JOY UNSPEAKABLE AND FULL OF GLORY!
INTRODUCTION By F.E.Reilly
Today I introduce to you a new Writer here at 11th Hour! Cameron Bauer, a former Canadian pastor not encumbered with a delusion of America's true nature, has offered to participate in the work we do here at 11th Hour.
His skill and experience as a pastor from the "Church of Laodicea" place him in a unique position to contribute to the New, and I might add slowly emerging, section of our site called "The Tree Of Life". Cam seems to have a "school of hard knocks" learned understanding of how God is working to bring so many from the "lukewarm" tragedy that has become the 21st century Christian Church. I feel strongly his insights and experience will help greatly in enhancing our ministry to those who believe the truth.
We look forward to hearing from him, and learning from his contributions to "The Tree of Life", and to the 11th Hour site in general! He will share with you the "Joy Unspeakable And Full Of Glory" that comes from being freed from compromise with Sin, and worldly living!
Here is his introductory writing, which I received on Friday night, and use now to introduce him to our readers.
LIVE FROM LAODICEA by Cameron Bauer
I am a former pastor from a “Holiness” denomination who was “defrocked” (as some of my friends like to kid me about) because I became divorced. I am only starting to learn about people “coming out” from the “Traditional Church”, but after seeing today’s church from the inside and the out, I am beginning to see why many true believers are doing this.
Right now I myself am still attending a church and the message this past Sunday is a good reflection of what is not quite right with the church today. The title of the message was: "Becoming a Church of Joy". I thought the sermon was well done and had many excellent points. The text was from Acts 16:16-36. We were told to look at how people responded to unpleasant circumstances.
First was the response of the owners of the slave girl who told people’s fortunes. This girl was able to do what she did because she was possessed by a demon. Every time Paul and Silas walked by, she stopped telling the future and started yelling:
“These men are servants of the Most High God, who proclaim to you the way of salvation.” (verses 17)
She kept doing this for several days, but instead of seeing this as good advertising, Paul became annoyed and cast the demon out of her. (vs. 18) Unlike many of the "Seeker-friendly" churches today, Paul felt he didn’t need the Devil’s help in spreading the Gospel! (Ouch, I couldn’t resist). Anyway, while I am sure the girl appreciated this greatly; her owners weren’t too thrilled about losing their main source of revenue. Their response:
Acts 16: 19-21 But when her owners saw that their hope of gain was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the rulers. And when they had brought them to the magistrates, they said, "These men are Jews, and they are disturbing our city. They advocate customs that are not lawful for us as Romans to accept or practice." (English Standard Version)
These business owners responded to their loss of their business with a desire for revenge. We were told this is a common way people respond today when they lose their businesses, careers, or anything that results in financial hardship. They want to get even.
Second, we looked at the example of the jailer. After Paul and Silas were thrown in prison, the jailer was ordered “to keep them safely” (vs. 23). To accommodate this order the jailer “put them into the inner prison and fastened their feet in the stocks.” (vs 24) This jailer was told that the rulers of the city had a special interest in these two prisoners and therefore took extra precautions to make sure they did not escape. However, the jailer did not plan for verse 26...
Acts 16: 26 “and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone's bonds were unfastened.”
When the jailer awoke to this earthquake and saw all the prisoners free and the prison doors wide open, he knew he was in trouble. His job was to keep the prisoner in, especially the ones with the special order. His response to his circumstances:
Acts 16: 27 “he drew his sword and was about to kill himself, supposing that the prisoners had escaped.”
We were told that a common response to adversity is despair and utter hopelessness.
Third, we were given the example of Paul and Silas themselves. They were just doing what the Holy Spirit was leading them to do which was preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ. They were obedient witnesses of Jesus. Then one day they helped a poor, demon-possessed girl out who was being exploited and as a result they were dragged in front of the rulers of the city. Their accusers did not have the guts to reveal the real reason for their allegations. The crowd joined in against them probably because they were bored and wanted to see a good beating. Paul and Silas suffered the humiliation of having their clothes torn off. They were beaten with rods, being inflicted with many blows. They were thrown into prison and not in the outer (minimum security) area, but into the inner prison with all the filth and disease. When you consider all the fresh wounds these two men had just received, this inner prison was not the healthiest place to be.
What was Paul and Silas’ response to these horrible circumstances? We are told in verse 25...
Acts 16: 25 “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God.”
Wow, what an excellent opening 20 minutes of this message. Everyone in the church I’m sure was awestruck at the example of Paul and Silas. I’m sure most of the congregation was thinking of how in the past they had responded to adversity like the business owners and/or the jailer and how seldom they had responded like Paul and Silas. The pastor even confessed himself that in spite of being a positive, happy person (he is), so often he responds more like the owners and the jailer in unpleasant situations. Pastor, you’ve sold us. We want this joy! We need this joy! How do we get this joy??
