Obstacle to the Outpouring

Obstacle to the Outpouring
Robert Wurtz II

 And the next day he shewed himself unto them as they strove, and would have set them at one again, saying, Sirs, ye are brethren; why do ye wrong one to another? But he that did his neighbour wrong thrust him away, saying, Who made thee a ruler and a judge over us? (Acts 7:26-27)

When God got ready to lead His people out of bondage He raised up a leader that demonstrated the characteristics of a true shepherd First we find Moses protecting the people from the abusive Egyptian that was beating his people and secondly he was calling them together in brotherly love and unity. He showed his character traits in two successive days. Stephen drew upon this event as part of his sermon on salvation history found in Acts 7. Keep in mind that the people he was preaching to was like their father’s; they did always resist the Holy Spirit. Key to this passage is understanding that God not only wants to dwell in His people, but He wants His people to dwell in unity and kindly affection. Christ, as Moses, has delivered His people from Pharaoh (a type of Satan) and Egypt (a type of this world) and expects them to leave off of their strivings with one another and dwell together in love from the heart. Nothing has changed since the time of Moses in this regard. While God is dealing death to the people of God’s enemies the people of God have to be reminded not to deal death and destruction (as it were) to one another.   

One Mind and One Heart

Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion, make my joy complete, by being of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. (Philippians 2:1, 2)

In Acts 2 Jesus was sending the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon His people baptizing in the Holy Spirit. This event was preceded by a commonly overlooked reality that we encounter repeatedly throughout the book of Acts. Here we read, These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren. (Acts 1:14) This is akin to Paul’s words in Philippians 2:2 where the Holy Spirit has said, make my joy complete, by being of the same mind, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. God has spoken repeatedly, and shown us His heart through men like David and Moses throughout the scriptures, that one of His primary concerns is how His people dwell together in unity. The subject is of such seriousness that we dare not overlook it or haphazardly look to it. For David speaking by the Spirit had said, Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! (Psalms 133:1) The key to seeing God pour out His Spirit among His people is for them to lay aside their differences, come together in tender love and affection, and determine to be one one mind and one heart.  
Worshipping in Vain

And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receiveth [it] with good will at your hand. (Malachi 2:13)

There is a prevailing theme throughout the scriptures that is frequently overlooked insomuch that God has to come back and remind us in some of the strongest of terms. Our passage is such an occasion as it played out in Israel. The people were bringing as it were their offering to the Lord, but He was not regarding it. That is to say, He was paying it no attention. Some might ask, “Does God not seek such to worship Him? Does He not inhabit the praises of His people?” The answer is ‘yes’, however there are conditions upon which God will receive any offering that is brought to Him. Offerings under the Aaronic Priesthood had to be without spot or blemish. This was figurative in one sense. There are attitudes and behaviors that spoil an offering before we ever offer it. In the case of Malachi the people were treating their spouses treacherously- even divorcing them as if they were mere animals. God has called men to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, but here is displayed some of the coldest and most callous attitude a human being can exhibit. Do believers not realize that not only will God not receive their praise and worship, but He will also not answer their prayers if they don’t rightly relate to each other? (1 Peter 3:7) This is but an example of how God is watching our attitudes and our treatment of one another when we come to attempt to offer Him prayer, worship and praise. 

Vain Praise

 But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hell fire. Therefore if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee; Leave there thy gift before the altar, and go thy way; first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift. (Matthew 5:22-24)
It is sobering to think that God is more interested with how we treat each other than He is the offerings that we bring Him. Almost as if what we are bringing Him can be unclean- tainted by the foulness of bitterness in relationships between His people. Peradventure some would seek to sing louder or shout higher in an attempt to drown this reality, but God is not hearing it. When His people refuse to make amends, He simply rejects the offering. When the aroma of strife is in the air it is as a noxious fume in the nostrils of God. But what gladness and joy are brought to the very heart of God when men reconcile with one another. Leave there thy gift at the altar and be reconciled with thy brother! Think of how awful men and women have treated each other over the centuries. Even little children were not exempt from the bitterness as people tried to prevent them from coming to Jesus. Such attitudes of heart- such hate and gall, such poison of asps, must never make it’s home in the child of God. 

Swift Repentance

Are you at enmity with your neighbor? God now, quickly down upon your knees and repent before your God. Do you have ought against your brother or sister- don’t delay, be reconciled at once! For why should God be displeased with your voice and reject your tears and prayers? One thing thou lackest if one man has ought against thee. Two things thou lackest if two have ought against thee. what follow to ask God to pour out His Spirit when there is strife and division in the house? How long can we suppose God will overlook the stench of dispisement that exists in the hearts of men? How long will the Lord look on and see discord among His people? And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. (Mark 11:25)  

Endeavoring to Keep Unity

Endeavoring to Keep Unity
Robert Wurtz II

I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Ephesians 4:1-3 NKJV)

Our passage is a snapshot of God’s will for the churches of God. Paul is writing to Ephesus, the premier church in Asia Minor, to remind them of the importance of walking worthy of our calling. This means we are to imitate Christ in all that we do. Paul then moves into a pastoral mode and calls the church to humility, gentleness, patience and love. He then brings these things together begging us to endeavor to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. These are powerful words that are far reaching. We are learning what God wants from the churches. Simply put, He is calling us to unity and love. This is not always easy. This is why he uses the word ‘endeavoring’. Actually, the Greek word is much stronger and means to ‘make haste’ or ‘to be deligent’. This requires special attention and special effort. Why? Because the enemy is the sower of discord and is always looking for ways to destroy the love and unity in the churches of God.

