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To begin my message I think I need to quote to you what Jesus said was the first of the greatest of all commandments. Do you remember what that was? Thou shalt love the Lord thy God—listen carefully—with all thy heart and soul, mind and strength. Don’t forget that your mind is vital to loving the Lord. I say that because you’re going to need your mind tonight if you’re going to get anything from what I’m going to say.
In my pilgrimage through various phases and stages of Christianity I remember being associated with people whose denominational label I will not give out, where generally speaking it was held that when you went to church you could safely leave your mind in the car in the parking lot because you wouldn’t need it in the church. That has changed, I thank God for that. Remember we’re in a university here tonight and the young people that come here come here expecting and willing to use their minds in order to lay the foundation for success in life. I want to tell you that to be a successful Christian, amongst other things, you have to use your mind.
You probably wonder what I’m going to talk about. As a matter of fact, I do, too. I’ll tell you the background of this message. Some years ago, I think about five years ago, I was reading the books of 1 and 2 Kings. There was a phrase that recurred I would think twenty times. It said, “Howbeit the high places are not taken away? Howbeit the high places are not taken away?” And I said to myself, If God has taken the trouble to have that stated so many times in his word, there must be some importance to it. I kind of made a mental note there’s something there about high places that we need to look into. I just put it in my mental pending file and left it there. Rather to my surprise, when I was praying a week or two ago as to what I should bring to this service tonight, the Lord reminded me about that and I felt he showed me it’s time to go into this matter of high places and share it with God’s people. So that’s what I’m going to try to do tonight.
Now, you’re going to have to make a mental effort to put yourself back in a period of history that’s very remote in a culture that’s very different and you’re going to have to try to see the significance of things that we, for the most part, here in America don’t regularly deal with. Of course, that’s true about many other things in the Bible.
When Israel entered the land that God had promised them, it had been occupied by the Canaanites. Canaanites were wicked people and the essence of their wickedness was idolatry, the worship of idols. I want to tell you that that is the greatest of all sins and the most disastrous in its consequences. It’s breaking the first commandment. And in their culture at that time they normally conducted their idol worship and also the very abominable sacrifices that went with it [including sacrificing their infant children in an oven to a God named Molech], they normally did this on what was called high places. That is, mountains or hills that stood about the surrounding country and in most cases, they had tall impressive trees growing on the hills. And you’ll find again and again in the historical books and in the prophets the phrase “on the high hills and under every green tree.” And the association always was idolatry.
But the essence of the high place was the place or the basis for worshiping God. Now God warned Israel before they went in the land, in the book of Deuteronomy 12, through Moses. He said, “I don’t want you doing that kind of thing when you go into the land. I have got a different plan for you. I’m going to appoint one place in a certain city where you can worship me and where you can offer your sacrifices. I don’t want you to do it in any other place.” Let me read a little to you of what God said to the children of Israel through Moses in Deuteronomy 12, beginning at verse 1.
“These are the statutes and judgments, which you shall be careful to observe in the land which the Lord God of your fathers has given you to possess, all the days that you live on the earth. You shall utterly destroy all the places where the nations which you shall dispossess serve their gods, on the high mountains, and on the hills, and under every green tree. You shall destroy their altars, break their sacred pillars, burn their wooden images with fire; and you shall cut down the carved images of their gods, and destroy their names from that place. You shall not worship the Lord your God with such things. You shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses out of all your tribes to put his name, for his habitation [or his dwelling place] and there you shall go: and there you shall take your burnt offerings, and your sacrifices...”
Notice God said I’m going to choose one place where I’ll put my name and where I’ll have my dwelling, and that’s the only place that I’ll permit you to offer sacrifice and worship.
See, this is today. Many of you don’t realize it but the Jews worship at the western wall of that particular place, and that’s as near as they can ever come to it because it’s occupied by a Moslem mosque. And they are perfectly clear that there’s no other place where they can offer sacrifice. So their whole future, in their thinking, centers around regaining possession of that place because until they do, they cannot offer sacrifice. You may not appreciate that fact but it’s a very live, controversial issue in the Middle East today. It’s as it were, the focal point of the clash between Moslems and Jews.
Anyhow, that’s just to show you that this is still relevant today. We can go on but it’s the same in the rest of the passage there, we don’t need to look at it all. Just in verse 11:
“There will be a place where the Lord your God chooses to make his name abide; there you shall bring all I command you; your burnt offerings, your sacrifices...”
