It's good to be here, and I have a message from the Lord. I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to the New Testament, to Matthew's Gospel chapter 18, and this is what I feel the Lord has asked me to bring to you.
Matthew 18 verse 15, and we're reading through to verse 20 - these are the words of the Lord Jesus by the way, if you have an edition of New Testament, a 'red letter edition' it's called, these words will be in red because Jesus spoke them: "Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that 'by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established'. And if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector. Assuredly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them". Amen.
Could we pray together? Could I ask you to stand as we pray? Just stand, and let's settle ourselves before God, conscious that we are in His presence, and ask Him for His blessing and His help as we come to His Word.
Abba Father, Holy Heavenly Father, we reverence You and we praise Your name. We come in the mighty, victorious name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we ask now - as we praise and give You thanks for all Your goodness to us - we ask You for a very definite sense of Your presence. We would invoke, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, everything that comes to us from His death and resurrection. We ask for a binding of every other presence or force that would seek to rob us of His presence, or would seek to snatch away the good seed of the Word. We come against any spirit of heaviness that might be upon us or in this place, and we bind you in Jesus' name. We ask, Lord, for a loosing and a releasing of the power of heaven. We ask that the very presence of the Holy Spirit will come amongst us in a definite sense, that we might know His manifest presence, that we might know that we have met with God, that we might hear His voice, that we might know His touch, that our hearts and our lives would be changed and transformed through the power of the Holy Spirit through the Word. I pray for this church, and I pray that the word that the Spirit is speaking to the church just now, that word in season, that rhema word, the spoken word of God from God's heart for this people, that they might have ears to receive it, and to hear what the Spirit says. Lord, come into our midst now and deal with all of us - whatever our need is, and even if the message may not be appropriate to our personal need, we know that You can meet us, and You can touch us. So Lord, we commit ourselves to You now, and ask Your blessing upon us in Jesus' name, Amen.
I want to speak to you today on "Earth Governing Heaven". You might find this a strange passage to be reading this morning, but verses 15-17 outline for us what should be the procedure in any church for church discipline. I'll not be preaching on that just now, but it's a worthy subject to be taken up - and it has to be said that it's one that is sadly neglected in most churches today. There are very specific guidelines given. If you have anything against another - you don't have to be a brother, it could be a sister - go and tell them. Go and talk to them about it in a gracious manner. Sadly very few people do that, we usually go and talk to somebody else about it, we gossip about it, we slander. We may even go to leadership about it, but the Bible doesn't actually tell us to do that, it tells us to go to the person that we have the issue with. If they hear us, we have gained our brother or sister; but if they don't, well then we're instructed to take someone else with us, or even two people with us, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses the thing might be established. But if that doesn't work, if they still refuse to hear, we're meant to go and tell it to the church. After all these other procedures, we then go and tell it to the church. If, after that process, the person or persons still don't see sense, or they're still not in agreement, and it's obvious that they are in the wrong to all the church - that must be obvious - then the church treats them as a heathen or a tax collector.
Now, as I said, I'm not dealing with this this morning, but it would be worthwhile for you to look into that. So this is a specific case that Jesus is talking about, where there is a fall out of some kind, but underlying this specific case and the directive procedure, there is a principle - a general spiritual principle that is the foundation of this church discipline. It's found in verses 18, 19 and 20: "Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven. If two of you agree on earth concerning anything, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am in the midst of them".
There is a reason why you discipline in the church, and there is a reason why you do it the way Jesus said - that's because there is a general spiritual principle that is bound up in it. Jesus uses these words in verse 18, 'Verily, verily', or 'Truly I say to you', or 'Assuredly'. There is a reason why you do what He has outlined in verses 15 through to 17 - but this principle should not just be implemented regarding church discipline, but indeed it should be, I believe, a general principle that affects the whole of church life, and indeed us as individual Christians. We're going to see this morning the importance of the church's ministry in prayer, and how it relates to this principle of 'Earth Governing Heaven' - Earth, that's right, I've got it the right way round, Earth governing Heaven.
