by Michael Barrett
For quite some time now I have been considering some of the issues related to the concept of the ideal. I hear the saints talking a lot about how things should be done in the kingdom. I hear so much being said that, oftentimes, is very half baked, not well thought out, and at times, completely devoid of scriptural reference and foundation.
One of the things that I have been advocating for over time is that we take more care to communicate accurately. I believe that we have a great responsibility to hold ourselves and others accountable to a standard of accuracy. If we have anything to say, the things that should be said demand that they be stated accurately.
I also oftentimes hear generalizations offered without regard to context. The pervasive idea then becomes that the things being said are a “one size fits all” offering. And the argument can be that, “the truth is the truth is the truth” and should be given in the same way to everyone.
Now, before you jump ahead of what I’m saying and think that I am suggesting situational ethics and compromise, I am emphatically not. What I am speaking to, however, is that in many things we should not necessarily say the same thing in the same way to everyone. I am saying that we must be careful to know that what we are saying, on every occasion, is really what the Father is saying. And that what we are saying doesn't emanate from our own prejudices, preferences, emotional soap boxes or generally from our own opinion.
WHAT EXACTLY IS THE IDEAL?
What exactly is the “ideal?” What is the true ideal as it regards the life of the sons of God and who gets to say what it is? Do we get to say, do our peers get to say or does the authority to define the ideal only belong to God?
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word ideal as: “satisfying one's conception of what is perfect; most suitable.” Again, the question should be asked, whose “conception” of what is perfect or most suitable should be employed? Do you get to say what the ideal is? Do I get to say?
And have you noticed that many times even when God gives “a word” some are prone to make a sentence out of it? In other words, it is not uncommon for the saints to hyper-extend a truth so much that the truth is turned into a lie. Or, we merge the given truth so much into our own pet doctrines that the newly formed emulsification of truth and half-truth is no solution at all to those to whom it was given.
Here is one of the major issues as I see it. I observe people communicating ideas as though the way that they are putting the thing forth describes the ideal. The way that a thing is stated often implies that the way the thing is being framed defines the “gold standard” or the accurate measure of the truth that is being communicated. And then, depending on to what degree the one giving the thing carries it in the heart of God context, there is often a “my way or the highway” attitude. This kind of attitude can cause relational misunderstanding, and even separation. Criticism, judgment and legalism will, if unchecked, eventually produce a break in relationships that may or may not be fixable. Sad!
TAKING INTO ACCOUNT THE MATURITY CONTINUUM
Also, as it regards the ideal, people mature at different paces. Furthermore, none of us is ultimately mature in every area of understanding (with accompanying experience). For instance, a person may have great understanding and faith in the area of physical healing but really struggle in the area of trusting the Lord for financial provision. We see those kinds of differentials played out every day in the lives of dear brothers and sisters that the Lord brings into our lives.
And, make no mistake, regardless of how gifted or potential-filled a person may be, the road to maturity is the road of experience. The brand new babe in Christ may be incredibly gifted and full of potential. That person, regardless of how gifted, as a babe in Christ is just beginning their journey in maturity. And I can promise you, their Father rejoices – even sings over His son when each step of maturity is taken.
Sometimes I think many of us have been in the walk with God so long that we have forgotten what it was like to take baby steps. And when we took baby steps in God, our Father’s heart was filled with joy and rejoicing! I hope we can still rejoice with those who rejoice. Is your heart filled with joy when your young brother or sister takes baby steps of faith? Do you think your response is the same response as the Father’s response?
AN ENCOURAGEMENT TO THE PROPHETIC AMONG US
One of the strengths that the prophets and prophetesses with us bring to the table is a love for the truth. And certainly we would be adrift without this standard among us. The courage to stand for the truth is immanently vital to the health and welfare of the body of Christ. (And these remarks are not intended to single out the prophetic brothers and sisters. The same kind of encouragement herein goes to each of us – knowing that the way we are each gifted or wired in God can cause a particular bent which may result in a hidden bias or prejudice. We must each take care not to permit anything to bully us into feeling compelled to say or do anything that negatively affects our ability to accurately represent our Father.).
