JOY THROUGH FIRE
A Sermon Given to the Oslo Local Colony
Sunday 2 October 1994
Brethren and sisters, I welcome you in the name of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ to this new meeting hall in Amerud where the Oslo local Colony symbolically begins the next phase of its spiritual journey. To our visitors today, a special welcome -- may the Lord bless you with a prophetic vision of the work that we in the New Covenant have been called to do and may you share and enjoy in the spirit of the saints.
Since starting work again in August in a new location and with a new travelling schedule, I have found and exploited a golden 20 minute "Bible Time" as I travel on the underground. As I spend four hours a day traveling to and from work, which represents nearly a full 24 hours' traveling a week, I felt that I should pay the Lord my "tithe" in this area and not just sleep or rest. This 20 minute investment has paid me spiritual dividends that I could not have imagined before I started it this autumn. I resolved I would read through the entire Bible again, going through it with a tooth-pick, as it were, reading a chapter or two a day and studying it intensely. And perhaps even more importantly for me, I decided I would especially study those parts I have traditionally overlooked because they did not seem interesting or relevant to my situation in the past.
The result is that I have found them both interesting and relevant, more than I dreamed possible. My Bible is now more heavily marked than at any time previously as I discover a mine of spiritual gems, and tucked away in the most unlikely corners.
The New Covenant Church of God is going through an extraordinarily exciting transition phase as we prepare to make the first gathering to Zion. Never before have the people been so electrified and yet so at peace and harmony. With all the new and exciting discoveries and possibilities have also come new hardships -- which we expected, of course, and which we were forewarned about in prophetic visions -- and we have new problems to solve. Perhaps that is why I have been "rediscovering" my Bible particularly at this time.
Paul's Second Epistle to the Corinthians has never been one of my favourite books of scripture because it always seemed to me to address a local situation with its unique problems and therefore appeared to have little relevance to us. But now it has opened its doors to me at a time when I consider that the Church has entered into its phase of mature discipleship (see my address of the same name).
History, it seems, is cyclical, and I have noticed how events of the past have repeated themselves in my life, albeit in different circumstances. The New Covenant as a whole, including the local Colonies and especially the Holy Order, is now entering its seventh year. The number 7, as you will know from Biblical numerology, is an important one, representing as it does the idea of "completion" or "wholeness". It is one of God's special numbers, like 3 and 12. Likewise, the Church is going through its third year of growing up. Soon it will be 3 years old.
A Prophetic Dream: The Train Journey
I have perhaps told you before of a prophetic dream I had about a train journey where I found myself in the middle part of three trains. The middle train had caught up the first train, and the third train was steaming at great speed towards the other two. The middle Church of Christ is reunited with the Holy Order and the outer Church (local Colonies) has almost caught up the other two. The Holy Order has just about entered into the number "7" (which it will do in April 1995, next year) and the outer Church (local Colonies) into the number "3" (which it will do at the same time). What does this mean? It means that the three parts of this great work are about to perfectly merge together as one; it means that for the first time in our history the Church, although still not fully organised because of a lack of people, is working as it should. Which brings me to the other divine number, 12, whose significance our people are now, I believe, beginning to understand. Just as there will be a full quorum of 12 apostles in this work one day, so now there will soon be a full quorum of 12 apprentice patriarchs and matriarchs by next April.
What has been the spiritual effect of all this "merging"? Well, apart from the fruits of peace, love and unity, there has been a real sense of divine guidance. By that I do not mean that this people has suddenly started to receive revelation, because it always has done; rather, it is to say that the engine of the spirit is now gently purring rather than spluttering on and off as it used to. Practically speaking it means that whereas before we fumbled very much in the dark, enjoying giant flashes of light from time to time, now we are standing in a constant light that is gradually getting brighter and brighter. This has always been the goal and the desire of the Holy Order and now, praise God, we are seeing it happen in reality. The Church motor, which is gently purring, is soon to be revved up as our mission in the world gets truly underway.
We truly have much to celebrate about but it would be wrong to ignore those who have not found unity, peace and love with us and have gone their own way. Their loss has been particularly painful, more so, I suspect, when those souls have been our own flesh-and-blood. Many have come to this work with the wrong motives or have simply found the path too hard. For the latter especially, and for those who will come afterwards and struggle, I have a message of hope.
The Calling of the Twelve
First, let us begin briefly with the 12 , the invisible leadership of this Church whose calling is to sacrifice all for the Kingdom and to be servants wherever they are needed. Of them, and to them, the apostle Paul says: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?" (Rom.8:35). And what does the apostle give as his answer? "No, in all these things we are MORE THAN CONQUERORS through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (v.37-39). Who here amongst this congregation will say "Amen" to that? [Amen!] My heart rejoices to hear you say that!
A Church of Fire
For those of you who do not know very much about us I will briefly mention now that the New Covenant Church is a church of fire. By that I mean we do not accommodate a lukewarm gospel, if such may even be said to exist. We know that anything but red-hot spiritual fire is spiritual death. Now I must explain that to you. There are two kinds of red-hot fire, and one is of Christ and the other is of man.
