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    147
    HISTORICAL REMINISCENCES

    Understanding Yesterday Through Today

    Only Jesus Saves

    The central dogma of the New Covenant Church of God is that Jesus saves, and that only Jesus saves. In the early days of the Church, when revelation poured out of heaven so fast that it seemed they would never end, this central truth was sometimes missed by the first New Covenant Christians who were caught up in the euphoria of what was happening around them. Aware of the tendency of people to quickly lose their focus and centre, the Lord said in an early revelation:

      "There are some of you with whom I am not pleased, for ye have received the...scriptures I have brought forth like unto idols; ye have cast away your old idols and received new ones, saith the Lord, which thing is an abomination to Me. Ye should have grown in love for Me and for each other, for the centre of this New Covenant is not the new scriptures BUT YOUR LORD AND SAVIOUR, even He who speaketh unto you now. Do ye suppose that ye will be saved by the [new scriptures]? Do ye still not understand? I give unto you more scripture that ye might surrender yourselves more fully to Me, and become living Scriptures, for this is the work of the Firstborn. Know ye not that [the new scriptures] shall pass away, and all scriptures? But if ye are founded in Me, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the true pattern and doctrine of heaven, then your hopes will never be dashed, but ye shall arise in the morning of the first resurrection clothed only with the pure love of Christ; and ye shall speak My words, for I shall be in you, and ye in Me...."

    In 1988 the Church was told what its foundational scriptures were:

      "Ye have the writings of the New Covenant, even the New Testament, and they are true, for they bear witness of the words of Messiah and His acts."

    Scriptural Approaches

    From the very beginning of the New Covenant work the apostles and prophets have taught the following:

    • (1) That the highest verbal truth is the actual words of Jesus Christ in the New Testament, for this is our historical witness of God in the flesh. Therefore the actual words of Jesus are our first line of truth-statements;
    • (2) Our "second line of truth-statements" are from those whom Jesus commissioned and personally taught -- His apostles -- whether in the flesh or (like Paul) by revelation. In short, the rest of the New Testament;
    • (3) Our "third line of truth-statements" have been the revelations of God through His prophets in the Old Testament. {We have included in the first definition the direct words of God like the Ten Commandments because they were written by His own finger};
    • (4) Finally, our "fourth line of truth-statements" have been all the other scriptures we have used, especially the former Covenants & Commandments (soon to be replaced by The Olive Branch).

    Over the years the fourth category has been trimmed right back as their need has diminished. Their function, as was then stated, was to illuminate that which we already had in the Bible but which was not always easy to understand. As these truths became written into the hearts of the first generation of New Covenant ministers, so the written record of them disappeared, for their truths were repeated by the Holy Spirit in the words of God's servants.

    Misunderstanding Modern Revelation

    Modern revelation is a controversial matter and it is not always readily understood. There were many misunderstandings in the early New Covenant Church -- another good reason for ending the revelations so that future misunderstandings might be avoided. As Jesus' parables were often misunderstood by those not endowed with the spirit of prophetic interpretation, so too were many of the early revelations of the New Covenant.

    One of the common causes of misinterpretation was the view which many of the first members brought with them concerning the nature of revelation. Schooled in the evangelical mind-frame which teaches that all the scripture is plenary and infallible, explaining that revelations are more often than not conceptual, proved a daunting task.

    Conceptual revelation is revelation in which the prophet chooses his own words as he tries to describe a "concept" which the Holy Spirit places in his mind. Sometimes he fumbles for words as he tries to match language with that which in effect transcends language. Sometimes he makes mistakes. The prophet himself is also a kind of filter, sometimes distorting the message by emphasising (or even exaggerating) one part of the concept which appeals to him whilst minimising another which does not. In other words, his "translation" is, to some extent, tainted by his own desires. It is only through experience that he learns to totally separate his own desires and expectations from the concept given him and thus render it in such a manner as to be virtually 100% pure.

    The Training of Prophets

    Young prophets easily fall victim to this, and thus their earlier attempts at speaking prophetically often appear weak and less convincing than that which they bring forth later in their maturity. In many ways "young prophets" are dangerous for they can become carried away by vain confidence and make statements which are a mixture of the Word of the Lord and their own. It is for this reason that prophets in the New Covenant Church of God are given intense training so that they may learn to discern and report accurately that which the Holy Spirit gives them. Regrettably, the works of mature prophets are often rejected because of the "muddy" works of their earlier years.

