Understanding Discipline and Why God Disciplines

You wrestle, contest, and fight, like an athlete in a bout or a warrior in a battle. Your face your opponent at every step, turn, and meter of the race. Your opponent is sin. Father’s response to your struggle with sin is discipline – not punishment for the fact that sin surrounds you and you struggle with it, but discipline that prepares you to win and finish the race route you must complete.

The context of this discussion in Hebrews 12 uses the metaphor of the athletic contest: we are running the race that Jesus has run and won. The writer discusses Father’s discipline in light of “running the race” and “looking to Jesus, our Source and Resource for enduring faith.” The struggle in this marathon comes from “the well-placed sin that surrounds us.” The sense of “well-placed” opposition calls to mind that our opponent remains a part of the entire route set before us, and we face this opponent at every turn. The race lifestyle meets up with this opponent continually; while we might assume the race struggles with our own limitations and training, Father knows that we have the ever-present challenge of a satanic method to entangle our feet and trip us up.

“Looking to Jesus” means seeing the Champion who has run and won this race. His victory in the race conquered sin. We are running against the same opponent but must receive more than we can ever possess in training ourselves, so He endured the hostility of sinners. We endure the surrounding sin that seeks to entangle our progress; He endured the hostility of sinners because He had no sin. He ran through endurance as we do, but His race broke the back of the opposition in ways that provide us with what we do not have, what we must have to win the same race.

At this point in the discussion, the writer of Hebrews says, “In our marathon battle with sin, we have not yet experience blood loss.” Jesus did. We have not. Instead of shedding our own blood, which wouldn’t provide us what we need in any case, we see Jesus who did shed His blood; His contest did go that far, the hostility against Him much more severe than what we must endure to win.

We are struggling with sin, however, and in that struggle we receive what God knows we need to endure the battle and win the race! We receive Father’s discipline. Jesus sits next to Father, so we don’t die to win the race. He already did that shedding of blood, so Father provides what His death makes available through discipline. We can win this race because of Jesus! We can endure the opposition with a course of continuous victory because of Father!

Father Disciplines His Children

Father disciplines authentic children who run the race with His jersey on their backs. The discipline isn’t for every contestant. He does not discipline people who are not yet born of God.

That first premise of the discussion of discipline specifies the relationship in which discipline occurs. Father disciplines true children. He deals with others in a different way.

Father’s discipline is spiritual. When He spanks you, you will not see welts on your body or experience the physical pain of the whip. Sickness and disease is not discipline. Fathers of the flesh (verse 9) would produce physical pain in the process of discipline, in other words, but not the heavenly Father. While His discipline cannot be experienced physically, it is more real than what our earthly fathers can provide us.

We submit to this physical process of discipline, provided by natural fathering leaders, and we should submit even more readily to the spiritual disciplines of our Father.

If you have no spiritual birth, you cannot receive God’s spiritual discipline. You are not His legitimate child unless you are born of God. That doesn’t say God isn’t involved in your life that mercy isn’t fully functional, creating opportunities as each day dawns through which you can turn to Him. God is dealing with people who are not His legitimate children, but not dealing with them in discipline. Discipline is for His true sons and daughters.

Father disciplines because we need discipline to win the battle and finish the race. The race isn’t the battle. The race is the process. The struggle we have with sin could knock us out of the race, hinder our progress, or entangle us in ways that put us on the sidelines.

Discipline provides us what we need to continue running toward the “finish” Jesus has provided for us. Because authentic children receive discipline and others do not, we understand discipline in its valid, empowering function: discipline strengthens us so we overcome sin.

Jesus overcame sinners because He had no sin. He overcame the temptation and tests of sinfulness surrounding Him, but He had no sin within Himself or in His history. On the other hand, His victory in this race opened this marathon route to us so we can run the race He ran. Before Jesus, we couldn’t run on this track! That is, the race set before us is for Father’s authentic children who enter this race to finish the same route Jesus finished. Unless you are born of God, you can’t run this route at all. You would be entangled to the point of complete immobility at the first step. Father doesn’t discipline you if you aren’t an authentic child simply because you can’t run this race route at all.

Father’s Discipline for Endurance

“Discipline strengthens us so we can overcome sin.” The sin mentioned here surrounds us, entrenched all along this route, well placed with battlefield strategy, and alert to every opportunity the route and our running provides for attack.

