- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
The Scriptures reveal that there are two acts which go on continually before the throne of God-intercession and accusation. The conflict between these two is a focal point of the battle between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. Because God has chosen to make the church His dwelling place, and therefore the place of His throne, it is in the heart of the church that this battle now rages.
Jesus "always lives to make intercession" (Hebrews 7:25). It is the fundamental nature of Jesus to be an intercessor, a priest. To the degree that we abide in Him, Jesus will use us to intercede. For this reason His church is called to be a "house of prayer for all the nations" (Mark 11: 17).
Satan is called "the accuser of our brethren ... who accuses them before our God day and night" (Revelation 12: 10). To the degree that the enemy has access to our lives he will use us to accuse and criticize the brethren. Like the two trees in the garden, we must all choose which of these ministries we are going to partake of.
We may ask how Satan could continue to accuse the saints before God if he has been thrown out of heaven and no longer has access to the throne. The answer is that Satan uses the saints, who do have access to the throne, to do this diabolical work for him.
Satan's Greatest Victory Satan is called by many titles but certainly his most effective guise has been "the accuser of the brethren." This title was given to him because of his effectiveness in getting brother to turn against brother. From the time that he entered the garden to thwart the purpose of man, this has been his specialty. Even when there were just two brothers on earth they could not get along. The presence of Satan will always promote discord and division.
Satan's greatest victory over the church is in turning the brethren against each other. Accusation has been his most effective and deadly tool in destroying the light, the power and the witness of the body of Christ. Our ability to accomplish our purpose in this world will be determined by the degree to which we can dispel our deadly enemy and learn to live for one another.
The greatest threat to Satan's domain is the unity of the church. The devil knows very well the awesome authority that Jesus has given to any two that will agree. He knows that with agreement between just two saints the Father will give them what they ask. He understands that one saint can put a thousand to flight but two of them together can put ten thousand to flight. Unity does not just increase our spiritual authority-it multiplies it. Unfortunately, the enemy has understood all of this much better than the church has.
The access the accuser has to most believers is through their insecurity. This drives them to become territorial, or possessive. The insecure are threatened by anything that they cannot control. The accuser may use many seemingly noble justifications for a believer's attacks on others, such as to protect the truth or the sheep, but rarely is there a division in the church that was not rooted in territorial or self-preservation. The greater the authority, or influence, that one has in the church, the bigger the target that they make. Satan knows well that if he can sow territorial or self-preservation in the heart of a spiritual leader, the leader will sow it in all of those under him, and the more destructive the division or sectarian spirit will be.
Ironically, the resulting division that is caused by trying to protect our domains is the very thing that cuts us off from true spiritual authority and anointing. This ultimately results in our losing the very thing we are so desperately trying to preserve, which is an incontrovertible law of the spirit: "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it" (Matthew 16:25). Isaiah addressed this issue in chapter fifty-eight:
Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard.
Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and He will say, "Here I am." If you remove the yoke from your midst, the pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness (verses 8 & 9).
Here we are promised that if we remove the yoke of criticism from our midst (which is portrayed as "the pointing of the finger and speaking wickedness"), we are promised that our light will break out, our healing will come speedily, the glory of the Lord will follow us, and He will answer our prayers. There is possibly nothing that can so radically change the church, and the lives of individual believers, than having our criticisms changed into intercession. Likewise, it is probable that the addiction to criticism is the main reason why there is so little light, so little healing, so little of the glory of the Lord, and so little answered prayer in the church today.
Criticism Is Pride
Criticism is one of the ultimate manifestations of pride because, whenever we criticize someone else we are by that assuming that we are superior to them. Pride brings that which any rational human being should fear the most-God's resistance. "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble" (James 4:6 NKJV). We would be better off having all of the demons in hell resisting us than God!
Pride caused the first fall and it has been a root in probably every fall from grace since. Peter's betrayal of the Lord is one of the great examples of how pride causes us to fall from grace. On that same night when Peter betrayed the Lord, he had earlier charged a Roman cohort to defend his Lord. Even though this was misguided zeal, it was impressive courage-a Roman cohort was composed of 800 men! However, when the Lord warned Peter of his impending denial of Him, Peter had challenged the Son of God Himself, declaring, "They may all fall away from you but not me." Peter knew that he was a man of courage, and would be willing to die for the Lord, he just did not know where the courage came from. The Lord did not cause Peter to fall that night; He just removed the grace by which he was standing. Then the fearless man who had charged a Roman cohort could not even stand before a servant girl!
