This past Christmas we experienced a cold snap. As a result, some of the pipes in our house froze. On Christmas day, returning home from time with extended family, we walked into a flooded downstairs bathroom. As the pipes began to thaw, one of them burst. Fortunately, I work construction, and knew what to do. I ran outside and shut off the main water line. Then we went to work getting rid of all the standing water. After that, I discovered the source of the leak, and fixed it. Then we had to do some clean up in the bathroom. Within an hour the bathroom was mostly dry, cleaned up, and back to normal. When things go wrong in a house, it’s good to know what to do, and how to fix it.
God has a house. That house is the Church. The house of God’s Church is like a body (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). It’s made up of a lot of different systems, with a lot of different parts. Just like a body, for God’s house to work, every part in every system must be working well, in order for the whole to be healthy. The malfunctioning of one small part in one particular system can send the whole body into shock, and cause great damage in the whole house. When things go wrong in God’s house, it’s good to know what to do, and how to fix it. Prophets are individuals God has appointed in his house to fix things when they aren’t working.
Every house may have the same basic systems of plumbing, electrical, HVAC, framing, roofing, and so on, but the individual parts and how they’re put together can vary greatly. Take electrical systems, for example. Every electrical system in a house works in the same way. Electrical current enters the house through a main line into the electrical box. From the electrical box, that one main line gets divided into many smaller lines. Each of those smaller lines go to different parts of the house to power individual rooms, outlets, lights, and other systems like the HVAC, water heater, or washing machine. However, the individual parts in the electrical system can vary, depending on when and how a house was built.
Some older electrical systems used knob and tube wiring, and glass fuses. Other older electrical systems used braided cloth wiring and circuit breakers. Newer systems use plastic coated copper wire with AFCI or GFCI breakers. Some of the older systems weren’t grounded. Now everything is. Just because the outlets in your house work, doesn’t mean your electrical system is working well, or is safe. If it is older, there may be problems lurking in the walls that you’re not aware of. With electrical systems, the old adage of “if it works, don’t fix it” doesn’t always work. The same is true with the Church.
The way we do Church may work, but that doesn’t mean it’s powered in the right way. We tend to look at results, but Prophets know how to look beneath the surface to the deeper reality of how things work. As God said to the prophet Samuel, “for God does not see as man sees, since man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7b NASB). To God, how things work matters as much as the results they produce.
Jesus spoke to this reality in Matthew chapter seven. He said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles? Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV). Jesus here issues a stark critique. He’s saying that there are those who have an appearance of being Godly, but who don’t really know God, and so don’t know how to do His will. It’s not about the works they do, but the power of the One behind them.
Notice, the works Jesus mentions are the very same works he did. He doesn’t deny the works, but the way they were done. Whatever the works, they weren’t done in relationship with Jesus or the Father. With God, what we do is secondary to how we do it. If we’re doing the same works as Jesus, but not in the same power, they won’t have the same effect. We must be careful to understand, not just what we should be doing, but how we are meant to do it. Both speak to the same thing, that everything we do is about reconnection to God. You can’t get reconnection through separation. Separation from God is hell. Separation from God is also the center of Satan’s Plan.
Satan’s Plan was to entice the Church to attempt the works of God separate from God Himself. His goal was a Church that looked every bit like the Bride of Christ, but powered by something other than what Jesus intended. The power of Jesus is the Holy Spirit. The power of Satan is a Beast. The Beast of Satan is the power of nation-states and the organization of the City/Tower. A Church organized and empowered in the wrong way may seem to work, but it won’t accomplish the will of God.
What is the will of God? It is the will of God to bring every wayward son and daughter back to Him. And how do we know that we’ve come back to God? We know by the Spirit within us. As the Apostle Paul wrote, “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:16 NASB). A few verses earlier he also wrote, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons and daughters of God (Romans 8:14 NASB).
The power of God in the life of the Christian is a lively relationship with the Holy Spirit. Without the Holy Spirit, there is no power to do what God wants. We cannot do the outward works, in keeping with the principles and commands of scripture, apart from the inner working of the Holy Spirit. Until we come back into a lively relationship with God, everything we do is practice.
The Cataphatic is the training ground for the real work which can only begin in the Apophatic. This is why Paul cautions the first century Church against letting new converts lead (1 Timothy 3:6). Until we know how to be led by the Spirit, we cannot lead others. The real work of the Church is the discipling of those who don’t yet know how to be led by the Spirit by those who do.
For Satan’s Plan to work, he needed to present and plant an alternative source of power in the garden of Church. To do that, he first needed to consolidate control of the Church into the hands of One Leader. Then he needed to entice that One Leader to partner with the power of the nation-state. That union created the structure of One Church. Once that union was in place, Satan was able to entice those Leaders to create and enforce One Truth. Satan’s Plan was One Leader over One Church with One Truth. But how was that counter to the way God desires the Church to be ordered?
Satan’s form of power is top-down totalitarian. The Tower of Satan is a pyramid structure at the heart of the City. The City organizes individuals in such a way as to empower the Tower at the center. Everyone in Satan’s City structure must feed their power to the pyramid Tower, which feeds its power all the way to the one stone at the top. That one stone is Satan. He forces humans into strict and constricting organizational structures in order to use their power for his purpose. His purpose is to create an alternate kingdom opposed to God’s. It’s not about the external functions of that kingdom, as much as the way it’s powered.