The Unity of the Spirit   

It is important to understand that when we talk about unity among the saints we are referring to the unity of the Spirit (Ephesians 4:3). This is important. It is impossible to gather together two or more individuals and have them come into unity unless there is a common basis of that unity. All individuals must be submitted to God and His will or there will be division. A basic point to make is that the Holy Spirit and the word of God agree. When that same Spirit dwells in us, causing us to will and to do God’s good pleasure, we are enabled to come into unity. Self-will is the great enemy of unity. Genuine unity can never happen if the individuals involved are not being led by the Holy Spirit. (Jude 1:19) This is not a unity where everyone agrees with man, but with what the Spirit is wanting to do. The Holy Spirit is in charge and when we get in unity with Him as individuals we will all be in a common unity. 

That they May Be One

“I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours. And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them. Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are… (John 17:20-21)

Understand that God is a plural unity. The Jews learned this in the Shema. Deut. 6:4 reads literally, Shmai Yisrael Adonai Eloheynu Adonai Echad. That translated means, Hear O’ Israel the Lord your God is ONE. The Hebrew language has two words that can be translated “ONE”: echad and yachid. Whereas yachid (yah-keed) refers to the number one (i.e., absolute one), echad (ek-kawd) refers to a composite or a plural unity (like the Trinity). God is three persons and one substance. Jesus teaches us that His desire is that believers be as the Hebrew term ‘echad’ (plural unity) even as He and the Father are ‘one’ (plural unity). This means we have to come together in agreement with what God has said in His word and with what He is wanting to do. This is a powerful prayer by our Lord. Imagine that we would be in unity in the way that the Father, Son and Spirit are in unity. 

In the above prayer of John 17, Jesus prays. . . “that they may be one, as thou Father, art in Me, and I in Thee, that they also may be one in Us; that the world may believe that thou hast sent Me.(v.21) This is an awesome consideration. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are in absolute unity of mind and purpose. Each one must contain an identical nature. Each one must be holy, righteous, just, love, etc. If not, unity would be impossible. So as we consider this we can understand that to be one with each other we must walk in the Spirit in absolute submission to God and His will. To do this we must walk in the power and influence of the Holy Spirit.

Carnality is the Enemy of Unity

It is ‘possible’ for those that are truly in Christ to live in a ‘state’ of carnality and bring disunity to a congregation. If we allow ourselves to be pressed into this world’s way of thinking we can function as if we were carnal- or as mere men. (Romans 12:2, 1 Cor. 3:3) This is when division begins. Yet the cure is always the same-repentance. God has very big plans for His churches. These plans must be born in heaven and revealed in the earth. Each individual must be sold out to God’s plan and purposes. There is no place for self-seeking in the Kingdom of God. Self-seeking will cause division. Anything that does not promote the unity of the Spirit is a source of division. One may find a means of bringing a group of fully carnal men and women into unity and yet we may know that a group of Spirit filled men and women may be in unity- but it is impossible to bring a mixture of carnal and spiritual men and women into genuine unity. They are operating under different spirits. The two cannot walk together because they are not agreed. (Amos 3:3) This is why any two must gather together ‘in His name.’ If they gather together in their own name there cannot be a unity of the Spirit and Christ will not be present. But any place where there exists a conscious dependence on Christ and a willingness to surrender to His absolute headship- unity is possible.

The danger of drama

Carnal people love drama. Think about how many TV shows and movies are based upon drama. As human beings we desire to know things and even to share things that we know; but there are some things that we do not need to know, they are on a ‘need to know’ basis. Selah. In Eccl. 1:18 Solomon writes, For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow. Not all knowledge will bring sorrow, but the more secret things that we know about people, the more danger we are in. Pretty soon a person can accumulate so many secrets about so many different people that he/she will despair even of life and if the people in question are Christians the person ‘in the know’ is liable to conclude everyone a fake and lose their faith. I call this ‘toxic information’. Sometimes the best thing we can do is stop a person by saying, “I’ve heard enough.” We don’t need all the ‘juicy details’. Why? We have to protect our own hearts and minds. The wise man gains an insight into the thousand-fold woes of the natural world, and of the world of human beings, and this reflects itself in him without his being able to change it; hence the more numerous the observed forms of evil, suffering, and discord, so much greater the sadness (‏כַּעַס‎, R. ‏כס‎, cogn. ‏הס‎, perstringere ) and the heart-sorrow (‏מַכְאוֹב‎, crève-cour ) which the inutility of knowledge occasions.” (K&D) Knowing secrets about people can be devastating to all parties involved. This is why we should not probe for information about people. Some things are a shame to even talk about. (Ephesians 5:12) The more the stuff gets spread around the more destructive it is. 

Dangerous discord

A talebearer revealeth secrets: but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter. (Proverbs 11:13) G.W. North once said that, “when we are told something in confidence we should immediately choose to forget what we are told because if we don’t we will end up sharing with others things we were told in confidence- even in our preaching. Some will do it only they withhold the names of the parties involved. It is still breaking confidence.” (para.) To prevent this we have to determine not to ever remember the thing again unless God should specifically bring it before us. To tell the information is to sow discord. And discord is the enemy of unity.   

Paul writes, I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. This means that we must make a conscious decision not to go on speaking of things that are contributing to the disunity of believers. The enemy likes to take things and run with them until the Holy Spirit is grieved and God is no longer moving in our midst. We must be careful about what we say, pondering how the words might effect the church we are part of. We must consciously decide that we will not traffic in secrets, but with all lowliness and gentleness will bear with one another in love. In this way we will cultivate an environment where God can move in the meetings as each person is able to worship and seek the Lord in peace.    

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