• In the early church their power was electrifying, in the modern church our power is electronic (Leonard Ravenhill).
  • When God is our distant ruler, we approach him as dutiful subjects or religious consumers. But when he is our loving Father, we experience him as his beloved children (Jim Denison)
  • Worship is a believing heart’s response to the work of the Holy Spirit, not an emotional response to the quality of the music (Matthew Westerholm).
  • In an individualistic culture, relationships are simply not the primary lens for understanding identity (Doug Ponde).
  • These days, with so much uncertainty in the world, it seems everyone is interested in the power of prayer. But I’m afraid we might be more interested in power than in prayer (Ray Hollenbach)

Text: 1 Peter 2:9-10 ‘But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.’

In the short tenure we are given in this life, in which we have to use the knowledge we have to eke out our living and make meaning, it is wealth to know Jesus Christ who came to help us recalibrate toward what assures us of eternal life with God. Any relationship, knowledge and viewpoint that distracts and prevents one from growing in closer relationship with one who has eternal life, should be cut off. ‘If your hand or your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life maimed or crippled than to have two hands or two feet and be thrown into eternal fire. 9 And if your eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into the fire of hell.’ (Matthew 18:8-9). Might the knowledge you have of the role of a priest be causing others to stumble in relation to the kingdom of God and their role in it?

Human beings are, to a large extent, what they know – Knowledge, gained consciously and unconsciously, acts as the hidden compass which points to who one is, who other people are to the person, who God is and how to relate with him, etc. Actions, and emotions attached to them, take the direction of thoughts. What one believes or knows is what gives rise to a quest for greater understanding, and the knowledge one gains, in turn, informs beliefs. The human need for God, filled with bad theology, will mislead people who continue to multiply the beliefs with others. This is what results in cultural blindness which is harmful to the church’s witness to and in the world. ‘Culture is a complex integrated system of thought and behavior shared by members of a group — a system whose whole pattern allows us to understand the meanings that people attach to specific facts and observations’ (Christie Kiefer, 2007).  Cultural beliefs can incline one to meet their unmet need for power, fame and ability to control others, camouflaged as a special calling. It is a deadly package deal when the desire to dominate is assumed to be leadership and the feeding of individual insecurity is taken as God’s blessing. This causes those coming to faith to think in sub-biblical ways about their identity and mission as followers of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ taught his disciples, ‘I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing’ (John 15:5). Any one who is Jesus disciple is a branch that draws nutrients from Jesus Christ the, the vine. To deny Jesus disciples from getting their soul food from Christ is to serve another god.

Called to ministry designed by people or called by God – One of the traps comes through the term ‘calling’ and the assumed assignment. That understanding can retain the view that enables one to meet their deep insecurity or be obedient to what one sees as a relationship with Christ and a life of discipleship. I am thinking of a man, a televangelist, whose program I stumbled on. He was referring to Genesis 14 where Abraham met Melchizedek to whom he gave tithe. The preacher said that the tithe is meant for the preacher’s personal use and that is the way the congregants would get blessed. The communication that the ‘man of God’ was now Melchizedek, the mediator between God and man, could be either foolishness, or total ignorance of who God is. Two thoughts came to mind: the man is totally ignorant of who God is and so uses his name in vain. Or the man had in a subtle way gotten used to self-deception until he and his listeners thought it was true. That TV programme was soon after attending a colleague’s funeral, a dear brother in the Lord whose testimony was refreshing. However, the funeral program was hijacked by people who were in tents labelled, bishops, reverends and pastors. They spent most of the time introducing themselves, their ranks and spouses, which was largely irrelevant. An opportunity to share what it was to live the faith in the home, marketplace, church, and community, was spent to give voice to a people not clear about their mission. It was then that I heard of a man who felt abused at his wife’s funeral, where there was no mention of the wife, her faith or family. A call that has to be sustained by manipulation, threats, symbols and titles that cause us to assume special knowledge, power to dominate and control others, is dangerous. ‘Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’ (Matthew 7:21-23). Knowing and obeying God’s will, not people’s expectations, is what qualifies people as priests of Christ. It is also possible to be appointed and anointed, and rejected by God, as happened to king Saul. Fleshly thinking can cause one who started in the spirit end up in the flesh (Galatians3). How sad when people have to follow a rejected leader.

