It's great to be with you here again, and thanks for turning out tonight. I hope and trust that we are here meeting with the Lord, and hearing what He has to say to us tonight. I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Matthew chapter 11. This is a message that's been burning on my heart to bring to you today. Verse 12, just the one verse at the moment, of Matthew chapter 11: "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force". Let's read that again - Matthew 11, you're all there, aren't you? Verse 12: "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force".
Let's pray for a moment, OK? I would ask you now, please, to enter into prayer with me, that God would speak to us all and really come into our midst and minister to us. We want to hear from the Lord, don't we? We want to have an encounter with Him. So let's pray: Father, we thank You that You are a good, good Father. Lord, we were just reminded right now of Moses when he said: 'Lord, I would see your glory', and it says that You made all Your goodness to pass before him. Lord, sometimes when we ask to see Your glory, and Your greatness, and Your Majesty, and Your magnificence, we are expecting pyrotechnics and explosions, thunders and lightnings. Lord, You can do all that, we know; but, Lord, it's Your goodness that displays Your great glory. We thank You for Jesus, Your Son, the Lord, the Christ, and how He demonstrates Your love toward us. So, Lord, we know - I think probably everybody here tonight is convinced of Your goodness - but, Lord, we want to say to You this evening: we want to be good sons and daughters because of the mercies that You have shown towards us. We want to come and bring ourselves as living sacrifices to You. We ask You to teach us tonight how to do that better. So, Lord, would You, Father, would You teach us by Your Holy Spirit how to be good children. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
I've entitled this message tonight 'Holy Violence'. It's obvious from this verse: 'And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force'. What we didn't read is the context of that verse from verse 1 really through to 15. Let's read it, verse 1: 'Now it came to pass, when Jesus finished commanding His twelve disciples, that He departed from there to teach and to preach in their cities. And when John', that is, John the Baptist, 'had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, 'Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?''. Now there's a bit of a debate about this, whether or not John the Baptist himself was doubting, or whether it was his disciples who were doubting. We can't really be absolutely sure. It is my persuasion that John actually was doubting, and the reason why I think that is really in the answer that Jesus gave in verse 4. 'Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: the blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me''. Now, what Jesus is appealing to in verse 5 are the hallmarks that were prophesied by Isaiah in Isaiah 61 of what Messiah would look like, the signs that would follow the ministry of Messiah. He would preach glad tidings to the poor, He would heal the brokenhearted, He would bring recovery of sight to the blind, set at liberty the captives, preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Basically that's what Jesus is saying: 'Go and tell John what you see and hear'.
Just as an aside, verse 4: 'Go and tell John the things which you hear and see' - what we see and hear is important, OK? Sometimes as Christians we have this ethereal type of hyper-spiritual view that says: 'Oh, we walk by faith and not by sight, therefore we don't look for signs, we don't look for wonders, we don't look for demonstrations of God's power'. Actually Scripture teaches contrary to that. We shouldn't look for those things alone, we ought to walk by faith - and there were those who followed the signs and wonders, and they didn't have true faith in the Lord, even Jesus didn't commit Himself to them, some of them. But look at what it says: 'Tell John the things which you hear and see' - you see, the hearing and the seeing of the signs of who Jesus was were the authentication of His claim to Messiahship. So hearing and seeing is important, and I would encourage you to pray: 'Lord, let me see and let me hear more into the spiritual realm', but even in the physical realm God can show up and give you signs.
The point I'm making in verse 5 was: one of the things that Messiah was anointed to do was to set at liberty the captives, and here is poor old John the Baptist sitting in prison. He's probably thinking: 'Hold on a minute! Jesus might be doing all these other things for other people, but here is me - I'm meant to be the friend of the Bridegroom, I'm meant to be His best chum, and I'm stuck here in jail! Hold on! This doesn't figure!'. If you were in his shoes, I vouch to say you would be thinking exactly the same, maybe you even are right now because you're in some kind of a fix and you're wondering: 'When are You going to come through for me, Lord?'. 'Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me', what that really means in verse 6 (by the way, this is a whole different sermon), but what that really means is: 'Blessed is the one who is in prison, the one who is in darkness, the one who is going through the valley, the one who is experiencing trial and tribulation, and yet still believes in Me'. That is a new beatitude there: 'Blessed are they' - special blessing, special reward.
