I was instantly drawn to the title of this sermon because the only other person I have ever heard preach on the subject of Nadab and Abihu taking "strange fire" into the tabernacle was Ern Baxter in the series he preached at our Anglia Bible Week 1983 - "The Priestly Clothing". Once again this sermon was another occasion where I felt like Rob was a prophet telling me the secrets of my heart - particularly his opening comments on foundations in church life. Here it is:
(John 6) - Paul never had an HQ - he was always mobile and always moving to regions beyond raising up other leaders. We have only been a church for 3 months but I treat everyone as a leader! Do not see a hierarchy in the church at all! Elders are the highest human governing authority over local churches and deacons help them and they will (or should) work with an apostolic team by invitation and not imposition. An apostolic team can't just come in and change anything. They have to work through the elders into that local church but if there is extreme heresy or immorality then the apostolic team will come in and work into that church for the people's sake.
We are laying foundations tonight - foundations establish the ground for true ministry, authentic worship and authentic church life.
Foundations will either facilitate or frustrate the moving of the Spirit in the local church.
Many times when churches get into problems unfortunately people look at the symptoms of the problem instead of dealing with the foundations. Most problems are to do with the foundations and it is in my heart to make this church to be the most beautiful under the sun, my part to play which I will do with fervency and meticulous care to get the foundations properly laid before we start building.
When God starts building on this foundation - we don't want to limit the Holy One of Israel and we can then build a church of thousands with hundreds of elders, deacons and pastors with a high calibre priesthood and literally see nations SHAKEN from this place!
The foundations won't be arrogant or proud but are vital to be laid properly. God is saying "Dont be in a rush to start building - lay these foundations properly and then you will see what I can build - higher and higher!".
We are looking tonight at Prophetic Ministry.
Or authorised/unauthorised fire. (John 6:63) - "The flesh counts for nothing". (Leviticus 10:1+) - Flesh refers to human effort and human ability. "They offered unauthorised fire before the Lord". Now Nadab and Abihu knew exactly what they were doing wrong. God had given them very clear instructions. Remember God is slow to anger and quick to show mercy so anytime He breaks out and kills you will know that this had been a long time coming.
A fire had come from heaven that God had started on the altar and the priests were meant to use this fire in their offerings but they used fire that men had made and so they used unauthorised fire - it was ministry of the flesh - earthly church and earthly ministry. God wants heavenly fire! Anything else is unauthorised fire. Anything else is ministering in the flesh. Aren't you glad that we are now living in a covenant of mercy?! Because all of us at one time or another have stepped out with fleshly motives and earthly reasons to draw attention to ourselves and our abilities.
God seriously wants in His church AUTHORISED fire moving through the Church and not human zeal or human effort. This is the main thing that God exercised in Glenda and myself about something missing from the Church.
We've got alpha personalities, organisation and professionalism but you go to some services and you are still lonely for God while you are there. You may have dynamic encounters with human fire and human zeal and human ability but you would NEVER get the naked, holy glorious Presence of the Living God. God wants His fire back in the Church - authorised and not false fire!
To stand in the centre of healing and radiate miracles effortlessly is to stand in the glory of God but flesh cannot stand in the glory of God. Religious flesh may appear innocent at times, even very zealous for God but it's major problem is it's assumption of taking it's initative from the spirit of grace. Flesh is deluded into thinking it is responsible for administrating and orchestrating the plans of God. It is true that God does not operate in a vacuum but through the instrumentality of human partnerships for we are labourers with God - the Bible says. In other words we are co-labourers and co-heirs with Christ. Nevertheless we have no responsibility except to respond to His ability for He is not looking for perfect vessels but yielded vessels.
The flesh knows nothing about yielding to the spirit of grace. The flesh is full of fury and far too energetic to rest. The flesh is honestly convinced that it can save the world when it cannot even save itself. The flesh makes plans - it fasts for days and it goes to great sacrifices to convince God to bless it's plans. God's plans for us are ALREADY blessed and does not need the anxious religious behaviour to cough it up!
Now ... the next 30 seconds here took me 4 years of pain to learn this lesson and to walk through. In the next 30 seconds you will receive a distilled impartation of that pain and learning. Paul says that is what leadership is about. We die that you may live!
"The flesh produces only false burdens, false burdens produce false responsibilitys, false responsibilitys produce false ministries and false ministries produce false expectations that are propped up by false or unauthorised fire".
(Isaiah 6:1+). "Who will go for us?". The angels never sinned once yet they covered their faces in the holy Presence of God - so reverant are they for the Presence of God. A W Tozer struggles to define the holiness of God yet says to put humanity in a hierarchy under angels and above animals and fish is total blasphemy. Isaiah was one of the prophets of his day and saw who God was yet cried "Woe is me!". The difference between Isaiah and us is that we are in the covenant of grace! John was called the apostle who Jesus loved. (Revelation 1:7) - John was on the Isle of Patmos and found himself wrapped in the Presence of God. Yet he said; "I fell as one dead". He was in total terror of the unveiled glory! The next verse says that the Lord touched him with His right hand and said; "Don't be afraid". This encounter brought about cataclysmic revelation about the end but prior to that the main aim of the encounter was simply to get the fear out of John.