The essence of it was there was to be one place where God would put his name and they were not thereafter to worship in any other place.
Now we’ll find that there was a continual struggle throughout the history of Israel from the establishment of the monarchy onward until the Babylonian captivity. There was this continual conflict between obeying God about worshiping him in the appointed place and going back to the high places. We’ll just take a glimpse of it, I won’t go into it in detail. But in 1Kings 3 we get a very interesting glimpse. I want to tell you that we’re not going to stay all the time in the history of Israel 3000 years ago. All this has a very important application for you and me today but, if I don’t lay the basis, I can’t give you the application.
It says in 1Kings 3:1:
“Solomon made a treaty with Pharaoh king of Egypt, married Pharaoh’s daughter, brought her to the city of David, until he had finished building his own house, and the house of the Lord [that’s the temple], and the wall all around Jerusalem.”
Meanwhile, until the temple was built:
“The people sacrificed at the high places, because there was no house build for the name of the Lord until those days.”
The people were sacrificing to the Lord at this point, they were not sacrificing to idols, but they were sacrificing on high places because the temple where God was going to put his name in Jerusalem wasn’t complete.
And then we find a very interesting comparison in the next verse between Solomon and David. It contains volumes. Verse 3:
“Solomon loved the Lord, walking in the statutes of his father David, except that he sacrificed and burned incense at the high places.”
There was one difference. David never did that, Solomon did. And in a certain sense, that was the weakness that led to Solomon’s downfall.
Just by contrast we look for a moment in 2Chronicles 1:3-4. This is before the temple was built when Solomon was made king.
“Solomon, and all the congregation with him, went to the high place that was a Gibeon; for the tabernacle of meeting with God was there [that was the tabernacle of Moses], which Moses the servant of the Lord made in the wilderness.”
Gibeon was not Jerusalem. Verse 4:
“But David had brought up the ark of God from Kirjathjearim to the place David had prepared for it: for he had pitched a tent for it in Jerusalem.”
See? David grasped this fact that God wanted Jerusalem to be the place of worship. And when he got the ark back from the Philistines he didn’t take it to Gibeon, but he had prepared a place for it in Jerusalem.
We see this also in 2Samuel 6:15–17. This describes David bringing the ark back after it had been recovered from the Philistines.
“So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting, and with the sound of the trumpet. And as the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal Saul’s daughter looked through a window, and saw king David leaping and whirling before the Lord, and she despised him in her heart. [that was a mistake] So they brought the ark of the Lord, and set it in his place, in the midst of the tabernacle that David had erected for it [which was not the tabernacle of Moses]: then David offered burnt offerings and peace offerings before the Lord.”
In the place of the Lord’s appointment, do you understand? The tabernacle of Moses was not there, the temple had not yet been built, but David being a man after God’s heart said, “This is the place where I’m going to worship God.”
Now his son Solomon followed him in much of what he did but Solomon departed from David in this one respect that he, until the temple was built, worshiped in a high place.
Now you’ll find later on in Solomon’s experience, this thing became a disease. See, when you begin to depart a little from the way of God, you’ll get further and further away from it the further you go. So in 1Kings 11:7 we read:
“Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh, the abomination of Moab, on the hill that is east of Jerusalem, [that’s the Mount of Olives] and for Molech, the abomination of the people of Ammon.”
And so on. He built a high place for each of his wives to worship their pagan idolatrous gods.
“So the Lord became angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned from the Lord God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods: but he did not keep what the Lord had commanded.”
I trust you can see by now that this issue of high places is of tremendous importance in the sight of God.
Now, as we go on through the history of the kings mostly it’s a very wearisome repetition of going back to the wrong practices of the Canaanites. You know that after Solomon, the kingdom was divided. Jeroboam took the northern kingdom, Rehoboam took the southern kingdom. Both of them used high places. In 1Kings 12:31–32:
“Jeroboam made shrines on the high places, and made priests from every class of the people, who were not the sons of Levi.”
He offered sacrifice on the high places and he appointed priests. See? That’s the record.
Now, Rehoboam, who was Solomon’s son who was king of the southern kingdom of Judah, also worshiped at the high places. 1Kings 14:21–23:
“Rehoboam the son of Solomon reigned in Judah. [verse 22] Judah did evil in the sight of the Lord, and they provoked him to jealousy with their sins which they committed, more than all that their fathers had done. For they also built for themselves high places, sacred pillars, and wooden images on every high hill, and under every green tree.”