    When Scriptures Become Tainted

    We define everything around us in terms of our philosophy -- religious or secular -- of life. New Covenant Christians come from many backgrounds but the first ones were mostly Mormons and Reorganized Latter Day Saints. The Mormons amongst us used to define things in Mormon terms because they had Mormon theological and eschatological expectations. The later New Covenant Church of God has, by contrast, drawn most of its converts from an evangelical Christian background as old Mormon ideas have been eluted out by new revelation, and these members, in their turn, have brought with them their evangelical theological and eschatological expectations. Those from other backgrounds -- Eastern Orthodox, Jehovah's Witness, and others, have brought similar beliefs. As each of these have begun to experience the prophetic gift, so their revelations have been tainted to some extent by their former beliefs.

    The spiritual lenses through which we observe and interpret life, scripture, revelation, etc.. are shaped, to some extent, by our upbringing, hopes, expectations and fears. Every one of us coming into this world comes "pre-formed" but none of us are alike. Even as small children we see how different we are. We are influenced by our culture, our family upbringing, our likes, dislikes, fears, hopes, etc.. All of these things colour our vision of the world.

    The Arduous Paths We Must Sometimes Walk

    I began life ambivalent to Christianity but ended up hating it as a teenager. I have often speculated how I would have reacted if the Lord had appeared to me in person and not through the medium of a Chinese prophet when I was a little boy. My search for light and truth has been a long an arduous one. But only by wrestling with problems -- different theologies, teachings, etc., have I come to know what I do today. By constantly comparing and contrasting different teachings and getting to know the Word of God in the Bible have I arrived at what I now know to be true today.

    My testimony is not based on whether the early scriptures we used are true or not true because I do not measure truth in this way. I have never, for example, been able to open the Bible and say: "I know this book is true." I have never had such a testimony. I have never been told that a particular "Church" or "religious system" was "true". But I know for sure I have been gently led and guided as the Lord has expanded my understanding of things. Sometimes God has spoken directly to me with His own voice. I was told that Jesus is God in this way. I wasn't even searching for this truth -- the deity of Jesus Christ was not something I was investigating. At the time I was studying Buddhism! But God, in His wisdom, gave it to me at a time when I suppose I needed it. I do not question that need now -- it is one of the most valuable testimonies that I have!

    Another thing I have discovered is that in order to study something out one has got to be "in" it to some extent. I would never have learned what I did from Mormonism if I hadn't at one time believed. You can't learn anything if you are a sceptic. I could never have learned the plain and precious truths from evangelical Christianity if I hadn't believed in that. And before I became a Christian, or even interested in knowing if Christianity was true, God taught me through the only medium I loved and believed in -- nature. He can only teach us in those areas where our heart is open. If our heart is closed, we will, ipso facto, learn nothing.

    When I was a Mormon I believed. And because I believed, I grew. Those true principles I learned as a Mormon remain with me. Those which were not true -- a hefty chunk of my former beliefs -- have withered away. The Spirit never wrote them in my heart for they were but doctrinal propositions without life in them. The same has happened in my search through evangelical Christianity, Messianic Judaism, and many other systems of belief. The truth remains written in my heart, harmonised and integrated with what the Spirit has taught me previously. The rest has gone away.

    God's "Strange" Ways

    For one of our members the Book of Mormon was what got him out of the Jehovah's Witnesses. He was so starving for the Spirit that when he read the book he was filled with hope and fire! I myself was brought through an important stage in my "heart-testimony" of Jesus through a film written by a communist and which was full of his personal interpretations. I have also been brought closer to Christ through a Taoist book called the Tao Teh Ching. It is not, of course, a book of Christian truth but it contains aspects of Christian truth that have ministered to me.

    I have studied many books claiming to be scripture or from God, so many I have lost count. And each time I see the Light shining out of the Bible. The books, films and oral testimonies of people who have leavened my soul were all a vital part of my journey into Christ. They were not the truth itself, but pointers to it. And along the way I learned to discern the truth through the contrasts of different doctrines and teachings.

    As New Covenant Christians we do not endorse every verse of the Bible as being equal in light and truth to every other verse. We recognise that some concepts speak more deeply to the soul than others. That the Bible is inspired we do not doubt but we do not believe it is equally inspired everywhere. For us it is not the words that are the central truth in any case, for they are but pointers to a person whom we can come to know for ourselves. That person is, of course, Jesus Christ.

