Under Cover

 

I would like to start off this week by saying there is a lot that I have taken directly out of John Bevere’s book “Under Cover”. I don’t want to take any credit away from him as I feel that God gave him this study and I don’t wish to do any more then to share with you the awesome and powerful information that we all need in our lives. Also please remember that if you wish to get any of his materials, we can either help you by directing you to where you can find the stuff, or order it for you and you can purchase through us.

It’s Hard to Kick Against the Goads

 

In so many ways we have been programmed to think differently from the foundational truths we are about to encounter. Yet this is the exact tactic of Satan. He loves to make what brings us into bondage appear desirable and even good while portraying what is liberating as bondage.

 

That is how it started in the first place. In the Garden it worked and he hasn’t changed since then. And we are warned in the scriptures:

James 1:16 ~ “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren”

Rom 12:2 ~ “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God”

 

John’s experience has been that Westerners (people of the democratic nations of America and Europe) are some of the most resistant people to truly hearing God’s Word. Why? Because it is hard to understand kingdom principles with a democratic mind-set. Democracy works for our nations, but God’s kingdom is a kingdom. In a kingdom, you are ruled by a King. There is rank, order, and authority. The rules in the kingdom are not up for debate, opinion, suggestions or otherwise. They are not changed by what we believe to be good and right. Eve was lead to believe that she could choose what was right for her. Didn’t satan tell her that God held her back to keep her from being like him, to keep her from being wise? Therefore, we must learn kingdom ways and philosophies to fully understand God’s ways in His kingdom.

 

If we attempt to live as believers with a cultural mind-set towards authority, we will at best be ineffective and at worst positioned for danger. Our provision as well as protection could be blocked or even cut off as we disconnect ourselves from the Source of true life.

 

I don’t know about you, but I think that it is scary to think that my way of thinking could get in the way of what God has for me.

 

These days, if we don’t agree with authority, we can challenge it through complaint or protest. After all, government should be “of the people, by the people, for the people” right? This and other democratic mind-sets have trickled into our Christianity and marched many down the deceptive path of self-rule. As this path continues they go beyond challenging authority to blatantly resisting it. Then there are those who have developed a greater degree of contempt for authority, which they display by totally ignoring its existence. Thus, they betray a complete loss of the fear of God.

 

None of these mind-sets will bring us the freedom we are looking for.

 

Job 36:11-12 ~ If they obey and serve him, they will spend the rest of their days in prosperity and their years in contentment. But if they do not listen, they will perish by the sword and die without knowledge.

 

“Him” is speaking of God.

 

The promise is provision and protection in exchange for our submission to His authority. There is also a warning of danger when we ignore His authority. John Bevere’s wife says, “There is freedom in submission and bondage in rebellion.”

 

Some say they submit to God, but only submit to man when they agree with them. This thinking can hinder us. If we don’t submit to His given authority, then we are not submitting to Him. All authority originates with Him.

 

Romans 13:1-2 ~ “Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.

 

Consider these things that we find in this scripture:

1)      God appoints ALL existing rulers (no one can get into any position of authority without His knowledge)

2)      To rebel against the authorities is to rebel against the ordinance of God Himself, and will bring self-judgment

 

Many people feel they are accountable only to God and not to man. Those who think this way are on a collision course with the very One they call Lord. In Acts 9:5; Jesus told Saul (later Paul) “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

 

Now for all you who are thinking what are goads? John goes on to explain.

 

Farmers in Biblical days used goads. A common goad was an eighty-foot-long straight branch of oak or other strong wood from which the bark had been stripped. At the front end a pointed spike was used to prod the oxen while plowing. An ox would certainly not resist such a sharp instrument capable of administering a good deal of pain and harm. Hence in Paul’s day this proverbial expression was used to describe the futility of resistance to superior authority or power.

 

Those who resist the authority of God, whether directly, as Paul did, or indirectly to His delegated authority, will find themselves kicking against the goad in God’s hands. More often than not this is a painful experience, and a lesson many of us learn the hard way.

 

I will now share another one of John’s stories that impacted me:

 

I remember when my eyes were painfully opened to the fact that resistance to delegated authority was resistance to God’s authority. For me it is stamped forever as a monument to the foolishness of kicking against the goads.

 

In the mid- 1980s I was offered the position of youth pastor as a large international church. After prayer and an amazing confirmation, I accepted this position as the will of God.

