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    191
    A PARABLE OF THE CHURCH

    A Warning to Headstrong Spiritual Youth
    In the Shadow of the Third Rebellion

    Once upon a time there was a shepherd who owned a sheepfold. Because the sheep had a tendency to wander he built a fence in order to keep them safe from the rocky crevices in the surrounding mountains.

    Now the shepherd had a son full of the vigour of youth. When he saw the sheep penned in he felt sorry for them, and thought: "If only they could be free to wander in the mountains as I do." His father, sensing his son's intentions, spoke kindly to him, saying: "Son, I know that you feel sorry for the sheep because they are confined, but you must understand that this is for their own good."

    But the son did not believe him, for he was full of the vigour of youth. Therefore one day he disobeyed his father and set the sheep free. At first the sheep were happy for they found new grazing pastures but at length it became dark and many lost their way.

    The son called out to them, but because the sheep did not know his voice, they did not listen to him but continued to wander aimlessly in the dark. That night several fell to their deaths over precipices and some were devoured by wild animals.

    The Fence of the Covenants

    Brethren and sisters, the fence of this Church is the covenants of the temple. They have been revealed from heaven to keep you safe. Without doubt those who have been released from these covenants through rebellion and self-will have, in the beginning felt an enormous surge of freedom and release. This is always so when we decide not to obey rules we don't like any more by blaming men as their inventors. But that initial joy at finding freedom, as they at first suppose, eventually turns to disaster. Only later, after much suffering, do they understand that what may appear to be limiting is, in fact, our true freedom.

    I say these things to you as sober warning of the consequences of following the way of the son in this parable. There are many of you who in your spiritual youthfulness and ignorance, are now declaring that the covenants and commandments of this Church belong to the "Old Covenant" and that you ought to be free of them. You are wrong. The covenants and commandments are the fence that preserve you in the true freedom of Christ.

    Early Church Factions

    In the early days of the New Covenant Church of God there was what I call a "conservative" group that dominated, for they hoped that the New Covenant would be a form of ultra-orthodox Restorationism. Over time this group reduced in size, either leaving the Church because it did not meet their expectations, or remaining behind to experience the leavening of the Spirit.

    We now find ourselves at the opposite swing of the pendulum with a liberal neo-evangelical Christian group calling for a new Church free of the temple, covenants and authority structures which they feel is fencing them in. I would even go so far to say that there are some neo-protestants among us. They are maintaining that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is by grace alone, that everyone must be free, without fences, to come and know Christ and live the Gospel as they are moved by the Spirit. This teaching is not only false but as equally dangerous as the neo-Restorationist teaching that it has replaced.

    A lawyer once asked the Saviour what he should do to inherit eternal life. The answer was: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart...and thy neighbour as thyself" (Lk.10:25-28, AV). But this is not the only commandment that carries the promise of eternal life. Numerous others, such as enduring to the end, obedience, and sacrifice, similarly include this blessing.

    False Voices in the Church

    There is a new spirit competing for attention in the Church -- it is the challenge to be "more loving". It sounds a beautiful clarion call and would be were it being presented in the way it should be -- in terms of obedience, endurance and sacrifice. It is, moreover, being proclaimed by some as though they were the first to discover it and that no-one else ever knew. It is being used, not as a the balm to bring the covenants and commandments to fulfilment but as a crowbar to smash them down.

    Moses once told the Israelites that the commandments were their wisdom, their understanding, their life, their greatness, and their closeness to God (Deut.4:5-8; 5:33). Fifteen centuries later, Jesus said simply: "If ye love Me, keep My commandments" (John 14:15, AV).

    Obedience is Love

    The New Covenant has never apologised for its teaching that obedience to the commandments of Jesus is love. We have taught, contrary to the popular liberal philosophy of the West which says "follow your feelings", that feelings are an unreliable, and often dangerous, barometer of love.