Listen to what Scripture tells you about discipline, and you will embrace Father’s discipline with quiet, restful concentration. You will embrace a lifestyle of His discipline because you have learned that your own discipline does not produce the necessary endurance for overcoming entanglements.

If you could overcome without Father’s discipline, He would not be applying His discipline. If you needed something else, or already had something else you needed, He would not be prioritizing discipline as His response to your daily contest! Father knows what you need before you ask Him. Father knows what you need when you do not know what to ask for!

Discipline strengthens the will so you endure. Discipline strengthens your will so you continue to choose to empty yourself out for the next step, the next turn, the next marker while you stare ahead at Jesus as the only Goal post for the finish line. Discipline strengthens you.

Physical discipline profits little, and that kind of disciplined determination can help you understand Father’s spiritual discipline. However, physical and spiritual disciplines are so different that your strength of will to endure physical discipline limits your endurance of spiritual discipline. [Yes, that is what I said. Read that again.] Your greatest hindrance to winning this race is your own strength and wisdom.

Physical and spiritual disciplines are so different that your strength of will for physical discipline limits your endurance of spiritual discipline.

Physical discipline produces selfish determination and makes you strong. Spiritual discipline produces God’s determination – what He determines for your life and how you can achieve what He wants – and He makes you strong through your submission to His grace and strength. Father will discipline your life so that you become weaker in your own wisdom and strength so receive ultimate grace and Divine strength!

Father knows you need enabling grace and heavenly strength to run this race, so His method for providing that is discipline and your response to receiving that is submission.

Discipling people to be strong in themselves defeats the power of the Cross and Spirit and provides people with substitutes for grace and strength that only comes from God.

Discipline Strengthens Your Will to Submit

To know the love of the Father is to know the discipline of the Father. To know His love more deeply, submit to His discipline. To mature in love so you can experience Father’s love, you need to trust. You build trust by submitting, resting, and enduring.

What does that look like? It looks like a sweaty runner pressing muscles, stretching tendons, gasping for air and reaching the next level of endurance while fully at peace, rest, and joy with the process.

Champions do not skirt confrontations with the enemy, quit running the race to rest on the sidelines in their efforts to avoid the strains of competition. Champions rest while running; they are at rest in the midst of their enduring, weak with surrender to Father’s grace and strength, and at home with pressing through entangling encroachments of sin.

Rediscovering Discipling

Rediscovering the lost art of discipling will reset kingdom leadership in remarkable and powerful ways!

Many assume the term “disciple” means “follower.” It does not. Jesus did call people to follow Him so they could be discipled, because a person cannot be discipled when they do not follow.

Many assume the term “disciple” means “student.” It does contain that aspect of meaning but simply calling a disciple a “learner” does not adequately describe the process.

The term, mathetes, speak to a process by which a learner experiences what he or she learns from a discipler in order to “think the thing all the way through.” Jesus says, “It is enough, or the goal of discipling, that the disciple become like His discipler.” The consequences of what is learned, both by instruction and impartation, measured the success of discipling.

Discipling differs significantly from education in that it involves a more specific process; a learning process that includes shared experiences. Kingdom discipling functions spiritually, so the discipling process includes shared spiritual experiences. Disciple do not learn about things; they learn to be and do what the process is designed to make them become and accomplish.

Unless or until a disciple finishes the process, he or she fails in his or her discipling. They cannot cease being discipled until they reach the ultimate end.

From this profound foundation for kingdom leadership development, Jesus of Nazareth intends to build an Ecclesia that can displace every strategically positioned authority of Hades! Jesus intends to assemble, shape, fit into place, join without the sound of saw, hammer, or file, and solidify without fillers or cement a living stone building!

Ask yourself, “Have I ever been truly and authentically discipled? Have I followed God’s assigned pathway of preparation to its conclusion? Have I become like the One Who provides the discipling principles, protocols, and personalities?”

Jezebel Methods

“Jezebel his wife said to Ahab (her husband and Israel’s king), Do you not govern Israel? Arise, eat food, and let your heart be happy. I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.”

