is, to be filled on a continual basis, not just once – so we tend to carry some sort of picture of a jug full of Holy Spirit pouring down into our rapidly emptying bowls a we hold them up to him. But I don’t think it’s like this. I think the space He fills is the space that we give Him. If we aren’t full of the Holy Spirit it is because we are full of ourselves. We must decrease, as John the Baptist said, so that He increases within us. God prepared the church for the Pentecostal revival at the beginning of the last century with the holiness movement: His people sought to make room in their lives for the presence of a holy God, and the result was that the Holy Spirit filled the space they gave Him, resulting in an outpouring of His love and power that has gone round the world ever since and brought millions of lost souls into the Kingdom of the living God.

Today, prophetic voices all around the world are declaring by the Holy Spirit that a new and even greater outpouring is on the horizon. But before Pentecost comes holiness. To be full of the Holy Spirit we need to be empty of everything else; otherwise we are not full, we are only partly full. But the Bible tells us to be filled, and keep on being filled. Jesus wants to operate through the Holy Spirit to be Lord of all of our lives, not just bits of them. He wants to be Lord of our thoughts, our emotions, our plans, our motivation, our will, our bodies; worshipping with all our hearts, all our minds, all our souls, all our strength. The extent to which we are filled with the Holy Spirit is the extent to which He is Lord.

He is calling the church today into a renewed commitment to His lordship, and when we respond to the call He will reveal Himself in a way that is unprecedented In the history of the church. Filled with the Holy Spirit, we will know the roar of the waterfall instead of just the trickle of the stream. And when we do, we will no longer be satisfied with anything else.

Purpose, provision, our Promised land and Holiness. Extracts from Two Seconds to Midnight

Our purpose
To be yoked to Jesus is to be yoked to His purpose. John tells us that the purpose for which the Son of God was made manifest was to “destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Our purpose is to bear fruit. Think of the parable of the sower: the seeds sown in and through our lives can’t bear fruit if the devil snatches them away, if they have no spiritual nourishment in which to put down roots, or if they are choked by worldly distractions and worries. The “good ground” is where these works of the devil are being or have been destroyed: this is where we bear fruit and where we find our promised rest. Because rest follows work: we enter into the Lord’s rest when we stand in the victory wrought through the work of the cross. Whatever we are seeking to accomplish in the kingdom of God must be a work of the Spirit: unless we truly believe that Christ has already accomplished at the cross the work we are walking in, we will achieve nothing. If it is not a work of faith, it is a work of the flesh and will simply burn in the fire of testing. The rest that is born out of walking in the purpose that God has birthed in us is the rest that is found in the place of victory on the other side of the cross.

Our Promised Land
Our promised land – the “exceedingly great and precious promises that have been given to us” – is this: to be “partakers of the divine nature”. If we allow ourselves to be invaded by the Spirit of God, we not only find ourselves starting to really know Him – to know His heart, His character, His desires for us, and above all His voice – we start becoming like Him. We will do what He did, and we will do the “greater things” promised in John 14:12. We will start to feel His compassion, so it won’t even occur to us to want to feed ourselves before feeding the 5,000. We will speak out of His love instead of our self-interest. Our promised land isn’t our city, the mega-church we want to build, a worldwide ministry, or 10,000 views on our YouTube channel; it’s to be partakers of the divine nature. The prerequisite to entry is that we have “escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust”. All that leaven has to go. Only Jesus can make this happen, because “if the Sonmakes you free, you shall be free indeed” (John 8:36) and He will do it by the power of the Holy Spirit, because “the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty (2 Cor 3:17). Peter needed Pentecost to be yoked to Jesus. And if it was necessary for Peter, it is necessary for us.

Holiness
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 – 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.

God’s Provision
The important lesson for us is that God’s provision is in His very presence. What He wants from us is our hearts: a willingness to trust Him with what is ours, and to place it in His hands. We catch a glimpse, literally, of God’s perspective on our economy when we see Jesus sitting outside the Temple watching people putting their gifts into the treasury. We know the story: the poor widow, whose two mites represented all she had, had put in far more than the wealthy who gave leftovers from their abundance. We don’t see that widow again, but we can be sure that God gave back to her in the same measure that she had given to the Temple. Wealth and poverty have traded places. Our God is a creator, and loves to create, and we can so easily forget that when we look at our bank statements. But if our hearts are rich towards Him, we will see Him create in our material circumstances and fill our baskets, whereas if our hearts are bound by our bank accounts we remain in poverty, and will only ever see the loaves and fishes that we can provide for ourselves.

