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MENDING THE NETS - UK double sided

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									MENDING THE NETS
    A Message to
   Today’s Church




         By
    Roger London
      Mending the Nets




First Printed – Spring 2005



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                            Mending the Nets


                      MENDING THE NETS

  “Write the vision; make it plain upon tablets, so he who runs may
                read it” (Habakkuk chapter 2 verse 2)



Introduction                                                  5


Chapter 1 – Mending the Nets:
            An Overview                                       7


Chapter 2 – Perfecting the Church:
            Aiming for the Finished Article                    9


Chapter 3 – Healing a Broken Body                             17



Chapter 4 – Equipping the Saints                              25



Chapter 5 – Only Doing What the Father
            Is Doing                                          31


Chapter 6 – And then …?                                       35




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Mending the Nets




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                            Mending the Nets


                      MENDING THE NETS
                            Introduction

Greek ‘Katartizo’ – to supply what is missing, the strengthening and
sustaining of a damaged people.

      Does God really have so many things to say to His Church in
these days? Just the other week I was standing in a local Christian
bookshop, looking for material to read during my forthcoming trip to
Uganda, when I was suddenly overtaken with a ‘get me out of here’
feeling – looking at the many rows of books, written by numerous
authors on many different subjects, with very different and
conflicting views, I suddenly thought, “What would Jesus do here –
possibly overturn all the bookshelves and shout – “Is anyone
listening?!” (Of course you may quickly point out that this is yet
another book, but hopefully you will read on!)

      I remember, as a young man, being part of a church where the
poor pastor had to come up with at least three different God-inspired
sermons a week for an already overfed congregation. This was just
one local church – multiply this scenario tens of thousands of times
over and you must come to the conclusion that either God is
confused, his people are not really listening, or we are so locked into
convention that the original question is somewhat irrelevant.

       The drive behind this booklet is the belief that God really does
have something significant to say to His church in these last days -
not many messages but a powerful word which has the potential to
totally transform our lives individually, as local churches and as His
Church leading to glorious revival which then ushers in the long-
awaited return of our Lord Jesus.

      The 1960’s and 1970’s were years when the Holy Spirit began
to break into the Church in a new way, restoring many things that
had been lost for generations through what became known as the
Charismatic Movement. It was around the mid to late 1980’s that
there seemed to be a losing of the plot, i.e. God’s plot or purpose for
these last days, for which the Charismatic Movement was just the
beginning. It has been tragic to observe so many pendulum swings
over the past twenty years, with the Church swinging between gold

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                            Mending the Nets


dust and shouting at demons, laughing uncontrollably and preaching
prosperity – it has been as if we are desperately trying to catch hold
of the next great revelation for the Church, whilst blatantly ignoring
the wonderful but challenging revelation of God’s Word. There are
times when I wonder if the words of Paul in 2 Timothy chapter 4
verses 3 to 4 are actually being fulfilled in today’s church:
      “For the time is coming when people will not endure sound
teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves
teachers to suit their own likings, and will turn away from listening to
the truth and wander into myths.”

       I am sure you will agree that we are living in urgent times, when
the church desperately needs to hear and respond to a clear trumpet
call from the Holy Spirit. We do not have the time to be drawn into
fruitless cul-de-sacs. Jesus is returning soon for His Bride. We have
the opportunity, if we are prepared to get back to the fundamental
truths of God’s Word and to be radical in their application in our lives
and that of our churches, to see plans and purposes of God unfold
before our eyes that He has been longing to fulfil.




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                            Mending the Nets


        Chapter 1 – Mending the Nets: An Overview
Greek ‘Katartizo’ – to mend (as in mending nets)

      It was Easter 2004 when the Holy Spirit led me to look afresh
at the two accounts in the gospels where the disciples went fishing.
The account in Luke’s gospel (chapter 5 verses 1 to 11), at the
beginning of Jesus’ ministry, records two interesting facts – firstly, on
Jesus’ instruction the disciples let down the nets after a night of
unfruitful fishing and enclosed a great shoal of fish; secondly, their
nets began to break with the size of the catch. If you compare this
account to the one found at the end of John’s gospel (chapter 21
verses 1 to 14), you will note that John records, firstly that the
disciples had specifically caught 153 large fish, and secondly, that
although the catch was so big, the net was not torn.

       As I pondered these differences, the Holy Spirit began to speak
something into my heart, which, I believe, has the ability to totally
transform our personal lives and church life in these last days.
Firstly, why did John specifically record that 153 large fish were
caught (as opposed to the great shoal referred to in Luke’s account
of the earlier fishing trip)? I began to sense that the catch was so
enormous, with so many large fish, that the disciples just could not
believe their eyes – I have a mental picture of them counting and
recounting the huge net-full on the beach, finally agreeing the
number of 153 large fish! They had never in all their vast experience
ever seen such a big catch of fish, far outweighing their earlier
experience with Jesus. Secondly, John’s account specifically records
that this time the net was not torn. At this point the Holy Spirit led me
to Matthew chapter 4 verse 21, where it is recorded that James,
John and Zebedee were “mending their nets”. Immediately, the Holy
Spirit said to me that the key to moving into all that our Heavenly
Father has for us in these last days is to ensure that the nets are
‘mended’, thoroughly prepared for a great catch of fish.

     From here on, I began a journey of discovery at which I still
marvel –the more I looked into the various renderings of the Greek
word ‘katartizo’, which in Matthew chapter 4 is translated ‘mending’,
the more I began to understand a very significant revelation that the
Holy Spirit is wanting the church to grasp and work out in a radical
way - as we, individually and as churches, truly seek to ‘mend the

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nets’ (with all that this implies) then we will see a move of God’s
Spirit that will overshadow all that we have previously seen, ushering
many into the Kingdom of God, and that will prepare us as a holy
people to be part of that pure and spotless Bride for whom Jesus is
soon returning.

      At this point, I urge you to prayerfully read on because the
implications of ‘mending the nets’ will challenge you to the core of
your being and will probably require you to make some very difficult
life choices and adjustments. I fear that many readers, although
challenged, will shrink back because of the cost of changes required.
As the Church, we really have drifted so far from the centre of
Father’s plans and purposes for these days, but this is an
opportunity to redress that situation and truly offer to Him a people
prepared.

