Things Are Shifting: Our Spiritual Reality
Paul Tothill writes about the growing faith hunger for the authentic expression of Jesus being made manifest in people lives and the breaking in of the Kingdom.
I am presently finishing up my time in London after being in South Africa. Over the last seven weeks I have had the privilege to be with many church leaders and their congregations to see and experience their faith journey and what challenges they face and what break-throughs they have experienced.
There is nonetheless a consistent theme. A deep faith hunger for the authentic expression of Jesus being made manifest in their lives and the breaking in of the Kingdom that is at hand. Leaders and believers have held wrongly for too many years they are on the wrong side of the Gates of Hell. We have behaved more like victims than those called into establish Christ’s victory over darkness. This is largely because the larger story line of Scripture, the very narrative that the early church understood and the apostolic teaching embraced, has been lost to the contemporary western church.
So, things are shifting, like dry ground being broken open and new shoots breaking through! That shift is marked by a notable hunger for genuine revelation of the Scriptures and for an enabling faith to be realised.
We have noticed that fear continues to undermine faith. Fear is the strategy of Satan. Fear is the atmosphere and spiritual influence of the world we live in. Sometimes we all tend to forget that we live in a fallen world. We have become so used to the world around us that we think it is normal. We fail to make the necessary connection between the natural and the systems of the world and its culture and the unseen spiritual world that the Bible clearly tells us influences it.
But when measured against the Scriptures and a Biblical world view what we are immersed in is not God’s normal at all. For Paul the apostle understanding the spiritual world that he was living in, and by the way, we remain living in - yes we live in both a spiritual unseen world and a seen material world that the Bible makes obvious- the world is still covered in the darkness of the rulership of the Prince of the Air, or the ruler of this age. Satan, who by the way has no legitimate right to do so.
As believers we are saved out of this spiritual fallen-world into a new spiritual reality to be lived into this world. We are not just given new life we are saved into the Kingdom realm of God - an eternal Kingdom that will fully manifest when Jesus returns. Until then, Jesus himself said, “you are in the world, but not of the world.” We are all born again into the Kingdom of heaven, the future Kingdom that is breaking into the present of which we are dearly loved Sons (meaning legal right to inherit) functioning as spiritual kings and priests from the relational fullness of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
EPHESIANS 2:2 (TPT)
It wasn’t that long ago that you lived in the religion, customs and values of this world, obeying the dark ruler of the earthly realm who fills the atmosphere with his authority, and works diligently in the hearts of those who are disobedient to the truth of God. The corruption that was in us from birth was expressed through the deeds and desires of our self-life. We lived by whatever natural cravings and thoughts our minds dictated, living as rebellious children subject to God’s wrath like everyone else.
The point is that this kind of living is so normal in the world, including to our minds and values and inclinations, we did not and perhaps have not given it another thought. It is so easily embedded into the church that by contrast is meant to be manifesting the reality of God’s sacred space - his other-worldliness. The church is meant to look like heaven on earth defined by God’s love expressing itself in spiritual realities of God’s truth and His empowering Presence as a holy, other-worldly, set apart Spirit people, not the fallen world we are to proceed into as light into the darkness.
However, an awakening of sorts is taking place. All of a sudden the lights are coming on for many believers as they start to hear the bigger story that has been so wonderfully outlined by such scholars as Dr Michael Heiser and others such as GK Beale. There are more of course. We are taken back into Genesis in a new way through a new description of what the Scriptures meant to the people it was actually written to. They did not think in the same way we do today. They believed and indeed the Bible reveals as a spiritual truth that there is a seen world and an unseen world. Some call the unseen world, for sake of ease, the fourth dimension. With respect that language does not do justice to spiritual realities that the Bible speaks of.
In the spiritual world there are spiritual authorities, spiritual councils, celestial beings, gods, demons and angels. And of course there is God, Father, Son, Holy Spirit who is the name above every other name.
Heiser’s work drawing from Psalm 82 unlocks an understanding that in my view Paul the apostle, like his peers clearly understood. Even our ideas and practices concerning demons and spiritual geographical powers seem more based on charismatic folk lore than Scripture and a Biblical world-view. The reality is that the unseen spiritual world fundamentally affects the seen natural world in more ways than we realise. Paul was at pains to point out that “our hand to hand combat is not with human beings, but with the highest principalities and authorities operating in rebellion under the heavenly realms. They are a powerful class of demon-gods and evil spirits that hold this dark world in bondage.” In short the world is a spiritual prisoner being held to ransom by a tyrannical ruler - an illegitimate but empowered spiritual Prince by his own promotion.