Can you see this refrain that goes through this book? And it goes on and on.
Now after Rehoboam, God raised up a son to him who was a righteous king. His name as Asa. We read about Asa in 1Kings 15:9.
“And in the twentieth year of Jeroboam king of Israel, Asa became king over Judah.”
And he did what was right in the eyes of the Lord. In verse 12 he banished the perverted persons from the land and removed all the idols that his fathers had made. But in verse 14:
“But the high places were not removed.”
He got so far with his reform but he couldn’t complete it. So he restored the worship of the true God, the Lord, but he didn’t restore the right place of worship.
Now this is a refrain that runs through 1 and 2Kings. He did right in the eyes of the Lord but the high places were not taken away. We do not need to turn to all the passages that followed but the next king after Asa, Jehoshophat was also a righteous king. He put away all idolatry, he restored the true worship of Jehovah but the high places were not taken away. After him came Amaziah who also restored the true worship of Jehovah but the high places were not taken away. After him came Azariah, also called Uzziah. He maintained the true worship of Jehovah but the high places were not taken away. After him came Jotham who also maintained the true worship of Jehovah but the high places were not taken away. You see, they had a mixture of true and false. They were worshiping the true God unlike those who had gone into idolatry, but they were worshiping the true God in areas that were given to the worship of idols. It was a kind of partial reform. They got rid of the idols but they didn’t get rid of the false basis of worship. You can list those six kings, I’ll just name them, one after another came so far with their reforms, they banished idolatry but they didn’t banish the use of the places where the idols had been worshiped. And God records of every one of them, “but the high places were not taken away.” Those kings are Asa, Jehoshophat, Jehoash, Amaziah, Azariah and Jotham.
After them came Ahaz and Ahaz went back to plain idolatry. This is stated in 2Kings 16. We’ll just look at what it says about Ahaz for a moment. He was a singularly wicked king. 2Kings 16:3–4.
“But he [Ahaz] walked in the way of the kings of Israel, indeed he made his son pass through the fire [that is he offered his son as a living sacrifice in an oven], according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out from before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burnt incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.”
It may be a little wearisome, this repetition, but you see, it’s pounding something into our minds. Not every truth in the Bible is presented in simple, categorical statements. Much truth in the Bible is contained in patterns that are repeated again and again. God leads us to deduce the lesson from them.
Then concerning the northern kingdom which went into captivity through the Assyrians, chapter 17 of 2Kings sums up all the sins which caused the northern kingdom to go into captivity. I’ll just read part of what it says in 2Kings 17:9–11.
“And the children of Israel [that’s the northern kingdom] secretly did against the Lord their God things that were not right, and they built for themselves high places in all their cities, from watchtower to fortified city. They set up for themselves sacred pillars, and wooden images, on every high hill, and under every green tree. And there they burned incense on all the high places, as the nations had done whom the Lord had carried away before them: and they did wicked things to provoke the Lord to anger.”
Can you see that one major issue of contention between God and his people was the high places. In fact, the conduct of every king is specified in regard to what he did about the high places. It was one of those things that God looked at in the life and the reign of every king over his people. What will he do with the high places?
And then quite near the end of Judah’s history [the southern kingdom] there came two kings who did what God had been waiting for them to do. They were Hezekiah and Josiah, two outstandingly righteous kings. We’ll read about Hezekiah in 2Kings 18:3–5
“And he [Hezekiah] did what was right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done.”
You’ll remember David never went to the high places. And all his sons failed to follow his example up to this point.
“He [Hezekiah] removed the high places, [notice that] and broke the sacred pillars, but down the wooden images, and broke in pieces the bronze serpent that Moses had made...[verse 5] He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.”
What was the distinguishing feature of Hezekiah? What earned him that particular commendation in scripture? He dealt with the high places.
Well, Hezekiah had a disaster in his son who was perhaps the most wicked of all the kings of Judah, Manasseh. Incidentally, you’ll remember that Hezekiah had his life prolonged 15 years miraculously in answer to his prayer, and when he died, his son Manasseh was 12 years old. So Manasseh was born in those extra 15 years. That teaches us that if God gives us extra time, we’d better be pretty careful what we do with it. Okay? I sometimes wonder whether if Hezekiah had had the choice again he would have asked for those 15 years. Because if he hadn’t had the 15 years, he wouldn’t have had Manasseh.
Now listen just briefly to what it says about Manasseh in 2Kings 21:3:
“He rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; he raised up altars for Baal, and made a wooden image, as Ahab king of Israel had done; and worshiped all the host of heaven, and served them.”
