Did you know that mediocrity can lead more people to hell than immorality? Think of this: people who live in open hostility against the holiness of God have more awareness of their sins and weaknesses and, therefore, a better chance of responding with repentance to a call of God than those who claim to love the Lord but lead a lukewarm life.
Although this is, unfortunately, extremely common in the Church today, lukewarmness has nothing to do with Christianity nor with Jesus’ call to follow him. But this is exactly the condition that has generated “half-baked” believers in our days: people who are neither healthy nor sick, cold nor revived, strong nor weak. Settling down in this status quo may appear harmless enough, but it represents one of the greatest dangers that besets the people of God, since it subtly paralyzes the desire of our Father’s heart that his children push the envelope.
“To push the envelope” has to do with pressing forward, with taking our life to another level, with getting to a destiny. God is a God of journeys. He has always had a final goal and has worked to achieve this down through the ages, seeking to lead us to our glorious destiny. Throughout the Scriptures, we find invitations and warnings from God, calling different men in different ages to move forward, push the envelope and reach the final destination. We are now going to look at some triads, or “sequences of threes” that appear throughout the Bible and teach us about this calling that is for every believer.
God called Abraham to fulfill his eternal desire to form a people, but this did not take place during Abraham’s lifetime. First Isaac had to come and then Jacob. Only through Jacob did the 12 tribes (12 in the Bible is often a figure of the Kingdom of God) become a reality.
When we think of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, we must remember that they were literally father, son and grandson. In this sequence of three generations, the nation of Israel only came into being in the generation of the grandson. If that was how the nation of Israel was born back in those days, it can be no different in our time. There will be no breakthrough in our generation if we aren’t connected by covenant with the generation that preceded us. We often are most anxious to break with our past, while God wants us to be united with those who came before us, joining the revelations of each past generation with those of today (Psalms 33:11).
Abraham is an example of a groundbreaking generation that discovered new things in God. He is like the father of a new move of God in the Earth. Like him, there are many brethren, some of whom have already gone on and others are quite elderly now, that pioneered a new move of God in Brazil. I could name several here, but just think of some people in their 80s, 90s, or even 100s that broke new ground in our nation and even in the world. They were like Abraham – they left everything behind and set out to pioneer something new.
Isaac, on the other hand, is a figure of someone who carries on their father’s work. He was a peaceful man, who didn’t have to face as many struggles as his father did, since the way had already been opened before him. He is also a figure of Jesus, because he obeyed all that his Father said. His mission was not to invent something new, but to obey and stick to what his Father told him to do. Likewise, the generation of Isaac never does anything new, but with their constant and obedient spirit, they keep the flame of witness always burning.
Finally, we have Jacob, a man who was totally lost, full of errors, and who didn’t follow his father’s lifestyle. He is a figure of my generation, of my own life, actually. The three patriarchs form a parable concerning identity and generations, since the name of each one had a meaning connected to their mission. Jacob’s identity was entirely out of sync, with innumerable failures, as is my case and that of my entire generation. We have lost ourselves in relativisms and homosexuality. We are a generation with a liquid mind, without any absolutes, who cannot relate to other people because we spend hours in front of the Internet or TV set.
However, there is something fascinating in Jacob’s pathway. In Genesis 28, we learn that Jacob had a vision of the House of God, showing the connection between heaven and earth. It is obvious that this grandchild, a complete misfit by his grandfather’s and father’s standards, did not deserve this revelation; even so, he was granted it by sheer divine grace.
In Psalm 24, the Psalmist speaks of a holy generation that seeks the face of the God of Jacob. I have wondered why David didn’t say “the God of Abraham” or “the God of Isaac”. I believe that the reason Jacob is associated with “holiness” in this Psalm, in spite of who he was, is because the generation of clean hands and a pure heart, that will lift up the eternal gates of their souls to bring in the King of Glory in the second coming, is the generation that will seek God just as Jacob did. And how did Jacob seek God? Until he limped, until he was permanently marked. God wants to mark this present generation, even though their past is full of errors and failures because, where sin abounded, grace has abounded much more.
We, as the present generation, have been called to push the envelope, knowing that, in spite of being sinners, we are totally loved by God. He wants to give us the vision of his house; he wants us to join this with the vision and revelation of our fathers (who came before us); he wants us to be encouraged to push the envelope and seek his face like Jacob did.
There are three geographical places in the history of Israel that appear frequently and are a type of spiritual regions in our personal journey and in the corporate walk of the Body of Christ. They are: Egypt, the Wilderness and the Promised Land.
Egypt is a type of the world and a life of sin. Pharaoh is a type of the one who enslaves people in sin – Satan. After being delivered from the bondage in Egypt, we have to go through the desert, an intermediary place between Egypt and the Promised Land. During the wandering of the people of God in the desert, they received a revelation of the word of God and the model of the tabernacle. Although the wilderness is a place of trial and tribulation, it is there that God has a unique opportunity of speaking to his people.
Our final destiny is the Promised Land. The reason for leaving Egypt is to get to Canaan. It is also the place where the Law (which was promulgated in the desert) will be lived to the fullest. Many precepts that were received in the desert could not be lived out there, such as the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles and the choice of a single exclusive place for worshipping God (Deuteronomy 12). The land is a place where all that was learned in the wilderness can be put into practice; a place where God will reign over his people.
As I look at these figures, I ask myself, At what point in my journey with the Lord am I at this present time? I am certainly not in Egypt, because the Lord, our Deliverer, with a strong hand and stretched out arm, delivered me from slavery to Satan. On the other hand, I can just as categorically affirm that I am not living the fullness of the Kingdom. This is not only true in my case; I have observed that the people of God in general have not taken full possession of their inheritance. We have not experienced the fullness of God’s blessing as a people; we are not living in revival; we do not live the normal Christian life that the church of Acts knew.