    Instead, we seek to fulfil the commandment of Jesus who said: "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.." (Matt.28:19-20, RSV). Or, to put the words in the true sense that Jesus meant, which is not always clear because we have used certain words subconsciously without always comprehending their meaning: "Go therefore and make converts from all nations and put them under discipline...teaching them to be obedient to the commandments and covenants of the Gospel".

    Coming Under Discipline

    Bring them under discipline and put them within the fence of the commandments and covenants. As true followers of Jesus Christ we are therefore commanded to teach whatsoever He has commanded.

    Furthermore, awareness of the promises -- the blessings, and cursings -- that accompany God's commandments is vital. You can't just focus on the blessings and ignore the consequences. God does not capriciously hand out blessings to favoured children; we ourselves determine, by our behaviour and our hearts how blessed we are. In other words, we can choose some blessing or achievement and set about to receive it at the Lord's hand, though God determines the nature and extent of our blessings. Often, in fact, promises are the natural result of obeying or not obeying a specific commandment.

    Though the number of commandments and promises in the Bible may appear overwhelming, we are not expected to absorb them all at once. The Lord has given us "line upon line, precept upon precept" (Isa.28:10). The Holy Order, restored to the earth by revelation, has been given for this purpose -- to point out, illuminate, and integrate the commandments in a comprehensible and realizable way, to bring the promises to fulfilment not just individually but, even more importantly, communally. The whole Holy Order is like a skeleton on which the commandments and promises associated with them are arranged in a comprehensible and memorisable way. It has been revealed from Heaven to enable members of enjoy the promises of all the commandments and not just the ones they are aware of or are particularly attracted to. This is, as we have said from the beginning, a whole or complete Church. We present all the Gospel, not just the parts that people like.

    Limitations of the New Testament

    And you won't obtain it just by studying the New Testament -- this is a Protestant fallacy. The New Testament was not created to be a manual -- it is an assortment of Gospels and sometimes unconnected letters. It is not a Church Constitution or a doctrinal treatise. Indeed, we only know about certain practices in the New Testament Church because Paul was forced to write about them because they were being done wrong, such as the Lord's Supper. We know there are many missing letters of Paul, and doubtless of the other apostles. Anyone who tries to reconstruct the New Testament Church and its way of life purely on the basis of the New Testament will not arrive at the fullness. Yes, it is enough to bring an earnest seeker after truth to the elementary principles -- the milk Gospel -- but not to the meat.

    Mixing Milk with Meat

    Many of you here have come out of a Mormon background and were taught a distorted Gospel. Some of you never even knew about the "milk Gospel" and that is why NCCF [1992-96] was formed, to enable you to do so without all the clutter of your various religious backgrounds. Praise God many, if not all of you, have now discovered the milk. So what are you doing? You are rejecting the meat! In your new-found freedom in Christ -- in the exhilaration of coming to know Him in a way that the Mormons or Jehovah's Witnesses never taught you -- you are forgetting that this is just the milk and are mistakenly calling it the meat! Like a youth discovering new found abilities and freedoms, you think you can conquer the world!

    I understand this is difficult for many of you. I understand the exhilaration of coming to know the Lord in this way. But I also understand -- because I have lived through it -- that you are exchanging the meat Gospel (which you did not understand) for the milk one (which now you do understand).

    Let me illustrate. To become an athlete you have to be good. You have to have certain qualities. You run, you win a race or two in amateur competitions, and you feel on top of the world! You later come to realise that this is just the beginning and that to be a professional you have to put in back-breaking training.

    One Salvation, Many Rewards

    Brethren and sisters, there is only one salvation, and that salvation is in Jesus Christ, but there are different rewards in heaven. These are stated in the New Testament. There are many heavens, many degrees of glory. Paul describes different kinds of resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15 which are received according to our faithfulness here on earth. He likens then to the sun, the moon and the stars. He even describes a fourth resurrection, that of the damned. Elsewhere in the Bible we read of seven heavens and of "many mansions". Heaven is not one place where all believers pour into indiscriminately. And John describes a special degree of heaven made of 144,000 souls, what Paul calls the Church of the Firstborn. Brethren and sisters, have you forgotten all of these things? I hope not. But I will remind you anyway. To qualify for these degrees of glory there are conditions to be fulfilled. And since they exist, and God created them, you can be certain that He desires His children to enjoy the very best.