The Bible states there was no one so wicked of all the kings of Judah as Manasseh. And yet, amazingly enough, he repented and God pardoned him. We can’t go into that tonight but there it is in history. The most wicked king, and yet repentance brought him pardon from God.
There remains one more righteous king to follow, Josiah. Josiah, again, did what God wanted. We turn to 2Kings 23 and look at just a few quick statements. Verse 5:
“Then he removed the idolatrous priests who the kings of Judah had ordained to burn incense on the high places in the cities of Judah... [verse 8] He brought all the priests from the cities of Judah, and defiled the high places where the priests had burned incense... [verse 13] Then the king defiled the high places that were east of Jerusalem.”
He had a war against the high places. Verse 15:
“Moreover the altar that was at Bethel, and the high place which Jeroboam the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin, had made, both that altar and the high place he broke down...”
We don’t need to read any further, but you understand what distinguished him, what marked him out as a particularly righteous king was that he dealt with the high places. The majority of the kings of Judah, even though they worshiped the true God, did not do away with the idolatrous sights of worship. They permitted the people to worship the true God but on the wrong basis, on the wrong sites.
Now, all that is in the history of Israel. Does it have anything to say to us as Christians? I believe it does. I believe this is what God has shown me. I had it in my pending file for five years but God brought it out of the pending file. You see, the issue is what is the basis on which we can worship the true God acceptably? On what basis are we to come to him? What’s the place of worship? Are we going to be like those Israelites that went to idolatrous places to worship, even if we worship the true God. Or are we going to be like David, Hezekiah and Josiah who spurned the high places and worshiped God only on the basis which God had decreed?
Now, the burning question is what is the basis of our true worship that is acceptable to God according to the New Testament? In other words, what in the New Testament corresponds to worshiping God in his appointed place where he had put his name, which was where? Jerusalem, that’s right. I believe the answer is found in one single verse in Matthew 18:20:
Now, this is where it’s beginning to apply to our lives. And some of what I have to say may strike you as controversial. I never aim to be controversial but somehow I never seem to escape from it. I get out of one controversy just in time to get into the next! I mean, we got over that business with demons. And let me tell you, I still face demons everywhere I find them. Since I was here last I have seen hundreds of thousands of demons defeated by the power of the name of Jesus. I’m not exaggerating.
Matthew 18:20, I’ll read the New King James, then I’ll give you the Prince version. A lady once asked me if it is in print, the answer is no. Don’t come up and ask for it, it’s my own impromptu translation. As I told some of you this morning, I started learning the Greek language when I was ten years old and I studied it continuously for 15 years and am qualified to teach it at university level. That doesn’t mean I’m always right but as I say, it gives me the right to my opinion. Now this is the scripture:
“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there in the midst of them.”
Now I want to give you a more literal translation. The word that’s translated “gathered together” means literally “to be led together.” Anybody that knows Greek, it’s the verb ?ago? which is the standard Greek word for “to lead or to drive.” As many as are led by the Spirit of God, that’s the word. So, where two or three have been led together. It’s a perfect tense. And then the preposition is not “in,” it’s “into.” Into my name. There am I in the midst.
I don’t believe the Lord ever promised to meet Israel on the high hill, on the high places, but he said, “If you come to the place where I’ve put my name, I’ll be there.”
Now, this simple text leads to a lot of ramifications. If we say where two or three have been led together, that raises the question who led them? The answer is very clear, it’s found in Romans 8:14:
“As many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God, they are sons of God.”
That’s a key scripture. How do you become a little baby, a little child of God? Being born again by the Spirit of God. But to grow to maturity, to become a mature son, you have to be regularly led by the Spirit of God. Millions of Christians who’ve been born again do have no idea of how to be led by the Holy Spirit. The result is they remain continually infants, they cannot mature. The only pathway to maturity is Romans 8:14, “as many as are regularly led by the Spirit of God, they are sons [not children but mature sons] of God.”
I’ve preached to audiences this size and much larger and people like you, saved, baptized in the Spirit, quote, filled with the Spirit if you want to use that phrase—I’ve said how may of you have heard a sermon on how to be born again in the Spirit of God. Nearly everybody will raise their hand. Then I say, “How many have heard a sermon on how to be regularly led by the Spirit of God?” Tell me that here tonight. Just think for a moment. How many of you have heard a sermon specifically on how to be led by the Spirit of God? Raise your hands. Well, that’s less than ten percent, and that’s about average. That’s one of the great basic problems of the Charismatic movement. Everybody talks about the Holy Spirit, but hardly anybody knows how to be led by the Holy Spirit. We go back to our little rituals and our little sets of rules. We’re going back actually [we didn’t know it] to the high places.