HERE COMES THE PROBLEM
The pastor spent about 30 seconds telling us how to get this joy, saying something about having a relationship with Jesus. Then he moved on to explaining four road blocks to joy. At the front of the church he had brought in one of those huge “Road Closed” highway barriers. This pastor always has excellent visuals. He went behind the sign and used it like a big flip chart where he, one by one, flipped over signs indicating these barriers to joy: self-pity, anger, un-forgiveness, and temporal, (worldly), thinking.
I started scratching my head. Why talk about these barriers to joy when your message made it so obvious that we don’t have this joy? When we compare ourselves to Paul and Silas, it is so clear that we yet need this joy. Please pastor; tell us how to get this joy. Once we have this joy, then we will be interested in knowing how to maintain it.
I have thought about this for some time now and I can only speculate why the Pastor spent so little time on this key question of how to get this joy. Perhaps he saw his time short and didn’t want to cut the excellent visual that obviously took a lot of effort to arrange? I can think back to my years of preaching and if it was me, I would have to admit that it would have been a different reason why I would have skimmed over this most important part.
You see, I was a worldly pastor. Yes, I was a Christian, but I was worldly. I loved the world. I loved the entertainment of this world: movies, television, and especially sports. I have been addicted to sports since I was a young boy. As a result of my worldliness, I was not filled with the Spirit of God and I didn’t have the Fruit of the Spirit. I could put up a good front when I was around the people of the church, but when I was at home I was anything but.
If I would have come up with this sermon idea, I would have preached it in a very similar way. I would have loved the contrast between these worldly ways of responding to these adverse circumstances and the way that Paul and Silas did, obviously filled with the Holy Spirit. However, I too would have skimmed over the key question of how we can get this joy because I didn’t have this joy myself. I remember feeling the temptation to skim over this “key area”. Maybe I justified it to myself by thinking, “they’ve heard it so many times before.” Maybe I was just ashamed of the gospel of Christ. Maybe the enemy influenced me: “Preach the clever sermon idea, put some interesting stories and a joke or two, you don’t want people to fall asleep, but let’s take it easy on the part about surrendering your life.”
TRUE LOVE IS TOUGH LOVE!
Like I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I come from a “Holiness” denomination. When I was a young person, I remember hearing sermons about sanctification and a second work of grace. I don’t hear these types of sermons in this denomination anymore. I listen to sermons on the sermon audio website by old-time preachers like Leonard Ravenhill and Vance Havner and these preachers talk about personal revival, holiness, and sanctification, but I never hear these topics preached in the church today. Is it because there is no such thing as sanctification and holiness? No. Is it because people are tired of preaching about something they do not have themselves?
God allowed me to take a path for myself, a path of sin that resulted in divorce, total shame, loss of my reputation, loss of my two wonderful boys, loss of two promising careers, bankruptcy, a loss of every friend I had. The result of all of this has been: that God after all these years has finally succeeded in getting a hold of me. I have surrendered my life to Him, I have forsaken this world that I loved, I live for Jesus. The cares of this world are no longer my cares. I am not concerned about building treasures on earth. I no longer live and die by the success and failures of the Chicago Cubs.
What I now love to do is seek God’s face, study His Word and pray. My prayers are no longer focused on earthly successes and a search for love, my prayers are wrestling with God for the souls of my children, my sisters, and the people I know. I now have this joy that Paul and Silas had. Now, I can honestly and sincerely say... Thank you God, for all the pain, for allowing my heart to be ripped apart. Where would I be today if these terrible things never happened? I would still be a worldly man. Maybe I would still be a worldly pastor, doing my job without God. Thank you God for breaking my heart.
Just today, my boss returned from two months vacation and at the end of the day he said, “What’s with you. You seem different. You are not so stressed out. Are you finally getting ****? (You can fill in the blank. He is like many people today, thinking sex is the answer).
I said, “No, what I have is so much better than that.” Jesus speaks to the Laodicean church in Rev 3:19, 20...
Rev 3:19 those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.
I am so thankful that God did not give up on me. He could have left me alone and said: “He wants the world, he can have it. I’ll see him at the Judgment” But He didn’t. He loves me, so He reproved me and disciplined me. I was broken, and like Prodigal sons who awaken with the swine, I came to my senses and I repented. This is how we get the joy of Paul and Silas. We repent. We turn away from our sin and worldliness and turn to God, we turn to Him with zealousness.
Rev 3:20 Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and eat with him, and he with me.
Now, free from the cares of the world, I can finally hear Jesus knocking! When I hear Him knocking, I immediately drop what I am doing, open the door, invite Jesus in and we fellowship together. How precious it is to sup with Jesus! Oh the Joy that fills my heart!
My friends, when adversity comes, do not fret. Rejoice and see the window of opportunity. Allow your pain to cause you to get alone and shut the door and pour out your pain to God. Obey Him. Surrender your heart. In doing so, you are giving up a few beans for an eternity of riches. Never say “No” to Him. He is the Potter. Trust Him to mold you. He knows what’s best. Our way never works. You will see the transformation of God in your life. You will see the Joy in your life that can sing hymns in the deepest dungeon with fresh wounds covering your back!
In Christ, Cameron Bauer
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