Entering the Land 3: Gilgal (Teaching)

We are the new generation, and we are camped between the Jordan and the Promised Land. We have not been this way before. Some of us feel we have been here a long time, waiting for everyone else to catch up; others are just arriving. Ahead of us we see the promise of many prophetic words for this coming season being fulfilled. But as we look into the promised land we see the walls of an enemy stronghold before us. Each of us is facing a wall: it may be in our ministry; it may be in our personal lives; it may be the strongholds we are seeing in the nations, and it may be any combination of these. But the Lord says: “Because you are seeing Jericho, it means you are about to enter the Land.”

And we ask: “Lord, how?”

And He answers: “Gilgal. I will roll away your reproach as I did at Gilgal. Make yourselves vulnerable Me, and rest in my presence. And then in that place of peace I will bring you my word, and you will move out on my word to enter the land with a trumpet sound and a shout of victory, and you will see the walls of the stronghold collapse. Where is your reproach? I will roll it away. What stronghold do you face? You will see its walls collapse.”

And some of us might say: “Lord, I’ve been staring at that stronghold for years, even for all of my life. How come I’ve never yet seen the victory in this?”

And He replies: “Because only now are you at Gilgal. But you need to take off your shoes, for you stand on holy ground.”

Whatever shoes we have worn to take us to this point must be removed: from here we move forward in the holiness and the beauty of His presence. When that stronghold collapses it’s because of the unassailable victory of the cross. It is not about us, it’s about Jesus. And if it’s taken us most of our lives for him to get the glory, that’s fine, because that is our purpose and the point of our lives. It doesn’t matter how long it’s taken to get to this point: it’s the glory of the cross that counts.

The Bread of the Presence

Come into my presence


I believe that the Lord is calling His people into His presence, and to renewed holiness. He would say this at this time:

“As the world shudders under the changes that are coming upon it, come and sit with me in the beauty of holiness. Come and eat the bread of my presence. I have prepared a table for you where all clamour is silenced and my light breaks through the shadows. As you sit with me and eat the bread of my presence I will give you seeds to sow, for my seeds are in the bread. They are the words of life that only I can give you, so come into my presence and sit with me, find peace with me and let me feed you. You desire to sow my word, so let me sow in you first; then when you speak my word you will take with you the peace that I will give. Freely receive, then freely give. As it was with the first apostles, so it will be with you, and it will be known that you have been with me.”

Entering the Land (teaching)

(Adapted from my new book, “Two Seconds to Midnight,” scheduled for publication in the Spring.)

Many of us believe that a season of harvest is coming soon, and that it will be greater than anything that the church has yet experienced; that we are about to enter a “promised land” of revival. We read about God’s people entering the Promised Land in the book of Joshua, and the principles that we see there speak to us today. If we pick up the story at the beginning of Joshua 5, we can find four main points: the men were circumcised; they celebrated Passover; they ate unleavened bread; Joshua worshipped the Lord and took his instructions from Him.

Circumcision
When they had all crossed the Jordan and set up camp at Gilgal, the Lord commanded Joshua to make flint knives and circumcise all the men of Israel: all those old enough to bear arms had died in the wilderness, and the new generation had not been circumcised with the sign of their covenant relationship with God. When this had been accomplished, God said to the Israelites through Moses: “This day I have rolled away the reproach of Egypt from you.” (Jos 5:9) The reproach of Egypt was the yoke of slavery that they had been under: now, through this act of consecration to the Lord, this yoke was broken.

Under the new covenant, we, the Church, are that new generation, born not of the flesh and the will of man, but of the Spirit of God (John 1:13). Each one of us is a new creation. There is a Land of Promise waiting which the “faithless and perverse generation” of the flesh cannot enter. but there will be another Jericho facing us as we come up against the godless systems of the world.

Paul reminds us (Romans 2: 29) that  “he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter.” To face the end-time Jericho we will need hearts that are totally open and yielded to the Lord. It’s easy to gloss over the use of the word “heart” in this sort of context. But if, in biblical terminology, the heart is the seat of the emotions, this is exactly what must be yielded to the Lord. It is so often our unyielded emotions that cause damage and disunity, and consequently defeat; whereas it is the unity that commands the blessing, as we well know. Only with “circumcised hearts” can we be free of all that ties us into the old, binding us to the yoke of slavery to sin, and be free to take the yoke of Jesus and rise up in the spirit.

Passover
The second heading is Passover. There is only one way to be yoked to Jesus Christ, and that is under the power of His blood. I believe that the Church needs a restored understanding of the power of the blood, and especially of the truth that “the life is in the blood.” Whenever we take communion as Jesus commanded us to do “in remembrance of Him,” we reaffirm not only the covering of the blood and all that it means in terms of forgiveness of sin and shelter from its consequences, but we affirm also the life of the Spirit that courses through it in our renewed hearts.
After Passover comes Pentecost. Our preparation for an end-time outpouring has to be a season of Passover. Many Christians the world over have felt that coronavirus lockdown has been, and still is, a taste of that season, shut off from the world and reaching out for the protection of the blood of the Lamb. We know that many Christians, sadly, have not survived the virus; but we also know that there are many testimonies of genuine divine healing that were granted through the power of the Blood.