Going back to Matthew 18:20, as many as have been led together by whom? By the Spirit of God. You understand? You can’t leave the Spirit of God out of this and get results. Do you think that the Lord attends every meeting of the Board of Deacons? I think he’s much too much of a gentleman to be at some of them. He’s never promised to attend every meeting of the Board of Deacons because they’re not led by the Spirit of God. But he says where two or three have been led together by my Spirit, what’s the meeting place? Into my name. What’s the focus? What’s the place where God says he will meet us? Into the name of Jesus. God does not authorize any other basis for Christians to come together but to be led by the Holy Spirit into the name of Jesus. Any other place, any other basis, is a high place.
The church has had multitudinous reforms but, like the reforms of the kings of Judah, most of them have never dealt with the high place, the basis of our meeting. And so we have historically various other bases of meetings which, in my understanding, are high places.
I’ll tell you three. First of all, the basis of nationality. As a boy I grew up in the Church of England which is the state church of Britain. But there’s nothing in the New Testament that authorizes a church to be based on nationality. It’s unscriptural. In the Lord Jesus Christ there isn’t nationality, there isn’t Greek, there isn’t citizen, there isn’t barbarian. It’s not scriptural to talk about the African church. You can talk about the church in Africa, that’s totally different. The only basis for determining a church in the New Testament is the locality in which the church meets. The church in Corinth, the church in Ephesus, the church in Thessalonica. Never does Paul or any of the other New Testament writers specify a church that’s based on belonging to a certain nation. The American church is an unscriptural concept. The church in America. But that may contain Zulu, Russians. God forbid. Or is it God forbid? Chinese. They don’t have to have a special church. The only reason why they might need a special church is if they have a different language. That’s another matter.
So there’s one unscriptural basis. All the Scandinavian nations: Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland all have a state church of that nation. There’s no basis in scripture for that.
Then there’s what I call the doctrinal basis. We meet together because we’re Baptists or because we’re Pentecostal. We believe in baptism by immersion. We believe in baptism by the Holy Spirit so that’s the basis on which me meet. It’s not authorized by scripture.
I believe that’s one of the things God has been attempting to do through the Charismatic movement. How far he’s succeeded is very questionable. Paul never wrote to the Baptist church in Corinth. Nor to the Pentecostal church. Suppose Paul wrote to the church in Pittsburgh. Where would it be delivered? It would probably get here, I think. Probably that’s as near as you could get to it.
Then the third basis that is unscriptural, and that is loyalty to a human leader. The obvious example is the Lutheran church, the Mennonite church, the Wesleyan church. Thank God for great men of God, but we are never authorized in the New Testament to meet on the basis of affiliation to a human leader. In fact, Paul set it aside. He said, “Were you baptized in the name of Paul? There’s only one, it’s Christ.”
See what I’m saying? You realize that we’ve come now from the kings of Judah to the 20th century in America. Do you see what I’m saying if it’s relevant? Does it apply?
I personally believe that God is longing for a reform of the church that will take away the high places. If I understand the revelation of scripture, these continually provoke God just as he was continually provoked by the kings of Judah who worshiped him but never removed the high places. God doesn’t reject our worship if we meet as Lutherans or Mennonites, or Baptists or Pentecostals, but it provokes him, it’s not what he wants. He’s waiting for the high place to be removed.
Let me give you some follow up truths on that. First of all, if you turn to Acts 15, this is a famous meeting held in Jerusalem to decide what they were to do with Gentiles who had become believers. The problem is the other way around now. The Assemblies of God had a meeting a little while ago to decide what would they do with Messianic Assemblies, could they accept them? And eventually one of the leaders stood up and said, “Brothers, they accepted us, we’ve got to accept them.” See how history has come full circle?
Now this thing was brought to a conclusion by James quoting Amos. I just want to read that passage. Acts 15, beginning at verse 13.
“And after they had become silent...”
Which was a marvel when you know the Jewish people. I mean, it took several hours for them to become silent!
“James answered, saying, Men and brethren, listen to me...”
He wasn’t exactly modest. He knew he had something from God.