 

I felt overwhelmed because I had no previous youth ministry experience, but found myself part of the staff of one of the fastest-growing and most influential churches in America. I started devouring youth ministry books and manuals. One book was by the senior pastor of a church in Louisiana that had an outstanding youth program. I had my secretary call and ask if I could fly in for two days and spend time with the group. The leaders graciously welcomed me, and we selected the dates.

 

Upon arriving, I was whisked immediately to a Wednesday night youth meeting. I was amazed. They had their own youth auditorium, which seated 1,500, and it was almost full! They were not playing games or preaching easy, compromising messages; the messages were of purity and power. To top it off, the young people were actually excited to be there. I was thrilled and felt certain I had picked the right group to glean from.

 

The next day I met at the church with the leaders. Again I could hardly believe what I found. They had their own youth administration building, two full-time youth secretaries, and four full-time youth pastors. I spent the next two days in and out of meetings with all four youth pastors. The statistics were mind-boggling. At that time they had 1,250 young adults in their high school ministry and it was growing at an astounding rate.

 

Each of the four pastors told me the exact same thing. The success of the ministry

Was due to the “parties” they had every Friday night at more then one hundred locations around the city. The parties were actually home cell groups with the objective of getting young people saved.

 

The concept was simple enough, but profound. It is hard to get unsaved teenager to a church, but easy to get them to a party. During the week each member of the youth group was encouraged to target one person in school and invite him or her to the party Friday night.

 

Once there, they enjoyed food, socializing, and contemporary Christian music; then the appointed leader, a high school or college student, started an organized Bible-based group discussion that eventually steered the conversation to the topic of salvation.

 

Next he presented an opportunity for those there to give their lives to Jesus. As a result, many first-time visitors were saved. They were taken aside and instructed in the importance of fellowship and church, names and phone numbers were exchanged, and they were invited to the Wednesday night youth services.

 

I attended one of the parties and was inspired when several unsaved students gave their lives to Jesus. I returned to my church and shared what I had learned with my assistant. After, prayer, we felt led to do the same thing with our group. I also excitedly shared the vision with the senior pastor in the parking lot one Sunday after the service. He encouraged me, “Great, brother. Go for it!”

 

While in prayer, God gave me a plan. I would immediately begin a school of leadership to prepare my leaders. I announced it Tuesday night to the entire youth group, and to my delight, seventy of them showed up for the leadership class the following Sunday morning. I would teach them weekly for the next six months on principles of leadership, such as faithfulness, integrity, commitment, serving, and vision.

 

After five months, the Lord spoke to my heart in prayer again and said, “Choose twenty-four of the young people in your leadership class, and start a discipleship class for them. You will select from them your first leaders of the parties.” I began immediately to train those leaders for the first round of home cells.

 

For the next two months I prepared those leaders for the home group parties, and I preached the vision of the parties to the Tuesday night main youth group. My assistant pastor and I worked on the leader’s curriculum and many details, such as the parties’ locations, the division of the city by school districts and zip codes, as well as how the groups would expand and how follow-up would be handled. We poured ourselves into this effort with the purpose of reaching lost souls propelling us.

 

Everyone was excited. The vision had trickled down from the leaders to the regular attendees of the youth services. The young people were already talking about the individuals they wanted to invite first to their parties. We were praying that God would touch hearts to respond, that they would see their need for Jesus and be saved. My assistant and I could envision the entire sanctuary filled with 2,500 young people on Tuesday nights. To say the least, we were charged with vision and passion.

 

Three weeks before the launch of the first parties, I walked into the weekly pastors’ meeting, totally unprepared for what I was about to hear. In the meeting the senior pastor shared with all eleven of us associate pastors the following devastating words, “Gentlemen, the Holy Spirit has shown me that the direction of this church is not to have home cell groups. So I want you all to cancel any small group meetings you are having in members’ home.”

 

I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. There had to be some king of mistake or misunderstanding. My assistant’s shocked eyes met mine as we struggled with our confusion. I tried to comfort myself with the thought; He doesn’t mean the youth… he is just talking about the other pastors. The singles’ pastor, the seniors’ pastor, the couples’ pastor, and others had home groups, but they were not doing very well and were really not the focus of their ministries. Besides, I had talked to my senior pastor about my idea a few months back in the parking lot, and he said, “Go for it,” so I concluded the youth department must be exempt from this moratorium.

 

I couldn’t wait any longer. “Excuse me, Pastor. You mean except the youth ministry, correct?”

 

He looked back at me and said, “John, the Holy Spirit spoke to me the direction of this church is not to have home cell groups.”

 

I spoke again, “Pastor, remember I flew several months ago to that youth group in Louisiana? They have 1,250 high school students in their youth group. All four pastors said it was due to their home cell groups.”

