KEYS OF THE KINGDOM: A GLIMPSE AT APOSTOLIC UNITY
By Wolfgang Simson from his 2008 newsletter.
Many will recall the FridayFax-issue (14/2007) titled “What is God waiting for?” In November last year we related the story of Neil Gamble who had angelic visitors telling him “we are waiting for you!”
You might want to know what happened since. What follows is an account of a meeting that, if we look at its inbuilt lessons, could throw open a very fascinating door to a realm of understanding the power of unity which goes far beyond our traditional understanding of Christian Oneness.
Unity is something we often sing and pray about, but that has been practically limited to exercises in regional prayer weeks, time-bound evangelistic rallies, mutual beneficial joint ventures or project based synergies.
Like many others in the body of Christ, Neil Gamble, an Oregon-based Bible teacher, loved around the world (http://www.fathershand.net/home.html) increasingly felt stronger that something is very wrong, absent, missing, truly and fundamentally at odds in the church. Responding to years of agonizing prayer over these issues, he recently felt that God, in a number of visions and visitations, communicated to him: “The church is in sin;” and: “I am waiting for the church”. Not surprisingly, Neil heard a commission from God to “bring them together!”
In December 2007, a small but significant number of Christian leaders, mostly from the US, but in between themselves fairly broadly connected and globally networked, came together in Colorado Springs in a private home to spend three days of corporate and prayerful listening to respond to Neil Gamble’s initiative to get together before God. There was no agenda other than responding to God’s clear challenge and finding an answer to the question: “What, therefore, should we do?”
As the three days moved along without any one of us preplanning a specific outcome, and having agreed beforehand that “if we start with strategy in the beginning, this meeting is dead before it starts!”, these are, in hindsight, the steps that we felt God was taking us through to achieve what he wanted us to do:
1. “Whatever the father does, the son does” (John 5:19). Acting on a truly godly mandate “to bring them together” is very different from yet another conference-as-we-know-it to hear X from ministry Y to speak on Z. Rather than asking God to bless what we are doing, we need to do what God is blessing. And he blesses only what he himself has authorized and what is done in direct individual and corporate obedience to his mandates.
2. Apostolic-prophetic foundation (Eph 2:20). There is, absolutely, a priesthood of all believers, but not an “apostle-hood” or “prophet-hood” of all believers. The role of these traditionally sidelined and ignored ministries in opening up space, initiating and foundation laying is pivotal (1 Cor. 12:28 etc) and cannot be substituted by anything or anyone else. This initiative, a very significant and true rarity, was taken by prophetic and apostolic people acting in tandem. In addition to this, rather than calling folks to come together to find out what an already existing “we” (and entity like an institution, network, church, mission, group…) should do to preserve, save or expand itself, the group of people represented a passion for the church at large and the future development of the Kingdom.
Most, if not all, present were non-political leaders that would not think of demanding or even usurping prominent leadership roles, and who could all be described as fairly humble, powerless, broken and weak vessels. If at all they have leadership functions in the Body of Christ, then not by their positional authority but by their influential character.
3. Kingdom introductions. Rather than introducing people to each other the human way we are so used to (this is x who has written y number of books and planted z number of churches), we specifically spent significant time in the beginning in asking Jesus the King to introduce us the way He sees us. For this, we spent time asking God to describe us to each other by corporate prophetic revelation.
Practically, this meant 4-6 people describing what they heard from God about an individual. This was not another attempt at prophecy, for the sake of individual enlightenment or encouragement, but to help each other discern who each one was “according to the grace God has given”, and to relate to each other according to our kingdom roles. It is easy to miss who we are in the spirit if we deliberately impress each other by the things that the flesh likes to hear. This has a number of remarkable outcomes: if the King trusts a person, so can we. And if the King himself says X is a prophet and Y an apostle, then we can welcome them in a prophet’s name or reap an apostle’s reward.
4. “Give it all up.” In a most remarkable challenge to us, we felt God was asking us to each one step into the middle of the room and lay anything and everything down that we felt truly defined us.