Deception that God’s standards are similar to what people design – It is deathly deception for human beings to take themselves to be more privileged in the kingdom of God because of the role the society has given them. The Old Testament has many prophetic warnings against such beliefs. The people in cloth and collar talked about themselves.  Did Jesus Christ come to have people who organize the gathering of believers and take the power to feed themselves and seek opportunities to be known? ‘The more priests there were, the more they sinned against me; they exchanged their glorious God for something disgraceful. They feed on the sins of my people and relish their wickedness (Hosea 4:7-8). Will God consider you sinless when you use his name in vain? (Exodus 20:7). Giving to that mindset, however many or old the tradition, disables the believers from taking their position. They have to be taught by one who is assumed to have all gifts needed by the church, controlled, and act according to the thinking of the ‘man of God’. That ‘call’ could be unconsciously nullifying the sacrifice of Christ. What G. K. Chesterton calls theology of the dead ‘Our churches these days are filled (or one-quarter filled) with a soft breed of Christian that must be fed on a diet of harmless fun to keep them interested. About theology they know little. Scarcely any of them have read even one of the great Christian classics, but most of them are familiar with religious fiction and spine-tingling films. No wonder their moral and spiritual constitution is so frail. Such can only be called weak adherents of a faith they never really understood.’ Do not serve the systems, popular beliefs, or the deeply held need for affirmation and assume that you have special hierarchy in God’s kingdom. If you do not understand the faith, take time to learn, but do not assume you can do whatever you think gains you acceptance.

Source of knowledge – Jesus Christ was very clear about his teaching being the only source informing those who would be his disciples, not culture or charisma. It is Jesus who taught that his disciples were to wait for the gift of the Father, the Holy Spirit who would keep them connected to what is divine. For a human being to take the position given him by the society and make what truly belongs to God a private property, by allotting him/herself sovereignty over the opportunity given him, or the resources gathered, leads to arrogance that makes him/her have a view that they can control others, manipulate, and misuse God’s name: that is a very dangerous position. To use one’s charisma to bring more people to ‘church’ causes the unspoken power structure to adapt and rearrange resources around amplifying that voice. The temptation to give in to the glitter and cheer can silence the alternative voice, which says ‘it is written’. It is important to go back to the written word of God, rather than your pastor’s voice and allow it to interact with you.

What you hunger and thirst for is what fills you – Those who recognize that the authority in heaven has been given to Jesus Christ and teach obedience to all that he taught are his disciples and together form the priesthood of believers. These are people who hunger and thirst for right standing with God (Matthew 5:6). They read the word of God. Alone and in the company of others. They acknowledge the sovereignty of God and pray for God’s kingdom to come and His will to be done on earth as it is in heaven. Their needs are not the priority. Preoccupation with consumerism, status, and fame is a sign that one has missed the way and could be misleading others. The priesthood of believers is those who are humbled by the grace that has made them heirs of God’s kingdom. They feed on God’s word, and though living within the system to which they serve, they know they have a higher calling that leads to eternity with Christ. Listen to what the Holy Spirit is saying and facilitate other priests to share a testimony of what God is doing in and through their lives. Encourage one another and guard your mind from beliefs that are so carnal that when acted on, they do not honor God.

As a priest representing God to the people, you need to know him and hear what he is saying lest you misrepresent him. This you do through prayer and reading the word and teaching it to those you disciple. Where there is a priesthood of believers, the kingdom of God is not about status, fame, recognition and hierarchy; it is not about using the systems and cultural definitions to define success and call it a blessing. The collar on the neck, attire, titles that identify you as working for the church are important but cannot qualify you as part of the priesthood of believers if you do not know and obey Christ as Lord. To be a priest of Christ, you need to submit to His Lordship and so the symbols where necessary facilitate you as you obey Christ.  It is not about making it to the top. It is about serving a higher vision. It is about shining the spotlight on the glory of Jesus.   It is a result of feeding the beliefs and thoughts that make up one’s mental disposition. What one knows predetermines interpretation and response to inner desires, events, circumstances, situations and opportunities. Have you ever considered that you are a New Testament priest (1 Peter 2:9-10) even when you have no title in your church?

‘We’ll have no broken-hearted pews, until we have broken hearted pulpits’ (Leonard Ravenhill).

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