Anyway, come with me to verse 7: 'As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John' - OK, He hasn't given up on him. You can have your doubts and your little blips, but Jesus didn't give up on John the Baptist: 'What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind?'. 'John is no fair weather friend of Mine', Jesus is saying, 'He's going through a hard patch, but he's not a wimp' - that's basically what Jesus is saying. 'You didn't go out into the wilderness to see a wimp preaching, but you went out to see a strong man, a pillar'. Look at verse 8: 'But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings' houses'. You didn't go out to see a wimp, and you didn't go out to see somebody that lives in comfort - he was a rough, rugged man, a hard man, but a man of God. You went out to see him because you knew that this strange, quite eccentric man had an anointing upon him that was obviously of God, and he had something to say on God's behalf. That's who you went out to see! So don't think bad of John the Baptist because of what's going on now, verse 9: 'But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet' - and we'll come back to that in a moment. 'For this is he of whom it is written: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You'. Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he'. Our verse, and then verse 13: 'For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!'.
What did you go out to see? You didn't go out to see a wimp, you didn't go out to see a sensual materialist who lives in comfort - like we do here in the Western world in the 21st-century - you went out to see a prophet, and more than a prophet, a man of God. Now let's remind ourselves why John was in prison - do you know why? Herod Antipas of Galilee went on holiday to Rome to visit his brother. He fancied his brother's wife, and he took her. Then when he got home he dismissed his own wife. John the Baptist fearlessly stood before him and said: 'It is not lawful for you to have your brother's wife' - that's why he's in jail. A fearless man, not a reed blown about in the wind. A prophet, born of women there wasn't like him, Jesus said. We read these verses so many times that we skirt over the actual import of what they are saying, look at verse 9: 'A prophet? Yes, I say to you', Jesus says, 'more than a prophet'. Now, what does that mean, 'more than a prophet'? I'll tell you what it means, look at verses 14 and 15 that we read: 'If you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!'. He quotes, in verse 10, Malachi: 'Behold, I send My messenger before Your face, who will prepare Your way before You'.
More than a prophet! What was John? Listen: John was the forerunner of Messiah, the one who will prepare the way of the Lord, make straight paths for Christ to come - but he moved and ministered in the spirit and the power of Elijah. This is important for you to hear tonight: there is, presently, I believe today, and certainly prophesied in Malachi, that Elijah would appear again in the end times. One very significant ministry of the end times will be, and I believe currently is, a preparing of the way of the Lord, making straight paths for His feet to come, lowering the mountains that are in the way, raising the valleys up to the height where He can come. I believe that that ministry will be achieved in the church by 'holy violence', by those who are moving under the spirit and the power of Elijah. Now, I know there is a literal prophet going to come, and we know about these things from the book of Revelation as well - but what I believe is that God wants to put upon His church today this spirit, this welcoming spirit, this forerunner ministry, this 'holy violence'.
Now, we don't usually associate holiness with violence, do we? They seem to be mutually exclusive. Now, there's no doubt about it, when we go into the Old Testament, there is a lot of violence - yes? There's a lot of zeal that is displayed, and warfare, and bloodshed at times. Let's just remind ourselves about a couple of them. Turn with me to Numbers chapter 25 quickly, this is a staggering incident that Paul actually talks about in 1 Corinthians 10 I think it is, warning about it. In verse 1 it says: 'Now Israel remained in Acacia Grove, and the people began to commit harlotry with the women of Moab' - this is God's people. 'They invited the people to the sacrifices of their gods, and the people ate and bowed down to their gods. So Israel was joined to Baal of Peor, and the anger of the LORD was aroused against Israel. Then the LORD said to Moses, 'Take all the leaders of the people and hang the offenders before the LORD, out in the sun, that the fierce anger of the LORD may turn away from Israel'. So Moses said to the judges of Israel, 'Every one of you kill his men who were joined to Baal of Peor'. And indeed, one of the children of Israel' - now watch this - 'came and presented to his brethren a Midianite woman in the sight of Moses and in the sight of all the congregation of the children of Israel'. OK, so judgement is being dispensed upon God's people because of this immorality, and someone - a young fellow - has the audacity to bring out this Midianite girl in front of Moses, in front of the whole congregation of the people of God, 'who were weeping', they were in a form of penitence, but he's not, 'at the door of the tabernacle of meeting'.