Do you think it’s enough to be content with “freedom from sin”? Many have not understood that being free from sin is only 50% of holiness. Being holy is not just being separated from sin, but it is also being fully separated unto God. Being the people of God is not just leaving Egypt, but entering the Promised Land. We don’t want to be part of the generation that died in the desert. We have been called to push the envelope and not be content with the wilderness or the life of this world, but to yearn for the final purpose: entering the Promised Land and living out in reality the Kingdom of God.
In the epistle to the Hebrews, Christ is revealed as the reality of which the tabernacle was a shadow. Our practical experience with Christ is related to the three sections of the tabernacle: the Court, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies.
When we get converted, we experience the Court, with its altar of burnt offerings, a type of the Cross of Christ, and the bronze basin where the priests washed themselves, a type of baptism in water.
The Holy Place represents our baptism in the Holy Spirit and our experience with the Word and prayer. Each one of these experiences is represented by a specific piece of furniture in the Holy Place. The candlestick had fire and oil, and represents our baptism in the Holy Spirit and all gift-related experiences. The table of unleavened bread is a figure of our experience with the Word, and includes our devotional life and the pleasure of daily meditation in the Word receiving new revelations of Jesus in the Scriptures. The altar of incense speaks of a life of intercession.
All these experiences, no matter how wonderful they are, are simply a means to reach the goal; never a goal in themselves. Few believers, however, see it this way. Some never even experience the reality of the Holy Place, with the baptism in the Spirit or true enlightenment in the Word of God. The truth is: God wants to lead us into the Holy of Holies. He calls us to push the envelope, to not be satisfied with conversion, to go beyond the baptism in the Spirit, to seek more than a daily experience with the Word and prayer as a means in themselves. We have been called to experience the Holy of Holies – the place where the glory of God rests. We have been called to seek more than what the Reformation brought us: an encounter with the reality of the cross and divine grace. We have been called to go beyond the Pentecostal experience and the manifestation of the gifts of the Spirit. The last generation will discover, in practical life, the difference between the anointing of the Spirit and the vision of the glory of God. We need to push the envelope and see God face to face.
THE BIBLICAL FEASTS
Another fascinating triad is formed by the feasts of Israel. God commanded them to go up to Jerusalem three times a year to celebrate the feasts of the Lord. If you examine the meaning of the three trips, or celebrations, you will see they correspond to the three sections of the tabernacle, or to the three experiences of our Christian life.
The first trip of the year was to celebrate the Feast of Passover, which represented the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt and, consequently, our conversion. The second was the Feast of Pentecost, representing the promulgation of the Law in the wilderness and of course is a symbol of our baptism in the Holy Spirit (the law of God in our heart). The third feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, corresponds to the Second Coming of Christ, when God will make his tabernacle among men.
In the History of the Church, we observe that after a long period of decline, that reached approximately from the 2nd to the 15th centuries, God restored his testimony according to the order of the three feasts. With Luther and the other Reformers, the reality of the Passover was restored by means of the doctrine of justification by faith. For a long period, salvation, grace and the Cross were the main focus. During the Pentecostal/Charismatic movements, especially during the 20th century, the reality of the Feast of Pentecost was restored. During this period, the Holy Spirit impacted practically every denomination and the emphasis of the first church on the baptism of the Holy Spirit, the gift of tongues, healings, and other gifts was revived.
Today, there are churches for each one of these feasts. The more historical churches, for example, emphasize the Passover experience. The Pentecostal churches, on the other hand, as their name suggests, place more importance on Pentecostal experiences, such as the move of the Spirit. The time has come, however, to push the envelope, and introduce the generation of the Feast of Tabernacles – men and women whose goal in life is to bring about the second coming of Christ and who yearn for the day that the tabernacle of God will be with man.
PUSHING THE ENVELOPE IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
Besides all the types that appear in the Old Testament, we find three passages in Philippians that leave no doubt as to this longing in God’s heart, from three different perspectives:
God pushing the envelope
“…being confident of this very thing, that he who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:6).
Notice that Paul declares that God started something in the Philippians and that God himself would complete the work. We can see how pushing the envelope is so crucial, since God himself is pushing it for us. Would you care to join him?
Man pushing the envelope
“Brethren, I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13-14).
Here, we have the biography of a man of God, the driving force of a man full of the Holy Spirit. The result of his walk with the Lord was to become a man who, like God, was reaching forward. God was pushing the envelope, and Paul was going along with him. Many believers are totally bound to their past, trying to bring God back to the past and make everything work out all right just like in the days of old, while he is actually involved in a new move of his grace. This shows us that it is always time to press forward toward the goal.
God and man, together, pushing the envelope
“…work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12-13).
We have been called to push the envelope in our own salvation, working it out and growing in this gift that God has granted us. Why should we do this? Because God is doing it. We have to push the envelope in our salvation because God is pushing the envelope. This is a path we walk with him. Therefore, brethren, we have been called, like Jacob, to battle with God in prayer in order to behold his glory in the Holy of Holies and be empowered to possess the Promised Land – the Kingdom of God lived out in practice. That is the only way to be ready as the people of God for the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles and the coming of the Lord Jesus.
“Not that I have already attained, or am already perfected; but I press on, that I may lay hold of that for which Christ Jesus has also laid hold of me” (Philippians 3:12).
|Biblical Geography||EGYPT||THE WILDERNESS||THE PROMISED LAND|
|The Tabernacle||THE COURT||THE HOLY PLACE||THE HOLY OF HOLIES|