“Simon [that’s Peter] has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for him name. And with this the words of the prophets agree; just as it is written, [and now he’s quoting from Amos] After this the Lord says, I will return, and will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up: so that the rest of mankind might seek the Lord, even all the Gentiles, who are called by my name, saith the Lord, who does all these things.”
Notice the central statement there is “I will return and build the tabernacle of David.” Not the tabernacle of Moses, not the temple of Solomon, but the tabernacle of David. Where was the tabernacle of David built? In Jerusalem, the place that God had chosen to put his name. That’s really, if you can use this phrase, the scriptural basis for the whole era of the Gentile church. It’s the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David.
I’ve heard many illuminating messages on the tabernacle of David. The tabernacle of Moses, there was only worship in certain hours during daylight. The tabernacle of David was open day and night. There was a freedom and a spontaneity of worship; anybody could worship at the tabernacle of David. At the tabernacle of Moses only the priest could go in, only the Levites had access. Which kind of tabernacle are we worshiping at? The tabernacle of David, that’s right. What was the essence of the tabernacle of David? It was praise. What came out of the tabernacle of David? The book of Psalms.
See? This is really our charter of liberty for the Gentile church. It’s the rebuilding of the tabernacle of David. But the thing that I want to emphasize this evening is it was built on the site that God had chosen to put his name. The key issue is where has God chosen to put his name? In this dispensation, where has God chosen to put his name, in what building? In no building. In what denomination? In no denomination. Where? In one person. Who’s that person? Jesus. Where are we authorized to meet? In the name of Jesus, around the invisible person of Jesus who meets us when we are led together by the Spirit of God into his name.
Let’s never leave out the Holy Spirit. Strangely enough, one of the big sins of the Charismatic movement is we’ve slighted the Holy Spirit. We talk a whole lot about him and ignore him. We give him really virtually no opportunity to lead us or to teach us. We go through with our rituals, our performances, our programs, and if the Holy Spirit has got a different idea, he has no way of teaching us. Is that true? It’s true whether you like it or not. There’s nobody more ritualistic in some sense than Charismatics. There’s only one difference, we don’t have a written liturgy.
I heard a young man say once, “I started a church.” I shuddered. You started a church. You little nincompoop. You whipper-snapper. You think that you can start a church? Nobody starts churches but Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We can organize, we can plan, we can promote, we can build; but churches are the prerogative of the Lord. He’s the head over all things to the church which is his body. As I understand it, from Paul in Ephesians, a true church is built on a foundation of apostles and prophets. I question whether anything else is acknowledged by God as a church. I personally believe there are hundreds of thousands of things in America called churches that God doesn’t call a church because they don’t fulfill his basic requirement. It’s time to let the Holy Spirit have his way.
Do you realize the Holy Spirit is a person, do you realize that? Make friends with him, it pays. You know what he has? He has the key to the storehouse of God. All the wealth of God the Father and God the Son is administered by the Holy Spirit. You can be a child of God and live like a pauper until you get friendly with the Holy Spirit. And he’s very sensitive. He’s a dove. He’s easily scared away. You use the wrong kind of word, you develop the wrong kind of attitude; the dove flies off.
There’s only one nature the dove will settle on. Do you know what that is? The nature of the Lamb. John the Baptist said, “Behold the Lamb of God.” And then he said, “I saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and remaining on him.” On what nature does the dove remain? The Jesus nature, the Lamb nature. What’s the nature of the Lamb? In my simple understanding it means three things: purity, meekness and a life sacrificially laid down. That’s where the Holy Spirit will remain.
You can be touched by the Holy Spirit and be far from the Holy Spirit ten minutes later because he’s choosy about where he settles. “As many as have been led by the Holy Spirit into the name of Jesus.” Jesus said, “You can count on my being there. But you miss out the conditions and you have no commitment from me.” The meeting place is not we believe in the baptism of the Holy Spirit evidenced by speaking in tongues. Not we believe in water baptism. Not we’re started by Luther, but the name of Jesus.
I tell you what. Most of you know what I’m saying is true. The question is are you going to do anything about it, and that’s not my problem, that’s yours.
Let me give you another scripture. Psalm 122, just three verses, verses 3–5:
“Jerusalem is built as a city that is compact together.”
That’s a beautiful word. The word that’s translated “compact together” is the word from which we get the modern Hebrew word ?haver?. It means a companion, a close friend.
“Whither the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, to the testimony of Israel, to give thanks to the name of the Lord.”
