THE EXAMPLE OF EZRA
THE CALL OF GOD
Luke 1:35, 45 – “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.”
I Corinthians 3:10-11 – “According to the grace of God which is given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder, I have laid the foundation, and another builds thereon. But let every man take heed how he builds thereupon. For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.”
WHATEVER GOD ASKS US to do, He fits us for, and whatever He fits us for, He asks us to do. The minister who has answered God’s call is in a place of divinely-appointed power, and he needs no weapon other than the promise of God. When the Lord told Mary through the angel Gabriel that she would conceive a Son, all she had was faith in what the Lord had spoken to her. Yet, that was all she needed. It was God who performed the miracle, bringing our Saviour into this world, born of a virgin.
Any minister who walks in faith, believing His promises, will show this world the miracles of Jesus!
The minister’s commission is actually multifaceted. Within the minister’s calling is the building, the breaking, the planting, and the plucking of community. He must build and plant, yet he must also root out, pull down, destroy, and throw down the works of the flesh. These assignments and responsibilities, in fact, will be characteristic of all believers desiring to be true workers together with God. See, if idolatry and pride are not exposed and eliminated, little can be built in its place. In other words, a minister must make sure a proper foundation is laid, and such a foundation will always purge all of that which is not the Cross of Christ.
Also, the minister must go to all people and societies to whom the Lord sends him. He must be determined to say only what the Lord commands him to say. Just as we read in the Bible of “God’s Greats,” the call of God is something a minister can never get away from. The touch of God’s hand on his life is a tangible pledge that God is with him, and that He is with him for the rest of his life. Through his victories, his failures, his struggles, his moments of despair, the work he is called and commissioned to do is not his own. He will always be conscious of a divine call.
A man that has received the call of God will always have to choose between his own desires and God’s will, even though the cost may be great. Like Jeremiah, the minister may be called to a task that is very difficult. He may be tempted to shrink back from proclaiming an unwelcomed message. The preacher loves to carry good news, but to be a bearer of bad news, rebuke, and/or strong warning to an undisciplined people is never easy. When the faces of the people register pleasure, the minister feels safe. But when the faces of the people register unbelief or disgust, the preacher must exhibit courage. He must not move away from or alter the message given to him by God. The call of God is, in fact, a spiritual gift.
The world will never understand it, and the church may not always accept it. But, the minister must always remember that the Word of the Lord is a power unto itself that carries out His will and accomplishes what He wishes. Against this power nothing can stand! It is a hammer that breaks rocks into pieces. His Word demonstrates power in both destruction and construction. If men accept God’s Word, it will give life. If they reject it, it will bring condemnation.
WORLDLY STANDARDS ARE NOT GOD’S STANDARDS
I know a little bit of what it is like when a minister is given a message from God that he knows will upset a lot of people. I have watched my husband agonize over a message. Through many sleepless nights, a message would weigh heavy on his heart, giving him no rest until the message was delivered. And, many times even after it was preached, the enemy tried to attack with troubling thoughts such as, “I could have said it better,” or “Maybe I didn’t deliver it as well as I should have,” or “God, did you really tell me to preach this?”
You see, it is never easy to be used of God because the actual execution of God’s will in our lives rarely meets the expectations of the world. Worldly standards are not God’s standards, and so worldly people are often left perplexed and frustrated with our actions. The message God gives us may not be received, and we may not be accepted on a personal basis either.
One only has to read Jeremiah 20:8-9 which states: “For since I spoke, I cried out, I cried violence and spoil; because the Word of the LORD was made a reproach unto me, and a derision, daily. (The subject of his preaching is expressed in the two words, ‘violence’ and ‘spoil.’ This oppression and robbery of the poor so deeply stirred him that he shouted aloud against it, but the only response to his outcries was that he was held in derision daily, and everyone laughed at him.) Then I said, ‘I will not make mention of Him, nor speak anymore in His name. But His Word was in my heart as a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I was weary with forbearing, and I could not stay. (In view of the terrible opposition, even bodily harm, the prophet actually stopped preaching, at least for a while. The cause of the opposition was ‘Him’ and ‘His name.’ However, he found it impossible to cease from preaching. The fire of the divine wrath against sin burned so fiercely within him that he could not help but resume his work.)”
THE CROSS IS AN OFFENSE
Even the message that Jesus preached became too strong for many of His followers. Many freely and unreservedly followed Him for the miracles He performed. They were amazed and watched in wonder at the feeding of the 5,000 with only five loaves and two fishes. But, His message was the stumbling block!
John 6:60 states: “Many therefore of His disciples, when they had heard this (spoke of those other than the Twelve), said, This is an hard saying; who can hear it? (They were unwilling to accept the bloody death of their Messiah, or to entrust themselves to a divine personality whose most distinctive act would be His sacrifice of Himself. This was the gross and terrible offence which made the Cross a stumblingblock to the Jews [Mat. 16:21; I Cor. 1:23; Gal. 5:11]).”
Then verse 66 tells us that, “From that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.”