      In concluding this chapter, I urge you to take time to ponder
some of the renderings of the Greek word ‘katartizo’. We will be
looking into several of these meanings in the coming chapters:

         Katartizo’
        ‘Katartizo
Greek – ‘Katartizo’
  - to mend (as in mending the nets)
  - to supply what is missing
  - to strengthen and sustain (as for a damaged people)
  - to perfect
  - to restore (to an appropriate condition to function well)
  - to set to rights
  - to amend what is faulty
  - to make one what he ought to be
  - to fit or join together (thereby making something whole)
  - to perfectly join together
  - to repair
  - to restore harmony between factions
  - to set (as of a broken bone)
  - to refit (as of a damaged ship)
  - to equip (as in equipping the saints)
  - to fully train
  - to prepare something for future use




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     Chapter 2 – Perfecting the Church: Aiming for the
                     Finished Article
Greek ‘Katartizo’ – to perfect, to restore (to an appropriate condition
to function well), to set to rights, to amend what is faulty, to make
one what he ought to be

      In Ephesians chapter 5 verses 21 to 33, Paul speaks about
Christian marriage and compares it to the relationship between
Jesus Christ and His Church. His plan is that the Church, for whom
He died, will be cleansed “that He might present the Church to
himself in splendour, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that
she might be holy and without blemish” (verse 27). Was Paul merely
dreaming here or is he truly expressing the Word of God? By the time
Jesus returns, His church will be pure and holy. Now some would
argue that this is an imputed holiness which is credited to the church
through the death of Jesus Christ. However, this passage clearly
indicates that this is a practical and complete holiness that will come
about as a result of a process of sanctification (see verse 26). It is a
case of the Holy Spirit working together with believers towards the
end product of holiness.

        When you take a look at the Church today, you see so many
things that are offensive to God and working contrary to His plan for
a holy people. In the light of Jesus coming soon, we have to wonder
how is it ever going to be possible to see this plan for a holy people
fulfilled? The Church we see is full of division, unforgiveness,
resentment, bitterness, hatred, pride, hypocrisy, jealousy, greed,
desire for power, sexual immorality, sectarianism, compromise, self-
importance and so the list goes on and on – yes…this is the Church!
These things are deeply rooted in the Church from denominational
leadership, through local leaders and down to the congregational
members.

       I am sure that you realise this was never God’s plan. I trust that
you also realise a Church full of sin is never going to enter God’s
glory. Carefully think about the following scripture:
       “Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without
which no one will see the Lord.” (Hebrews chapter 12 verse 14)



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      Look at the end-time exhortation of Peter in his second letter:
      “Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of
persons ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, waiting
for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which
the heavens will be kindled and dissolved, and the elements will
melt with fire! But according to his promise we wait for new heavens
and a new earth in which righteousness dwells. Therefore, beloved,
since you wait for these, be zealous to be found by him without spot
or blemish, and at peace.” (2 Peter chapter 3 verses 11 to 14)
      It is as if Peter here is reflecting on Paul’s teaching about the
Bride, and exhorting believers, in the light of Jesus’ imminent return,
to prepare themselves for the coming Bridegroom.

       Time and time again, throughout the New Testament letters,
the Church is exhorted to move completely away from a sinful
lifestyle and to wholeheartedly embrace holiness. In our age of
tolerance and complacency, the following scriptures have been
seriously neglected:

      “Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the
armour of light; let us conduct ourselves becomingly as in the day,
not in revelling and drunkenness, not in debauchery and
licentiousness, not in quarrelling and jealousy. But put on the Lord
Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its
desires.” (Romans chapter 13 verses 12 to 14)

       “Therefore, putting away falsehood, let everyone speak the
truth with his neighbour, for we are members one of another … let
the thief no longer steal, but rather let him labour, doing honest work
with his hands … let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only
such as is good for edifying, as fits the occasion, that it may impart
grace to those who hear … Let all bitterness and wrath and anger
and clamour and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and
be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as
God in Christ forgave you. Therefore be imitators of God … But
fornication and all impurity or covetousness must not even be
named among you, as is fitting among saints. Let there be no
filthiness, nor silly talk, nor levity, which are not fitting; but instead let
there be thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no fornicator or impure
man, or one that is covetous … has any inheritance in the kingdom of


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Christ and of God.” (Ephesians chapter 4 verse 25 to chapter 5 verse
5)

      “Put to death what is earthly in you: fornication, impurity,
passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account
of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when
you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice,
slander, and foul talk from your mouth.” (Colossians chapter 3
verses 5 to 8).

      Part of ‘mending the nets’ is to thoroughly deal with sin in our
lives and, through the process of sanctification, to become the
people that the Lord intends us to be, and, indeed, that we ought to
be.

      John, in his first letter, makes it very clear that, however loudly
we might proclaim our faith in Christ, if we refuse to deal with sinful
practices in our lives, then we are totally deceived – in fact, he goes
as far as to say that such a person is definitely not born of God, he is
rather a child of the devil:
      “No one born of God commits (makes a practice of) sin; for
God’s nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of
God. By this it may be seen who are the children of God, and who are
the children of the devil: whoever does not do right is not of God, nor
he who does not love his brother.” (1 John chapter 3 verses 9 to 10)
      This is strong language, but it is actually the Word of God –
there is nothing to be debated: we need to radically change.

      So what is the root of the problem and how do we go about
being changed?
      The Bible is very clear in identifying the problem – it is a
problem of man’s heart, a problem of your heart and my heart. Look
at the following scriptures:
      “..For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.”
(Genesis chapter 8 verse 21)
      “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately
corrupt; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah chapter 17 verse 9)
      “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts,
fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit,
licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things


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come from within, and they defile a man.” (Mark chapter 7 verses 21
to 23)

       The Old Testament uses a word which has largely fallen into
disuse within our modern English language, and that word is
‘iniquity’. It is a word which is used to describe the condition of the
heart, out from which every sin is generated. Whilst it is wonderfully
true to say that Jesus Christ died on the cross in order to pay the full
penalty for our sin, and it is equally true to say, that as we surrender
our lives to Him, we experience his cleansing and forgiveness;
however, we need to understand that, until Jesus returns, we will
daily need to die to iniquity – to confess and turn completely away
from all identified sin. It is only when we finally go to be with the Lord
that the iniquity problem will be fully dealt with. Until that day we
need to repent, that is, clearly turn right away, from all iniquity and
sinful practices as the Lord exposes them in our hearts and choose
to walk in righteousness, in the power and enabling of His Holy Spirit.
According to John, in his first epistle, anything less is a clear denial of
the life of Christ within us