You see what makes it significant? It’s the place where the Lord has put his name. And when the tribes of Israel went three times every year as God has commanded to the city of Jerusalem, they were testifying “The Lord is our God. The Lord who dwells in Jerusalem, the Lord who has put his name in Jerusalem is our God. That’s why we all go whether we’re from Benjamin or Manasseh or Ephraim is unimportant. What’s important is where we’re going to. What’s important is the place where we meet. That’s the place where the Lord has set his name.”
That’s true today. When God’s people come together into the name of the Lord, that’s the testimony of who is their God.
Let me offer you just a few other comments and I’m going to close. A book was written some time ago which made a tremendous impact and it did because it was timely called Roots. It really started a whole lot of people thinking about their roots. I think in some ways Americans—you know I’m British by background—are particularly prone to think about their roots because their roots are usually somewhere else. I’ve had American friends that have started to inquire into their background in Britain or wherever it might be, and very often they stopped suddenly because they discovered somebody had been in prison or hanged.
Now it’s different in Australia. In Australia, to be really respectable you have to have a convict as an ancestor. Did you know that? You might not understand that but Australia was founded as a settlement for convicts. When they couldn’t send them any longer to America, they sent them into Australia. I’m not romancing, this is true. And particularly in the island of Tasmania, the little island south of Australia, they told me quite seriously, “Everybody who is anybody here has got a convict as an ancestor.”
There’s this general desire to know where do you come from, where are my roots. I think God put that in us. I think one of the great problems of multitudes of contemporary young people is they’re rootless. They really don’t know where they fit in, where they belong, where they came from. I want to tell you that we have got good roots and we better recognize our roots. It’s fine to go back to Wesley or Luther or Calvin or whoever, but that’s not where our roots are. We’ve got roots that go back a lot further in history than that.
Listen now to Romans 11:17–18:
“And if some of the branches [that’s the real Israelites] were broken off [from their own olive tree by unbelief], and you, [Paul is writing to Gentiles like me, I’m a Gentile] being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the root and fatness of the olive tree; do not boast against the branches.”
That’s a very necessary warning for the contemporary church. Never become arrogant towards Israel.
“But if you boast, remember that you do not support the root, but the root supports you.”
Where’s our root? Our root is the patriarchs. Our root is Abraham, Isaac, Jacob. We have a wonderful root system. It’s one that’s endured 4000 years of tumultuous history. You know there’s nothing in the world of trees so long lived as an olive tree? That’s the tree that Paul is talking about, the olive tree of God’s chosen people founded in a man named Abraham, the father of a great multitude, the father of a new nation. Brothers and sisters, if you could be embarrassed about your human ancestry, remember that in Jesus Christ the old things are passed away, all things are become new and all things are of God.
I grieve when I find Christians who lack a sense of self worth and security because they’re not satisfied about their family background. Brothers and sisters, that’s the old. It’s past. We’ve been grafted into God’s own olive tree and our roots go back to the men who God chose to be the root system of a people that was to endure through history and through all ages. I could be satisfied with my ancestry in the natural. I was born of British parents, all my male ancestors have been officers in the British Army. But I’ve got a much better root system than that. It’s Abraham.
Listen to Romans 4:11:
“And he [Abraham] received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while still uncircumcised: that he might be the father of those who believe, though they are not circumcised [though they’re not Jews]; that righteousness might be imputed to them also.”
Who is our father? Abraham. Galatians 3:29:
“And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”
We have a wonderful heritage. There’s no one that can lord it over us. You can go to any aristocratic family in Europe, they go back maybe 1000 years. We go back 4000 years. And our pedigree is traced in the Bible. That’s something to be excited about. If only Christians could realize what they’ve become in Jesus Christ, we wouldn’t have the problems of insecurity and lack of confidence and lack of self-worth. I tell you, your problems, some of you, you spend much too long looking at the television and far too little time looking in the mirror to see what you’re really like.
I tell people everywhere, if you want to be super-spiritual you need to exchange two things. These are the two things you need to exchange. The amount of time you spend in front of the television and the amount of the time you spend in front of the Bible. Switch them and you’ll be a super-spiritual person. Is that right? For most of you, not for all of you.
One final picture in Psalm 45. Psalm 45 is a beautiful psalm. It’s a Messianic psalm. That means it’s a picture of the Messiah. There’s only one person who corresponds to the person described in this psalm, and that’s Jesus the Son of God, the Messiah of Israel. I’d just like to read a little of it. It’s so good, why should I cheat you? How are we doing with time? We’re not doing badly, considering it’s me preaching.