Now, it seems to be inferred in this verse - and I don't want to be too graphic, because Scripture deliberately isn't - but it seems to infer that this young man was actually committing immorality with this girl in the moment, right in front of the tabernacle, before all people. Verse 7: 'Now when Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, saw it, he rose from among the congregation and took a javelin in his hand; and he went after the man of Israel into the tent and thrust both of them through, the man of Israel, and the woman through her body. So the plague was stopped among the children of Israel. And those who died in the plague were twentyfour thousand. Then the LORD spoke to Moses'. Now look at what Moses says about this incident, or God speaks through him and says: 'Phinehas the son of Eleazar, the son of Aaron the priest, has turned back My wrath from the children of Israel, because he was zealous with My zeal among them, so that I did not consume the children of Israel in My zeal'. He pleased the Lord! It's hard to get your head around, but this was holy violence.
If you were to go to 1 Samuel chapter 15 - if you don't want to turn to it, don't worry, but it's the situation where King Saul was to destroy all the Amalekites, their king Agag, and all the livestock; and of course he doesn't do that. In chapter 15 and verse 9 it says: 'But Saul and the people spared Agag and the best of the sheep, the oxen, the fatlings, the lambs, and all that was good, and were unwilling to utterly destroy them. But everything despised and worthless, that they utterly destroyed'. So they kept the good stuff, really, for themselves - he makes out that it's for the Lord, but I don't think so. If you look down at verse 33 of the chapter, just before it Samuel says: 'What means the bleating of the sheep? What is this I'm hearing, Saul? Why have you saved what God has told you to slay, Agag as well?'. Samuel said to Agag, he calls him out, the King: 'As your sword has made women childless, so shall your mother be childless among women'. 'And Samuel' - watch this terminology - 'Samuel hacked Agag in pieces before the LORD in Gilgal'. Striking, isn't it? Horrifying really! 'Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the LORD in Gilgal'.
We've got to understand the context for a moment or two, right? The Bible does not advocate gratuitous physical violence, ever. The Bible, unlike the Koran, does not espouse jihad. What you're seeing here is justice being dispensed in a nation, and Samuel was a governmental leader - we have to understand that. He was not only a prophet, but he was a judge. If you want to equate Agag and his people to anything, it would be like ISIS today, OK? The vile atrocities that were committed. So, putting all that into context, and the threat that they were to God's people - likewise in Numbers 25, what went on in effectively an immoral orgy with Baal worship - this was God's way in this particular day of dispensing His justice, and effectively saving the holy seed that would bring Christ into the world. I hope that brings that into perspective.
But what I want you to understand, even in an Old Testament capacity, is that: God respects, reveres, and requires holy violence. Now, let me explain exactly what I'm talking about. First of all, this holy violence is displayed in zeal. Now it changes, when you move out of a governmental people called Israel that are a nation and all the rest, and you come into the New Testament, you still see this holy violence but it is not displayed in warfare, it is displayed in zeal. A classic example of this is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself when, in John 2 you remember, He comes into the Temple and He cleanses the Temple of the money changers. Do you remember that? He says: 'The LORD says, 'My house shall be a house of prayer', but you have made it a den of thieves and robbers'. It says in John 2 verse 17 that when the disciples heard this they were reminded of the Scripture which said: 'Zeal for Thine house has eaten Me up' - that's Psalm 69. So they recognised - as Jesus, by the way, premeditatedly went through that Temple; not in explosive anger or bad temper, the Bible indicates the chronology of it is that the night before probably He wove this leather whip together, it was premeditated zeal for God. He drove - He didn't whip people, as far as we are aware - He whipped the animals, and He upturned the tables; but this was holy zeal and anger for God and His honour. In fact, do you know that it was Passover in John chapter 2 when this happened? Do you know what this effectively was? It was the Father's Son clearing the leaven out of His house at Passover. Do you know that that's what the children do at Passover? They go around and hunt in the cupboards of the Jewish home looking for leaven, which speaks of sin by the way - and this was the Son of God going through His Father's house, clearing it of sinfulness because He had zeal for His Heavenly Father.