None of us can stand at any point except by the grace of God. This is more than a cliche-it is a basic biblical truth. When we condemn others who are having problems because we are not, we are putting ourselves in jeopardy of falling to the same sins. That is why Paul warned us:
Brethren, even if a man is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, lest you too be tempted (Galatians 6:1).
Who Are We Criticizing?
When we criticize another Christian we are actually saying that God's workmanship does not meet up to our standards, that we could do it better. When we criticize someone else's children, who will take offense? The parents! This is no less true with God. When we judge one of His people we are judging Him. When we judge one of His leaders we are really judging His leadershipwe are by that saying that He does not know what He is doing with the leadership He is providing.
Such grumbling and complaining is the same problem that kept the first generation of the children of Israel from possessing their promised land. Their grumbling caused them to spend their entire life wandering in dry places, and this is the chief reason why so many Christians do not walk in the promises of God. We have been warned:
Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother, or judges his brother, speaks against the law, and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law, but a judge of it.
There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy [When we judge the law, we judge the Lawgiver]; but who are you who judge your neighbor? (James 4:11-12). When we "point the finger" to criticize, we yoke ourselves: Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you (Matthew 7:1-2 NKJV).
The Spirit of Poverty
I once visited a state that was under one of the most powerful spirits of poverty that I have witnessed in this country. This was remarkable because it was a state of great beauty and natural resources, with talented and resourceful people. However, another characteristic of the people there also stood out-they seemed to inevitably scorn and criticize the prosperous or powerful. With every pastor of a small church that I met (and almost all of them in this state were very small) the conversation would inevitably turn to criticizing "mega churches" and "mega ministries," which these people obviously thought were the reason for their own problems. This was even sadder because many of these small church pastors were much more anointed and were called to walk in more spiritual authority than the leaders of these mega churches, or ministries, that they criticized; but their judgments had restrained the grace of God in their lives.
It is biblically established that we may sometimes need to be abased and sometimes we need to abound. The apostle Paul even claimed to have gone hungry at times, and he sternly warned us to be content if we just have food and covering (see I Timothy 6:8). However, if I am to be abased I want to do it in submission to God and to what He is trying to work in my life, not in submission to an evil spirit of poverty. I certainly do not want to be yoked to poverty because of my own evil judgments of others.
Many pastors yoke themselves, and their congregations, to financial poverty by criticizing how other men of God take up offerings. Because of their judgments they cannot even take up a biblical offering without feeling guilty. As Isaiah 58 implies, the primary reason for the darkness, lack of healing, unanswered prayer, and lack of the glory of God is our own critical spirit. Of the many people I have met with exceptional mantles of spiritual authority, but who were lacking in spiritual fruit, this would always seem to be a prevailing characteristic in their lives. They had judged and criticized the ministries of others who were gaining influence, and had thereby disqualified themselves from the grace of God in that area. Our criticisms will bring us to poverty. "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit" (Proverbs 18:21).
As Solomon observed: "But the path of the just is like the shining sun, that shines ever brighter unto the darkness; perfect day. The way of the wicked is like do they do not know what makes them stumble (Proverbs 4:18-19 NKJV). If we are walking in righteousness we will be walking in increasing light. Those who stumble around in the dark seldom know the reason for that darkness, or they would not be in it. However, the critical person is usually critical of everyone but himself, and therefore he cannot see his own problems. As the Lord stated, he is so busy looking for specks in the eyes of his brothers that he cannot see the big log in his own eye, which is the reason for his blindness.
The Lord indicated that the very last thing that we should ever want to be is a stumbling block. He said that it would be better for us not to have been born than to cause even one of His little ones to stumble. In the same conversation in which He warned us not to become a stumbling block, Matthew 18, He gave clear instructions about how we are to deal with a brother or sister who is in sin-so that we will not become a stumbling block. First, we must go to the person in private. Only after he has rejected our counsel do we go to him with another brother. Only after he has rejected both should we ever go before the rest of the church with the issue. If we do not follow this pattern we will be in jeopardy of suffering a fate worse than the person who is in sin-becoming a stumbling block (see Matthew 18:15-17).