    Puzzle-Building or Relationship

    How will you know what the conditions are for these kingdoms if you apply a hit-and-miss approach to the commandments? It is not enough to read through the New Testament, or pour over it with a Data Bible as many of you are now doing, important those these activities are. The scriptures are not pieces in a jig-saw puzzle which you must fit together, like the Jehovah's Witnesses try to do -- they are the most expert scriptural puzzle builders on earth, and what a mess they have made of it! The Scriptures and your personal relationship with God are not enough, because God knew that no single individual could possible have the overall picture of the Gospel. So what did He do? He set various officers in the Church, gifted in different ways, so that together they would understand, and be able to see and fulfil the goals of our Heavenly Father.

    The Apostacy

    The New Testament Church began to disintegrate after the apostles died off. The Bishops who led the Church in the second generation lived close to the apostolic teachings but even before they had died out new and false teachings crept in which were not corrected because there was no apostolic witness. Every single Church that has tried to organise without true apostles has stagnated and died as pertaining to the fullness of the heavenly gifts.

    The Body is Unique

    The Body of Christ has a unique organic structure. It is a vessel for the Holy Spirit. You can't just go and make up a structure for yourself and hope that God will fill it with His Spirit. Like children trying to make clay cups, the first attempts are clumsy, but they are still good enough to drink out of. In time, the quality of their work improves until they reach what they consider to be their personal masterpiece.

    God has a masterpiece Church which through the long centuries He has tried to fashion out of men and women. Wherever there was a receptive heart shaped like a cup, He poured the Holy Spirit into it. Wherever there was a mind willing to be illuminated by His thoughts, He poured His thoughts into it, even though they got filtered or distorted by false thinking and behavioural patterns. God is constantly acting.

    Perfecting the Law

    The first Christians were Hebrews. They inherited the Law of Moses which God wished to bring to completion -- not to end it, but perfect it. The first Christians tried to interpret the Gospel through the lens of the Law as they knew it. In time they understand that the Law, like the wet clay on the potters wheel, was to be reshaped. It needed, for one thing, to be bigger, because God desired to pour out a greater measure of His Spirit into it. This is what the apostles Peter, James and John did. Paul tried another approach. Though himself well versed in the Law, he experienced it as a burden, a curse, which was too much for a young spiritual child to bear. Therefore he reacted much as a chicken would trying to break out of the egg. He discovered the grace of God in a way that Peter, James and John perhaps did not, and he revolutionised the thinking of the New Testament Church.

    The Two Early Church Paradigms

    Before long he came into conflict with two different groups of people in the Church -- the so-called "Judaisers" who wanted to force the gentiles to observe the Law of Moses in every particular (especially circumcision) and the Patriarchate of the time -- Peter, James and John -- who understood that what the Lord wanted was a reformed Law. In time the two parties -- Pauline and (for want of a better word) the Patriarchal -- came to a mutual understanding. Paul, who initially wanted no rules and regulations to be imposed on the gentiles, later in his ministry came to understand that the Patriarchate were right. And if you read through all his letters carefully, you will see that he wrote dozens of rules for the infant Christian colonies to obey. He finally understood that grace alone was not enough -- it had to have a vessel -- the New Covenant Law of Commandments and Covenants, as the Patriarchate had taught all along.

    As you read the writings of Paul and the Patriarchate -- Peter, James and John -- you will discover they employ different styles and lay emphasis in different areas. The Book of James, so hated by Protestants and described by Martin Luther as the "straw Gospel", is the most Hebrew of all the New Testament writings -- it is saturated with commandments. Peter follows closely behind and writes in a similar fashion. John is the more esoteric writer, using a completely different language. His is a firstborn approach, hard sometimes to understand. And he talks alot about love and light.