Two evenings ago my children and I had a big bonfire in the garden getting rid of rubbish and old newspapers. I love bonfires, my father did too. It got really hot, with flames leaping high into the air and even threatening the low branches of a nearby tree. At times the children were a bit reckless and nearly burned themselves so I had to reprimand them strictly. Once the paper stopped coming, the fire died out. It was bright, pleasant to the eye, potentially dangerous, and over very quickly.
This kind of fire is, in my opinion, a good picture or symbol of a type of Christianity that God does not like. It is loud, noisy, exuberant, uncontrolled and dangerous. Out of such fires can come a spirit of blind fanaticism and dogma.
Last summer we had a party at my home for the children of the Church. I made a grill fire using charcoal. I poured some inflammable liquid over it and lit it. There was a sudden flash of flame and then it seemed to go out. At first I thought the fire had gone out altogether but as I put my hand nearby I noticed the coal was very hot. Indeed it got so hot that after a while I couldn't get near it. Later we were grilling sausages on it.
Well, that second fire is by far the better picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This is a fire that is constantly roasting hot and it burns for a very long time, namely, eternity. All you have to do is replenish the fire with the charcoal of faith, hope and love from time to time. There are no big, flashy flames, just a constant, roaring heat. If you want a picture of the New Covenant Church of God, that is the best picture I can give you.
Gifts and the Holy Spirit
We believe in all the spiritual gifts but we don't force them or expect them. Gifts are manifestations, however, not the Spirit itself. The local Colonies of the New Covenant Church of God are indirectly steered or governed by the Holy Order through the apostolate, an invisible body of highly committed, loving and disciplined Christians who have sacrificed everything for the Kingdom. They govern by example and by the spiritual influence that is in them, and not by outer forms of authority. They do not wave certificates at you because they know that their authority is spiritual, not outer. Through their love and sacrifice, they keep the fire of the Church burning, by being intercessors. Because they fear and hate to be in the limelight, incase they should inadvertently rob God of the glory which belongs to Him alone, their identities are never revealed to the world or local Colonies. They seek no personal glory. They are strictly accountable in their behaviour and are ejected from the Order if they do not obey the commandments faithfully.
The fire, as I said, is hot in this Church, as it was in the first Christian Church. This is the same fire that struck Annanias and Saphira dead when they tried to cheat God of their tithes and offerings. This kind of Christianity is not liked by alot of people who think we should be more accommodating of modern liberal ideas which say that people should be allowed to "do their own thing". But whilst we passionately believe in love, gentleness, loving-kindness, forgiveness, long-suffering, patience, and all that identifies Christ's disciples as His sheep, we also passionately believe in strictness, discipline, obedience, and a courageous and energetic ministry, and all that identifies Christ's disciples as His lions. For we see in the scriptures a dual image or picture of Jesus Christ -- that of passive sheep and that of a victorious conqueror-lion -- the lion of Judah.
Maintaining the correct balance of these two images is one of our highest priorities, for too much of one leads to weakness and spiritual impotence, and too much of the other leads of authoritarianism, dogma, intolerance and spiritual death. The Holy Order maintains that balance.
On the surface the New Covenant Christians don't look particularly "fiery" but then that is because we are more like the grill-fire than the bonfire that I spoke of earlier. Like an invisible current of water moving slowly and powerfully out of sight, so the fire of the New Covenant is a powerful, invisible energy -- strong and stable. We do not have the big "ups and downs" that charismatic churches often have -- we have been through that developmental phase and have left it far behind. There are no solo charismatic personalities steering the Church and seeking a personal following, for such is anathema to us.
The fire of this New Covenant will get hotter as it prepares itself for the difficult times that lie ahead. Like an oven with a dial which you can turn to different temperatures, so the New Covenant is divided up into different degrees of "spiritual heat" to meet the needs of every kind of personality and temperament. Out here in the local Colonies the heat is, comparatively speaking, quite low, though those who are a part of it know that compared with other churches it is very hot.
Breaking-in the Saints
For those who are struggling, no matter what their problems, there is ministry to be found provided they are willing to be disciplined. Our wild and rebellious natures must be broken rather like a wild horse must be broken in before it can be ridden; only once that has been done, can the fruits of a victorious spiritual life in Christ truly be experienced. All the gods of the world and our fleshy natures are burned in the New Covenant fire until they are no more. Your choice is to remain in it or go away to some more "flashy" fire such as is offered by some of the charismatic groups, or to some lukewarm half-gospel in the churches that have compromised with the world; or indeed back to the world and its darkness. Whoever you are, you are free to choose.
The New Covenant has been through great hardship to get where it is now. Like those ancient forests which died and were compressed into coal over long periods of time, so have the souls of the saints had to die to self and be compressed into a spiritual fuel. And remember this -- with more compression, comparatively inexpensive coal turns to valuable diamond! The same substance that was our old selves, worthless before God because of sin, has become compressed into something of infinite worth -- redeemed souls in Christ!
We invite all those who are seeking after the fullness of a life in Christ to come into the fire. If your hearts are true and honourable your hearts will be warmed and gladdened; if you are not, you will surely run or be roasted alive.
May the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ, full of love and power, be exalted here today in our worship, song and study, is my prayer, in Jesus's Name. Amen.
 This is not the Twelve Apostles, which had not been called at this time, but twelve souls called to spearhead the drive to Kadesh. Of these, five were to fall away.
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