    When Scripture Speaks to Our Hearts

    Every lover of the Bible will admit, I think, that different scriptures attract us at different times according to our needs and receptivity. When we are unhappy we seek verses that console us. When we are joyful, we seek those that bring forth our praises. When we are searching for doctrinal truth, we seek out those which illuminate the mind. At different times of my life different parts of the Bible have shone more strongly than the others. As my needs have changed, so I am attracted to different parts of the Bible for spiritual ministry. And so it will always be. And as time flows by, so they all seem to blend together into a whole -- a synthesis -- reflecting the blending of the different parts of my soul into one, united whole. In time we come to experience Christ as One, as opposed to a jigsaw puzzle of different thoughts and emotions.

    When I look through the early revelations of the Church I must say that 30-50% of them do nothing for me now. But at the time these revelations were received I remember how much on fire I was, as were those who were with this Church in the beginning. These revelations - at least the early ones -- were a vehicle -- a launching platform -- into better, higher, purer, nobler and more Christ-centred realities.

    The Lenses We Look Through

    It is true that in the beginning we saw through the lenses of our Mormon backgrounds and, and it is true that the first revelations were coloured by those Mormon assumptions. We have never claimed the early revelations to be 100% pure nor have we ever set them alongside the Bible, though the Spirit in some parts of it (like the New Olive Leaves which remain published to this day) are every bit as powerful as some of the profoundest writings in the Bible. We were young, maturing prophets, making mistakes as we learned to lean ever more fully on the Lord.

    What many Christians do not realise is that the Bible emerged in a similar environment. The Protestant Canon has been fixed for the past few centuries, and the Catholic Canon a thousand years before. But the books in the Bible which we take for granted to be scripture existed alongside dozens of other books competing to be the written revelation of God. Though inspirational at the time, and doubtless of practical spiritual benefit to some as they spiritually matured, they have little attraction for us now for time has shown their comparative poverty in Spirit (not to mention their historical inaccuracy). Yet, in fact, many of the writers of the New Testament quote from these apocryphal works! Though the books as a whole are no longer used, those parts which were inspired -- and many parts are most certainly inspired -- have been clipped out and pasted into our canonical Bibles by the apostles and prophets.

    Sifting Through the Revelations

    What is happening in the New Covenant Church of God is not unlike that. Many of the early revelations of the Church are now no longer used but others -- as a whole and in parts -- have been clipped out and preserved by us because of their great spiritual worth.

    I know many people will have difficulties accepting such a scenario. For them a matter is either "fact" or "fiction", "truth" or "falsehood", "black" or "white". Alas, that is not the way things are in this mortal sphere, for such expectations belong to an immortal sphere which no man has enjoyed fully on the earth. Like it or not, most of life consists of different shades of grey -- of light mixed with darkness in different proportions. We "see but through a glass darkly." And if every man examines his heart honestly, he will find that it is grey. Some men's hearts may be greyer than others, but they are grey nonetheless. Only Jesus stands out as one whose heart was filled with pure Light where not a particle of darkness lay.

    For Pragmatism and Realism

    New Covenant Christians are known, by those who understand them, as a pragmatic, realistic people, even though we have been over-optimistic and na´ve at times. We are human, and cannot fully escape the frailties of the human condition, though at times it seems as though we do penetrate that immortal world and it feels as though heaven is on earth. Our endeavour, with God's blessing, is to make those occurrences more and more common, until they are commonplace.

    New Covenant Christians have also taught that salvation is a process, even though that process is composed of definitive saving "acts", like the time we are born again and accept Jesus as our Saviour. We have understood that the growing-up processes we see round about in nature are not at all dissimilar to those which occur on the spiritual plane. Nature is, as one Christian writer once remarked, the Christian's "other Bible". And so it is. Jesus often likened the spiritual growth process of both people and the Kingdom (Church) to the transformation of a seed into a tree, or the physical growth of a child into an adult. One very popular illustration of this growth in the New Covenant Church is that of the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a butterfly, an illustration we have obtained from one of the Church's favourite revelations called the New Olive Leaf III.

    Of Caterpillars and Butterflies

    The early revelations of this Church were a rather special diet and not one we would care to eat again. Caterpillars chew only leaves. Butterflies sip only nectar from flowers. What a difference! A butterfly won't be attracted to leaves any more and I doubt a caterpillar would think much of nectar. In the same way most of us who have been with this Church since its beginning no longer "eat" the leafy revelations of the early phase of our Church, for we have moved onto a finer nectar-like diet. Some of those revelations were nectar indeed, and these we still feast on. But many belong to the past.

    There is no doubt that the early revelations contain errors. That is inevitable. And that is why they have never been canonised. Like all writings, they must be tested over time and the parts of value extracted and preserved, and those of no further value discarded. This we have now done.