I want to say, before I begin, that I believe there is a word from God for Abbot's Cross Church, and it relates to your prayer life and your prayer ministry. God has opened a door to you in recent months and over the last year, whereby He has made you aware of certain aspects to ministry in prayer, hence the opening of the Thursday morning prayer times with people who are in great need. But I believe - and I hope I have the liberty to say this, but I believe I'm in the Spirit - that the Lord wants you to go up a level in regards to your corporate praying as a church. Now please, I'm not talking about more meetings. The last thing in the world that I want, and that you probably need, is more meetings, more nights out in the week, more things to do. I'm not talking about activity, I'm talking about the dimension in which you pray, the level on which you pray. That will become self-evident as we do our little study here this morning.
'Earth Governing Heaven', right away there should be an objection that comes naturally to you: 'Who is in control anyway? I always thought Heaven was in control of Earth! Have you not got it the wrong way round?'. Well, look at verse 18: 'Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven' - to me, that says that Earth is governing Heaven in some way. Now we're not robbing God of His Throne, we're not saying He's no longer sovereign. In fact if you were to translate it literally, it actually says, 'whatever you bind on Earth will have been bound in Heaven, whatever you loose on Earth will have been loosed in Heaven'. But from our perspective, the emphasis is definitely upon Earth, that it is the action on Earth that establishes the will of Heaven down here. From our perspective, Earth binds or looses first. In a sense, Heaven is waiting for Earth to act.
So things that oppose God in this world and in this system around us, in our communities and even in God's congregation, they are to be bound. Things that are against His will in Heaven are to be bound by us on Earth, and things that agree with God are to be loosed to influence us and those around us. But the point I'm trying to make - and I think it's what's in verse 18 - is that this begins on Earth. It doesn't begin in Heaven - the will of God is in Heaven, but the implementing of this begins on Earth, and then Heaven comes behind it.
You might struggle with this. Let me give you one example in the Old Testament to bear this out - Exodus chapter 17 please. We see here that this is a principle of God's working, Earth governing Heaven. Exodus 17 verse 9: 'Moses said to Joshua, 'Choose us some men and go out, fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the rod of God in my hand'. So Joshua did as Moses said to him, and fought with Amalek. And Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill. And so it was, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed'. Now in Heaven the issue was decided already by God, in the sense that God wanted Israel to win - but before it actually happened it was decided by Moses in intercession and prayer before God, raising up his hands. So in Heaven, God wants the children of Israel to be victorious; yet on Earth, if Moses does not hold up his hands Israel will be defeated.
Now some of you may have a theological problem with this. You may say, 'I just can't accept this, you're making God impotent, you're making God determine His actions according to what we say or what we do'. No, I'm not doing that at all. God is the all-sovereign, omnipotent God who reigns, who sits on the Throne, and whose ultimate will will be done, whatever anybody else chooses to think or do. But what I am saying is what Scripture teaches, and that is that the Sovereign God has chosen to dispense a great deal of His authority to mankind. You see, God wants Earth to govern Heaven. It's not that He needs it to happen, but that's what He has chosen to do.
I do not mean that we can make God do what He doesn't want to do - no, far from it! Rather it means that we can implore God to do what He desires to do. In fact, this is the very foundation of prayer - that when we know the will of God, which is revealed in His Word, His heart's desire, it is then that we can go to God, and we can pray according to His will. We can ask for the things that He already wants - and so we come to God, and it brings a great forthrightness in prayer, and we say: 'Lord, we know that this is what Your will is, and we implore You!'. We're not saying: 'Please Lord, if it be Your will, please do this, please do that', but we're coming with boldness, and we're saying, 'Lord, we know that this is Your desire, and we cry to You, we implore You to do it!'.