The Cross is an offense to the entirety of the world, and regrettably even most of the church. The claims of Christ were so profoundly different from what they anticipated that they now refused to accept Him at all! In verse 67, we hear Him asking the Twelve disciples, “Will you also go away?”
The Holy Spirit is asking us the same thing today: Will you also go away? You see, nothing has changed from then until today. The Cross of Christ is still an offence to the world. And the preacher that preaches the message of Christ and Him crucified is not always accepted.
In Luke 21:8, the Lord tells us, “And He said (for the next four verses, Luke deals with the signs of the times as it regards the Second Coming), Take heed that you be not deceived (presents the exact manner in which Matthew begins his account – the warning of deception; it is mainly in the realm of religion): for many shall come in My name, saying, I am Christ (of Christ); and the time draws near (the rapture of the church): go you not therefore after them (be very careful as to whom you follow).”
He is telling His disciples that many “preachers” will come claiming to represent His character, but their message will not actually be the same as His message. We are to turn away and not follow these men. The “feel good, do good, anything goes, I’m OK, you’re OK” socialistic gospel of many modern churches is the opposite of what the early church, founded by the apostles in the New Testament, was about.
In Acts, Chapter 3, we find Peter and John going together into the temple at the hour of prayer. “A certain man lame from his mother’s womb was carried, whom they laid daily at the gate of the temple called Beautiful to ask alms of them who entered into the temple.”
But when this poor beggar attempted to reach out and receive alms from Peter and John, something totally new happened! Peter said, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee: in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk...and immediately his feet and ankle bones received strength. And he leaping up stood, and walked, and entered with them into the temple, walking and leaping, and praising God.”
And Peter, realizing that a crowd had begun to form, took the opportunity to preach a sermon of repentance to the crowd, reminding them that they had denied the “Holy One and the Just.”
Acts 3:19 states: “Repent ye therefore, and be converted that your sins may be blotted out.” And then in verse 26 he tells them: “Unto you first God, having raised up His Son Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.”
We learn in Acts 4:4 that: “many of them which heard the Word believed; and the number of the men was about five thousand.”
This message preached by Peter will not be found in the socialistic churches of today because they have been turned into nothing more than distribution centers for social causes. They are about “social justice,” not the gospel.
They never mention that the root cause for all the ills of society is sin. They reject the real cure for sin through the Cross of Christ, instead choosing to treat the symptoms. The modern church is, therefore, only capable of giving the beggar his alms and treating his “felt needs.”
This social gospel has no power, but the message Peter preached had the power to set the captive (the beggar) free! While the beggar was asking for his felt needs to be met, Peter (the preacher), through the anointing of the Holy Spirit, was able to get to the root of the problem. Now, the beggar was healed and would be able to care for his own felt needs!
He would no longer have to depend on handouts from strangers. He was free! In removing the Cross, today’s churches are actually following the all-inclusive “broad road,” and as a result, they have found themselves affirming anyone and everyone’s unbiblical beliefs. Once again, this is a powerless gospel. Men will not be saved, repent, or reconciled back to God through it.
A.W. TOZER - THE NEW CROSS
In an article, I came across this excerpt written by A.W. Tozer. It goes along perfectly with what we have just discussed.
Unannounced and mostly undetected there has come in modern times a new cross into popular evangelical circles. It is like the old cross, but different: the likenesses are superficial; the differences, fundamental. From this new cross has sprung a new philosophy of the Christian life, and from that new philosophy has come a new kind of preaching.
This new evangelism employs the same language as the old, but its content is not the same and its emphasis not as before. The old cross would have no truck with the world. For Adam’s proud flesh it meant the end of the journey. It carried into effect the sentence imposed by the law of Sinai.
The new cross is not opposed to the human race; rather, it is a friendly pal and, if understood aright, it is the source of oceans of good clean fun and innocent enjoyment. It lets Adam live without interference. His life motivation is unchanged; he still lives for his own pleasure. The new cross encourages a new and entirely different evangelistic approach. The evangelist….preaches not contrasts but similarities. He seeks to key into public interest by showing that Christianity makes no unpleasant demands; rather, it offers the same thing the world does, only on a higher level…The new cross does not slay the sinner, it redirects him. It gears him into a cleaner and jollier way of living and saves his self-respect….It is false because it is blind. It misses completely the whole meaning of the cross.
The old cross is a symbol of death. The race of Adam is under death sentence. There is no commutation and no escape. God cannot approve any of the fruits of sin, however innocent they may appear or beautiful to the eyes of men. God salvages the individual by liquidating him and then raising him again to the newness of life. That evangelism which draws friendly parallels between the ways of God and the ways of men is false to the Bible and cruel to the souls of its hearers. The faith of Christ does not parallel the world, it intersects it.
In coming to Christ we do not bring our old life up onto a higher plane; we leave it at the cross. The grain of wheat must fall into the ground and die. God offers life, but not an improved old life. The life He offers is life out of death. Let him not seek to make terms with God, but let him bow his head before the stroke of God’s stern displeasure and acknowledge himself worthy to die ... the power that raised Christ from the dead now raises him to a new life along with Christ.”