That just blows my mind! When this holy God comes into these meetings - and He hasn't come yet into City Church International in this power ... yet - our natural instinct is terror because compared to Him we are so so unholy! We treat this God like a senile Santa Claus so often yet;
If we would see miracles then we must see who He really is.
Our instinct is to run away but He is going to manifest Himself at CCI soon so we must get ready! It could happen any day! The most holy person you know is so un-holy compared to God! Get ready for the right hand to reach out to you when He comes. Listen for those gracious words; "Do not be afraid - you can stay in My Presence because of the blood". People are saying we need a return of the fear of the Lord in the church but they are talking about people running away from God in inferiority complexes. The fear they are describing is not the fear of the Lord. The Bible talks about fear that is the beginning of wisdom. If we become too wrongly fearful we will bury our talents and not do anything! Proper fear is being in awe of God - but the Bible says we can approach the throne of grace boldly!
Notice again - for Isaiah - the initiative comes from heaven for God to bring fire from heaven in the form of a coal through an angelic visitation and it cautherises Isaiah's guilt away. Grace comes and love comes and mercy comes and deliverance from fear comes to Isaiah. It doesn't come from Isaiah - it isn't the energy of his flesh, it isn't Isaiah making New Years resolutions! While Isaiah is on his face God makes the decision to come and take his fear away. The result? "Here I am! Send me!". This isn't a man motivated by guilt and manipulation but from a man who is liberated from guilt and an authentic ministry comes from that. It didn't come from his own efforts or own energy.
That is true fire because it came from heaven and it liberated Isaiah! It is so dangerous (and more dangerous than what people realise) for a Christian to do things out of guilt - it is conscience works and dead works - it is wood, hay and stubble with no eternal value. Most of the religious world is fanatically driven by dead works for they never got a foundation for authentic works with fire that come from heaven. A response then comes from liberty; "Here I am! Send me!". We serve a zealous God and those that serve Him should be zealous! You can go to churches and see people fed up with performance zeal. If we don't give people a foundation of grace then people won't be ready for the works that God gives us. Build the foundation of grace and then on that foundation you can challenge them. People need to be free to move with the Holy Spirit and not be driven by leaders.
The grace of God - not authoritarianism - will change the world! Believe in revival and believe the church needs reviving. God cares about the church and doesn't care what the world says! He loves us and is for us and is going to bring us through the full radiance of the Father's glory. Jesus promised He would build the church and hell wouldn't prevail. Don't want to build anything else but the church - thousands of churches that are the house of God filled with His Presence! Build marriages and families and individuals strong and you have strong churches. Parachurch will never make the church strong. We must build strong local churches and from there launch into the nations.
We need to have churches that substantiate our message otherwise we are preaching empty rhetoric.
Why bother preaching on what the world should be when you have nothing to show what you have built at home? If you can't build people real then don't have those men or women near your churches! Why bother hearing a lecturer lecture on the gifts of the Spirit when they don't move in the gifts of the Spirit!? You wouldn't allow a surgeon to operate on you who isn't a surgeon! The more yielded we are to the Holy Spirit - the more He will use us. Most of the workers in the Welsh Revival were in their 20's.
(Zechariah 4:6) - "Not by might nor by power but by My Spirit says the Lord". The Hebrew word for "might" means it is not by what you have got in your hand - not by your resources. Can be translated as "wealth". The word "power" means "to stretch" - to take a war bow and stretch it to it's absolute tightness, yet the arrow would still fall short of the vision - but by MY Spirit that the restoration to glory will happen. My Spirit will make the provisons!
Nucleur submarines are controlled from the bridge and there is a screen with numbers that are co-ordinates showing the precise location of the submarine with an accuracy upto 10 metres. Even the sophisticated machines become in-exact over a few days. It's information needs to be updated every few days and so they do this by getting in contact with a satillite that re-programmes their machines. Our hearts were meant to be a guiding system for God but has a tendancy to drift into false fire and condemnation and guilt - so every few days we need to get into contact with our geo-synchronus orbiting satillite.
Your heart needs to be positioned to hear this. Keep your eyes closed and listen with your ears. The Lord wants us to know today that we are not seperate from heaven by geographical distance but by dimension. There is a thin membrane between the heavenly realm and the earth realm. When we say heaven is above and hell is below if we think in terms of geographical direction then we will set ourselves back. When the Bible says "set your minds on things above" it is talking about how heaven is higher than earth in purity and glory. Hell is not under the earth in the sense of in earth's core. Hell is a place of great dishonour and great torment - it is a great crack in the universe and you don't ever want to go there and no one needs to because of His love. Heaven is a dimension - a real realm and people can open themselves up to the reality of hell and feel the torment and horror of that place. Hell has got gates and they open and close. Heaven is more real than this earth realm. You can walk around in heaven. You can step into heaven now and walk in any time of day or night. Get your head out of the way. You transition into the heavenly realm through Jesus.
His identification with you at your worst enables you to identify with Him at His best. Jesus is whom men think of or think about when they try to think of God but Jesus is who God thinks of when He thinks of you. There is no spiritual height to which you may not ascend to with Jesus because there was no spiritual depth to which Jesus refused to descend for you.