    The New Testament Whole

    Between them -- the grace of Paul, the commandments and covenants of Peter and James, and the mystical firstborn approach of John -- we actually come to a composite whole, rather like an orchestra playing. But you must have the Spirit to see it. The modern Protestant world is very much Pauline for it stresses grace. Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses, to name but two, stress the Law. But we New Covenant Christians have been given the whole picture, admittedly hazy in some places, but generally clear.

    The early New Covenant Church of God was a very legalistic, James-like Church, not because it was made that way but because that is how the majority of its members were. Slowly and gradually the Lord introduced the missing ingredients in the revelations, amplifying, clarifying and mixing. By the NCCF time those coming from legalistic totalitarian churches like the Mormons began to discover grace and freedom in Christ. They are now looking at the New Covenant through this lens.

    The Honeymoon and Maturity

    Brethren and sisters, it is not enough. It is not the complete picture. It is only a part. It is the joyful, newness-of-life part. It is the "falling-in-love-with-Jesus" phase which fills our eyes with stars when we experience it. It is truly wonderful. But it is wrong to think that it is everything. It is but the foundation.

    Now most of you know that when you fall in love you become blinded to certain things. Your world is defined by your heart-experience to a large extent. Now don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying this is wrong. I am merely trying to gently tell you that this is but a phase in the Gospel life. We must always be "in love with Jesus" of course, but that love will mature, as every husband and wife knows. The glittery, starry period will move on to other realities as we experience the suffering of living for the Master of the Way.

    I think you all know what I am trying to tell you. I am warning those who are newly "born again", whether for the first, second, or third time, not to suppose that you have found the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. No. God has shown you the rainbow and where the pot of gold lies. To inherit that gold -- eternal life -- we must endure life's trials, become conscious of unrepented sin, and strive to be more obedient daily. Salvation, as Paul describes it, is a race. You don't win it until you come to the end. And, even more importantly, don't suppose you have an automatic right to the prize if you drop out of the race just because you believe and have a wonderful feeling in your heart.

    Racing Ahead...

    I rejoice that some of you are right now putting on the wings of love, like newly hatched butterflies, for that is what I told you would happen, but I fear greatly if you think you can just fly away to do your own thing. You can't. The butterfly in all its glory has only a short time to live. In that short time it must mate and lay eggs to ensure that it fulfills its greatest instinct -- to multiply and replenish the earth. The price that butterfly pays for mating is death. He must die. There is a great mystery hidden up in this stage of a butterfly's life which I have not talked about because it isn't the right time. Just remember that those wings of freedom and love which God gives you have a sober purpose -- to die and be reborn spiritually again. But into what? That you may well ask. My response to you is this: into a firstborn saint.

    The Gospel is far bigger than you think. It has multiple goals for you as an individual and for us as a Church.

    The Sheepfold

    Now I shall return to the parable of the sheepfold. As the sheep grow up and come to know the Master's voice, and obey it instantly, so they have no need of a fence anymore. That fence is in their hearts. They know how far they can go. That is the ultimate goal of the New Covenant Church and one who has the Law written on his heart, and obeys it, has arrived at the fullness. He has become a firstborn son or daughter of God. That has not happened yet. We are still far, far off from it.

    But occasionally there is a sheep who says: "Ah, the fence is written in my heart" when it isn't, or is only partially written, and he runs off and ends up getting lost and perishes. That is called vain confidence. It is deadly. And that is the disease that has suddenly struck the Church now. A butterfly who tries to emerge before its time will perish. A child of God who thinks he has found the meat when he only has the milk is going to get badly hurt and badly hurt others. So it is today with some of you.