This tendency toward unrighteous judgment in the church is very possibly why many will come to the Lord on the judgment day, having done many great things in His name, but will still hear those terrible words: "Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness" (Matthew 7:23). By the Lord's own teachings it would be very hard for us to overstate the importance of this terrible sin of unrighteous judgment.
I have heard numerous excuses for not following this pattern for dealing with sin in Matthew 18, such as: "I knew they would not listen to me," or "If they have a public ministry we have a right to expose them publicly." However, the Lord did not say that we only had to comply with His instructions when we knew people would listen to us. He obviously implied that at least some will not hear, which is why there are the subsequent steps.
As far as the public ministry excuse goes, this too is flawed logic because every ministry is public, at least to some degree. Who determines the degree to which it has become so public that it frees us from compliance with God's Word? The Lord gave no such conditions. Those who take such liberties with the clear commandments given by Jesus Himself are by this logic claiming to have authority to add to the Word of God. If a man we believe is in sin has a large ministry and we are not able to get to him with our discernment, then we must not be the one to bring the judgment. Do not accuse-intercede! The Lord is able to judge His own house and He is able to make a way for us if we are the ones He wants to use. If He does not make a way for us, we must trust Him to do the correcting in His own time. Again, this is to protect us from coming under a judgment that is more severe than the brother who is in sin.
If we have not followed the Lord's prescribed manner for dealing with a brother who is in sin we have absolutely no right to talk about it to anyone else, much less to go public with it. It should not even be shared to get another's opinion on the matter. What we may call getting someone else's opinion, God usually calls gossip. He is not fooled, and we will pay the price for such indiscretions. Even if we follow all of the steps in Matthew 18 and determine that we must bring an issue before the church, our goal must always be to save the brother from his sin, not just to expose him.
Love Covers Sin
And let us not become petty with our challenges to the presumed sin in a brother's life. "Love covers a multitude of sins" (I Peter 4:8). The majority of us still have a few hundred things wrong with us. The Lord is usually dealing with one or two of them at a time because that is all we can take. It is one of Satan's strategies to try and distract us into trying to deal with the other three hundred problems, resulting in frustration and defeat. Matthew 18 was not given to us to use as a club for beating up on each other, or even for letting a brother know how he offended us. If we have love we will cover most of those sins unless they are bringing unnecessary injury to our brother. We must use this scripture, and indeed all scripture, in love, not out of self-preservation or retaliation.
Of course, the Lord Jesus Himself is our perfect model. When He corrected the seven churches in Revelation He gave us an example for bringing correction in the church. He first praised each church and highlighted what they were doing right. He then straightforwardly addressed their problems. Incredibly, He even gave Jezebel time to repent! He then gave each church a wonderful promise of reward for overcoming their problems. The Lord never changes. When He brings correction today it always comes wrapped in encouragement, hope and promises.
The "accuser of the brethren" is also trying to bring correction to the church. His methods and his goals are obviously quite different. Jesus encourages and gives hope; Satan condemns and tries to impart hopelessness. Jesus builds us up so that we can handle the correction; Satan tears us down trying to get us to quit. Jesus loves us and wants to lift us up; Satan's goal is always destruction.
Criticism can be rooted in true discernment. Those we criticize may well be in error. The pastors mentioned previously who criticized the way others raised money through manipulation, hype and sometimes outright deception, were accurate in their discernment. We must walk in discernment, as Paul declared, "Do you not judge those who are within the church?" (I Corinthians 5:12). The issue is how we deal with what we discern-are we going to use it to accuse or to intercede? How we deal with discernment can determine the outcome of our own spiritual lives. A worthless person, a wicked man, walks with a perverse mouth; he winks with his eyes, he shuffles his feet, he points with his fingers; Perversity is in his heart, he devises evil continually, he sows discord. Therefore his calamity shall come suddenly; suddenly he shall be broken without remedy (Proverbs 6:12-15 NKJV).
