by John Maniatty
As the burden to fulfill the purposes of God in our generation
has begun to weigh more heavily upon the Church, we have found it necessary
once again to turn back to normal New Testament Christianity.
That may sound strange coming from an elder in a New Testament
Church, but through our generation the enemy has launched an attack
on the Lords body to eliminate certain truths from our midst and
neutralize the propagation of the Gospel.
For instance, for many years now Christians have avoided the term Children
of God because of a religious group known by that name. It was
considered a cult (in the negative sense of the word) and the term was
basically dropped from the Christian vocabulary. The same has happened
in varying degrees with words like discipleship, shepherding, nurturing,
evangelism, admonishment, sin, and so on.
The fact that sinners used these words wrongly in the past does not
invalidate the truth; it only corroborates what the Bible has to say
about man! And in spite of our many shortcomings, the Holy Spirit inspired
the apostle John to write these words: see how great a love the
Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God;
and such we are.-1 John 3:1. Beloved, we are the children of God
and as such we must adhere to the truth.
We must once again be fully devoted to the Way, returning to our roots
where we found life in Him-ruthlessly obeying Him with complete disregard
to the personal costs involved. This is how we began the race; this
is how we must run it. Then, at the end of our life, we will be able
to say as Paul said, I have fought the good fight, I have finished
the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for
me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge,
will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who
have loved His appearing.-2 Timothy 4:7-8
Over ten years ago the Lord began to bring some measure of revival into
my home church. Before this occurred, however, the Lord had to show
us some areas where we, and the Body of Christ as a whole, had been
One of the first things He brought to our attention was the difference
between forgiveness and repentance. We had begun to act as if receiving
forgiveness was the same thing as repenting. Receiving forgiveness from
the Lord is a glorious thing indeed! It makes us feel clean and right
again. Forgiveness is freely granted to us because of the One perfect
and complete sacrifice, the Lord Jesus Himself. Repentance, on the other
hand, is often hard work. It is something we must set our will and strength
to. It is to walk a new way. It is our response of love to the Love
who so freely gave His life on our behalf. That is repentance.
- As we recognized our failings we would ask for forgiveness and our
Lord, who is rich in mercy, would freely forgive us our sins and we
would experience relief. Unfortunately, it seemed many found themselves
seeking forgiveness for the same things over and over again, saying
that God was just doing a deeper work or peeling back another
layer of the onion. But the fact was, we were still committing the same
sins and not walking a new way. God affirmed to us over and over again
each time we cried out to Him for forgiveness that He, who is rich in
mercy, would freely forgive us. At the same time He began to challenge
us to do our part as fervently as we had in the beginning.
He reminded us that our response to Him when we first tasted of His
mercy, when we first savored His forgiveness, was to go and sin no more
and to turn away from the things that he had died on the cross to forgive
us for. We needed to stop sinning and to live a new way. Repentance
then became a normal part of our life once again.
We also began to change our terminology. It had become common among
us to apologize to those whom we had offended,
telling them we were sorry. We talked about our sins as mistakes, our
unrighteous attitudes as character flaws. There is some measure of truth
to that, however, we found the same jargon that was heard so often in
the world was now being heard in the church-and we are called to be
As God began to admonish us we noticed an old word creeping back into
our vocabulary: SIN. It was not as if the word had been completely eliminated,
but its importance in our lives had diminished. More often than not,
when we used that word it was
the other person who was wrong, not we ourselves. We found that to the
degree that SIN was identified as such, to that degree was repentance
fruitful. As we began to look at our mistakes and character
flaws etc. the way the Lord did-as SIN-we had to stop acting in
those ways. When we asked for forgiveness, we also had to stop sinning!
We had to live a new way.
When that happened, when forgiveness and repentance started working
hand-in-hand again, revival sprang up in our hearts and people began
to be drawn into our fellowship. Some were new converts, some were from
other places, but all were drawn by the Presence of God that abides
if we will but follow His Way.
Along with the new people came the old questions: how do we train these
children of God to observe all that I [Jesus] commanded.-Matthew
28:20? How do we care for and nurture them? How should we be shepherding
Nurturing the Flock
Whenever we talked of these things we found ourselves avoiding the terms
discipleship and shepherding. There was still
a bad taste in the mouths of many of us from having been involved with
the heavy-handedness and abuse associated with those terms. We had been
heavy-handed ourselves, and we had been beaten down by others. In our
concern for how to care for the new people, however, we began to explore
these issues afresh.