Unleavened bread
The deeper significance of unleavened bread has always been a bit of a mystery to me. I’ve always felt that there is more to it than it being a reminder of leaving Egypt without having time for the bread to rise. Jesus talked about the “leaven of the pharisees,” for example, when He was warning the disciples to keep away from their deceptive doctrines; and it is a positive symbol in the parable of the leaven, which is probably (I haven’t done a word-count) the shortest parable in the New Testament. So what might be the symbolism in its Old Testament usage?

Just the other day the Holy Spirit gave me my personal revelation. This may not be the same for you, and I’m not saying it is what He has breathed into the scriptural significance of unleavened bread for everyone to receive, but the following is what He gave me. A negative reaction to something was rising up in my soul. The Lord said to me: “That thing rising up in you is leaven. Get rid of it.” Having “circumcised our hearts” we need to keep them soft.  Paul writes: “For we, though many, are one bread and one body; for we all partake of that one bread.” (1 Cor 10:17). To move forward into our Promised Land we need to deal with any leaven in our souls that causes us to rise up emotionally and undo the work of the cross in our lives. The children of Israel “ate of the produce of the land on the day after the Passover, unleavened bread and parched grain, on the very same day.”  The grain of our land consists of the seeds of truth sown into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, and these are what we must feed on as we advance. We cannot arise in the spirit if we let negative emotions rise up in our souls: the best way to keep unleavened our corner of  the “one bread” that we are part of, is to make sure that we are feeding on the truth.

Worship in Holiness
And so, with hearts soft and sensitive to God, covered in and fully grasping the power of the blood of Jesus, and feeding on the living truth of His Word instead of the leaven of our emotions as our spirits are filled with His, we come into the Holy Ground where the Commander of the Lord’s Army is standing, and we worship Him. In this place, we can say, like Joshua, “What does my Lord say to His servant?” (Jos 5:14). And His commands to us will be of the same order as His words to Joshua: first, respond to His Holiness (Take off your shoes), and only then move in to defeat the enemy.

Living in Hope

Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat? Nevertheless we, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved, looking forward to these things, be diligent to be found by Him in peace, without spot and blameless.” (2 Peter 3: 11-14)


What is the foundation for our lifestyle? The passage above tells us to base how we live on the promise of Christ’s return, and the new Heaven and a new Earth that his return will bring. Gods righteousness is a gift of his grace which we receive by faith: no man or woman alive can be righteous in the sight of God without being cleansed, frequently, by the blood of Christ. As John says: “If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us.…” (1 John 1:8) At the same time this does not absolve us from making every effort (what Peter calls being diligent) to live godly lives, to always seek holiness in our lifestyle; to walk in the peace of knowing that we are free of the spots and blemishes of sin.

We don’t live like this because of rules or doctrine that tell us to; we live like this in preparation for what awaits us. We live godly lives because our focus is on his promise of new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness reigns. This, our eternal destiny, is our hope, and “We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain.” (Heb 6:19) Life in the world is built on what has been established in the past. Life in the Spirit, like the lives of the “heroes of faith” listed in Hebrews 11, springs from a vision of what is promised for the future.

Psalm 119 verse 123 says “My eyes strain to see your deliverance, to see the truth of your promise fulfilled.” The promise of perfection, of deliverance from every “blemish” of our mortality, is not given to us so that we can “hang on in there” in the knowledge that it will all be better one day, but as a focus and foundation for godliness in our daily lives as we allow Him to purify our hearts. We ‘strain our eyes’ to see where we are headed, as, to use Peter’s terms, we ‘look for and hasten the coming of the day of God.’ Like a grappling hook that we have anchored in a far-off rock, we pull ourselves along the rope that holds us, towards the destiny that it promises.

Jesus is in the business of sanctifying His bride, so that “He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Eph 5:27) The previous verse says he does this “with the washing of water by the word.” Paul refers to the Galatians as “My little children, for whom I labor in birth again until Christ is formed in you.” The purpose of the Ministry gifts listed in Ephesians 4 is that “we all come …to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.” (Eph 4:16) Leonardo Da Vinci said that his famous statue of David was always there inside the granite; he just chiselled away the superfluous rock until it appeared. So it is with the Word of God when we allow it to align our lives with God’s template of holiness: it cleanses us of our imperfections until the “perfect man” emerges in the image of Christ.