It seems on my assessment the church by and large has relegated this Biblical world view to history, a view that such an idea seems almost fanciful. Even the charismatic churches are heard to cry out “that there is not a demon under every bush” as if somehow they simply appear now and then, presuming all the while the world we live in is normal and Paul’s description of what is really going on and what every believer is immersed in obsolete. Frankly, nothing could be further from the truth from a Biblical point of view. We are simply reading the Bible including the New Testament through the wrong lens.
Many believers are being stirred to the thought that something is missing in the storyline they have been told concerning their salvation. They are right. We have regrettably taught a reduced Gospel, one I am not sure Paul the Apostle would recognise. The Good News, is the Spirit of the Lord is moving on the Good News, taking us back to a Biblical world view even as He responds to the cry of our hearts for more!
We are seeing a restoration of revelation, and then the corresponding demonstrations of power even as the Scriptures revealed to the early church. We are seeing the church wanting to step into who they were meant to be - God’s holy space, His dwelling place on earth through the new life they have received by the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit. They long to understand prayer and the power of their words carrying real governmental authority influenced by the inner-life of Christ they draw from and the leading of the Holy Spirit. They long to worship in Spirit and in truth.
There is a seed bed of hungry hearts that the Holy Spirit is moving upon. It is not limited to leaders. In fact the momentum is being built because God is stirring the hearts of his children who in many cases are pressing leaders for something that is beyond their present collective understanding.
At the same time, they are in a process of their hearts being purified at times at a very deep level. They are starting to understand the apostolic teaching of the wrestle between the flesh and the new life they live in by the enabling power of the Holy Spirit and the spiritual reality of the pull of the world around them. There is an awakening to the reality we are in a spiritual conflict and many, many, believers want to be equipped, empowered and mobilized with faith to step into their calling. At last millennials are finding the reason for them being here. They are passionate about realising their purpose in life. And from a biblical point of view, it is more spectacular than even they realise!
This places great pressure of the intellectualism and religious spirit that has contained the theological boundaries of some, where procrastination has become more normal than faith in God’s revealed word. Paul clearly teaches us our intellect must submit itself to the revealing work of the Holy Spirit. This is foundational to both the activation of revelation but also our faith.
So now every righteous requirement of the law can be fulfilled through the Anointed One living His life in us. And we are free to live, not according to our flesh, but the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit!
Those who are motivated by the flesh only pursue what benefits themselves. But those who live by the impulses of the Holy Spirit are motivated to pursue spiritual realities ( the things of the Spirit, ie pleasing God). For the mind-set of the flesh is death, but the mind-set controlled by the Spirit finds life and peace. In fact the mind-set focused on the flesh fights God’s plan and refuses to submit to his direction because it cannot!
The wrestle between intellectualism and a fallen-world rationalism is not a new one. We all experience it. History is marked by it. I am not here speaking of brilliant scholarship and those who are well versed and skilled to unpack the Scriptures, but rather the importation of a fallen world view on the Scriptures themselves.
This is the natural consequence of not understanding the bigger story of the salvation narrative as understood by the early church and the writers of the Bible. What seems to be happening is that the Holy Spirit, as the third member of the Trinity, is actually activating the hearts of believers towards revelation that in some cases challenges intellectual and religious orthodoxy and orthopraxy. There is little doubt Christ is being returned to the centre of the church although the church is very much on the outer in society. There is the stirring on re-establishing the Kingdom mission as Jesus re-stated in Matthew 28:18. The Holy Spirit seems once again to be emphasising what He has always revealed, our relationship with God from which all things flow into this world.
So these are early days. But like yeast going through the dough there are visible signs of things starting to grow, little by little. There are courageous men and women pioneering into geographical regions to displace the powers of darkness by moving with the heart of God liberating one person at a time.
And what is now a trickle will become a flood and just as Jesus prophesied about his church built on the revelation of who He really is and therefore who they really are, the authority or gates of hell will not be able to contain the continual forward movement of the Kingdom of His peace. Faith hunger is rising and in my experience it is fertile soil for the harvest that is at hand.
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