Much of what has been paraded as discernment is nothing less than suspicion-a pseudo spiritual disguise used to mask territorial preservation. Even without the spiritual gift of discernment, James gave us clear guidelines for discerning the source of wisdom, which, if we had heeded in the past, would have kept the us from some of our most humiliating failures:
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.
But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.
This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.
For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace (James 3:13-18 NKJV).
We are saved by grace, and we will need all of the grace that we can get to make it through this life. If we want to receive grace we had better learn to give grace because we are going to reap what we sow. If we expect to receive mercy we must start sowing mercy, and most of us are going to need all of the mercy we can get. The very last thing that we want to do is come before the Lord on that day with our brother's blood on our hands, just as He warned:
You have heard that it was said to those of old, "You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment."
But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, "Raca!" [empty head] shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, "You fool!" shall be in danger of hell fire.
Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you. Leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison [bondage].
Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny (Matthew 5:21-26 NKJV).
It is clear by this warning that, if we have been guilty of slandering a brother, we should forget about our offerings to the Lord until we have been reconciled to our brother. He linked these together because we often think that our sacrifices and offerings can compensate for such sins, but they never will. We will stay in the prisons we make for ourselves with our judgments until we have paid the last cent, or until we are reconciled to the brother we slandered.
The Lord said that when He returned He was going to judge between the sheep and the goats (see Matthew 25:31-46). Those who are judged sheep will inherit the kingdom and eternal life. Those who are designated goats will be sent to eternal judgment. The separation will be determined by how each group has treated the Lord, which will be determined by how they have treated His people. John stated it:
If someone says, "I love God," and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen (I John 4:20).
Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.
We know love by this that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren (I John 3:15-16).
If we really have Christ's Spirit then we will also have His nature. How many of us, knowing that our best friends, whom we had poured our lives into for three and a half years, were about to desert us and even deny that they knew us, would have "earnestly desired" to have one last meal with them? Our Lord's love for His disciples has never been conditional on their doing right. Even though He knew they were about to desert Him and deny Him, He loved them to the end-He even gave His life for them. When He saw our sin He did not criticize us; He laid down His life for us. He has commanded us to love with that same love.
War Between Spiritual Generations One of the great tragedies of church history has been the way leaders of each move of God have become opposers and persecutors of subsequent moves. To date this trend has not failed. The Lord uses this to help purify and work humility into those He is about to release with increasing power and authority, but this is still a great tragedy. Numerous leaders have spent their lives serving faithfully only to finish as vessels for the accuser, who makes them a stumbling block for the next move.
What is it that causes leaders of one move to become opposers of the next move? There are several factors involved, which we must understand and be delivered of or we will end up doing the same thing. We may think and say that we would never do this, but that is what everyone has thought and said who has ended up doing it. "Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall" (I Corinthians 10: 12). The pride that causes us to assume we will not do a thing is one of the factors that leads to doing it.
This problem actually precedes church history and goes all the way back to the very first two brothers born into this world. John observed why the older could not bear the younger:
For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another; not as Cain, who was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And for what reason did he slay him? Because his deeds were evil, and his brother's were righteous (I John 3:11-12).
Each new move of the Holy Spirit has resulted in the restoration of more light to the church. This light is not new truth, but truth that was lost by the church through the Dark Ages of her history. Regardless of what we call our opposition, a basic reason for most of it is jealousy. Those in leadership, or those who have been faithful to the light they have had for a time, have difficulty believing that anyone is more worthy, or that the Lord would want to use anyone but them for further restoration of His truth and purposes.
The only remedy leaders have to keep them from ultimately falling into this terrible trap is to seek the humility and nature of John the Baptist. This man is one of the greatest types of true spiritual ministry. His whole purpose in life was to prepare the way for Jesus, to point to Him, then to decrease as the greater One increased. It was John's joy to see the one who followed him going further than he went.
The Foundation of True Ministry
True spiritual leaders must become "spiritual eunuchs." A eunuch's whole purpose was to prepare the bride for the king. It was not even possible for the eunuch to desire the bride, but his whole joy was in his king's joy. When we use the ministry in order to build a reputation, to find those who will serve us, we will not be of the authority of Christ. Paul exhorted us: Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each of you regard one another as more important than himself; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name (Philippians 2:3-9).