       Several months ago, the Holy Spirit impressed on me Psalm 66
verse 18:
       “If I had cherished iniquity in my heart, the Lord would not have
listened.”
       This scripture hit me between the eyes and I realised, in a way I
hadn’t seen before, that many of the prayers I had brought to the
Lord over the years had not even been heard by Him because of
known but unresolved sin! Any time I have sought to bring a situation
to the Lord, whilst harbouring anger, criticism, resentment,
unforgiveness, pride, etc. in my heart, has been totally futile and, in
fact, revealed nothing other than the total shallowness of my
spiritual understanding and walk with Christ. God’s Word is very clear
– we can only approach a Holy God with clean hands and a pure
heart:
       “Who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? And who shall stand in
his holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who does
not lift up his soul to what is false, and does not swear deceitfully. He
will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from the God of
his salvation.” (Psalm 24 verses 3 to 5)



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       In Matthew chapter 5 verses 23 to 24, Jesus’ teaching clearly
backs up the Psalmist in Psalm 66:
       “So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there
remember that your brother has something against you, leave your
gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother,
and then come and offer your gift.”

      Just the other day I was listening to a worship CD in my car.
The following song was playing:
      “Purify my heart and let me be as gold and precious silver …
Refiner’s fire, my heart’s one desire is to be holy …”
      I wondered how often we had casually sung this song in our
churches and devotional times, firstly, without the repentance that
needs to precede such a song, and, secondly, without any intention
of really dealing with sinful issues in our hearts. Just like prayer,
mentioned above, such worship is totally unacceptable to a Holy
God.

     It can be relatively easy to disguise our sin from others, but the
Lord looks on the heart – He sees the intentions, attitudes and
motivations behind everything that we say and do. Other people may
see a smiling face and a warm welcome, the heart-rending prayer
and willing service, but the Lord sees the jealous heart and
murderous thought, the resentful attitude and self-seeking motive!

      The rubber really hits the road, when we realise that dealing
with sin in our lives means transformed attitudes and behaviour in
our marriages and family life – husbands loving and considering our
wives as Christ loved the church, wives honouring and respecting
their husbands as their spiritual head in the family; in our work and
social lives – honouring and respecting our employers or employees,
working honestly and diligently as unto the Lord, avoiding
compromise in our social activities and conversations.

      At the beginning of Romans chapter 12, Paul, having taken
great lengths to write about God’s wonderful plan of salvation, and
all that is now ours in Christ, strongly exhorts the Roman Christians
to respond in the only way possible – to present their whole lives in
worship as a holy sacrifice to God:
      “I appeal to you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to
present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God,

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which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world but
be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove
what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
(Romans chapter 12 verses 1 to 2)

       One of the real problems facing the Church today is its
wholehearted embracing and conformity to the world’s value
systems and practices. The Greek word, here translated ‘conformed’,
means to be ‘assimilated into’ or ‘to become so alike as to lose any
distinguishing characteristics’ – how true this is of much which,
today, passes as church! Conversely, the Greek word translated
‘transformed’ is the word from which we get our English word
‘metamorphosis’, and means ‘a total change’ – what went before is
totally unrecognizable from what now exists. We need to stand back
and take a fresh look at our lives, honestly asking ourselves whether
we are closer to the camp of the ‘conformists’ or the ‘transformists’.

      It is important to note here that, having spoken about all that
God has done and will do in our lives, Paul puts the ball clearly back
into the believers’ court – our response requires clear and personal
action on our part. It’s not a case of saying: “Thank you, Lord, for
your wonderful mercy and salvation, please now change me from
being worldly and make me holy” – we are called to make those
changes – we need to recognise the sin, confess it and be
committed to totally turning away from all ungodly and compromising
attitudes, influences, speech, actions and relationships.

       Thank God that, if we are truly willing to repent, daily putting to
death iniquity in our hearts, and daily turning away from all revealed
sin, He is willing and able to forgive us and totally transform our
lives!

      To complete the message of this chapter we need to take a
look at Hebrews chapter 12 verses 1 to 2:
      “Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of
witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so
closely, and let us run with perseverance the race that is set before
us, looking to Jesus the pioneer and perfecter of our faith, who for
the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the
shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.”


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      The scene set by the author of Hebrews is of an athlete ready
to run in a race. Not only would he have thoroughly prepared his
body with weeks of self-discipline and self-denial, but also, standing
on the starting blocks, he has now divested himself of anything else,
including all outer garments, which might be a hindrance to him
successfully running the race. In these critical days before the return
of Jesus Christ, as well as putting to death iniquity in our hearts and
putting off all sin, determining to walk in holiness, we also need to
look at our lifestyles with the willingness to lay aside anything else,
which in itself may not be sin, but which may be a hindrance or a
distraction as we focus on Jesus for the final stretch of our earthly
race.

      Paul states in his letter to the Ephesian church:
      “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.”
(Ephesians chapter 5 verse 1)
      Often we can be guilty of quickly passing over such verses
believing that they cannot really mean what they say. Surely Paul
knew that it is impossible for us to imitate God Himself - after all we
are only human, and He has the advantage of being divine.

      In 2 Corinthians chapter 5 verse 16, Paul makes an amazing,
but easily overlooked statement:
      “From now on, therefore, we regard no one from a human point
of view; even though we once regarded Christ from a human point of
view, we regard him thus no longer.”
      Paul goes on to state that, in Christ, we are new creations –
this means that we can no longer excuse ourselves as being just
human. We are now partakers in the very nature of God himself,
opening up to us the real possibility of imitating God Himself!
      The Greek word translated ‘imitate’ is the word from which we
get our word ‘mimic’; it also means to ‘resemble’. Paul was actually
exhorting the Ephesian believers to resemble God in every way.

      Let’s ‘mend the nets’ in the sense of wanting to see the life of
Christ perfected in us, setting right what is wrong in our lives, daily
repenting of and putting to death iniquity in our hearts and
becoming what we are in Christ – His holy sons and daughters.