Now, that's a different level of prayer altogether! And that's where God wants you to be. God's work today is to be done on this ground: Heaven desires to do, but Heaven will not do until Earth does first. That's interesting. When Earth moves, Heaven will move; and God wills to have Earth govern Heaven. Who's in control? God's in control, but God has dispensed a great deal of His control to mankind.
Now, the second question is: how, then, does this control work? How does Earth govern Heaven? Well, very simply: God intends that Earth should govern Heaven through the church. The church stands on Earth for the will of God. So it implies that if the church fails to rise to the will of God, what happens? God's will is not done on Earth as it is in Heaven. If the church fails in this regard, God will be restricted in influencing Earth with His will - for God wills to do whatever He desires through the church! The way in which God manifests Himself today to the world is meant to be through the body of Christ, though the church of the Living God.
Now let me explain this right from the very beginning. When God created Adam and Eve, He created Adam in His image. But He gave Adam - we can read this right at the beginning - what is called 'dominion'. He gave him dominion over the beasts of the field, the fish of the sea, and the birds of the air, and all of nature - it was his husbandry, he was the manager of God's creation. But when the serpent came into the Garden and tempted Adam and Eve, Adam effectively relinquished the dominion of the Earth, and gave over to Satan dominion, so that he becomes the god of this world, the Bible says, and this world lies in the lap of the wicked one. So Adam gave dominion over to Satan, and that's why Jesus is called the 'Last Adam'. He comes into creation at Christmas time as a human being, the Creator comes as a creature, He is the Son of God eternally but He becomes a Man, and He comes on behalf of mankind to wrest from the grip of Satan dominion over the Earth. That's why He faces him in the wilderness in temptation, that's why He goes to the Garden, Gethsemane, and then to the cross, and on the cross He binds the strong man and he strips away Satan's authority over this universe - and through His resurrection He stands before His church and He says: 'All authority is given unto me in Heaven and on Earth, go therefore and make disciples of all nations'.
Do you see what happened here? Dominion was given to Adam, Satan pinches it, Jesus gets it back - and He gives authority to the church to go out in His name and build His kingdom. The church is central to this. There is a wonderful little verse in Ephesians 3:10, and it's translated well in the NIV, and it goes like this - listen: 'God's intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms'. Let me repeat that: 'God's intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms'. These spiritual entities that are principalities and powers, God wants that His power and authority should be manifested in the church, so that demonic forces that previously have held sway over all the earth will know the power of God - how? Through you, and through the church.
The Greek word for 'church' in the New Testament is the word 'ecclesia', it means 'called out ones' literally, but to the Greek mind in Christ's day an 'ecclesia' was an assembly of people set apart to govern the affairs of a state or nation, a bit like a parliament, a ruling body like a parliament or a Senate. To the Romans, the ecclesia was a group set up to conquer a region for an empire, and then to colonise that region and alter its whole culture in order to reflect the Empire. So, in the days of the Roman Empire you will have known there were Roman colonies, and there were parts of all sorts of places in the world that were just like little parts of Rome, because an ecclesia had come in and transformed it to the tastes and the culture of the Empire.
Now, why would God, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, use the word 'ecclesia', 'church', for the congregation of people that He saves by grace and leaves as His representatives here on earth - simply because we are to follow the same pattern. We are to be like an assembly of people, a parliament of people, who are bringing to bear legislatively in the Spirit, the rule of God on Earth. We are to be like people of another nation. Our citizenship is not from here, but it's in Heaven; but we are still left here, and we are to bring a colonisation if you like, in the Spirit, of the rule of Heaven here on Earth. That's why Jesus said in Matthew 16 verse 18: 'I will build My church, I will build My ecclesia, and the gates of hell or Hades shall not prevail against it'. He will build His church - now, He builds the church, we don't build the church, but it's instructive to read that the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. Now when you read that you maybe think of big gates, like the pearly gates, or the big gates of Stormont, or something like that - that's not what is being spoken of here. It's symbolic, because in Bible times the gates of the city were often where the judges sat, or the governing council sat - so the gate was a place of rule, it was a place of government. So when Jesus says: 'I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it', He's saying 'The government of hell, the plans and schemes of the evil one will not overcome Me building My rule, My colonisation, My people who are determining My will on the Earth'. If you don't think that is the case, if you read Matthew 16:19, the following verse after He says 'I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'; He says: 'I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven'. It's the whole idea of authority.