This is the pattern that Jesus set for everyone who would follow Him in leadership. Humility comes before authority and position. He said in Luke 14:11: "For everyone who exalts himself shall be humbled, and he who humbles himself shall be exalted." A key word here is "everyone." James added, "Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you" (James 4:10). Peter stated: "Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time" (I Peter 5:6). In all of these texts we see that it is our job to humble ourselves and it is the Lord's job to do the exalting. It is clear that if we try to do His job He will do our job, and He can do either one of them much better than we can.
The evil spirits of self-promotion and territorial preservation have done much damage to the church. They have caused many potentially great leaders to be disqualified from receiving further anointing and authority. The influence that we gain by our own self-promotion or manipulation will be a stumbling block that keeps us from attaining positions that God would otherwise give to us.
It has not always been the older generation of leaders that is the stumbling block for the new. The new generation can be just as guilty of causing the previous one to stumble! The very arrogance of presuming that we are the new generation reveals a pride that God has to resist. This is a humiliating slap in the face to men and women who have given their lives to faithfully serving the Lord and His people.
Jesus did not ridicule John the Baptist for being a part of the old order-He honored him. Jesus even submitted Himself to John's ministry. This submission did not mean that He allowed John to control Him, but He acknowledged John and esteemed him and his work.
Later, when Jesus was asked the source of His authority, he pointed to John and asked His inquisitors if they knew from where John's baptism had come. The answer to that question was the answer to their question. John was the last of an order; he was there to represent all of those who had prophesied of the coming Messiah from the very beginning. John was their representative to acknowledge Jesus as the One of whom they had all spoken, that He was indeed the Lamb of God. Jesus acknowledged the baptism of those who had gone before Him as the credentials of His authority.
Those who will be of the new generation must likewise submit to the ministry of all those who have gone before them if they are to fulfill all righteousness. We are presently in the midst of seeing a new spiritual generation emerge. It is also apparent that the previous movements are beginning to decrease as the new order increases. However, it is crucial that the leaders of the new order honor those who went before them, or they will be in jeopardy of disqualifying themselves from going further. The arrogance of the new order can be just as much an affront to the Spirit of God as that of the old, who start to resist God in the new things He is beginning to do.
Why the Abused Become Abusers
Why is it that abused children grow up to be abusers? Why is it that accused saints grow up to be accusers? The answer is the same for both. Abused children usually grow up determined not to be like their parents, so they become reactionary, which does not lead to grace, but can actually nurture bitterness. This ultimately results in their becoming just like their parents. Only humility and forgiveness will ever break that cycle. The sins of the parents will become the sins of the children until we receive the grace of the cross. Because God gives His grace to the humble, we must understand that we will take on the sins of our parents without His help. That is one reason why many of the great leaders in Scripture prayed to be forgiven for the sins of their fathers.
Elijah Must Come There will be a spiritual generation that will be perse-cuted like every one has before it, but which will not go on to persecute the next generation. This movement will not have become subject to the "pride of generations," assuming that all things will be concluded with them. Those of this generation will have found the grace of the cross and will have forgiven, from the heart, those who mistreated them. They will also perceive and even hope that their children, spiritual and natural, may go further in Christ than they did, and they will rejoice in it. They will give their lives to making the way of that generation as smooth as possible, and then they will rejoice to decrease as that generation arises. This will be the generation of the spirit of Elijah who will return the hearts of the fathers to the sons, and the hearts of the sons to the fathers.
Our ability to be the generation that prepares the way for the Lord and His ultimate purposes will be determined by which of the two ministries we become a part of-accusation or intercession. Let us now remove the terrible yoke of "pointing the finger" from our midst and begin turning our criticisms into intercession. Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry, and He will say, "Here I am" And the Lord will continually guide you, and satisfy your desire in scorched places, and give strength to your bones; and you will be like a watered garden, and like a spring of water whose waters do not fail.
And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; and you will raise up the age-old foundations; and you will be called the repairer of the breach, the restorer of the streets in which to dwell (Isaiah 58:8-9, 11-12).
Posted March 11, 2010
No text was provided for this review.