“My heart is overflowing with a good thing...”
There’s a person who is excited.
“...I recite my composition concerning the king: my tongue is the pen of a ready writer. [Then this is addressed to the king] You are fairer than the sons of men: grace is poured upon your lips: therefore God has blessed you forever.”
Notice that therefore. Why did God bless Jesus? Because of the grace of his lips.
“Gird your sword upon your thigh, O mighty one, with your glory and your majesty. And in your majesty ride prosperously because of truth, humility and righteousness [that’s God’s king]; and your right hand shall teach you awesome things. Your arrows are sharp in the heart of the king’s enemies: the peoples fall under you. [That’s conviction of sin.] Your throne, O God, is forever.”
Notice he’s addressed as God? Oh that the Jewish people could see that. This is the Messianic king, and he’s called God.
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever: a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of your kingdom. You love righteousness, and hate wickedness: therefore God, your God has blessed you...”
And notice that’s addressed to God. God has blessed you, God. That shows us there are two persons at least who are called God. See that? Notice why God blessed him. Have you seen that? Do you want to be blessed? God’s not unfair, if you meet the conditions he’ll bless you. Why was he blessed? If you love righteousness and hate wickedness, that’s the way to get blessed.
“Therefore your God has anointed you with the oil of gladness more than all your companions. All your garments [Oh, this is so beautiful!] are scented with myrrh, and aloes, and cassia...”
Have you ever smelled the fragrance of the Lord?
“...out of the ivory palaces, by which they have made you glad. [Now listen, this is where we’re coming to.] Kings’ daughters are among your honorable women: at your right hand [is the correct place in a Jewish marriage ceremony] stand the queen in gold of Ophir.”
Who’s the queen, the queen bride? The church. That’s us, if we make it. Now, here’s the advice, and this is relevant to what I’ve been saying.
“Listen O daughter, consider and incline your ear; forget your own people, and your father’s house...”
Forget where you came from. It’s not relevant. Do you understand? Don’t be bogged down in your nationality, your denomination, your background. In order to qualify to be the queen you’ve got to come out of all that.
“...forget your own people, and your father’s house; so the king will greatly desire your beauty: because he is your Lord; and worship him.”
That’s a picture of what Jesus wants us to be. How do we qualify? Forgetting our father’s house and our own people.
I remember when God called me as a young man of about 30. I was in what was then Palestine. I had the right for the British Army to send me back to Britain. I’d been overseas four and a half years. But God had called me to stay in that land and serve him. And at that point I was torn between going back and seeing my parents, my grandfather who was dying, or obeying the call of God. One of the scriptures God gave me through a brother at that time: “Forget your own people also, and your father’s house; so the king will greatly desire your beauty.” And I refused the right of my passage back to Britain. I refused everything I was entitled to in my secular profession at Cambridge. I forgot my background. I could have gone back to Cambridge and been a professor there even till this day, a very honorable and dignified position in the academic world. But I forgot my background, I forgot my parents; I’d been grafted into another line. I had a new root system and I’m proud of it. I am proud of it.
One more promise in this psalm, we won’t read all of it. Verse 16, I think this is addressed to the queen:
“Instead of your fathers shall be your sons, whom you shall make princes in all the earth.”
Let’s not worry so much about the past. Let’s not be so concerned about what I would say ecclesiastical history. Because, if we’ll forget our fathers, God will give us sons that will become princes, rulers for God in all the earth.
See what I’m saying? We have to make a decision. Are we going to stick with the high places, are we going to maintain the places of worship which is essentially denominational? Let’s be honest. Are we going to be tied down by that forever? Or are we going to destroy the high places and say there’s only one way to come together that’s acceptable to God, to be led together by the Spirit of God into the name of Jesus. Do you know what that does? That honors the Holy Spirit, that honors Jesus and it honors God the Father. When we meet on any other basis, God is very gracious, he’s very patient just as he was to the kings that permitted worship on the high places. But he was longing for somebody who would carry the reform through and remove the high places.
Personally, I believe the Lord is showing me that’s where we’re at in this move of God. We’ve come so far and some of us have gone back into denominationalism. That’s not the will of God. The will of God is to remove the high places. That doesn’t mean you can’t say I was a Lutheran or I was a Baptist. That’s fine, you can give us your history but don’t let it dictate your conduct. Forget your father’s house and your own people, and the king will greatly desire your beauty.
Shall we turn to God just in closing?