Publication: Pastoral Letter, August 2010
Dear Friend in Christ:
I recently had a conversation with a noted professor who said, “Every pastor that I know is discouraged.” I also know discouraged leaders, but I want to address the answer, which is relevant to all of us.
Twice in 2 Corinthians 4, Paul says “Do not lose heart” (verses 1 and 16). In chapter 3, verses 17 and 18, he says that “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty…to behold the glory of the Lord and be transformed into that same image….from glory to glory…by the Spirit of the Lord.”
The power and possibilities of the revelation of Jesus, by the Holy Spirit, provide the answer to discouragement. When spiritual vision grows dim, discouragement is a result.
Yes, we live in difficult times: changing culture, bad economics, negative news, and numerous personal challenges. But are these days more difficult than the days of the apostle Paul? Hardly! The same power and possibilities that were open to the saints then are open to us now.
In the early 1960s there were many negatives. One major magazine featured an issue with the banner, “Why I Quit the Ministry”. Many ministers were quitting. “God is Dead” was another headline. Soon after came Vietnam, the bohemians, the hippies, and the campus riots. It was discouraging.
But then something else happened; ministers in major denominations were baptized in the Holy Spirit and revival broke out; miraculous things happened; nations are still being affected. What caused this? Could it happen again?
Let me be as clear as I can about a subject that cannot be defined: revelation. I believe that the Bible is true and God’s truth is in it. I believe in natural law and that truth is in it. I believe that Jesus is the incarnation of God – all truth made flesh; that He created and sustains all things (Colossians 1:14-19).
Having declared where my faith lies, I must humbly confess that while I know where truth resides, much remains hidden to me and to us. It was the same for the disciples and those who went before us (and who longed to know it). So what is revelation? It is God’s Sovereign self-disclosure to transform those who receive it, and to conform them to His image, in order to make them a revelation to the world.
I cannot expound on this incomplete description of revelation here, but I believe it to line up with the Scriptures (see 2 Corinthians 3:17-18). I also believe that all secrets and the power to reveal them belong to God (see Deuteronomy 29:29). He can give or withhold as He wills – not only biblical
truth, but all truth, natural or spiritual. And, when He gives a revelation, it affects history, both personal and cultural.
The possibility of God revealing Himself to us ought to turn us away from discouragement. But in fact, it is often discouragement that drives us to God. If not driven to God, we are in serious trouble. A local fisherman recently committed suicide due to the oil spill tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, which shut down fishing and is shutting down so many lives. Desperation has caused great tragedies, some unspeakable.
However, desperation has also brought multitudes to a place of seeking God. Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, and those who are persecuted.” He could have said, “Blessed are the desperate.” His audience was not the comfortable and complacent_nor is ours. That group will not respond, and that is very discouraging. They have a “do not disturb” sign on their souls.
Our nation was born in the minds and hearts of those Europeans who were under tyranny – men like Adam Smith, John Locke, Sidney, Montesquieu, Blackstone, and many others. A.H. Hayak said, “The best thinking was done by those for whom liberty was still a problem. And their thinking formed fertile soil in the hearts of our founders.” Their courage, matched with those powerful ideas(revelations), made freedom a reality.
There seems to be a pattern in the Bible and in history: desperation, revelation, testing of past revelation. Desperation is when we come to a place where we realize the answers are critical but beyond our control. Are we there yet?
So, when we chose not to abide in discouragement, but to seek the God of our salvation, and He reveals something of Himself to us, what happens?
I was discouraged in 1964. I had quit seminary for the third and final time, exhausted, disillusioned, angry, broke, pastoring a church, and with a wife and young son. We had a “revival meeting” where no one seemed to be revived, least of all me. I wanted a change of circumstance, but God was using circumstance to humble me.
In that condition of desperation, I heard and read about the work of the Holy Spirit. I was changed – my wife confirmed it! Yes, revelation transforms.
Allow me to give you the original Webster’s definition of transformation: “A change of heart in man, by which his disposition and temper are conformed to the divine image, a change from enmity to holiness and love.”