    A Prophetic Warning

    Therefore I give you a sober warning -- prophetic warning, in the Name of the Lord, and I say to you -- beware! I have seen this before. Rejoice in your gift and in the Giver of the gift but do not vainly assume that you have the fullness and that you can set aside the covenants and commandments. You cannot. Neither can you say: I reject the system because it is partly made of man. That is foolishness. Of course it is partly made of man! God creates using men! What does it matter whether you drink the wine of the Lord's Supper using a wine glass or a beer mug or a coffee pot, so long as the wine is contained in the correct proportion? If you think there is only one system, and that God will deliver it out of heaven in only one vessel, you are wrong. What matters is whether the vessel contains the Spirit or not, not whether it has a little blemish here or there on the outside. But if you say: I will not touch anything that has a blemish then you will never receive the wine and end up becoming blind guides!

    Seeking for Imperfections

    Wherever you go on the material plane you will find imperfection. You will find the same truth stated in many different ways using different words, and each time you will learn something new. The Scriptures are imperfect -- they are not "made in heaven" as most evangelicals would tell you. They are God-breathed and man-made yet they contain the Spirit. Sometimes they contain opinions -- Paul admitted sometimes he wasn't sure whether what he was saying was 100% true. So, shall we reject Paul? Shall we reject Peter's because he denied Christ three times, or John because he arrogantly wanted to know if he could sit next to Christ in a position of glory in heaven? Or David's writings because he committed adultery and murder?

    Sometimes I think some of you expect to much of your leaders and delight in finding their imperfections so that you can rebel. But whether you like it or not, this Church has been designated by the Lord to fulfil five commissions, and has been equipped -- or is being equipped -- with the tools to do it. And those who have been called have been called of the Lord.

    The last seven years have not been a waste of time -- they are a part of an unfolding process. To say, as some have, that it was build on wrong foundations from the beginning and must be completely forgotten is na´ve at best and foolish at worst. It started the way it did because we needed the keys that that process offered us -- we needed the contrasts and the experience in discerning.

    Changing Structures

    You will not find a single "Church of Moses" or a single "Church of God" with a single structure and doctrine in any place in the Bible. They were in constant change. The New Testament Church had its inactive period, when little happened after the first wave of conversions, and then it was kindled again by Paul. But without the first apostles there wouldn't have been a Paul. Without the various denominations of Christendom which we have passed through there would be no New Covenant Church of God. And without the revelations of those churches, true and false, there would not be the revelations of this Church.

    I cannot force you to see these things and know many of you will not comprehend what I am saying. You must accept what I am saying in faith, or reject it. It is your choice. But I tell you that the Spirit we received in Bergen in October 1995 was no accident -- it didn't just "happen" -- it was the fruit of a long and painful process. And what is about to happen to this Church, and has already begun to happen, didn't just "fall out of the sky" but is the result of the process that has been in action since the very beginning of this work. Those who believe otherwise and who are willing to gamble their salvation by ascribing other forces may discover that what they have they will lose. And it has happened.

    A Challenge

    I am therefore leaving you with a challenge -- to stay on the strait and narrow Way and not to go off on some side road whose way looks easier. It will lead you astray. I say these things as a spiritual father to you, desperately concerned about your welfare, though I know my strictness and discipline have often offended you. I make no apology for that for I know the motives I am acting from and the consequences of taking a wrong path. I myself have been through a period of close inner inspection and doubt because I choose to examine my motives closely lest I per chance lead anyone astray. My conscience is clear now.

    I present the Spirit to you -- not as something that I or we have created, but as a gift from God -- by virtue of the fact that the vessel that was prepared, with all its blemishes, is acceptable to God. In a few week's time that vessel is going to be modified. It will still contain blemishes but it will get better. Yes, it is made by the hand of man -- many men and women, in fact, though that will not be appreciated until later by you. It is the ship that has been launched. It's up to you, though, whether you stay with it or not.

    May the Lord bless you and as you sense what it is He is doing amongst this people and this Church -- a Church that is not going to be discarded and started again -- but which is going to unfold into the vessel we have dreamed of for so long. In Jesus' Name.

    Historical Footnote

    The advice was not taken and the Third Rebellion went its full course and those involved spiritually perished.

    This page was created on 31 May 1998
    Last updated on 31 May 1998

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