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October 5, 2013

A Prophetic Call To Go Deeper in Christ

By Anthony Wade

When God wants to separate out those that are following Him from those that are playing church, He takes them deeper into His teachings...


At this point many of his disciples turned away and deserted him. Then Jesus turned to the Twelve and asked, "Are you also going to leave?"  - John 6: 66-67 (NLT)

We find a very interesting story following the miraculous feeding of the five thousand. Remember that Jesus fed upwards of 15,000 that day when you consider women and children. Suddenly there was a massive throng pursuing Jesus. The Bible says they got into boats to seek where He had gone. Within this story we can see some truths play out for the church today as well. First of all - God knows why you are here:

Jesus replied, "I tell you the truth, you want to be with me because I fed you, not because you understood the miraculous sign But don't be so concerned about perishable things like food. Spend your energy seeking the eternal life that the Son of Ma n  can give you. For God the Father has given me the seal of his approval."  - John 6: 26-27 (NLT)

God knows why we get up on Sunday. Why we get dressed and come to church. He knows why we serve in our ministries. He knows why we give as much as we give. He knows why we hold back as much as we hold back. I know we all say that we do it for Jesus but God actually knows what we really do it for. Jesus saw right through these people. They did not understand the miracle they had been a part of. All they knew was they got a free lunch out of it and they wanted more. That is human nature. Jesus cuts to the quick here though reveals what the true problem is. It is about what we seek beloved. What are we pursuing? Where does our heart lie? The truth is that we value the wrong life far too often. We pursue the perishable things of this world over the eternal things of God. What is far worse however is the church is now in the same business. The prosperity heresies all sell favor in the temporal over the eternal. Seven steps to a better you and a bigger bank account. Five keys to an extraordinary temporal existence. Realize that only so much of the blame can fall to the Joel Osteen's of the world. We are all responsible for our own walk and what we pursue. The reason Osteen thrives despite his blatantly heretical teachings is that it is what people want. People want to hear that this is their best life, they have a God who is just dying to bless them, and that precious little is required in return. Paul warned us about these days:

For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear. They will reject the truth and chase after myths.  - 2Timothy 4: 3-4 (NLT)

People will look for teachers to tell them that God wants to bless their mess and they will find Joel Osteen. They will look for teachers to tell them that the grace of God allows them to cast aside their concerns of sin and they will find Joseph Prince. They will look for teachers to tell them that God is just a spiritual ATM for their personal desires and they will find any number of charlatans on TBN or whatever passes for Christian television these days. Jesus said to the crowd bluntly - I know why you sought me today and it is not the right reason. He says the same thing to us today as well. I remember when I first said the sinner's prayer in 1996 my motivation was wrong. My heart was wrong. I did not want a Savior as much as I wanted a "do-over" in my current mess. By the time I crawled to the altar in 2002 the difference was stark. I  needed  to go to the altar. I needed God to take from me the sins that were burdening my life. We need to realize today that we can come to church because we got fed the week before but until we come seeking the Savior - we will not be saved. Continuing in the story:

They replied, "We want to perform God's works, too. What should we do?" Jesus told them, "This is the only work God wants from you: Believe in the one he has sent."  - John 6: 28-29 (NLT)

Beloved the message has never changed. There is only one thing required and that is belief in Jesus Christ. But look at the crowd! Give us works to do for God! How often are we that same crowd today? The modern theories of church growth all sell a works based salvation wrapped up in empty words of pseudo-piety. Salvation becomes a product to sell and the receipt of purchase is written on the back of a SHAPE application along with a three line prayer that changes no one. Even the most basics of language are changed to provide no challenge or possible offense. The lost are no longer referred to as unsaved but rather now are considered "unchurched." A distinction worth noting because it highlights the shift away from the things of God and onto the things of man by the current church. Remember that a saved person who remains unchurched will still possess eternal life but a churched person who remains unsaved will be deceived into thinking they have eternal life when they do not. And they will look to the church and say - "I want to perform God's works too - what should I do?" The modern church will be only too happy to oblige them and plug them into ministries under the guise of "discovering their purpose." They will serve too beloved because we would much rather feed our bloated Martha than realize that we had no Mary to begin with. 

Maybe the years keep passing by and we continue to serve. We eventually lead ministries. We lead outreaches. We go on missions trips. In our church we can become a pillar, serve on the board, and maybe even take to the pulpit from time to time. Anything to continue the charade of salvation started all those years ago with that three sentence prayer after the wife pushed us up for altar call. We still walk with no power in our lives because He is not in our lives. We still pursue the gods of this world such as greed and money because after all - that is what is preached to us! I mean - God doesn't want His people to be poor! Maybe we still have that quiet affair on the side because we certainly have never heard any preaching on personal holiness and the conviction of sin comes from the indwelt Holy Spirit. If we ever start to feel too much worldly guilt we just ask for more works and the church obliges. And look! We are up to 10,000 people each week so something must be right! Then the day comes when we stand before Christ and suddenly Scripture starts to crystallize in our hearts:

"Not everyone who calls out to me, "Lord! Lord!' will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter. On judgment day many will say to me, "Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.' But I will reply, "I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God's laws.'  - Matthew 7: 21-23 (NLT)

Lord - didn't I always ask for more works to do for you? Away from me! Works will always be a natural response to our faith but it always must start with our faith and our relationship with Jesus Christ. Back to the story in the Gospel of John:

They answered, "Show us a miraculous sign if you want us to believe in you. What can you do? After all, our ancestors ate manna while they journeyed through the wilderness! The Scriptures say, "Moses gave them bread from heaven to eat.'"   Jesus said, "I tell you the truth, Moses didn't give you bread from heaven. My Father did. And now he offers you the true bread from heaven. The true bread of God is the one who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world."   "Sir," they said, "give us that bread every day."  - John 6: 30-34 (NLT)