Now there is a distinction has to be made, because if you look at verse 12 of chapter 11 of Matthew - and we're going to bring all this together, so that it makes sense - it says: 'From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force'. 'From the days of John the Baptist until now' - so this isn't Old Testament stuff Jesus is talking about here, like Agag and Phinehas, this is something new, this is something different. What John did, with the spirit and power of Elijah upon him, gave new impetus to the kingdom of heaven coming, there was a new force, a new energy in the coming of God's kingdom. William Hendrickson translates that verse like this: 'The kingdom is pressing forward vigourously, and vigourous men are eagerly taking possession of it'. So it is speaking of holy zeal, so holy violence is a holy zeal for the things of God.
I want to ask us tonight - now I'm not talking about arrogant fundamentalism. Don't misunderstand me, I believe in the fundamentals of the faith, but there is an arrogant fundamentalism that displays anger as its chief characteristic, and at times bigotry and a condescending attitude. I'm not talking about that. We've got to be known for our love, not our anger - and yet, as God's people, there is to be a zealousness about us for God's glory. I'm not talking about trampling over the lost, I'm not talking about that, talking down to people - I'm talking about a heart for the things of God that is grieved and moved and aggravated when we see His glory disdained. Have we got it?
Let me say something else that this holy violence is - not just zeal, but it is desire, it's desire. Do you know that you will not sleep your way into the kingdom of God? Do you know that? Scripture is very clear. This is not often how we preach the Gospel, but nevertheless the verses are there - Luke 13:24, listen: 'Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I say', Jesus, 'many' Jesus says, 'will seek to enter and will not be able' - strive to enter it. Now, immediately people scratch their heads, and say: 'Hold on a minute! That sounds like a contradiction, because I know 'By grace are you saved through faith, not of yourselves, not of works lest any man should boast', and 'Come to Me all you who labour and are heavy laden', there are all these invitations, 'Whoever will come to Me, I will never cast out''. So when Jesus starts talking about this 'Strive to enter in', people think this must be works or something - it's not! What it's teaching is that there are many obstacles. It is easy to come to Jesus from His side of the equation, He has made it all possible for us just take a step of faith to Him; but the problem is with us: the obstacles that are often in our way, preventing us coming to the Lord. So we have to strive to enter through the narrow gate. Many want to go to heaven, many want to know God, but they're not striving to enter in.
Luke 16:16 is another verse, listen: 'The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it' - pressing into it! Can I ask you tonight: are you pressing in to the kingdom of God? That's not a laissez-faire attitude, a take it or leave it attitude, is it? This sort of casualness that we have today in the modern church? I'll tell you what it is: it's desire, it's not works, it's desire! Listen to the Amplified as it translates this verse 12 of ours: 'The kingdom of heaven suffers violent assault, and violent men seize it by force as a precious prize' - they want to win the prize, so they are violent about getting it! They are straining and striving to enter, they are pressing in. Another translation says: 'They are laying claim to it', they are raiding it, raiding the kingdom of heaven to get it!
Tomorrow morning I will probably stand in a football field somewhere - it's actually in Armagh tomorrow - watching my son play competitive football. He's in a great team, Portadown, and unfortunately - now you understand, I don't believe in the class system or anything like that, OK, but you understand what I mean when I say that the kids in his team are lovely kids - of course how could they be anything else with parents like us! But they are all from nice homes, you understand, and they have been well brought up and taught manners - the problem is, to coin a colloquialism, they are too soft. Do you understand what I mean? They are playing teams of little hard men, and they are getting beaten a lot - now, if my son hears this recording I'm in big trouble, I'm not allowed to tell anybody the scores after the matches! But when I watch them playing - and I'm proud of their manners and all the rest - but when I'm watching them playing, I'm made to feel like this: they don't want it enough, they don't want it enough! The fact that they don't want it enough is displayed in them not being aggressive enough. We're not talking about anger, or a wrong display of aggressiveness - but you know, if you're in competitive sport, you have to be aggressive to win!