 

The Senior Pastor looked at me and said, “John, the Holy Spirit spoke to me the direction of this church is not to have home cell groups.”

 

I spoke again, my intensity rising, all the while thinking, He doesn’t understand. I reasoned, “Pastor, it is hard to get unsaved young people into our church, but we can get almost any high school student into a party, which as I explained to you a few months back would actually be a home group focused on getting the lost saved.”

 

He repeated, “John, the Holy Spirit spoke to me the direction of this church is not to have home cell groups.”

 

Becoming quite impassioned, I argued, “But, Pastor, we can fill our auditorium with 2,500 students. We could see all the youth of Orlando, Florida, saved!

 

He repeated the same words.

 

I argued with him for approximately fifteen minutes. Everyone in the room could feel the tension mounting. Fortunately for me, the only words that kept coming out the pastor’s mouth were ones he believed God told him to say.

 

Finally I was quiet, but I was steaming inside. I heard nothing else for the rest of the meeting. All I could think was, we have worked on this for eight months. He knew we were doing this; I told him months ago. How can he shut down the vehicle that would bring hundreds or even thousands into the kingdom? He is stopping a move of God! What am I going to tell the youth? What will the leaders think? I flew to Louisiana. What a waste of money, of time! I can’t believe this is really happening!

 

My thoughts were almost endless, and in all of them, I was right and on God’s side, but the pastor was missing it!

 

When the meeting was over, I did a beeline out of the conference room. An older, wiser associate pastor tried to stop me to speak wisdom, restraint, and comfort to me, but I looked at him and said, “Fred, I don’t want to talk!” He saw he would get nowhere and backed off.

 

I pulled into my driveway, opened my front door, and received a greeting from my wife. I did not greet her, but said in a very frustrated voice, “You’re not going to believe what he did!”

 

Upon hearing the tone of my voice, she responded with concern, “Who, and what did he do?”

 

“Pastor! He canceled the home group parties! What we’ve worked on for eight months. He canceled them! Can you believe it?”

 

She looked at me and said with the most straight forward and serious voice, “Well, it looks like God is trying to teach you something.” Then she walked out of the foyer and into our bedroom.

 

Now I was mad at her. I stormed into the kitchen, put my foot up on a chair, looked out our front window, and continued my thoughts of how wrong my pastor was. Only added to those thoughts were thoughts of how insensitive and undiscerning my wife was.

 

As I stared out the window, the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart. He said, “John, whose ministry are you building? Mine or yours?

 

I blurted out, “Yours, Lord!”

He quickly responded, “No, you’re not! You’re building your own”

I said, “Lord, we can’t get most unsaved students to our church, but we can get them into parties…” I started going through the whole reasoning process and plan with Him – as if He didn’t know. How easily we can be deceived!

 

The Lord allowed me to vent it all out, then said, “John, when I brought you to this church to serve this man, I made you an extension of the ministry I entrusted to him. I called you to be his arms and legs; I put only one man in charge of a ministry.

 

He brought to my mind Moses. The Bible says, “Moses certainly was faithful in the administration of all God’s house” (Heb 3:5 amplified) He was the leader God put over the congregation.

 

Then He brought to my mind James in the New Testament. James was the leader of the church in Jerusalem. He reminded me of the incident where circumcision was in question among the believers (Acts 15). Paul, Barnabas, Peter, John, and all the rest of the apostles and elders of the church of Jerusalem came together to talk it out.

 

Some of the believing Pharisees who were also leaders spoke first. Then Peter spoke. After him, Paul and Barnabas shared what God was doing among the Gentiles. Once they had finished, James stood up, summarized what had been spoken, and then made this ruling, “Therefore I judge…” As the head, he gave his decision, and all of them, including Peter, Paul, and John, submitted to his decision.

 

I saw this dynamic illustrated in the Scriptures when the angel released Peter from prison. Peter said to the believers at the house of Mary, “Go, tell these things to James and to the brethren” (Acts 12:17). The same was true for Luke and Paul. When they came to Jerusalem, Luke recorded, “ The brethren received us gladly. On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present” (Acts 21:17-18). Why would Peter and Paul identify James in those two accounts? It is clear he was the lead man by the way he is separately mentioned by name.

 

Once the Holy Spirit clarified this point, He continued, “ John, when you stand before Me in judgment for the time period that I have had you serve this pastor, you will not first give an account of how many youth you led to salvation in Orlando, Florida. You will first be judged on how faithful you were to the pastor I’ve put you under.”