       “Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner
of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts, and be renewed in the

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spirit of your minds, and put on the new nature, created after the
likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Ephesians
chapter 4 verses 23 to 24)




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             Chapter 3 – Healing a Broken Body
Greek ‘Katartizo’ – to fit or join together, to repair, to restore
harmony between factions, to set (as of a broken bone), to refit (as
of a damaged ship)

      Referring again to Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, where he
writes about marriage, comparing it to Christ’s relationship to the
Church, we note that Jesus is coming again soon for His Bride. Note
that the term ‘Bride’ is singular – Jesus is coming back for one Bride
and not many brides.

     When we look around at the Church we see a multitude of
denominations and streams, yet alone individual churches, all
working to their own agendas, all with their particular doctrinal
emphases and life goes on as if the status quo is fully acceptable to
God. Well listen – it definitely is not acceptable! The division within
the Church, be it national, denominational, local, at leadership level
or amongst the members of an individual congregation is totally
unacceptable to God! We kid ourselves if we think differently.

      Look at the prayer of Jesus as recorded in John chapter 17
verses 20 to 23:
      “I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in
me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou,
Father, art in me, and I in Thee, that they also may be in us, so that
the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The glory which Thou
hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we
are one, I in them and Thou in me, that they may become perfectly
one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast
loved them even as Thou hast loved me”.

      Now there are a number of ways of looking at Jesus’ prayer:
perhaps we think that, in his human flesh, Jesus did not fully
understand that what he was praying was totally unrealistic; perhaps
we consider that it was just an idealistic oratorical prayer without a
hope of ever being fulfilled; or perhaps we believe that he really
meant it knowing that anything less would fall far short of God’s
plans for the Church. There is no doubt in my mind that Jesus’
intention is that we be one, even as He is one with His Heavenly
Father. I find such an intention absolutely mind-blowing, humanly

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impossible, and yet totally realisable if we are willing to radically
submit to the Lord’s plans for the Church in these last days.

       How can I be so positive in the light of two thousand years of
history, full of church division, which needs to be undone? Firstly, it is
possible because, through the new birth, we have actually already
become partakers of the divine nature – so, nothing, theoretically
stands in the way of a divine unity taking place in the Church at large
and between believers in individual congregations. Secondly, we
have within us the Holy Spirit, whose express aim and purpose is to
bring about the will and plans of the Father and the Son. 2 Peter
chapter 1 verses 3 to 9 states:
       “His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to
life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his
own glory and excellence, by which he has granted to us his precious
and very great promises, that through these you may escape from
the corruption that is in the world because of passion, and become
partakers of the divine nature.”

        As we walk in our new nature and totally submit to the Holy
Spirit’s working in our lives, then Jesus’ prayer for unity can and will
be fulfilled. However, there is an undoubted and very real cost
involved for the depth of unity expressed in Jesus’ prayer to be
fulfilled:

       Firstly, at the denominational level, we need to be willing to lay
down our partisan allegiances to one denomination or stream and be
willing to discover a new and real unity in Christ. For leaders (who
need to be the prime movers here) this will mean a willingness to
step out of the security of our denominational fortresses - there is no
doubt that denominational church politics is often a tremendous
obstacle to any advance of real and deep unity in Christ. Resistance,
at either the denominational or congregational level, to the radical
changes required for the unity Jesus prayed for, may well present
leaders, who desire to progress down this path, with some heart-
searching and difficult decisions to make: Are we willing to press on,
regardless of the cost, possibly risking our reputations, our positions,
and possibly even the security of our salaries, pensions and homes,
for the sake of seeing such unity become a reality?



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      The message of ‘mending the nets’ is not about the
dismantling of denominations or the suggestion that something
brand new is needed (not another denomination or stream!). It is
rather the recognition that there is only one true Church, the Bride
being prepared for the coming Bridegroom. Whatever denomination
or stream that we belong to, it is only a part of the wider Church for
which Jesus is returning soon.

       Secondly, at the local level, where there are a number of
churches in a town or city, of various denominational leanings, we
need to be willing to come together before our Heavenly Father with
a blank sheet and ask Him to show us His plan for the Church in our
locality. We may well need to adapt or even lay down the agenda and
programmes of our particular church in order to seek God afresh for
His agenda for the Church in our town, city or area.

       So often we hide behind statements such as: “The church
needs all different types of worship, expressed in different churches,
because we are all so different as people”. Of course there is some
truth in this, but it must never become an excuse for an
unwillingness to pursue real unity in Christ. We may quickly add that
our church is already involved in unity ventures such as Lent and
Christmas services, marches of witness, area/town-wide evangelistic
events. However, the reality is that this will not cut it with the Lord.
We know that any form of unity that we adhere to is largely a
palliative which helps us ignore the pressing need to move forward
towards the real and deep unity of Jesus’ prayer for His Church.

       At a leadership level, there needs to be a discovering of the
eldership that the Lord has for your whole town rather than just your
small part of the local church. Fraternals may, in some cases, be a
first step on the road to unity, but they are only a step - a much
deeper level of love and commitment to one another is the only way
we will move towards the fulfilment of Jesus’ prayer. There needs to
be a discovering and re-discovering of the ministry giftings of
apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers in your locality,
again, rather than just for your local church, denomination or stream;
a willingness to open up your pulpits to trusted leaders and
ministries in your locality, leaders who are daily sharing their lives
together, seeking God together, submitting to one another, meeting
one another’s practical needs, leaders with servant hearts, holding

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on to their ministries lightly, who only want to see God’s Kingdom
come in their localities, rather than building their own little part of
the kingdom. There needs to be a willingness to serve other
churches in our locality in the sense of praying for one another,
offering financial assistance where needed, sharing of personnel in
order to strengthen congregations and prepare for church planting.
However, all this needs to begin at leadership level – in our
congregations we preach that true discipleship means the laying
down of our lives for one another. The truth is that this also needs to
be the case between leaders across the denominations. We all laugh
at the jokes about the segregating of the Baptists, Anglicans,
Pentecostals, Methodists and Catholics in heaven, but, so often, the
reality is that we are all building church as if no other local churches
exist.

       Within each local congregation, the challenge is no less
demanding – we need to discover a unity never known before which
fully embraces the content of the following scriptures:

     “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another;
even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all
men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one
another.” (John chapter 13 verses 34 to 35)
     The sort of love to which Jesus refers is ‘agapé’ love – a love
which is defined by words such as commitment, sacrifice and self-
denial, and has no link with human feelings.