I think there is a revelation there for us, because Psalm 63 verse 8 says: 'My soul follows hard after God'. There is this desire, there is this pursuit to find Him. This is where we need holy violence: we need a holy violence respective to God's glory, but we need a holy violence in respect to the desire that we have actually to find God, to know God, to pursue God; even from the very moment of conversion, to press in past the obstacles, whatever they might be, and to press on up the narrow way. There is a pressing.
I remember - oh, it must be six months to a year ago - there was an organisation who were doing weekends, in fact they were here a couple of times, and this particular seminar that I was at, we were sent home like a little homework pack to do. It was quite an intense weekend, maybe some of you did this actually and got it - it was George Otis Jr's weekend - and there was a handout within it called 'The Appetites Test'. Does anybody remember it? I'll not ask you if you did it or not - but anyway, I took one particular morning and went up to the Portadown House of Prayer when there was nobody else in it, locked the door and decided I was going to do this appetite test. Basically what it was was a survey of obvious appetites that every human being has, alright? And you could add to it ones that were peculiar to you, desires that you have, passions that you have, maybe it was your hobby or something like that, or a subject that you had studied. So the whole idea was to number this one to whatever in the order of the preference of those things that you like to do - but the objective was to insert in that list of top 10 or 15 or 20 appetites, where God came. Alright? Now all of us in our Sunday school hour, when we're wanting to answer the question right, will say: 'O, God must come number one'. I thought - and I'll be absolutely honest with you - I thought: 'Well, God probably, when I answer these questions, isn't going to be number one. I'd like Him to be, but I'm going to be realistic here, He's probably about number three or something like that'. Now, included within that appetites list - and let's be real - there was food, sleep, sexuality, leisure, you could go on and think of ordinary appetites, social interaction, friendships, OK? You might say, 'Oh, but God would always be number one for me!' - here's the test: in the moment when you have the choice of eating, sleeping, or whatever, and spending time with God; in that moment, what do you choose? Now, I very conveniently can't remember where God came in the list - and I am being honest - but I'll tell you this: it was somewhere between 11 and 13. That just staggered me, as someone who thought that they pursued God with all their heart!
Now, what am I saying: that we're not allowed to eat or sleep any more, and all the other things? No, far from it, but what we do need to do - and this is where your fasting is coming in - we need to allocate special seasons, in your own private life and corporately as a group, when you can lay aside all other passions, all other desires, and where you intently say: 'Lord, in my heart of hearts it's You I want. All these other things are the ways You have made me. You have made me a sexual being, You have made me to eat, You have made me to sleep, and we can't ignore those things, or we do at our peril. But Lord, I want You to know' - and this is what George Otis Jr said, that the communities that did that for even very short periods of time, whether it was one week, 21 days, most of them that set out to do that for 21 days never got near the 21 days because God broke in upon them. So we're not saying anybody can live like this perpetually, but we are saying that there is a need today - if ever there was - for God's people to get a holy violence in their passion and desire for Him.
You see, you pursue what you desire, isn't that correct? If you've ever fallen in love, you know, you set your eyes upon the other and you pursue her or him because you desire them. I recommend a book to you by A.W. Tozer, it blessed me years ago, 'The Pursuit of God'. Are you pursuing God with holy violence? Is the quiet time holy violence? 'Quiet time' depresses me, that phrase at times. I know why it's there and all the rest, but I'm sick of it - you know, because it's got people conditioned into this 'Do your wee readings, and then your wee shopping list prayer' - we need holy violence! That's not going to cut it today, and let me tell you: if you're doing your wee quiet time, you're streets ahead of most professing Christians, but it's not going to cut it, it's not going to make a dent at all!
So what is this 'holy anger', what is it? Zeal for God, desire for God. Here's the third thing it is: fight for God. Now there are a couple of things, three things actually that I'm going to share about what this fight is. The first thing is: a violence in warfare, spiritual warfare. You know what I'm talking about? Listen to what 2 Corinthians chapter 10 says, just listen, 2 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 3: 'For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh'. So that draws a demarcation line between us and the old covenant in the government of the country that was Israel, this is different. 'Though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal', not fleshly, 'but mighty in', or through, 'God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ'. Spiritual warfare, we read of it again in Ephesians chapter 6 in that great passage on the armour of God: 'Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil', the schemes, the methods of the devil. 'For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand'.
