This scripture is one of which I am very familiar. It was used a lot in the church that I was saved in. To give you some background:
The church that I was saved in was one that believed in doing things first in prayer and then in action. We saw prayer as an act of fellowship with God and one of aggression toward the enemy. We were taught to be people of the Spirit; grounded in the Word of God, led by the Spirit of God – refusing to take no for an answer when it came to the enemy’s interference in the plan of God.
I was also taught that complacency is a killer. Becoming casual in the faith was something that produced casualties. Now, when I say something like this, many hear legalistic threads in my words. They immediately think that I am saying that I had to be at church all the time or that, if I didn’t pray, God wouldn’t favor me.
The truth is actually quite contrary: I don’t feel as if I “have” to do something to secure God’s favor or salvation. I know that these things are an act of God. What I am saying is that it is very easy to justify complacency in life and when we do, we are forgetting the very nature of the faith and the place in which we live our lives.
To expound on this, let’s go back to Matthew 11.
The passage we read earlier is found in the midst of a discourse by Jesus on the times they were living in and the tools God was using in those times. Disciples of John the Baptist were sent to Jesus to ask if He was the One or should they look for another messiah. This is an interesting question. I have to ask myself what brought John to the place of confusion about Jesus.
After meeting Jesus at the river Jordan, John said these words to his disciples:
“Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” John 1:29
“This is He of whom I said, ‘After me comes a Man who is preferred before me, for He was before me. I did not know Him; but that He should be revealed to Israel, therefore I came baptizing with water.” And John bore witness, saying, “I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and He remained on Him. I did not know Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.’ And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God. John 1:30-34
John was sure when he baptized Jesus that He was the Son of God. Why was he confused later?
In Israel, the story is told that John was raised in an Essene Jewish community. John’s parents were old when he was born. It was widely know that the Essenes took in orphans. Many believed that they were an off-shoot of the Zadokite priests. They were a desert-dwelling sect who believed in ritual cleanliness and strict adherence to the Law. They are believed to be responsible for the writing of the Dead Sea Scrolls.
Was John a product of that community?
We cannot know for sure, but we do know that John, like the Essenes used water in acts of repentance. John was also one who lived ascetic lifestyle separated from the comforts of the world.
What he saw in Jesus was a miracle worker and a preacher, but Jesus lived a lifestyle that was so different from John’s. Jesus lived among people of the world – sinners. He also was a drinker of wine.
John may have been confused. Could God use a drinker of wine? One who spoke to prostitutes and ate with tax collectors?
Jesus was not a legalist and neither are the people of God, but Jesus was a warrior and so are His people! This was what John and Jesus had in common.
Jesus said that things had changed since John appeared. A new dispensation in the Spirit had arrived. From the days that John began to preach, violence became a characteristic of the kingdom people.
This is what Jesus means when He speaks of a violent people:
Violent: positive assertiveness; used of the believer living in faith (“God’s inworked persuasions”) guiding and empowering them to act forcefully – i.e. “fired up” by God to act by His revelation.
John told the people when he preached:
“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even know the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Jesus will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. Matthew 3:8-11
We are living in the period of the “ax”. God’s people are people of the “ax”. They are people of fire. Axes and fire bring change to the landscape.
Jesus’ people are warriors. They understand that spiritual enemies exist who seek to destroy the work of the Kingdom of God and its advancement comes through aggressiveness on the part of kingdom people.
The kingdom is not made up of people who sit on a cloud in a night shirt and a diaper playing a harp. The kingdom is achieving Jesus’ objectives by force. Those who are achieving growth and fulfilling their ministry in the Lord are doing so forcefully – not through complacency disguised as liberty.
Liberty can become complacency. We see it every day. Our definition of liberty has become my ability to do what I want – to be comfortable. Can we tell the difference any more between liberty and complacency? I wonder. Beware of “hitting the wall” spiritually. I’m speaking of the place where we settle short of what God has for us.
Where are you settling? What are you settling for?
There are some unsettling trends in the Body of Christ.
Why in the body of Christ are our younger believers leading the older? Why are they the most zealous? Shouldn’t it be that the longer we know Christ, the more in love with Him we fall and the more like Him we look?
Are you a “been there, done that, got the t-shirt” type of believer?
Where are the aggressors – getting new revelation from the Lord and putting that revelation into action? We are in the days of violence and kingdom people are violent people
Does this describe you?
There is a church that looks a lot like the kingdom of God. Is it Capstone? I sure want it to be. God, set me on fire!