      “If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you
also ought to wash one another’s feet.” (John chapter 13 verse 14)
      Are we willing to ‘wash the feet’ of all our brothers and sisters
in our local church? Would we be willing to ‘wash the feet’ of
Christians in our town who are not part of our particular church,
denomination or stream, in the sense of sacrificially serving them
even though this might not fit into our church’s normal agenda?

      “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer.”
(Acts chapter 1 verse 14)

     “And all who believed were together and had all things in
common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed
them to all, as any had need.” (Acts chapter 2 verses 44 to 45)

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     “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart
and soul, and on one said that any of the things which he possessed
was his own, but they had everything in common.” (Acts chapter 4
verse 32)

      “Love one another with brotherly affection; outdo one another
in showing honour.” (Romans chapter 12 verse 10)

       “Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is
not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not
irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the
right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things,
endures all things.” (1 Corinthians chapter 13 verses 4 to 7)

      “I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened,
but that as a matter of equality your abundance at the present time
should supply their want, so that their abundance may supply your
want, that there may be equality.” (2 Corinthians chapter 8 verses
13 to 14)

      “You will be enriched in every way for great generosity.” (2
Corinthians chapter 9 verse 11)

      “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men,
and especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
(Galatians chapter 6 verse 10)

      “If a brother or sister is ill-clad and in lack of daily food, and
one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,”
without giving them the things needed for the body, what does it
profit?” (James chapter 2 verses 15 to 16)

      “Above all hold unfailing your love for one another, since love
covers a multitude of sins. Practise hospitality ungrudgingly to one
another. As each has received a gift, employ it for one another.” (1
Peter chapter 4 verses 8 to 10)

     “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we
ought to lay down our lives for the brethren. But if any one has the
world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart

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against him, how does God’s love abide in him?” (1 John chapter 3
verses 16 to 17)

       “If any one says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a
liar; for he who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot
love God whom he has not seen. And this commandment we have
from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.” (1
John chapter 4 verses 20 to 21)

       What an extraordinary and comprehensive expression of
Christian life, love and fellowship! How far we have moved away from
Christian unity as revealed in the pages of the New Testament! Is
this now just a pipe-dream or wishful thinking? No – this is the
express purpose and will of our Heavenly Father in presenting a
glorious Bride to His Son! Anything less is not good enough; anything
less is unacceptable; anything less is totally unthinkable to God! How
dare we settle for anything less! Even though it may cost us our jobs,
homes, pensions, reputations, personal preferences and agendas –
let us press on to be part of the fulfilment of Jesus’ high-priestly
prayer.

      In Revelation chapter 2 verses 1 to 7, the Ephesian church is
reproved for having abandoned the love it had at first, or as it says in
some translations, it had forsaken its first love. Generally this is
taken to mean that the church had lost its love and devotion for
Jesus Christ. However, I would like to suggest that the first love
spoken about here is referring to something else. In his letter to the
Ephesians, Paul says:
      “For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord
Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give
thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers.” (Ephesians chapter
1 verses 15 to 16)

      I want to suggest that the rebuke to the Ephesian church was
because they had lost the deep devotion and love they had had for
one another (which, by the way, is the true test of our love for God).
This is more in keeping with the main body of scripture relating to
the Ephesian church. This is also more in keeping with Revelation
chapter 2 verse 5 which says:
      “Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the
works you did at first.”

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      Agapé love is an active, committed, ‘working’ love and needed
to be restored to the centre of Ephesian church life. We can see how
important this was to God in that, unless there was true repentance,
the Ephesian church was clearly in danger of losing its place in God’s
plans!

      One thing I am totally convinced about is this - as we find a new
and real unity in Christ, so we will discover an increased outpouring
of the Holy Spirit’s blessing. Look at the following scriptures:

      “Behold, how good and pleasant it is when brothers dwell in
unity … For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life for
evermore.” (Psalm 133 verses 1 and 3)

     “Now the company of those who believed were of one heart
and soul, and no one said that any of the things which he possessed
was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great
power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the
Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all.” (Acts chapter 4
verses 32 to 33)

      God’s Word is equally clear in showing that division and
disunity can seriously keep us from experiencing God’s blessing and
can even open up our lives and churches to various kinds of
problems and spiritual attack. In the book of Joshua chapter 7 we
read a remarkable account of a defeat which was inflicted on the
Israelites as a result of one man’s sin. The children of Israel were
fresh from their victory over Jericho and faced with a significantly
smaller foe in the city of Ai. However, because of the disobedience of
one man, Achan, the whole nation suffered defeat involving the
death of thirty six men. The united obedience of the whole nation
was broken by one man, thereby incurring God’s wrath.

      We may ask what this Old Testament story has to do with
church unity. This story is not so far removed from the account in
Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians chapter 11
verses 17 to 34), where, in talking about the Lord’s Supper, Paul
reproves the church members for their self-centred and
inconsiderate practices at their love-feasts – this open expression of
local church disunity was actually the reason why many in the church

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were sick and some had even died! How open would we be to the
suggestion that one of the reasons why we are not experiencing the
amount of healings, miracles and other blessings we would expect in
our churches, is due to a lack of love and unity in the congregation,
the presence of gossip, back-biting, unforgiveness, resentment and
other sins which divide, thereby holding back God’s blessing! What
about the suggestion that some of the sickness and disproportionate
deaths we sometimes experience may be due to these causes! It is
interesting to note that in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, Paul actually
commends the Corinthian church for its full array of spiritual gifts – it
is possible to hide behind a great flow in gifts and ministries in our
churches, not realising that underlying sin and division is keeping us
from all that God has for us and is actually incurring His judgment.

       Let’s be determined to rid our lives and congregations of
anything which divides us, doing everything possible to build the
deeply-united relationships that open us up to all God has for us. Let
us make repairs where repairs are needed, restore where restoration
is needed, mend broken bones where healing is needed and be
fitted perfectly together as a prepared ‘net’.




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               Chapter 4 – Equipping the Saints
Greek ‘Katartizo’ – to equip, to fully train, to prepare something for
future use

      “And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some
prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip
the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ,
until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the
Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the
fullness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to
and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning
of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the
truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the
head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and knit
together by every joint with which it is supplied, when each part is
working properly, makes bodily growth and upbuilds itself in love.”
(Ephesians chapter 4 verses 11 to 16)

      In Paul’s letter to the Ephesian church, he lays out a clear blue-
print as to the purpose and function of the ministry giftings that
Christ has bestowed on the church: namely, for the ‘equipping’ of
believers, in the sense of teaching, training and preparing them for
ministry, and also bringing them through to maturity in Christ.