 

Then He made the statement that shocked me: “In fact, you could win all the youth in Orlando and stand before Me and be judged for not submitting to and being faithful to the pastor I put you under.” With those words came a renewed sense of the fear of God! With all my defenses down, I was putty in the Master’s hand.

 

He went on, “John, if you continue in this direction, the youth will go one way while they church goes another direction. You will bring a division to the church.”

 

The prefix di- means “two.” Putting it together, division means “two visions”! Why are so many churches and homes dividing today? There is more than one vision, which means one is not submitted to God’s ordained authority. God ordains set men or leaders because any two-headed organization is doomed for division!

 

I immediately repented of my rebellious attitude. After praying, I knew what I had to do. I picked up the phone and called the senior pastor. When he answered, I said, “Pastor, this is John Bevere. I’m calling to ask your forgiveness. God has shown me I have been in rebellion to your authority, and I have sinned greatly. Please forgive me. I will cancel the home groups immediately.”

 

He was very gracious, and forgave me. As soon as I hung up, I heard the Holy Spirit pose this question: “Now, how will you tell your twenty-four leaders this weekend?”

 

I saw a vision or image of me walking into the room with the leaders and in a sad monotone voice reporting, “Guys, you’re not going to believe what has happened.”

 

They would look at me with concern, asking, “what?”

 

I would continue in my heavy monotone voice, “You know we have worked on this for months, but Pastor has canceled the home cell groups. We will not have our parties on Friday night.”

 

I saw all of them moan and groan in disgust over the decision. It was easy to perceive they were upset with the senior pastor. We were all his victims, and of course, I looked good at his expense.

 

After mulling this scene in my mind, I heard the Holy Spirit question, “Is that what you are going to do?”

 

I answered, “No, Sir!”

 

At the next meeting I walked into the roomful of leaders with confidence and a smile on my face and excitement in my voice. With enthusiasm I announced, “Guys, I’ve got great news.”

 

They looked up with eager anticipation, “What?”

 

I continued, “God has spared us from birthing and building something that is not from Him. Our Senior pastor told us in a staff meeting this week that the direction of the Holy Spirit for this church is not to have home groups. So effective immediately the parties are canceled!”

 

They all seemed to reflect my excitement and in one accord shouted, “Yeah…all right!” I never had one problem with them! I wasn’t the only one who grew out of this experience; we all did. At a later date I was able to share with them what had transpired. Many of those young twenty-four are in full-time ministry today and doing well.

 

As I look back, I am convinced that was a pivotal point in my life and ministry. Had I not broken, but persisted in my own reasoning and continued in my stubbornness, I would be at a very different place today. Oh, I may have canceled the parties because I had no other choice, but my heart would have remained resistant, proud, and hard. Never forget: it is not just outward obedience that God desires, but a broken and contrite heart, one that thirsts and hungers for the will of God. For this reason David said,

 

For You do not desire sacrifice, or else I would give it…

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit,

A broken and contrite heart –

These, O God, You will not despise. (Ps 51:16-17)

 

We can make great sacrifices in our lives, serve long hours, labor without pay, give up sleep, seek ways to reach more people, and do all sorts of things because in ministry the list can be endless. Caught up in all this sacrifice, we could easily imagine ourselves and our efforts as pleasing to God. However, in all this activity our core motive could still be deceptively fueled by self-will.

 

Hear these words: God is pleased with submission that leads to true obedience. Through this teaching we want to not only reveal the importance of submission to God’s authority, but also to create a love and passion for obedience to it.

 

There may be many unanswered questions in your mind about the testimony given. One may be “Didn’t God tell you in prayer to do those home groups?” or “What if the pastor was wrong about the direction of the church? What if you were supposed to have cell groups, and he was wrong and you were right? What if he had been influenced wrongly?”

 

As we move on in the study, we will answer all these questions and many more.

 

But before we can go on discussing delegated authority, we mush first establish the importance of submitting to God’s direct authority.

 

Watchman Nee writes, “Before a man can subject himself to God’s delegated authority he must first meet God’s inherent authority. Our entire relationship with God is regulated by whether or not we have met authority. If we have, then we shall encounter authority everywhere, and being thus restrained by God we can begin to be used by Him. (Spiritual Authority [New York: Christian Fellowship Publishers, 1972])

 

A firm scriptural foundation of the importance of submission to God Himself must be laid first. Only after this is accomplished can we move on to the importance of submission to delegated authority. It will be the cornerstone for everything we will build upon.

 

 

Next week we cover “God’s Direct Covering”

 

Content gleaned from Under Cover by: John Bevere http://johnbevere.com/