    From the very beginning of this work the Lord advised us that these things would happen. One of the earliest revelations says: "Be not so cautious that you cannot walk in faith, but neither be ye blind followers lest ye be led into a pit...There must needs be a balance in all things, even in faith in My servants. Therefore have I said: Try all things, hold fast to that which is true. And I, the Lord, will bless and lead you, and grant you eternal and never ending peace. Amen" (Uncanonised revelation, Holy Order Collection).

    In the same revelation it says: "Revelation need not be one hundred percent accurate, or of Me, to be of benefit to man. Thus let each weigh with wisdom the Oracles, visions, revelations, dreams and utterances of those that speak as if they speak from Me" (Ibid.).

    And a little earlier: "...all revelation comes not only according to the openness of the minds of men, but also according to their interests, needs, and desires. Wherefore I, the Lord, continually guide many, even though they do err continually in doctrine" (Ibid.).

    And finally: "My revelations are received through the mind of men and are thus tainted by the beliefs of that man. Blessed are they that leave behind themselves to receive My pure Word, these will I bless." (January 1983).

    The Foundation of the Church has been Laid

    The prophets have matured, and the new generation of prophets who will arise in the Church will similarly mature. Fortunately, the foundation of the Church has been laid and it will never have to go through the growth phases -- with all the dangers that come through mistakes -- it went through before. The generation that lived through that time, blessed by experience, and mercifully corrected by the Lord in the fires of humiliation and repentance, will teach these new prophets what they have learned and thus prepare the path for them. One or two head-strong ones will, of course, go their own way, and make big mistakes [1], be ground to dust by the Lord, and finally return to sit at the feet of the elder apostles and prophets. Some, who are too proud to repent, will go away and fall into a pit and never be seen again.

    To a caterpillar, a leaf is the ultimate need, desire and truth. To a butterfly it is not. I believe with all my heart that the revelations we received in the 1988-92 period of the Church administered to our needs at the time. It was not the whole truth and indeed contained things we did not need, and some things that were possibly not true. Leaves are still necessary even if we don't necessarily need to "eat" them anymore.

    The Scriptures and the Spirit

    The early Church was based very much on the witness of the new scriptures. The Church today is based on something very different -- the presence of the Spirit of the Lord. Today we do not witness of "new Scriptures" or try to win people by our doctrinal statements (no matter how true they may be). Today we invite people to partake of the Spirit that is among us. And this, we have found, is the most powerful witnessing tool of all. For it brings the hungry soul into direct contact with the Way, the Truth, and the Life, even the Lord Jesus Christ. It beings a living experience which can give him immediate ministry without the need of sifting through volumes of spiritual keys. The keys are used later when the mind begins to hunger for an explanation of what the heart is experiencing.

    So in a very real way the Church has been "turned on its head". Whereas before it said: "Look, here are new revelations from the Lord. Read them, and maybe He will bless you with His Spirit" (and sometimes He really did); today it says: "Be with us a while. Sense what is happening here. Sense the presence of the Holy Spirit. And when it has touched your heart, then look at the keys, that your mind might also be made free."

    Of course this is an over-simplification. No two people have identical needs and no two people are searching for identical things. But we can all be administered to by the same Spirit.

    Recently an ex-member sent a very long doctrinal, theological and philosophical treatise to some of our people in the hope of persuading them to leave this Church. He used the old ways of the caterpillar Church which has since vanished. Whilst those in the Church who read his letter admired the eloquence of his words they knew in their hearts that what he wrote was not true. They were sipping a finer nectar while what he offered them were diseased leaves.

    Our Greatest Testimony

    It is hard to write "history" in this way for I am not following the "historical method". The Gospels far too subjective in any case. Even though we believe we have a theology which is correct and internally harmonious -- which we can easily defend, and which (as readers of this magazine know) we do defend -- our greatest testimony is what we carry in our hearts, which is the final resting place of the New Covenant of Jesus Christ.

    Just before I left my homeland for Norway Jesus appeared before me at the end of my bed in a bright light. He was holding what looked like a huge rock about 1 meter square. The edges were rough and jagged. I knew that this represented the rock of truth that I would take with me to Norway. Since 1988 He has been polishing that rock, sometimes gently, sometimes painfully. But the core of New Covenant truth HAS NOT CHANGED. Our foundation is the same. Our earlier scriptures and revelations, and much else, have been chipped away and the rock polished. In place of revelations received by (mostly) one revelator we have several revelators now. I personally feel more confident and secure in my beliefs now than at any time in my life. I have never felt so peaceful with the body of truth we now have which we have been so busy codifying in the new Constitution.