This was His challenge: to remove any unconscious idolatry, deliver us from the pursuit of any selfish ambition and the idolatrous trap where something else other than God, gives us identity, security and destiny. Serving our own ministry rather than God, demonstrating and parading our own giftings to reap recognition, significance or even the danger of simply being a “hired hand” (at whichever level) to fit into a pre-existent entity (church, mission etc) can absolutely wrap up our own existence into predetermined issues. And this means we can easily become warped, biased, preoccupied, partial and self-assuming.
Only as we willingly lay down what we hold on to, we can become empty vessels into which the Lord can pour out something new. To be absolutely clear: most of the time the reason we hold on to such things like positions, roles in organizations, traditions, titles etc. is because of the financial identity and security they offer. But the truth is, we either live by faith or by calculation (or “by sight”).
God seriously challenged us to voluntarily accept a personal “Ground Zero”, to die to
ourselves, sacrificing “our Isaacs” and allowing Him to remove anything (visions, expectations, special roles, pet ideas etc) that we ourselves - or others - have placed on our shoulders. This created a clean slate, a situation where no one in the room any more represented anything - and therefore we all had an invitation to corporately enter into what we felt was an “open heaven”, a free access to the throne room of God, having stopped waving our offensive self created banners, flags and logos into the face of the King.
5. “Who may stand in his holy place?” We all knew that only “he who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does not lift up his soul to an idol” could ever do that (Psalm 24). So this opened a time of cleaning up, clearing the air, whether regarding interpersonal or cultural issues.
6. “Open the gates!” Many of us had seen prophetically a huge gate that was locked with an elaborate mechanism. It took all our corporate efforts to have it opened, and it did. We know gates represent government. As the “Gates of Hades”, the government of the demonic domain, will be unable to stand against a true kingdom-shaped ecclesia that the Lord himself builds (Mt 16:18), someone needs to tell the gates, the ancient doors, to be lifted up, so that the King of glory may come in (Ps 24:7).
This is where we felt we were allowed to do a corporate act of “opening the gates”, binding the strong man (Lk 11) and asking the Lord for the salvation and discipleship of many hundreds of millions of currently enslaved captives to escape into freedom, for a divine “prison break.”
7. “Let there be...!” In such a situation we felt that God gave us a unique and almost unexperienced place of authority to not only intercede and request from him, but declare our corporate intent in terms of the future spiritual direction for the church in the USA in the face of the “rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms”, the demonic government (Eph 3:10).
Jesus said: “I will do whatever you ask in my name” (John 14:15), and, having our own name (our ministry, our church, our agendas) removed from the equation, we felt we were given a carte blanche to corporately bring before him our “wish list”.
This, however, had to be absolutely in line with God’s purposes. Making ourselves one as the heart-to-heart unity in Acts 1, this led to a time of “corporate decreeing”, speaking new realities into existence and declare with one voice: “Let there be light, salvation, unity, transparency, accountability” etc.
A biblical precedence for this experience may have been Moses, who was first confronted by God to throw down the rod (his only symbol of status and strength in the desert) in his hand. It turned into a repelling snake which later he took “by the tail” (the wrong way is the right way) to see it turn into a rod again, but then it was no longer the “rod of Moses”, but the “rod of God” (Ex 4:20).
Later, trapped between the advancing Egyptian army and the Red Sea, loud intercession was not enough, but God said to Moses: “Why do you cry out so loud to me! Use your rod to divide the water…!” (Ex 14:15). Simply said: God allowed us to use our corporate rod. Many of us experienced this part as very intense, and it felt as if this time was initiating an untold number of spiritual developments for which the angels of God seem to have been waiting for a long time.
8. Dealing with demonic backwash. Few of us could sleep that night. One of us experienced a clear satanic presence as demonic eyes were trained on him. He said to the demon: “Do whatever mischief you have to do, because your time is running out!” Similar to D-Day in the Normandy that led up to V-Day, we felt God has allowed us to score a significant victory in the face of fierce demonic opposition and establish a spiritual beachhead that now has to be extended.
As the enemy was forced to retreat he pulled off angry shots at anything that moved and that was unprotected, and he tried to devour anyone to which God gave him license to (similar to the family of Job), a prowling lion on the run.