Now this is my message: we've got to realise that the ministry of the church is not just evangelism. Now we need to be preaching the Gospel, and there is very little of that around today - and we need to say that we need to preach the Gospel of the good news of Jesus Christ: you must be born again, people need to be disciples of Jesus, and we need to baptise them in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. We're not setting that aside, but the church has more to do than that. It's more than discipleship, it's more than teaching, it's more than worship. One of the primary focuses and uses of the church before God is to bring the will of Heaven down upon Earth - to bring down to Earth God's will! How is it brought down? It is brought down by prayer, but this type of prayer, this type of prayer - not mealymouthed: 'Oh, if it be Your will'. If you throw that one on at the end you can pray anything, just throw that one on the end: 'Oh, if it be Your will'. Or unbelief disguises prayer: 'Oh, Lord, we are in a real fix, we are in a corner, Lord our back is against the wall, please come and help us or we're finished' - so often unbelief is continually expressed in our prayers. But this is a bold praying, understanding the will of God, being infused by the purposes of God, and understanding the authority and the power that we've got in Jesus Christ - not just as individuals, but particularly as the collective body of Jesus Christ, the church.
It takes prayer out of the realm of: 'Oh Lord, bless Joe, bless Sally, bless my aunt's ingrown toenail and her sore ear'. It takes us on to a level that's more than just: 'Lord, we are holding the fort until Your coming', battened down the hatches, things are so bad today, and we are intimidated by the government and by society and by pop culture, 'Lord, please, please, keep us pure until You come - but get us out of here as quickly as possible'. Prayer is so more superior than that, and when we discover these truths and principles of Earth governing Heaven, we can understand that we can come to God and say: 'Lord, we know Your will, and we want Your will, and in fact we demand that You do Your will'.
This is the church's ministry, and if she is not fulfilling it - here's a statement - she's not much use on Earth! Have you ever wondered, you're bound to have, why God takes such a long time to implement certain things on the Earth? Have you ever wondered that? Now be honest, have you ever thought: 'Lord, why do You take so long to do some of these things that You say in Your word?'. He is waiting for us to do something, He is waiting for us. Let me leave you with three principles - they're very quick ones you'll be glad to know - on how this control works, from these verses.
First of all: agreeing with God, verse 18. You bind what has already been bound in Heaven, you loose what has already been loosed in Heaven. After all, it's His will that is to be done on Earth, isn't it? So you've got to agree with God. So His will will be done in the church, in as far as His will is in the church. It's a cyclical thing. So God can only work in the church to the extent that we pray according to His will. So if we want more power, we need to pray more, and we need to pray more in agreement with God. A biblical illustration of this in the opposite, the antithesis of it, is the children of Israel going through the wilderness. It says in Psalm 78:41: 'Again and again they tempted', or tested, 'God, And limited the Holy God of Israel' - they limited God! You mightn't like that phrase, but it's in the Bible: they limited God. We read of Jesus going into a certain place near His hometown, and He could do no mighty work there because of unbelief. Now I don't believe that Jesus was divested of power, or that God was impotent, not for one minute! Their unbelief didn't cancel out His ability, but God has set a principle that He moves in conjunction with faith - and He will not reward unbelief! It's not that we rob God of power and make Him impotent, it's just simply that it's a spiritual law that God has enshrined, and we can limit God when we don't agree with Him.