Jezebel whispers, “Trust me. I’ll get you what you want.” She has uncanny ways of being available for people with a complaint, helping them voice their complaint. In this way, she is there when the moment is right for rebellion. Jezebel will partner with people angry or disgruntled and complaining that they aren’t getting what they want. She will blend rejection and rebellion into doubleminded confusion. She will assist you into a passive surrender to her control, giving you a sense of supernatural peace.

Step 1 – provide plausible justification for their false dreams, desires, and demands. Being king of Israel give Ahab no legal right to this property. The vineyard remains in the family through inheritance, and that inheritance is God’s law of the land. Jezebel justifies Ahab’s entitlement to something that doesn’t belong to him with an appeal to an exaggeration of a king’s authority and power. She actually accuses him of the very thing she will use to trap him: passivity. “You are too passive. So, be more passive, and I’ll get you what you want.” Jezebel influence produces this doublemindedness, an internal contradiction through which the person being mean preaches against meanness, Ahab believing someone is being mean to him or dishonoring him because he isn’t getting what he feels entitled to.

Jezebel operates well within people who entertain or harbor false expectations. She justifies their false expectations with quirky viewpoints filled with common misconceptions of false equality and falsified entitlement.

In this case, Jezebel redefines the power and authority of the king of Israel.

She says, “Forget God’s kingdom protocols for inheritance, private property, and justice. Exert your kingship. Establish new standards for justice. Making him feel strong, she is really saying, “Surrender to me and I’ll get you what you want. You are entitled to this vineyard. You are the king! God put you into that position, so He wants you to have what you dream, experience all to which you are entitled.”

Consider the common misconception of modern believers toward kingdom privileges and standing that assumes false equality and falsified entitlement: “I’m a believer. All believers are equal. All believers are entitled. So, I want that and I can have that because I want that.”

“Covetousness is idolatry,” Paul clarifies. Immediately you covet, you look for a source to provide what you desire. That source usurps God’s place of leadership, and you demand what God has not promised you. Jezebel loves idolatry because idolatry produces covetousness, thrives on covetousness, and assumes that the idol can be appeased so that you win the lottery of personal fantasy and false expectation. In a larger context of corporate influence, Jezebel creates the politics of envy through this deception.

Jezebel is at work, right now, in your life, to whisper in your ear, “Trust me. I’ll get you what you want.” Position. Power. “My own ministry.” Friendship. Money. Love. Name it and immediately Jezebel prophesies false destiny as a means of establishing herself as your source. You embrace a false deity to gain a false destiny.

Jezebel thrives on pride. Pride is delusion; a deception that assumes you should have something not yours or be someone you are not. Jezebel says, “Trust me. I’ll show you how to get what you want. That should be yours!”

Remember this: if you decide what should be yours, you will look for a source for your desires other than God. The very concept of deciding you should be the source of your dreams and desires initializes idolatry. The name, “Jezebel,” has “baal” in it. In this sense, it reads, “Without a lord, husband, or god.” The sense of her name alone hints at her character.

Step 2 – gain the surrender of the victim to her method. “Allow me to work for you. Relax. Be happy. Put your feet up emotionally and mentally about this and allow me to work. Feel the peace.” That is the “don’t worry; be happy” verse she sings. However, the source of peace and relaxation remains delusional and doubleminded. The victim surrenders to Jezebel and feels real, sustainable peace.

Immediately Jezebel victimizes a leader, that leader will gain greater pride and peace in their passivity. By assuming they have an enforcer for their desires, they seldom see themselves as victims of Jezebel. They have already bought and paid for the victim viewpoint that separates them from the legitimate authority and leadership God has provided.

In other words, Jezebel will convince a man that he has the right to something God has said is off limits just as satan convinced Eve to eat forbidden fruit. Jezebel whispers, “Trust me. I’ll get you what you want.” Next thing you know, a leader is in pornography, adultery of another sort, or leaving his wife. All the time, his mind and heart tell him how justified this behavior must be because the whisper of Jezebel and his own passive doublemindedness produce supernatural peace.

Jezebel will convince a woman to reject her husband’s leadership role with justification of his failures to live up to her expectations, her desires for ‘what isn’t really hers,’ or legitimate complaints about the very real feelings she has that Jezebel uses to diminish her inhibitions.