Separation is at the heart of Satan’s system. Satan creates dependance on a system that uses separation to force compliance. The basic form of Satan’s system is far reaching. It filters into every aspect of human society. It can be seen in the external ordering of certain aspects of society, but at its core, it is a way of relating to things through separation. It is fueled by and fuels separation in every way.
We can see one manifestation of this system portrayed in John’s Revelation. In the thirteenth chapter John talked about one of Satan’s beasts who forces every person to receive a mark on their hand and forehead, without which “no one will be able to buy or to sell” (Revelation 13:17). Satan creates exclusive systems that enslave humanity in order to separate them from God, the way he is. Once we are separated from the unitive Spirit of God, we fall naturally into Satan’s ideas of life empowered by separation.
Satan’s mark on every hand and forehead represents a system where everything we do and think is ordered by him. Satan works through ideas which influence behavior. Satan and his demons can’t be everywhere, influencing everyone directly. They rely on an institutional system of organization by which to promote a certain kind of philosophy. The power of that philosophy is the fear of separation. Part of separation from God is attempting to be our own god. If we are our own god, then we are in control of the world. If we are in control of the world, then we must provide for ourselves. If we don’t provide for ourselves, we’ll die.
At the heart of everything Satan does is the lie that we are separate, and the fear that we are always on the brink of death. Even our attempt to order society is filled with fear and death. In that system, we move and are motivated not by love and community, but by the fear that if we do not control everything for our benefit, we won’t make it. All relationship in Satan’s system is empowered by the fear of death. Separation is death. Separation from a beneficial system without which we will die. Even our ideas of God in Satan’s system are fueled by the fear of separation and death. In that system, if we don’t do what God wants, we’ll die in separation from Him.
There’s a truth to this lie. Apart from God, we would die. God is the life of all things, in all things. As Paul said in his sermon at the Areopagus in Athens, “for in Him we live and move and have our being,” and elsewhere in his Colossians letter, that in Jesus “all things hold together” (Acts 17:28a, Colossians 1:17b NIV). But God does not move or work through the power of the fear of separation, but through the power of love.
Love is a binding energy. Love never separates, for any reason. As Paul wrote in the love chapter of his Corinthians letter, “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always preservers. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:6-8a NIV). Remember that passage in Matthew where Jesus said, “Away from me, you evildoers” (Matthew 7:23). What he called evil wasn’t certain kinds of practices, but doing anything apart from God. In that passage Jesus sent individuals away, not out of God’s desire to separate, but because they were already living separate from God. God never desires separation, but He will honor our choice to separate, because God does not force His will upon us the way Satan does.
Love honors the dignity of our personhood without separating, even when what we choose isn’t good. God as Love does not withdraw His life-giving energy from us, even when we aren’t honoring who God is, and what God is about. God even enlivens Satan, choosing to let him continue, even as Satan seeks to thwart everything God does. This is a difficult stance to take, even more to understand.
Think about Jesus on the cross. The cross of Christ is the symbol of a God who does not operate in the power of Satan’s system. Satan uses separation to enforce his system. If you won’t do what Satan wants, he’ll apply every form of pressure available to force you. He will threaten the denial of what you need until you comply. If you won’t, then he'll gladly let you die, because death is the ultimate expression of Satan’s system. You can die slowly, as Satan eeks out your life for the benefit of feeding his system. Or you can die quickly, if you won’t comply with what he wants. In Satan’s system, you don’t have a choice of whether or not to participate. Satan’s system enslaves and disempowers us for his benefit. It controls us, and takes away our power, in order to feed it to him. And in that system, we learn to do the same to others, in order to empower ourselves. Everything in Satan’s system is about taking from others to get what we want.
Everything in God’s system is about giving to others so they can get what they need.
Because Love is at the heart of God’s system, God never forces us to do what He wants. We must choose to follow Jesus, and to keep in step with the Holy Spirit. God pursues us in love, inviting us into His good life. Satan forces us through fear to do what is only good for him. God sets us free within the bounds of His love to choose union with Him. Satan sets us free from God, in order to feed off the fear that naturally results in separation from God’s love. The power of Satan’s system is fear through separation. The power of God’s system is love through reconnection.
Satan’s attack on the Church wasn’t to get it do the opposite of God-works. It was to get the Church to do God-works apart from God. Satan’s desire for the Church is that we would do God-works through his power instead of God’s. He wants a Church operating through fear and separation. He cares much less about what we say, do, teach, believe, or practice. As long as it’s not empowered by the Spirit of God within us, Satan knows it won’t have much effect. To do the works of God in the power of Satan is to do evil. That’s why Jesus rebuked those in Matthew chapter seven so severely. Even though they were doing the right works, they were doing them in the wrong power. They were doing them apart from God.
Christ came to reconnect us back to the Father. He gave us the Spirit as the means of that reconnection. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of unity. When we’re empowered by God’s Spirit within us, everything we do will be energized by love and communion. Communion is reconnection to God. God is drawing all people to Himself through love, and those reconnected to Him will do the same. We will be energized and empowered by the energy of love and reconnection to overcome the energy of fear and death.
What happens when Satan’s alternate systems begins to take root in the Church? What happens when some Elders and Deacons in local churches are still reconnecting others to the Father by discipling them into life with the Spirit, while the Elder of Elders, the One Bishop, is beginning to wield and operate in the power of Satan’s nation-states? What happens is a field of wheat and weeds, growing together. What happens then is a conflict of two kingdoms within the Church, with two different sources of power. That is the Bride of Christ on the Beast of Satan. The Bride on the Beast is the Church using the wrong system of power. Prophets are those meant to help the Church see the Beast in the Bride.