      As regards preparing believers for ministry: it is very clear in the
New Testament that the local church is meant to be a multi-ministry
unit. One of the most helpful pictures given of the church is that of a
body where all the parts have an important function. In fact, the
teaching in Ephesians chapter 4 makes it clear that the church can
only really grow and be fully effective when each body member is
“working properly.” I believe that a primary function of church
leadership is not just to do the work of ministry, but rather to actively
raise up and release the rest of the body into ministry. We need to be
thankful that the place of the five-fold ministry giftings has been
restored to the church in recent decades; however, we need to
clearly understand that these ministries have not been restored in
order for individuals to be elevated to positions of importance as
they exercise their giftings, but rather they are clearly there to be
ministries which serve the Body of Christ, actively seeking to release
others into the work of ministry. I believe a helpful model here is for

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church leaders and those with recognized ministry giftings to be
working as if they are trying to do themselves out of a job, discipling
and training others to take over from them. For many leaders this
poses a real threat as our security is firmly rooted in our position
(often a salaried one) and in our ministry. The truth is, however, that
the Holy Spirit will always keep leaders in employment if they are
willing to take up the challenge of equipping the saints as found in
Ephesians chapter 4.

     In these last days, God is wanting to pour out His Spirit in a
mighty way before the return of Jesus Christ - there is going to be a
wonderful catch of fish. Raising up and releasing others into ministry
and leadership is an essential preparation for this – I see it as a
prerequisite for the spreading of the nets for this mighty catch.

       Secondly, as regards bringing believers through to maturity, “to
mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of
Christ”: again, it is very clear in the New Testament that the Christian
life is meant to be a walk of maturity, of growing up in Christ, where
believers pass through various stages from spiritual infancy to
spiritual manhood. This is a process of continual spiritual change up
until the day that we die or until Jesus returns. The New Testament
calls this process ‘sanctification’ – it is a work of holiness and
maturity, which is firstly imputed to us when we receive Jesus Christ
into our lives as Saviour and Lord, but it is also a process, where in
co-operation with the Holy Spirit, we actively seek to deal with
iniquity and sin in our lives, and to live lives which honour and glorify
God – lives marked by holiness and right living.

      It is the function of leadership, firstly, to ensure that they,
themselves, are in the continual process of spiritual change, and
then to teach and train the church to become like Christ. The reality
is that many leaders have opted out of this process and would be
hard pressed, if questioned, to point out any spiritual growth
changes that have taken place in their lives in the last month, or
even the last year! How can we bring the church to spiritual maturity
if we ourselves are not being daily changed into the likeness of
Christ? How would our wives, husbands or close Christian friends
answer if they were asked to comment on our spiritual life and
growth? I guess that many of us would be embarrassed by their
fumbling to find encouraging and concrete things to say. Having

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ensured that we are ‘in process’, we then have a responsibility to
teach and train others.

      Paul says of his ministry in Colossians chapter 1 verses 28 to
29:
       “Him we proclaim, warning every man and teaching every man
in all wisdom, that we may present every man mature in Christ. For
this I toil, striving with all the energy which he mightily inspires within
me.”

      This process of change and sanctification can simply be
referred to as discipleship. In Matthew chapter 28 verses 18 to 20,
Jesus says to his disciples:
      “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go
therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the
name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching
them to observe all that I have commanded you.”

       I see three very clear problems in respect to this mandate in
today’s Church – firstly, there is a lack of understanding as to our
calling: we have not been instructed to go and make converts or
believers, but rather to make disciples, those who are committed to
the process of teaching, training and life changes which result in
sanctification. Accepting this principle is a lot less attractive than just
making converts, in the sense that, if we like the ‘numbers game’,
then relatively few, who make decisions for Christ, are really
prepared to follow through with Christian discipleship. This process is
also much more demanding of church leadership – we are called to
commit ourselves to the life training and discipleship of those who
find Christ – it is not then just a short series of evangelistic meetings
leading to conversions, but a sustained working alongside new
believers, helping them in their daily walk of discipleship. Secondly,
discipleship is a word that, in today’s world, is often associated with
political radicalism and therefore we shy away from it. However, it is
a biblical word and a biblical process, and, like it or not, true
discipleship is certainly meant to be radical, in the sense that is
reaches into every area of our lives – our marriages, our parenting,
our finances, our work lives, our relationships with other Christians,
our social lives, our speech, our attitudes, etc. Thirdly, because of
the association of discipleship with baptism, in Matthew chapter 28,
which in some denominations takes place in infancy, any real and

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long-term understanding of the process of making disciples is lost in
church tradition and practice.

      In John’s first letter, we find a succinct, but very challenging
presentation of three stages in the process of spiritual maturity:
      “I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are
forgiven for his sake. I am writing to you, fathers, because you know
him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men,
because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children,
because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you
know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men,
because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you
have overcome the evil one.” (1 John chapter 2 verses 12 to 14)

      As leaders, we should be looking to take our church members
through these three stages. However, the reality is that so many of
our members do not seem to have even stepped on to the bottom
rung of the ladder of discipleship – how often do we hear of
Christians who are struggling with the foundational truths of knowing
their sins are forgiven and knowing the wonderful reality of the
Fatherhood of God? Now the reasons for this may well be partly their
unwillingness to take on board teaching and counsel; however, we
need, as leaders, to make sure that we have, as a primary aim, the
desire to teach and disciple our members through to spiritual
maturity, not leaving them as spiritual babies.

      The writer to the Hebrews states in chapter 5 verse 12 to
chapter 6 verse 1:
      “For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need
someone to teach you again the first principles of God’s word. You
need milk, not solid food; for every one who lives on milk is unskilled
in the word of righteousness, for he is a child. But solid food is for
the mature, for those who have their faculties trained by practice to
distinguish good from evil. Therefore, let us leave the elementary
doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a
foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith towards
God.”

     This indictment appears to be addressed to Christians who
were failing to progress in their spiritual walk and maturity. The writer
to the Hebrews makes it clear that such a position is totally

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unacceptable for those who are true disciples of Christ. However, you
have to ask the question – what were the leaders teaching? Were
they partly responsible for this lack of growth in the churches?