With that said however, we must never forget that Jesus brought both grace and truth. In fact, the scripture referred to is found in John 1:17, and it says, “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.”
So, what we do not want, is to have the truth that we are given separated from the grace that was also given to attend, even complete that truth. You might ask how that could ever happen. It happens when the word given is not what the Father is saying to a particular person, or group of people, on that particular occasion. It happens when the word given is not the word that is proceeding out of the mouth of God. In these instances, even the New Testament can become old covenant! That which was intended to give life becomes the letter that kills!!
I remember on one occasion when a group of leaders that I was to co-lead a five day conference with were at a serious impasse. We were actually in a pre-meeting the night before the conference was to begin. It was in that pre-meeting that I was called on to help un-stick the impasse. The question was asked me, “Can you help us.” I answered by saying, “I’m not sure.” The brother that had asked the question said, “What do you mean you aren't sure.” I replied, “I’m not sure if God can help you guys. Unless men are willing to repent, even God can't help.”
It was in that meeting that a particular brother repeatedly pecked his bible with his right index finger and said, over and over, “But, I know when I have truth” and “When I have the truth.” I finally said to the brother, “Can you please help me understand what it is that you mean when you say that you have the truth while tapping your bible with your finger? To you, what constitutes the truth?” He replied, “When I have the scripture on a thing, I have the truth.”
I said, “So are you saying that to have the scripture is to have the truth?” He said, “Yes.” I then said, “But Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they that testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you may have life.” (John 5:39-40). I said, “Truth is a person. Truth is not the book you are tapping with your finger. You have separated ‘the truth’ from ‘the Truth’. The thing that you are saying may resemble a verse of scripture but it is not ‘the Truth.’ What I hear is the letter of the law and it is killing your brother.”
THE MEASURE OF “THE TRUTH”
The prophet (and the prophetess) often sees the ideal. However, I have often seen the ideal tyrannize the prophetic folks among us. This can happen when the prophetic person uses the ideal as the measure. There are here two issues: 1) that what the prophetic person sees and understands is simply their version of the ideal and does not accurately represent the truth; or, 2) that the thing that the prophetic person sees and understands really is a representation of the truth.
In either case, however, the ideal is not the measure! The measure is what is the Father saying and what is the Father doing, and do we have a clear mandate to say or do anything? Just because you know or see something in no way gives you permission to say anything. The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God – not by their “knowing” and, or their “seeing.”
If we insist on holding everyone to the measure of the ideal (that is, the ideal as we see it) and we judge on the basis of how people perform in light of that ideal, we will have effectively taken the Holy Spirit out of the equation. Have we been trained by the Lord to wait always to hear what He is saying? This is the only way forward for us that can produce life.
Additionally, do we yet need the honor of men? Are we being motivated to speak, lead, do or say so we can have their honor? If so, we cannot have the honor of God! And, our needs will skew and twist the thing that should be said in favor of ourselves rather than for the benefit of the other.
ONLY THE WORD OF GOD
When I was younger, I did not understand how slippery the slope was with regard to the way the saints were to be handled. One of the mistakes that is often made in the way we handle each other has to do with the issue of motive.
When we are dealing with people, there is the “what” and then there is the “why.” The “what” is very often visible, quantifiable and definable. The “why” is most often invisible and can only be known by true discernment (and I stress true discernment). What qualifies discernment to be true? The only bona fide context for true discernment is revelation from God!
Hebrews 4:12 sates, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.” The only true agency that God employs for separating a thing and discerning it is the word of God.
Thoughts and intents. What and why. The visible and the invisible. It is my view that the realm of intentions belongs to God. That this realm is Holy! That this realm is much like the Tree of Life in the Garden after sin entered. That God stationed an angel with a flaming sword to eternally guard the Tree of Life.
What I am saying is simply – that the intentions of a person, their motive, is hidden from us. And only if God chooses to give His word to open that realm to us, so that we can see what the intention behind a thing really is, we don’t know and we shouldn’t claim to know or act as if we do.
And here is a BIG ONE: anything that God may choose to give to us about the life of another is ALWAYS REDEMPTIVE!!! It has been said to us repeatedly that any authority God has delegated to us is given for the benefit of the one subject to that authority. Don’t ever forget who you are, who you represent and who the person standing in front of you is!