So God's presence in the world today is limited to the capacity of the church to pray in the will of God. Would you say that our view of prayer is too small? I think so, when you understand this. When the Lord Jesus Christ was manifest in flesh, God was manifest, the Son of God manifest the life of God to us; and the manifestation of the life of God in Christ was as large as the capacity of Christ to manifest God. I know this is confusing to some of you, but what was the capacity of Jesus to manifest God? Listen to Colossians 1:19: 'It pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell', Colossians 2:9, 'For in Him the whole fullness of Deity dwells bodily'. Jesus had a perfect, complete capacity to manifest the life of God in bodily form - it's beyond our conception! But yet it's true. To what extent does the church manifest the presence, the power, and the will of God today? We are the body of Christ today, what is our capacity to manifest His presence and His will? Well, here it is: to the extent that we agree with Him, to the extent that we agree with Him, that what He has already in His will bound in Heaven should be bound on Earth, what He has already in His will loosed in Heaven should be loosed on Earth.
So first we need to agree with God, secondly we need to agree with each other, verse 19: 'Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven'. Now this is not simply agreeing on one thing. You know people have this sort of, it's nearly a hocus-pocus magical idea: 'Oh, if you agree with me on this one thing we'll pray about, and we ask God together, He has to do it!'. That's not what it says at all, it's not simply agreeing on one thing, rather it's agreeing on everything - 'Ah', you say, 'You can close your Bible now and go home! Agree on everything? Are you joking? You're talking to Christians, evangelical ones too! They hardly agree on anything! How can you agree on everything?'. Well, I'm not talking about viewpoints, I'm not talking about particular doctrinal niceties, I'm talking about oneness in the Spirit - 'if you agree', oneness in the Spirit. It's being dead to self, so we're no longer interested in what you want, OK? Oh for the day whenever the church, and individuals in the church, decide to put down their individual fights and battles for what they want in Sunday School, for what they want in the children's meeting, for what they want in the Youth Fellowship, for what they want in the eldership or whatever ruling body there is, what they want in the praise group, what they want being sung. You know we've all got our own tastes, we've all got our own preferences, but we need to come to the cross - every single one of us - and die to self. Every single one of us need to die to self and live unto God and say: 'Not my will, but Yours be done' - then it'll be easier to agree with each other in the oneness of the Spirit when we're dead to self and alive to God.
Actually this word 'agree' here in verse 19, 'if two of you shall agree', is literally the word 'to symphonise' - you know a symphony, an orchestra. The metaphor is taken from a number of musical instruments that are set to the same key, and playing the same tune - that's what the word is derived from. So the idea is: when we are symphonising together in prayer, according to the will of God, we've got agreement of hearts, we've got agreement of desires, we've got agreement of wishes, and even agreement of voices - when we agree in that manner, God will do what we ask, for it's His will and it's His way, in harmony with the Spirit and indeed in harmony with each other.
Now this is different than agreeing on an item for prayer. I mean two brothers could agree on their third brother being saved, but they're not talking to one another - eh? That's not agreeing with each other. Even unity of purpose is not the same, unity of purpose is not harmony in the Spirit. So what are we saying? Something needs to be done even before you pray: the flesh needs to be dealt with. You need to agree with God, and to the extent that you agree with Him, that is the extent to which the will of God will be done in the church. You need to agree with each other, and that means dying to self, preferring one another: 'Let this mind be in you which is also in Christ Jesus'. It's time - and listen, by the way, I'm not feeding something that I'm being fed, and not feeding to you stuff that I'm being fed. I know the church, and it's no different anywhere, and you need to stop fighting. You need to stop fighting! You need to put the flesh to death at Calvary, and you need to unite to see the will of God done on Earth as it is in Heaven.