      Paul makes a similar statement in 1 Corinthians chapter 3
verses 1 to 3:
      “But I, brethren, could not address you as spiritual men, but as
men of the flesh, as babes in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid
food; for you were not ready for it; and even yet you are not ready, for
you are still of the flesh. For while there is jealousy and strife among
you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving like ordinary men?”

       Going back to 1 John, I am amazed at the description of
spiritual ‘young men’ (the second stage in spiritual maturity) that
John gives – they have overcome the evil one, they are strong and
the Word of God abides in them. Very few of us would claim this
position for ourselves, but for John, it was only part of the way along
the road to spiritual maturity. He was writing to Christians he knew
for whom this was a honest appraisal of where they were in their
walk with Christ. To me, it is very clear, that the spiritual strength
referred to here, and the overcoming of the evil one, are directly
related to the fact that the Word of God was abiding in them. These
were Christians who had been careful to apply the Word of God to
every aspect of their lives; they were being changed through its life-
giving message, and had found this to be the answer to becoming
spiritually strong and to standing firm against all the attacks of the
evil one.

       This is a real challenge to us, as leaders – do we find ourselves
in this place? If not, how will we ever hope to ‘equip the saints’ and
bring them to maturity in Christ? We read and hear too much about
the evil one and various fanciful ways to deal with his attacks on our
lives and churches. We do need to know and understand that we
have a real and powerful enemy who will try, in every way possible, to
destroy our spiritual life; however, we equally need to know that we
can come to a place, in this life, where we can fully overcome him, by
allowing the Word of God to change and transform our lives. Paul, in
Ephesians chapter 6, exhorts us to “be strong in the Lord and in the
strength of his might” – we do this by ensuring that we are properly
clothed in the full armour which God supplies in order that we “may


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be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand.”
(Ephesians chapter 6 verses 10 to 13)

       John defines spiritual maturity in the sense of being ‘fathers’ –
those who know the Father, those who know Him who is from the
beginning. You get the real sense that the word ‘know’ embodies a
rock-like position of firm faith and strength in God. How the Church
today needs spiritual fathers (and spiritual mothers)! As leaders, we
need to be moving towards this degree of spiritual maturity and then
actively seeking to bring others through to the same place. Anything
less is failing in our calling.

       Paul E. Billheimer, in his Christian classic, ‘Destined for the
Throne’, describes the walk of discipleship through to maturity as
being the necessary process in preparing us for an eternity of ruling
with Christ. I would certainly agree with this position, but would want
to add, that the only way to guarantee making it to eternal glory, is to
ensure that we are ‘in process’ – any Christian who lingers in
spiritual immaturity is, firstly, very vulnerable to the devil’s attacks,
and secondly, fails to understand that it is only a faith in Christ,
demonstrated by godly living which ensures us a place in eternity. As
quoted earlier:
       “Strive for … the holiness without which no one will see the
Lord.” (Hebrews chapter 12 verse 14)




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     Chapter 5 – Only Doing What the Father is Doing

“But at your word I will let down the nets.” And when they had done
this, they enclosed a great shoal of fish

       In both Luke and John’s accounts of the disciples going fishing,
it is after a night’s unfruitful labour that Jesus commands them to let
down their nets for a catch of fish. In Luke’s account, at the
beginning of his gospel, Simon Peter states, somewhat exasperated,
that they had been fishing all night and had caught nothing;
however, at Jesus’ command, he was willing to let down the nets
again. In John’s account, at the end of his gospel, it is, this time, the
disciples who reply to Jesus’ question, as to whether they had caught
any fish, with a straightforward ‘No’. Both times, following Jesus’
command, and the disciples’ obedience, there was a huge catch of
fish. The only key to their success was doing what Jesus told them to
do, when and how He told them to do it. On these occasions it was
nothing to do with their expertise as fishermen, or knowing the
waters of Galilee – this was a lesson in beginning to move out in a
new way, listening for and obeying the voice of Jesus for each and
every situation.

      At the end of 2003, the Lord clearly called me back into local
church leadership. Prior to this time, my wife, Glenys, and I had
helped plant and lead a church for sixteen years in a small coastal
town in north-east Essex. Towards the end of this time, we
experienced a number of difficulties which resulted in us stepping
right out of ministry for six years, urgently needing a period of rest
and spiritual recuperation. The call back into ministry, particularly
local church leadership, was a total surprise, particularly in the
sense that we had ‘vowed’ never to do that again! One of the
benefits of being out of ministry for this period of time was the
opportunity to stand back and reflect on all that had happened
previously and to seek God afresh as regards His plans for the
Church. I have always been an ideas and projects person, a ‘do-er’,
greatly enjoying every opportunity to engage in evangelism and
leading teams to various parts of Europe. However, the Lord made it
very clear that this re-calling was to be radically different in its
unfolding: my heart for seeing the lost won and discipled for Christ
has not diminished, but I am learning a new principal in church


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leadership, which, put simply, is to only do what we clearly see the
Father doing.

      During the first year in the leadership team of our present
church (in another small coastal town in north-east Essex!) more
things appeared to be closing down in the church than opening up.
The Holy Spirit had told us that He wanted to do a new thing and that
we were only to go forward in any area of church life on His clear
leading and instruction. In some ways this has been painful and has
resulted in working through and challenging traditional ideas on
what constitutes church life and ministry. However, we are now in a
place where we are currently so excited about what God has in store.
It would not be an overestimate to say that around thirty per cent of
the church is presently on a ministry/leadership training course and
we are moving towards congregational planting in the New Year,
expecting more new plants to follow over the coming years.

      As a local church we have been seeking to fully embrace the
prophetic word of ‘Mending the Nets’, and we are actively living in
the expectation of a revival catch of fish for the Church at large, but
it needs to be placed in the context of implicitly obeying what our
Heavenly Father is saying at any given time and only doing what He
is doing – nothing else will work or produce lasting fruit for the
Kingdom of God.