The news of the very next morning was that a young man on a demonic rampage had shot people at the YWAM base in Denver, and then was driving up to a church (New Life Fellowship) in Colorado Springs to do the same, before being shot himself. This seemed to be one more sign and symbol for the intense life-and-death spiritual battle that is raging for the nation of the USA. However, as the demonic domain is a defeated enemy - since the complete victory of Jesus in the desert, at the cross and his resurrection - this victory has now to be appropriated and applied, similarly to the promised land, that has been first promised by God, but then had to be taken in a corporate effort in the days of Joshua.
Pass on the process. What God communicated to us at this event - something he could not have done if we would just seek him individually - needs to now be passed on to others.
Only a legitimate church that is not stubborn in her sin, a church (mission, foundation, trust) that does not only sing and preach “Lord, Lord” but is in fact obedient to its King, and a church that learns to act as one and “use her rod” as ambassadors on behalf of her King, that is, act in healthy apostolic unity and determination, will see the discipling of all nations done, and will do so quickly.
God seemed to have shown us in a few bewildering days a simple but not at all simplistic way to use the “keys of the kingdom” (Mt 16:19). Experiencing this retreat was for all of us a surprising token of what God wants to do through all of us in the future, and do so everywhere.
These are, in summary, some of the lessons we felt we have learned and need to pass on:
• Repentance. If God is waiting for the church to be - and therefore do - something that she has not been - and therefore done - before, our urgent and diligent corporate action is required. We need to become someone we have not been before, and do things we have not done before. True repentance leads to:
• Repositioning. Organized mostly by men, the church and its mission has to return to her divine order, rearranged according to God’s original design and returning to His apostolic and prophetic foundations that have been ignored and ill respected for too long. However, “only dead apostles and prophets are good apostles and prophets”, meaning that un-crucified, unbroken, strong and triumphant self-ordination into these ministries are not the solution, but rather part of the problem.
• Representation. We cannot represent God on our own. individual missions, projects, foundations, churches or even individuals may pray, preach, plan, declare and decree whatever they fancy, but to very little avail. Only a united and therefore legitimate church that has stopped legitimizing and marketing itself and has again become attached to its head can functionally represent God to the rulers of darkness and to this world.
• Rod. Kingdom authority comes only through those that have voluntarily placed themselves under the authority of the King, and therefore painstakingly seek to do only what he bids us to do. In such a case, heaven is the limit for what can be achieved, and no longer our self-limitations.
• Rulership of God. If we define the Kingdom of God as the domain of God’s uncontested rule, the current church - and missions - is a domain where God’s absolute rule is very much contested by men.
Rather than basing Christian behaviour on a democratic mind-set in which everyone does as he likes and if he likes (like in the days of the judges where Israel was without a king and “everyone did as he saw fit”), we need to voluntarily return to the royal rulership of Christ and “seek first his Kingdom and its constitution”, the righteous declarations and commands of Jesus, its King.
God wants a God-shaped church, we want a church-shaped God
As we seek to see ourselves and each other newly with the eyes of God and if we give up everything that defines us in human terms and start seeking corporately to hear God’s agenda for us, He will transform us into an apostolic people yet again, a species of destiny that will reach His goals, a species that again acts in apostolic unity.
Should we choose to ignore this, and remain - seemingly safely funded, employed and religiously entertained - in a fragmented, rebellious and self catering state, the helpless captives of our own opinionatedness and our democratic, anti-monarch and therefore Kingdom-opposing mindset, we will remain trapped in systems conflict:
God wants to do something to and through the church, that He cannot do because of the present state of the church - and her missionary expressions. In other words: God wants a God-shaped church, we want a church-shaped God. In such a case we will remain loud but powerless, seen but unblessed, heard but ignored, noticed but ridiculed, busy but fruitless, successfully executing our ineffective projects, excitedly wasting millions of lives, hours and dollars, while slipping into a perplexing spiritual oblivion while the world cries in increasing agony for true spiritual direction, having sadly turned away from church-as-we-know-it decades ago.
The choice is ours. Let us repent, alone and corporately, truly returning to God, His ways, His book, and church as God wants it, and hand ourselves over to His reign for that purpose. He loves us, and He knows better than us what to do with us. Only He can make us to become the people of destiny that he originally designed us to be.
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