Webster (the original) got it right, but transformation is not a “one experience proposition.” As we continue to behold Him, we continue to be conformed to His image…from glory to glory. Each manifestation of His glory affects us gloriously. God’s intention is that this be lifelong until we behold Him face to face.
Human beings are curious about the future. Books that predict it are great sellers. The disciples were also curious about the future. They asked Jesus, “Will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?” Jesus responded that the times and seasons were in the Father’s authority. But He directed them to the Upper Room and the Holy Spirit.
We want a map; God gives a Guide. We have a map – the Bible – but only the Guide can reveal it to us. When He does, we are changed and become agents of change – as the apostles were.
REVELATION IS PROMISED
I was listening to a fellow minister and he referred to Mark 4:22, “There is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor anything that has been kept secret but that it should come to light.” He then said, “Many preachers use this verse to mean that all sins will be revealed, but it is not talking about sin; it is talking about the Kingdom.” I sat stunned by the implications, as he went on to a completely different topic. I could not stop thinking about verse 22.
Jesus promised to reveal all of the hidden secrets regarding His Kingdom_amazing! I have preached from Mark 4 many times. How did I miss that thought? But in that moment, I was experiencing exactly what the verse said. He was revealing to me that He would reveal to me. Praise God!
Then I thought of John 16:12-15, where Jesus told His disciples that He had many things to tell them, but they were not ready for those things. Jesus continued to say that when the Holy Spirit would come, He would guide them into all truth and tell them on Earth things that He, the Holy Spirit, was hearing in Heaven. He would take Jesus’ things and reveal it to them.
What an encouraging promise! The Holy Spirit will reveal things that have been hidden in Christ and show them to us, as one who takes a trusted friend into His bank vault and reveals His secret treasures and riches.
The apostle Paul prayed that the Ephesian church would have such an experience of the revelation of Christ’s rich inheritance (Ephesians 1:15-19), and also the fellowship of the mystery which will be revealed to and through the Church (see Ephesians 3:8-10).
In his book Primal, Mark Batterson states that in the beginning God spoke four words, “Let there be light, “ and galaxies are still being formed by those four words. Some day we will discover a great deal more about the power and intelligence of light. Whatever it may be, we are promised more of it.
THE FRUIT OF REVELATION
Revelation transforms, and that doesn’t stop with the one who sees or hears it! When we preach from past revelation of truth, it establishes those who hear, and that is good. But when we preach from current revelation of what the Lord is saying, it has a great impact and brings dramatic change. It not only changes the one to whom God gives it, but it will affect others.
George Whitefield is a man of whom I have written before; God gave to him a simple revelation, “preaching could be done outdoors.” It seems simple to us, but in the liturgical church in the mid-1700s, it was not only unusual, but thought by many to be heretical. He was mocked and persecuted.
But at age 24, he preached to 40,000 people outdoors. He persuaded Wesley to do the same, made six trips to America, preached to 23,000 people in Philadelphia, and some estimate that during his life he preached to half the population of the colonies, from Georgia to New England. A simple revelation with dramatic fruit.
Thomas Edison got a revelation about electric lights, but the world got the light. The fruit of revealed truth always goes beyond the one who receives it – or it should be so.
In Mark 4 Jesus spoke of “light under a bed.” That is a metaphor for one being asleep on the truth. He speaks of light under a basket. That is a metaphor for truth contained. Then He speaks of light on a stand. That is truth released. When God releases truth to us, it is so we can release it; first in how we live, then in what we say.
Don’t be discouraged; but seek the Lord of revelation; seek the Lord and let Him give you light for your path. He promised that He would.
P.S. Please continue to remember CSM in your prayers and in your giving. We are “shining our light” but there is much opposition, and our finances have been very tight this Summer. We’ve had to make painful cuts in staff salaries and support. Would you prayerfully consider a special gift this month? And if you’d like a “live” audio teaching on “The Power of Revelation”, please see the enclosed card for a special offer.
Scripture Reference: 2 Corinthians, Colossians, Deuteronomy, Mark, John, Ephesians