       My position now is that I am finished with ‘doing church’ in the
old way, even the old charismatic evangelical way – it doesn’t work.
We expend so much time and energy in a multitude of good ideas
and plans and often only end up with minimal fruit and with leaders
experiencing ‘burn-out.’ How many churches are there out there,
where many of the leaders or members would say that ‘they have
been there, done that, got the t-shirt’ and are reluctant to go there
again? For many this is because we’ve neglected the principles of
waiting on and for God, seeing any inactivity as failing God, being
driven by the urgency of a needy world at best or evangelical
expectations at worst! We need to stop asking the Lord to bless the
plans we have prepared and to take time to clearly discover His
plans. One prophetic picture given to our church during the past year
was of sheets of used paper being torn out of a notebook, until a
totally blank page appeared – the Lord was saying that this was


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something brand new, which required a clean page to write down
only what He was saying now.

       It is interesting to note from studying the Acts of the Apostles,
that, even after the great commission statement of Matthew 28
verses 18 to 20, where Jesus commanded His disciples to go into all
the world, and make disciples of all nations, that every advance in
the early church’s mission was as a result of a clear leading or
activity of the Holy Spirit. It wasn’t just a case of “Jesus has said it,
let’s get on with it”, but rather of waiting for the Holy Spirit to show
them each step of the way – how far we have drifted from this early
example of Spirit-led life and witness! I am sure that the Kingdom of
God would be further advanced if we spent less time in activity, and
more time seeking God. Hearing clearly from God and acting on it will
produce many times more lasting fruit than years of busy-ness and
self-effort (with the attached request for God’s blessing!).

     In John’s Gospel chapter 5 verse 19, Jesus states,
     “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own
accord, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever He
does, that the Son does likewise.”

       The success of Jesus’ ministry was totally dependent on him
listening carefully to His Father’s voice and observing, at any given
time, what the Father was wanting to do. I am sure you will agree
with me that Jesus’ world was a very needy world, but the key to His
successful ministry was His listening to and obeying His Father at all
times. How many of us, for example, would have spent so much time
talking with a promiscuous Samaritan woman, when we could have
been planning the next city wide healing and evangelistic campaign?
Little did the disciples understand that the woman’s conversion
would result in the whole city coming to Christ! (John chapter 4
verses 1 to 42)

      Let’s be those that so learn to wait on God for His clear
direction for us as individuals and as His Church.




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                                         …?
                    Chapter 6 – And then …?
Greek ‘Katartizo’ – to prepare something for future use

A close friend and fellow elder of mine believes that the present-day
church is largely apostate and seriously needs to change before
Christ returns. Whilst I would not entirely hold his position on this,
there has been a serious ‘iron sharpening iron’ process going on now
for several months which has made me look afresh at what I observe
as ‘church’. I would have to admit that in the light of John chapter
17, where Jesus prays for a unity amongst believers that mirrors the
unity between the Father and the Son, and Ephesians chapter 5,
where Paul speaks about the Church as a Bride being made pure
and spotless, and without blemish before the return of Christ, the
apostate claim is probably not so far from the truth!

      The description of the Laodicean church, as found in
Revelation chapter 3 verses 14 to 22 is perhaps very fitting to
today’s church:
      “And to the angel of the church in Laodicea write: ‘The words of
the Amen, the faithful and true witness, the beginning of God’s
creation. I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that
you were cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither
cold nor hot, I will spew you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I
have prospered, and I need nothing; not knowing that you are
wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked, Therefore I counsel you to
buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich, and white
garments to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nakedness
from being seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, that you may see.
Those whom I love, I reprove and chasten; so be zealous and repent.
Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if any one hears my voice and
opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with
me. He who conquers, I will grant him to sit with me on my throne, as
I myself conquered and sat down with my Father on his throne. He
who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

      Certainly the confession, “I am rich, I have prospered, and I
need nothing” is how we like to see ourselves in the western Church,
but really the opposite is much closer to the truth!



                                 - 35 -
                             Mending the Nets


      The wonderful thing about this message to the Laodicean
church is that it is also a message of hope – there is still gold and
fine apparel to obtain and a place next to Christ on his throne for
those who are willing to repent and live the life of a conqueror,
putting to death iniquity in our lives, and turning away from all sin,
determining, with the help of the Holy Spirit to come through to
maturity in Christ.

      Whilst we are looking into Revelation chapters 2 and 3, it is
interesting to note that only two churches, the ones at Smyrna and
Philadelphia, were not exhorted to repent. Both these churches had
undergone hardship and persecution. There is no doubt that
persecution can have a purifying effect on the church. Look at 1
Peter chapter 4 verse 1:
      “Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves
with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has
ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no
longer by human passions but by the will of God.”

      This is quite an outstanding statement that Peter makes – that
suffering in the flesh for the sake of Jesus Christ has the dramatic
effect of putting things firmly into context, of clarifying spiritual
issues and places the desire for and ongoing practise of sin behind
us.

      I have no doubt in my mind that we, in the West, will soon have
to endure unprecedented persecution for our faith in Jesus Christ. I
would go so far as to say that leaders are failing in their calling if they
are not now beginning to prepare their churches for coming
persecution prior to the return of Jesus. 2 Timothy chapter 3 verse
12 states, categorically, that “all who desire to live a godly life in
Christ Jesus will be persecuted.” The Church needs to be prepared to
stand strong; many will fall away – this is why it is so vital that we
press through now on implementing the full message of ‘mending
the nets’. The Lord wants us willingly to embrace His passion for a
Bride without spot or blemish, to embrace the reality of a Church
which is seeking to mirror the unity between Father and Son.
However, the Church will undoubtedly pass through the sieve of
persecution in the final preparation to these ends.



                                   - 36 -
                            Mending the Nets


      In the message of ‘Mending the Nets’ there is a blue-print for
these last days – a plan by which the Lord will purify, unite and equip
His Church, and in so doing, a prepared net, which is not torn, will be
ready for a final catch of men, women, young people and children,
the like of which we have never seen before. I believe that this, in
turn, will usher in the return of Jesus Christ. Are we willing, as
individuals and as churches, to take on board the whole message,
not shrinking back from the enormous challenge and the undoubted
cost?

       Many Christians are praying for revival today, but there will be
no short cut to seeing this end time harvest because so much is at
stake – yes, it is about seeing as many people as possible coming to
know Jesus Christ as Saviour and Lord, that He might receive the full
fruit of His suffering; however, it is also about a prepared Bride,
made ready for the Bridegroom, about a Church which, in real unity,
fulfils the high-priestly prayer of Jesus. I urge you, then, to take this
message with you wherever you go, to allow it to transform your lives
and churches and then ….. Maranatha – Our Lord come!




                                  - 37 -
Mending the Nets




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