The first thing we found was that Jesus said to make disciples. If we
were going to obey Him we had to fulfill His command. The fact that
biblical words have been misused in the past is no justification for
throwing them out today or failing to do what the Lord has commanded
us to do. It became clear to us that we had to have some real hands-on
relationships again. We also knew that the possibility would always
be there, given the nature of man, that someone would again abuse the
privilege of discipling a new person and teaching him or her to obey
all that Jesus commanded. However, we have found that as the people
of God begin giving themselves to what they were redeemed for, they
have a new zeal in their hearts along with a deeper awareness of the
awesome responsibility of discipling one of His children. Let us all
remain disciples of the Lamb, obeying Jesus and making disciples.
Out of His great love for us, He gave some as...pastors.-
Ephesians 4:11. We need the care of pastors, the impartation of pastors,
the guidance and discipline from pastors. We need shepherding in the
body of Christ. The children of God-all of us- need to be cared for,
yet, we noticed many still flinched at being shepherded.
However, the bible remains clear that not only do we need the counsel,
wisdom, food, water, etc. from the shepherds among us, we also need
to submit to and obey our leaders. We determined to set our course to
stimulate an environment that allowed people to be cared for. As we
leaders asked for wisdom from above, the Lord revealed His strategy
to once again care for His flock in a Godly manner.
Have all responded to these changes? Yes! Some in a spiritual manner,
some in a carnal manner. We observed that those who pointed their fingers
of accusation at others never became healthy, normal sheep. Almost without
fail, a root of bitterness sprang up in their hearts-Hebrews
12:14-15. We also saw that those who pointed their finger at themselves,
those who humbled themselves and took responsibility for their actions
[Almost everyone who was discipled or shepherded in a carnal manner
did the same to those who they were discipling or shepherding!], became
healthy growing sheep who are now a blessing to those around them: in
their families, in their fellowships, and in their communities. The
problem has always been our own hearts and the solution is always found
in our Lord Jesus Christ for In Him [is] life, and the life was
the light of men.-John 1:4.
Proclaiming the Gospel
As the Lord so often does, when He began to speak to us concerning our
own hearts He also began to speak to us about evangelism, addressing
our attitudes first. Like many who were born-again within the last 30
years, we had assumed that mainline denominational churches had taken
the personal relationship with Jesus out of the Gospel and had substituted
mere talk about the historical Jesus Christ for relationship. We had
pointed our fingers at them or, at the very least, had harbored judgmental
thoughts. It seemed that we ourselves had fallen into the same snare.
I saw it happening this way: we had a circle of people that we talked
to about Jesus. We would tell them of things that Jesus did in our lives
and the lives of others. We would tell them about Jesus in almost the
same way that we might tell someone about our children or grandchildren,
or our cat, or even our computer. We gave them an historical account
of our lives. In the same way, we tended to give them an historical
account of all Jesus did and does. (Now, history is important, but it
is behind us in an instant.) That is not very different from those churches
that talk about their historical Jesus. It seemed to be a far cry from
the proclamation of the Gospel; it seemed to be a far cry from setting
free the captives, healing the sick, raising the dead and making disciples.
The Church needs to be that people of whom God said, I will put
My law within them, and on their heart I will write it; and I will be
their God, and they shall be My people. Jeremiah 31:33. From that
people, conviction is proclaimed and God's creation is set free. As
we faced our sin and failures we found ourselves no longer concerned
about what some other fellowship was preaching, but instead were concerned
about falling more deeply in love with our Lord Jesus. It is that controlling
love (the love of Christ controls us, having concluded this, that
one died for all, therefore all died; and He died for all, that they
who live should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died
and rose again on their behalf.-2 Corinthians 5:14-15) that compels
us to proclaim the Good News!
End Time Dream?
The Lord showed us a dream depicting the end time harvest. In the dream
a woman rose from the dead. She came out of her grave without a head,
then reached to the ground, picked up her head and put it on. As she
gazed out towards us, the first side of her face that was seen was very
ugly, but as she turned her head, the other side was very beautiful.
After this, seven other women came out of the grave, one at a time but
very quickly, with their heads already on and they very beautiful. The
- We believe the Lord showed us that the first woman was representative
of the harvest we were experiencing right then. People were gloriously
coming from death to life. Many were responding to the Lord out of their
physical needs. He was raising them from the dead, but their thoughts,
emotions, desires and goals were still lying in the world instead of
in the grave. When they came out of the grave the bodies worked hard
to put their heads on correctly, yet most of them were double minded
converts. That was the day we were living in then.
- Now the day is almost upon us when the harvest will come in its fullness-and
quickly. People will come out of the grave whole and complete with their
whole being (body, soul and spirit) set apart to the King. People will
be born-again in an instant by the breath of God. No hands slipped up,
no special prayers needed to be prayed, but the Father causing His Life
to spring forth in His creation through His Son. We eagerly await that
Come quickly Lord Jesus!