Do a trick for us! How sad that we have so many today chasing the same tricks instead of realizing that they can serve the one true God. So much of the modern church today is now chasing a spiritual experience instead of the Spirit Himself. Music is jacked up to ear-splitting levels to trick people into thinking they are having a spiritual encounter. Modern "worship" music is a droning on and on loops of quasi-biblical man centered theology. False words of prophecy are spoken over and the gift of tongues misused. We want to see gemstones, gold dust and glory clouds more than we want to see Jesus! We want to see snake oil salesmen wave their hands and watch in glee as entire sections of congregants go down at once. We want to roll around on the ground laughing uncontrollably or claim to be drunk in the Spirit. Do a trick for us! Jesus does not do a trick for them however. Instead, He starts to take them deeper into His teaching. He teaches that He is the Bread of Life and whoever comes to Him will never be hungry or thirsty again. But the people quickly murmured against His teaching. With each disagreement, Jesus took them deeper into His teachings:

So Jesus said again, "I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you cannot have eternal life within you. But anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise that person at the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Anyone who eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him. I live because of the living Father who sent me; in the same way, anyone who feeds on me will live because of me. I am the true bread that came down from heaven. Anyone who eats this bread will not die as your ancestors did (even though they ate the manna) but will live forever."  - John 6: 53-58 (NLT)

Now we start to see people walking away from Jesus. If you want to separate those who are truly following Christ from those who are insincere - just take them into the deeper things of God. Follow the logic here. Jesus feeds the four thousand and then the five thousand. He starts to gain a following but it is not a genuine following. They are not pursuing Him for who He is, but rather what He can do for them. Sound familiar? How much of the modern church pursues Christ for what they can get from Him? If you start preaching the deeper truths you are labeled a legalist and dismissed for stirring up disunity. Don't start talking to me about my sin - that hyper-grace preacher said I do not have to listen to that condemnation! Don't start talking to me about picking up my cross daily - that prosperity huckster said that I just had to give and now I am waiting for my harvest! Don't start talking to me about repentance - that purpose driven fellow welcomed me into the family of God already and I didn't have to give anything up! So after He feeds the multitudes He notices that there are a lot more people interested then before. He challenges them on this point knowing that they are pursuing the things of this world - to be fed - over the eternal things of God. The miracle didn't mean anything to them. After being confronted, they try to buy their provision and ask what works can be done? Jesus teaches them deeper that they need to have faith first, not works. They again try to play Let's Make a Deal and ask Him to prove that He is worth their faith. - do a trick for us! He has told them they need to give up the pursuit of worldly things for those that are eternal. He has taught them that they need to have faith before they can expect to be doing works. Now, He takes them deeper still. 

But they wanted nothing to do with it. They tried to rationalize it. They tried to intellectualize it. Ultimately, they walked away from Him as we come to the key verses for today. A great deal of modern Christendom sells a watered down gospel that saves no one. We are raising up an army of people who want to see the five thousand fed but only as a parlor trick. They want to do the works of the church. They want to see the next big trick. The next big heresy disguised as a revival. The next big Purpose Driven Life. The next big Prayer of Jabez. The next big Circle Maker. But bring up solid doctrine and they cry out judgment! Don't shake my apple cart! Don't overturn the tables in my temple! But remember beloved that Jesus never promised us a peaceful Christian existence. 

"I have come to set the world on fire, and I wish it were already burning! I have a terrible baptism of suffering ahead of me, and I am under a heavy burden until it is accomplished. Do you think I have come to bring peace to the earth? No, I have come to divide people against each other! From now on families will be split apart, three in favor of me, and two against--or two in favor and three against.  - Luke 12: 49-52 (NLT)

That doesn't sound very seeker friendly! I have come to set the world on fire! I wish it were already burning! While the church goes out of its way to fireproof itself! That is how we become lukewarm to Jesus! Just like in the story we looked at today, Jesus knows why we are here. He knows if we are pursuing Him or pursuing the things of this world, He knows if we are looking for works to justify our lack of true faith or if it is an outgrowth of our faith. He knows if we are just pursuing the next big thing. The next big show disguised as the Spirit of the Living God. 

Beloved the time is growing short. Jesus is coming back for His Bride. There is work to be done between now and then. It cannot be about our show and pretense. It has to be about His kingdom and the unsaved. Not the unchurched - the unsaved. As the times grow worse God is telling us that the teachings must go deeper. We cannot sustain ourselves on spoiled spiritual milk anymore. If that is where we find ourselves today then we need to come out from among them. Come out from among those that are not truly serving God. This is not a game beloved. As the key verses state - many will desert Him as the teachings go deeper. They will not put up with sound doctrine. They will gather around them teachers to tell them what they want to hear. They will hold hands and sing kumbya until Jesus comes and they discover that they have been on the broad path that leads to destruction the entire time. As we stand here today watching the throng walk away from Him and desert Him we will find He still has the same one question for us today that He had for His disciples back then - 

Are you also going to leave?

Don't take the question lightly. In order to stay with Christ we might have to leave our family. We might have to leave our church. We might have to leave the trappings of religion for the only relationship that matters. It is easy to say - I will not leave! That is what Peter said to Jesus and yet he still denied knowing Him three times. I pray that we all have the strength and conviction to stay with Him, no matter what else we might have to give up to get there. In Jesus name. Amen.

Reverend Anthony Wade - October 5, 2013

Authors Bio:
Credentialed Minister of the Gospel for the Assemblies of God. Owner and founder of 828 ministries. Vice President for Goodwill Industries. Always remember that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.