This age is going to end; Jesus will be returning for His spotless bride, and she will live with Him on a new earth, where righteousness reigns under a new heaven; and before that there will be a great and final harvest of souls. Jesus says to the Church today, whether it is in Wildwood, Wigan or Wichitaw: “Be holy as I am holy. Let me prepare you, because I am coming soon. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.”

If we live now according to the hope that is in us, we will be ready for Him when He comes; and because we will be walking in step with His Spirit will have a great harvest to bring with us as His wedding gift.

The Order of Melchizedek

This is the law of the temple: The whole area surrounding the mountaintop is most holy. Behold, this is the law of the Temple (Ezekiel 43:12)

If I were to give superhero epithets to Bible characters, I would call Peter “Pentecost Man,” because I think his apostolic ministry is defined by the power of Pentecost. Although the writer to the Hebrews introduces us to the concept of Jesus being a “priest forever under the order of Melchizedek” (Heb 7:17), it is Peter, “Pentecost Man,” who has the most to say to us about our priestly ministry as disciples of Christ. If Jesus, our great High Priest, is a “priest forever under the order of Melchizedek,” then our priestly ministry is under the same order, because as disciples we follow after the pattern of the Master.

We are probably familiar with the main principles of our order. Melchizedek was at once “priest of the most high God, and King Salem” (Heb 7:1): a priest-king, a role that did not exist in the ordinances of Old Covenant Israel where the priesthood was strictly separated from rulership. Jesus, of course, is at once the High Priest whose sacrifice satisfied once and for all every requirement of the Law, and He is King of Kings, seated on high over the entire universe. Jesus “The ruler over the kings of the earth… has made us kings  and priests to His God and Father” (Rev. 1: 5-6), so we too are, as 1 Peter 2:9 confirms, “a royal priesthood, a holy nation.” But over and above the ministry of Melchizedek was his immortality. Hebrews 7:3 tells us that he was “without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God.”

Like Jesus, Melchizedek was incorruptible. We too, have been “born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, through the living and abiding word of God.” (1 Pe 1:23). “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of Truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruiits of His creatures.” (James 1:18) We  have an “inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away.” (1 Pe 1:4). We, too, are incorruptible. We have been chosen to bear incorruptible fruit – “fruit that endures.” (John 15:16) Born of incorruptible seed, sown and brought forth by God; destined for an incorruptible eternity, and chosen to bear incorruptible fruit: what is the condition of the fruit tree?

Pentecost Man said this: “as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Pe 1: 15-16). We are priests of the order of Melchizedek. Our priestly service is to minister to the Lord in the Temple, and to minister to the people from out of our time in the temple, revealing Jesus to those who don’t know Him. “And they shall teach my people the difference between the holy and the common, and cause them to discern between the unclean and the clean. (Ezekiel 44:23) We cannot teach “the difference between the holy and the common” unless we live by it ourselves. The law that governs the Temple in which we serve is holiness.

The devil has worked hard over the centuries at belittling the notion of holiness. Phrases like “holy huddle,” “holier than thou,” etc besmirch the word with negative connotations, and the popular idea of the “holy man” living a life of asceticism halfway up a mountain somewhere can make the state of holiness seem somehow inaccessible. But if that which has been brought forth from incorruptible seed is to bear incorruptible fruit it has to remain true to its incorruptible nature: in other words it has to be holy. To be holy as He who called us is holy isn’t just an exhortation to sort out our wayward behaviour; it is a reminder of our true nature as new creations that carry the DNA of the incorruptible seed from which we have been “brought forth.”

If we wonder what this holiness looks like, we need search no further than the template Jesus gave us in His teachings, especially in the Sermon on the Mount. We are no longer of the world, but as those of incorruptible stock living in it we have to guard against the corruption of the world affecting us. Therefore we forgive so that we are not corrupted by hatred and bitterness. We remain meek so that we are not corrupted by pride. We are merciful so that we are not corrupted by vengeance. We love so that we are not corrupted by hatred. We give so that we are not corrupted by covetousness. We trust God so that we are not corrupted by fear and anxiety. We “abstain from fleshly lusts that war against the soul” (I Peter 2:11). To keep strong in all of these and many other principles of everyday holiness we sustain ourselves on the “living bread”, the Word of God, and not the “bread which perishes” that the world would give us. And like Peter, we have to be “Pentecost people,” because without the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit none of this is possible.

We don’t know what is ahead, but we do know that the Church is moving into a new season. For many of us, the time of lockdown has been like a time of consecration; of preparation before entering the Land where the goodness of God will be poured out in an unprecedented move of the Holy Spirit. But first comes Jericho, where the commander of the Lord’s army says to us:  “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.” (Joshua 5:15)

I believe we stand on the brink of a deeper fulfilment of our role as priests of the order of Melchizedek. It’s time to take seriously the law of the Temple.