Do you know what our problem is? In the church and as individual Christians we have lost our fight! Maybe you don't agree. This is strong language I'm using, but we have become emasculated, we don't know who we are any more. We have lost our identity, we have become effeminate, timid, passive, and lazy! We need to hear 1 Corinthians 16:13 again: 'Be on alert, stand firm on the faith', the Authorised Version says, 'Quit you like men, act like men, be strong'. We've lost our fight! Even those of us who are praying - and I have experienced this myself - you're praying in a sort of passive position. Now I do believe in soaking in God's presence, I believe in resting in God's presence - don't misunderstand me, I believe in all those things, and sometimes I'm just exhausted; and I believe in praying in the Spirit, and I think it's a wonderful thing because your mind doesn't have to be engaged, and sometimes my mind is too fickle to be engaged with anything, so it's wonderful to know that the Spirit intercedes with groanings that cannot be uttered. But there is a time in prayer when there must be holy violence.
Now, I caution you: I'm not talking about the decibels of volume that you pray with! Sure anybody can shout, and God is not deaf - it's the authority of our prayers. Spurgeon says: 'Neither is it the length of our prayers, it's the weight of our prayers that makes the difference'. But there has to be a pressing through in warfare, is that not true? There has to be a fight, and sometimes the truth is that we are intimidated by the enemy, we are afraid of him even in our lives. The Lord revealed this to me not very long ago, just a couple of weeks ago, and I believe it was a revelation directly from Him, listen to this: the antidote to fear and the incubator of zeal - alright? The antidote that cancels out fear and the incubator, the place that actually produces and cultivates zeal, is faith. Faith will slay your fear and will inflame your zeal for God. Basically, what is faith? It is to start believing what God has said, and what God has done. What has God said? Well, through Jesus His Son He said: 'I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it'. 'Gates', by the way, speak of governmental authorities, the governmental authorities of the powers of darkness that we just read about in Ephesians chapter 6 - that the church will advance, and I know it's Jesus doing the building, but we are the church, and so as we move in the power of the Spirit those governmental authorities in the heavenly realms of darkness will not be able to resist what we're doing if we are going in holy violence. But, you see, we're not. We just throw out the Gospel, and 'Que sera sera', whoever will be saved will be saved - that's probably somebody's theology here, but we'll not get into that. But do you know what I'm saying? This attitude...
Jesus said, look at the promises that He gave us, Luke chapter 10:19: 'Behold, I give you the authority to trample on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means hurt you'. Do you know what all the power of the enemy is? Guess what: all the power of the enemy! All! Do we believe that? Do we believe Jesus when he said: 'Fear not, little flock, it is your Father' - your good, good Father - 'your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom'. 'Oh, do you think God wants revival? Do you really? We are in the end times, do you think it's right to look for that? All I see around is darkness, and things are waxing worse and worse, and I'm just looking for the Antichrist'. 'Fear not, little flock, it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom' - do we believe these things? We are in the pickle that we are because we won't believe. Maybe you're sitting personally in your own - and I don't want to demean the dark places people can be in, or the struggles, or the blockages that can be in people's lives - but you're maybe saying: 'Why am I not seeing this person saved? Why am I not seeing this breakthrough in temptation? Why am I not seeing this financial hindrance come off my neck? Why am I not seeing this mental problem dispel?', and we could go on, and on, and on, and on. But here's the question I want to ask you, the Holy Spirit would ask you: have you got violent yet? Have you got violent with it yet? Not directly, we're not wrestling with flesh and blood, we're not wrestling with that person that you're married to, or whatever it is that is the problem in your life. It's not then that is the problem, it's the spiritual entities that are behind, pulling their strings - and we have got to get to the place where in warfare we start to get violent.