Agree with God, agree with each other, and thirdly and finally: agree on our gathering. Verse 20, the third principle: 'For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them'. Agreeing on our gathering - I'm not talking about agreeing on meetings. Agreeing on our gathering means what happens when we gather. Now you might be sitting here, and you're really struggling with what I'm saying here: 'Earth governing Heaven? I mean, you're attributing too much to man, you really are'. Well, no, I'm not - if you look at verse 20, you will see that all of this is dependent on the presence of God being in the church, where two or three are gathered in His name, His presence is in the midst. We are called together in His name, not to ourselves, not to the Congregational union - and I love you good Congregational people, but that's not what we're called to gather to. We're not called together to any denomination, to any man, to any theological persuasion, we're called to gather to the name of Jesus Christ - and we're not even called to gather to ourselves, we ourselves alone, no! It's Christ!
So why do you come? Do you come to gather to Jesus? Also, gathering in His name means that He is the central One, He is the One directing the proceedings, in fact directing everything - He says: 'There am I in the midst'. Here's my question: are we truly meeting in His name? When we meet as a church, are we truly meeting in His name? Do you think that just means 'Christ's Church' over the door? Is that meeting to His name? Oh, no, no, it is not. Do you know what asking for something in the name of Jesus means? Do you think that's just tagging on the name of Jesus at the end of your prayer? 'In Jesus' name, Amen', is that what asking in the name of Jesus is? On a superficial level it is, maybe some of you asked to be saved like that - you stuck Jesus on the end of your prayer, and you thought that did it. Asking in the name of Jesus is more than words, it's entering into everything that Jesus is, everything that Jesus has done, the will of Jesus, the heart of Jesus, you're asking in accordance to the truth of Jesus - that's what asking in His name is. Agreement with Jesus, that asking in His name, in agreement with Him - that's why you can say 'Amen', which means 'I agree'.
In the same way, gathering in His name is more than meeting. If He is in the midst, we are in agreement with Him, we are in fellowship with Him, our heart's desire is one with Him, and we are united in Him together - and so He will come manifestly in the midst, and whatever we bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, whatever we loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven - because the Lord is in the midst we can do a great work like that! So much so that, even if one person is to be considered a heathen and a tax collector by the church on Earth, the governing bodies in Heaven will concur with that and they will be treated the same there. That is power not to be wielded lightly, but I have to say to you: it's a power that the church knows nothing about, generally today, here anyway - not here in here, but here in the province.
Who's in control? Well, God is, but He has given a lot to you - you? Who? The church. How? Agreeing with Him, agreeing with each other, and agreeing on our meeting, that the presence of God should be manifested, that the power of God should be displayed, in that His will should be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Listen to me as I close: I believe God wants this for Abotts Cross Church. I'm not asking you to have more prayer meetings, but I'm asking that in your prayer meetings you go to another level. Will you at least take that to heart and consider it? Pray about it, test the spirits. Whatsoever you bind on Earth shall be bound in Heaven, whatsoever you loose shall be loosed in Heaven: 'I will build My church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'. Do you believe it? Do you?
Let us pray. I'm going to say a quick prayer - and we don't want to rush too much. What has the Lord said to you? What is the Lord saying to this church? He certainly, if you concur with what I have said, He certainly has revealed His will to the church very simply this morning. Could I just say that some of you mightn't even be Christians, and you haven't got a notion what I'm talking about this morning - but you've sensed God's presence. That's enough, you know, the Lord Jesus is here, and you need to be saved, you need to be born again - would you repent of your sin and believe in Jesus? Ask Him to save you just where you're sitting. Just where you're sitting right now, would you say: 'Lord Jesus, I'm a sinner, I repent of my sin, I ask You to cleanse me because You died for me, save me now'. He will give you this power, the same power, you will move Earth for Heaven if you give Him your all.
What about you, Christians? Why should we eke out a spiritual living in fear and intimidation of the enemy and society, when such power is at our disposal? It's about time we started to believe God and tapped into these resources that the blood of Christ has bought for us. Even ask the Lord: 'Lord, what we do with this message? What do we do with this truth as a church? What do we do?'. Father, I just pray that this simple message that You have given will bear fruit for Your glory, that Your kingdom would come, that Your will would be done on Earth as it is in Heaven. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Abotts Cross Congregational Church, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Earth Governing Heaven" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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