    Caterpillar Droppings

    If our enemies want to chip away at the early revelations -- which some are now doing -- they are going to find plenty of errors. I guarantee it! But who wants to look at the caterpillar droppings on the leaf when there is a glorious nectar to be sipped? I have studied the "droppings" of religions and religious phases that have passed and I have found...droppings. 19th Century Mormonism is dead -- I have spent years trying to recreate it to find out the truth but I have never succeeded. Any one who tried to recreate the 1988-92 phase of the Church (or even the 1992-5 phase which is fast disappearing) won't find it. It's history. Why grovel around old leaves and droppings?

    Your Call to Christ and the Body

    In the past we invited people, who were already Christians for the most part, to read and pray about the revelations this Church received. If they obtained a testimony, as many did then (for that is how the Lord gathered the first members), they joined the Church. Today we do not do this. Today we do two things: (1) We preach the living Saviour, Jesus Christ, and invite them to put their faith in Him; and (2) We invite them to go to God and find out which part of the Body of Christ -- which Church -- they have been called into. We do not believe that everyone is called into this Church, and actually have never taught that. If they receive the witness of the Holy Spirit that they are called into the New Covenant Church of God -- as is today happening -- then we receive them into our family with open arms.

    Our mission as witnesses is really that simple now. We are not too concerned about preaching doctrine or theology, though we have plenty of that. What we have now is not so much keys of knowledge (though we have plenty of those) but a living Spirit. This is what the butterfly phase is all about. A soul seeking for Light really, then, has only two questions to ask himself:

      (1) Who is the Saviour of the world? and
      (2) Where, Lord, do you want me to be?

    Those of us who are in the New Covenant Church of God today -- who have braved the wilderness of the early years, experienced the purging fires of inner struggle with the Lord and outer persecution by people desirous to destroy us, know the answers to these questions. We have been through the theological debates ad nauseam and find no pleasure in them. To those who wish us ill, or who want to convert us to their ways, we say this to them: Bring your spirit to us that we may see it, not words with which to cloak that spirit. For we have learned to judge by the Spirit and not the words and philosophies of men.

    Now I have found that Spirit I am at rest. My theology may not be perfect but I believe it is almost as perfect as it can get in this life. I am satisfied that the groundwork of this Church has been laid according to the Lord's will, for I have had so many confirmations of that now. In the weeks that lead to our Holy Week I believe the final touches will be made to ready it for its world mission.

    Conclusion

    To conclude this very brief and personal reflection of early New Covenant history and the place to which we have come today, I will share a recent experience which has given me great joy.

    A few weeks ago while sitting on the train to work I saw a vision (NC&C 393). This was three days before the Church was to be split by a rebellion (itself prophesied some months before by two prophets in the Church independently of each other). I saw a beautiful flower made of four pale blue petals. As I watched this, the Hebrew letter waw () appeared alongside it. It seemed to a burn a bright white before it faded away leaving the blue flower alone, until it too faded away.

    I struggled for days to understood this vision but found no answer. Only today, on my way home, when I once again thought about it, did Psalm 119 flood into my mind, for it is divided up into sections, each one bearing one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I found Waw () which read:

      "May Your unfailing love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your promise; then I will answer the one who taunts me, for I trust in Your Word. Do not snatch the Word of Truth from my mouth, for I have put my hope in Your Law, for ever and ever. I will walk about in freedom, for I have sought out your precepts. I will speak of your statutes before kings and will not be put to shame, for I delight in Your commands because I love them. I lift up my hands to your commands which I love, and I meditate on Your decrees" (Ps.119:41-48, NIV).

    As I read these words a glow was kindled in my heart. I felt the warmth of His love, and I knew that I loved His Law! At a time when His Law has been vigorously attacked by former members (see various FAQ with 'Third Rebellion' attached to the titles), I see even more clearly how right it is. The years of hard labour have not been in vain and even now the fruit is coming forth.

    The New Covenant Church of God is, at last, emerging from its pupa. In the space of only a couple of months, big changes have taken place within the hearts of every member. There is a great inner stirring. We now await, with excitement, to see the winged glory that will emerge, praise be to Him who created it, for ever more. Amen.

    Endnotes

    [1] As indeed occurred in the Third Rebellion (1995-6)

    This page was created on 12 May 1998
    Last updated on 12 May 1998

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