She surrenders to “peace” that comes when the relationship no longer requires her proper and legitimate participation because she redefines that participation along the lines of Jezebel’s method. Suddenly, the person supposed to meet her needs has been pushed into a corner while Jezebel works to provide substitutes for God’s design for marriage.

Apply this method to Ecclesia and kingdom leadership to uncover the hidden motivations at work. Desiring leadership when you have a leadership calling makes perfect sense. Desiring leadership position or authorization that isn’t yours or belongs to someone else immediately opens the door to the Jezebel whisper because it assumes that you are the source of what you should be and do. Jezebel loves to cut off Body parts but will be happy with dislocations if she has no leverage for ‘severage.’

She will dislocate a member at the place of joining so that this member loses function and becomes a liability to the rest of the Body.

Jezebel, by character, separates a victim from leadership submission. Jezebel means “without a husband, lord, or god” and translates into rebellion against assigned authority because that authority isn’t living up to false expectations. The deception that “I am free!” follows along with the “false peace” provided by the sudden end of struggle. The person struggling against their submission to authority suddenly feels “peace,” and feels convinced that they have had a breakthrough.

Step 3 – attack the voice of God to substitute Jezebel justifications for legitimate discipline. Jezebel’s character remains “without a leader.” Her appeal sounds perfectly sensible to people who wish to be a law unto themselves, lawless, or “have a problem with authority.” Jezebel makes perfect sense to a people who believe in false equality as a means of avoiding obedience and submission.

The greater the mindset of pretense, the more powerfully it opens the opportunity for Jezebel. Pretense is rebellion. Pretense is presumption. Presumption is pride. (In a different discussion, we could trace how Jezebel embraces religion because religion offers justification for substitutions based upon pride, pretense, and presumption.)

Jezebel always offers justification for pretense based upon erroneous presumptions. The presumption opens the door to pride. The pride opens the door to deception. The deception turns desire into sin. Desire becomes selfish ambition, and passion for purpose turns to striving to get from Jezebel what never yours in the first place!

“For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.” [James 3:16]

Jezebel attacks the voice of leadership in marriage, family, Ecclesia, kingdom, and government. On a cultural level, she presses people into envy, entitlement, and equality that are all based upon false presuppositions about “rights.” Jezebels moves people toward a different voice, one that allows them to continue justifying their rejection of God’s order and God as their Source.

People feel peace about their passivity and deception when they surrender to Jezebel, of course, but they must continue to reinforce this peace by hearing voices that falsely prophesy consistent with their desires and destinies. These voices provide greater justification for their deceptions, until they can say “right is wrong and wrong is right” with a perfectly straight face, in a voice filled with passionate conviction.

When you hear that voice you recognize Jezebel’s tone of voice, a voice that lacks God’s heart or mind, but the person speaking may sound like a prophet in their sense of purpose and conviction. They will reinforce the validity of Jezebel’s point of view with Scripture and quotes from their new voices and sources that justify their rebellion.

The voices the person will appreciate least will be the very ones God sets into their lives because those voices will not tell them they can have what they want or be who they have decided to be. At some point they will say, “Well, I have freedom to choose. I have wisdom of my own. I hear God too!” At some point they will have Scriptures to prove, beyond discussion, that they have confirmations. Then, they will shut the mouths of all legitimate sources of wisdom and counsel with their doubleminded confusion.

Several months ago, I talked with a person I love and believe in as a kingdom leader who made really poor choices at one point in life. At that time, I was a leader speaking Truth, and this person rejected both my words and my leadership. Then, they rejected me personally to the point that they justified lying and cursing my ministry. The person later repented.

Looking back over the decisions that never produced what the person wanted and allowed the person to become what the person demanded to be. This person realized that all the voices that spoke to the contrary were voices sought out to justify rejecting the leaders God had put into that person’s life.

“I felt such peace when I listened to them. I felt such conflict when I continued to press for what you were sharing with me, Dr Don,” they said. “I went away from your leadership with peace because the Bible says that peace is the umpire, quoting Scripture to myself to justify my rejection of your leadership. I finally realized my justifications for God’s assignment on my life were not coming from God, but from my rejection and rebellion.”

Of course, I quote that Scripture to people all the time – “allow God’s peace to be the umpire” – because God’s peace is an umpire when you are standing in a good place. I explained to this friend that false peace comes when you abandon your place of alignment with kingdom leadership. False peace comes from a different source, and does not umpire at all; false peace eliminates your responsibility to choose between conflicting sources of information. Peace comes from surrender whether or not that surrender is to God.