I know this is foreign to me most of the time, and is to most of us - but we need a warrior spirit! I believe that's what Elijah had, and that's the spirit and power of Elijah that came on John the Baptist. I believe that's the spirit that is going to come on people in this end time generation, to us who the ends of the age have come upon. Isaiah 62 verse 7: 'Give Him no rest until He establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth'. Give God no rest! Do His head in with all your requests, and all your prayers, and all your fasting - that's what it basically says, don't give His head peace! This is exactly what Jesus said, violent in warfare and violent in prayer. Jesus taught, you remember the parable, Luke 11 - turn with me to Luke 11 - you remember it's the story of the friend who comes at midnight looking for bread. He wasn't much of a friend to him, he shouts out the window: 'I'm in bed, my family is in bed, don't trouble me. The door is shut, I'm not getting up'. Verse 8, Jesus says: 'I say to you, though he will not rise and give to him because he is his friend, yet because of his persistence', importunity, his insistence - this fellow is not going to give up! Don't you love friends like that? Knocking your door at midnight and won't give you peace! 'He will rise and give him as much as he needs' - why? Because of his persistence, because of his holy violence - he's not going to give up!
Now, look at how Jesus applies this in verse 9: 'So I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened'. We have read that verse so many times and memorised it that we don't even know what it means! Do you know what it means? There is a progressive intensity in that verse: asking first, then seeking, then knocking - do you see? It's increasing in intensity and in holy violence.
Then there is the other parable Jesus taught, look at Luke 18, the widow and the judge - do you remember that one? The wee widow, she's doing the judge's head in as well - it's very graphic, and what's the point of it all? Verse 1: 'He spoke a parable to them, that men always ought to pray and not lose heart', not give up! ''There was in a certain city a judge who did not fear God nor regard man. Now there was a widow in that city; and she came to him, saying, 'Get justice for me from my adversary'. And he would not for a while; but afterward he said within himself, 'Though I do not fear God nor regard man, yet because this widow troubles me I will avenge her, lest by her continual coming she weary me''. Then the Lord said, 'Hear what the unjust judge said. And shall God not avenge His own elect who cry out day and night to Him, though He bears long with them? I tell you that He will avenge them speedily. Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?'' - I think it means this kind of faith on the earth. You see, there are a lot of people running around professing faith in God, but nobody was living like this persistent widow - do you understand?
Now the point of these parables is that God is not like this friend who is wrapped up at midnight, He is not like the unjust judge who doesn't fear God or anybody else; God is our good, good Father. In fact, in Luke 11 Jesus says this: 'If you, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!'. So He's not tight-fisted, He does want to give more than we want to receive - but to know that we really want what we say we want, we need to have holy violence. If God gave us everything that we asked for in a namby-pamby way, we would wreck the place, because He can't trust us with it.
We've got to be violent in warfare, violent in prayer, and violent in holiness. This is my last point, violent in holiness. Are we? Am I? I'm so challenged about this. 'If your eye offend you, pluck it out' - that's pretty gruesome, isn't it? Of course, it's not literal, but it's pretty gruesome, isn't it? I reckon if I was in sermon class in Bible College again, and that wasn't in the Bible but I said it, I'd probably get -10 or something like that! It's bloodcurdling - 'If your hand offends you, cut it off' - what? Yes! What is Jesus saying? You need to be ruthless, you need to have a holy violence with sin in your life, with self in your life. You need to live circumcised life before God, and have a circumcised heart. Listen to Colossians 3:5: 'Therefore put to death' - mortify - 'your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry'. Now we know our sins were put to death on Jesus, but we need to reckon them there, not live in them but reckon them there; and mortify those expressions of the sinful nature in our life every day. We need to be violent in holiness.
Second Corinthians 7 verse 1: 'Having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit' - that's a whole subject on its own! The filthiness of the flesh, that's obvious, all sorts of sins; but the filthiness of the spirit, that can be internal sins, it can also be occult stuff, dangerous dabbling in darkness, strange spiritual activities and all the rest. But anyway: cleanse yourself - you can cleanse yourself, by the way, did you know that? You can cleanse yourself 'from all filthiness of the flesh and the spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God'. Fight! Fight violently in warfare, violently in prayer, violently in holiness!
Now listen, this is my parting shot tonight: in this life of grace that we live, listen, what we need we get. Remember that. What we need, we get; but what we want, we've got to go after. Are you receiving that? What you need, you will get coming to you; but what do you want? You see, some are content with sins forgiven and peace with God, to eke out a living and just coast along to heaven - is that what you want? It's good, isn't it, but is that all you want? That's why that's all we're getting, some of us, because that's all we're satisfied with. Do you have holy anger, do you have that zeal, do you have that desire, do you have that fight, do you have that violence in warfare, do you have that violence in prayer, do you have that violence in holiness? Because, listen: if you want it, you can have it. 'From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force' - seize it as a prize to be grasped.