A HEAVENLY POINT OF VIEW
John, on the Isle of Patmos (Revelation 4:1) sees a door open in heaven and hears a voice saying, “Come up here, and I will show you…..” And in the next verse, John said, “And immediately I was in the spirit, and I saw…..” Ok, these verses set forth some realities that need to be considered. There are several areas of consideration that I want to suggest here. I will list the considerations.
- A door was open in heaven -
Who is in heaven and who controls whether or not heaven is open? Only the Lord Himself opens and closes that realm. So, if the Lord is opening heaven it is clearly an invitation to leave one realm and enter another. In John’s case, this was an invitation to leave the realm of earth (the earthly) and enter the realm of heaven (the heavenly).
- The voice opens an action and promises a result -
“Come up here and I will show you.” The action (invitation) is for John to “come up here.” Where is “here?” “Here” was obviously heaven. John was being invited to come into the heavenly realm.
The result that was promised was, “and I will show you.” In other words, if John says yes (and he didn't have to say yes), he will enter a different realm and he will know things that he did not know before. “I will show you” promises a result that can only be wrought by God. So, the Lord was saying, if you come with me, I will give you revelation that you have not had before.
- John changes realms immediately
“And immediately I was in the spirit.” Where is, “in the spirit?” Clearly, in the spirit is the equivalent of in heaven or in the heavenly realm.
And as soon as John was “in the spirit” he could see! “And behold, a throne, and one seated on the throne.” John had to change realms in order to see. John shifted to the heavenly realm and was immediately in touch with eternal realities.
What did John actually see? The throne of God and the Glorious Son of God sitting on that throne. John saw the Sovereign God, in the person of the ascended Son of God ruling as the Sovereign!! Whatever anyone might think, this experience was the ultimate paradigm shift. Whatever was going on with John, or in John’s life became immediately subject to the transcendent reality of the throne and the One seated on the throne!!!
How would that kind of shift change your view of everything going on in your life right now? How would that kind of shift change your view of every difficulty in your life? How would that kind of shift change the way you see your brother and sister? How would that kind of shift change the way you see your neighbor? Your enemy? Your president or other persons in authority? Radical extremists??
You get the idea. Paul, an apostle of God, had a similar experience to the one John had. And Paul responded to his experience by saying that he would never again view anything according to the flesh, or from a worldly point of view (2 Corinthians 5:16). You and I can never permit ourselves to see from a worldly point of view. We must hold ourselves accountable to the standard that Jesus operated by. He (even He!!) would only judge as He heard the Father (John 5:30) and for that reason only, He could say, “my judgment is just.”
In summary, the “gold standard” of the kingdom of God is not our version of the ideal – whether those impressions be accurate or not so accurate. The “gold standard” of the kingdom of God is based solely in what the Father is saying and what the Father is doing – and how exactly we should represent that and only that. What is your conception of what is perfect and most suitable? How closely aligned are those “ideals” with the heart of God?
I once spoke with a brother who was involved as top leadership in a movement that had international influence. It was my understanding that this particular movement had all but vanished in a relative short time. I wanted to know what the brother’s experience had been. So I asked him what had happened. He looked me straight in the eye and said, “Well, we learned how to have the church and forgot how to have the Lord.” That was a breathtaking moment for me. Is it possible for us today to learn forms and norms and forget Who we are sent here to represent? I think it is entirely possible. And this is a fearful prospect.
Selah. Let us pause and think about these things. Do not permit a sense of idealism to push you around and cause you to be a poor representation of your Father. Your “high calling” is to be an exact representation of your Father. Let that be your highest aim; your Holy ambition! I often say to people when they are facing difficult situations in relationships or feeling that the Lord is calling them to confront a person for whatever reason, “Be careful that you do not decide ahead of time what you will say when you go unless you know definitively that the Lord Himself has given you a particular set of words to say.”
Let us be careful not to speak our own words. Let us always walk in the fear of the Lord and listen intently to His voice – and require His perfect leadership! To that end, may the God of all grace empower you with wisdom and strength for the journey!!