Let's pray. Now I'm not 100% sure why I was to preach this tonight, maybe some of you could help me out with that afterwards if God has spoken to you - you don't need to, I'm just saying I don't really know what it's about, other than in a general sense to all of us as Christians. I'm sure that there is something in it to this group of believers in Loughbrickland who are seeking to pursue God, I'm sure there is something there. But maybe what I said a few moments earlier about issues in your life, and you're asking: 'Why hasn't God? Why hasn't this happened? Why isn't the breakthrough coming? Why? Why? Why?'. Now, don't get me wrong, even when you are holy violent in prayer, sometimes the whys still increase, and the change never happens - but, if I'm honest, I have to say to you that though I pray, and though I war, and I do many of the right things; I do many of them without this holy violence in a weak-willed, impotent, passive manner. Which really means, 'tongue in cheek', we're not terribly serious and we don't want it enough.
Would you be willing to say before God tonight - whether it's about those personal issues in your own life; those besetting sins, I've got them too; those little foxes that spoil the vine; those defilements of the flesh and the spirit - would you be willing to say: 'Lord, endue me with a holy violence by Your grace, that I might truly put to death these things with the power of the Holy Spirit'. Now, they are already dead, but you know that we breathe life into them. If you're here, and you espouse - like me - to be seeking God and seeking revival, maybe seeking blessing even on this hall, would you just analyse whether or not there is holy violence in it? John the Baptist was preaching with the spirit and power of Elijah, and because of his message of repentance the crowds and multitudes were coming out to believe and be baptised, this was the kingdom coming violently. It was accelerating - and that's what we need today, but that acceleration of the kingdom coming will not happen without this holy violence. Will you say tonight to the Lord - now it can't be done in the power of the flesh, as I said it's not the loudness of your voice, it has to come by the Spirit through grace; but you've got to be the vessel to say: 'Lord, I pour out myself before You empty, and ask You to fill me with Your zeal, the zeal of Your house, I want the zeal of Your house to eat me up, to possess me'. Just talk to the Lord about that in these moments of quietness. Maybe you've got misplaced zeal, zeal for things that don't really matter. Maybe you need the Lord to deal with idols in your life. People say: 'Oh, zeal without knowledge is a dangerous thing!'. Do you know what's an even more dangerous thing? Knowledge without zeal - and we're coming down with that in the church. Give me somebody with zeal without knowledge, and I'll teach them, but it's hard to resurrect a corpse even with a Ph.D. There might be things you need to repent of, there's plenty I need to repent of - and I am repenting of it.
O God, we believe we have heard Your voice. We believe that, as the Lord Jesus said concerning John the Baptist: 'If you're willing to receive it, he who has ears to hear let him hear', that some are willing to receive this word as from You tonight, and are willing to be made warriors, are willing to receive a measure of the spirit and power of Elijah for this end time remnant that will welcome the coming of Messiah again. Lord, this is what we need, I need it, Lord, we need it. I need to be ruthless with my sins, my besetting sins, those temptations that are the particular ones, Lord, that I seem to struggle with the most, and am more likely to fall in than others. Lord, I need You to give me the power and the grace to deal violently with them. Give us the courage, Lord, give us the desire after You so that we will desire nothing else to rival You or to compete with You. Pour out upon us in these last days a spirit of prayer and supplication. Let us be like David, who said: 'You teach my hands to war and my feet to fight' - teach us holy warfare, Lord, and give us a confidence to know that we have all power over all the schemes of the enemy, and that all our sins were nailed to Jesus' cross: 'Therefore sin shall no longer have dominion over you, that you should obey it and the lusts thereof'. Lord, help us to really believe these truths and engage practically, not just with faith but with works; to step out in action, believing that this is so. So, Lord, thank You for Your speaking voice tonight. We thank You that the least in the kingdom now is greater even than John the Baptist - that's staggering, Lord - whatever that all means, that's incredible. So, Lord, help us to live up to the expectation that is upon us in these end times. In Jesus' name we pray, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at Loughbrickland Mission Hall in N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "Holy Violence" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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