Tragically, when Jezebel gets you what you want and enables you to pursue being someone you are not, having forfeited what God wants you to have and who God wants you to be, you awaken one day with the painful regret that you didn’t really want what you finally received!

The vineyard, once acquired, did nothing to satisfy Ahab.

The Way Home

The way home begins when you ‘come to yourself’ in real spiritual awakening. No matter what Jezebel supplies you, you remain unfulfilled. You fail to pursue God’s will for your life, chasing a Jezebel justified fantasy. Once you surrender to Jezebel so she can get you what you want, you begin walking the path that leads to what Jezebel wants. You end up with what Jezebel wants, not what you want, because you assume they are the same things.

If you still want what you want, you are not awakened. You have not hit bottom. When you do reach the end of that deception, you will be ready for what God wants you to have and who God want you to be.

Step 1 – overcome despair. Despair killed Judas. All the disciples forsook Jesus and returned, except Judas. He hung himself in the city dump because of despair. Despair is hopelessness. Despair says, “There is no way back. Learn to live with it, or learn to die with it.” Despair is a lie!

Despair will always get the better of you if you continue to run things in your own strength. Since you surrendered to Jezebel, the “after Jezebel” moment may cause you to surrender to despair. You require a different surrender.

The prodigal son recognized that surrender to his father would put him in a better situation than the surrender to a stranger. He came to himself and said, “I’ll go home and serve my father. At least I’ll eat. But I still will not ever be a son again.”

Note that he didn’t have any sentiment of “I’m going get what I want and deserve from God now that Jezebel failed me.”

You have not hit bottom and awakened when you continue to embrace the false expectations that opened your heart to Jezebel in the first place. The returning son had no such a sentiment, no residue of the subtle witchcraft that uses God and spiritual power for selfish ambition. That deception continues to produce striving behaviors because it assumes that “no leader” equals “freedom.” This means Jezebel remains in control of this victim through that person’s entitlement mentality. The person has not come to himself or herself in awakening at all if they continue to assume that coming home is just another way of getting what they want. They are simply looking for a different source, cycling back to Jezebel’s control. They are not in despair or danger of despair, just disgust. Their return will mean that leaders will continue to be a limitation to their destinies instead of Divine strategy.

When the person returns unawakened, they demand to be restored with experiencing restoration. They demand to be restored as a son or daughter by entitlement. They will create a greater sense of confusion by calling attention to their limiting leaders because those leaders cannot restore them when they continue to harbor rebellion.

The truly repentant person assumes hope lies in surrendering to God without questions or reservations. There is no longer a “who can I trust to get me what I want or make me who I want to be?” in the soul. Instead, there is an offering of self as a sacrifice to be consumed by God’s will through transformation. [See Romans 12:1, 2.]

Step 2 – fall upon God’s mercy. Mercy means, “I don’t get what I deserve; and, I get what I don’t deserve.” Mercy offers us the opportunity to fully surrender: “By the mercies of God offer your body as a living sacrifice.” Mercy produces the opportunity for sacrificial surrender; the door is wide open for full restoration! Fall upon God’s mercy!

Many people fail to properly discern the prodigal’s response to awakening. They assume that he understood that being a servant was better than eating with pigs. They interpret his return as “I will get a better situation for myself.”

The prodigal returns to father with the idea of being father’s servant because his disconnect with father remains in place, the very disconnect with father that caused him to leave in the first place. He has given up on being a son when he never functioned as a son in the first place! The prodigal son used his father to get what he wanted so he could be what he wanted to be. He rejected his father from the beginning.

When the prodigal came to himself, he didn’t see himself as a son. He did know that his father had a better sense of what he should want and who he should be than he did. He hit bottom and gave up on his own wisdom and strength and returned to seek mercy from father, not as a son, but a servant.

Some modern viewpoints seem to define both grace and mercy in ways that make this story sound different than it did in Jesus’ discussion of “lost and found.” A father cannot go get a prodigal son. A prodigal son has no basis for receiving him as a father. That is, the son wishes to be an employee because he remains dysfunctional in his sonship. His father doesn’t recruit him for employment in order to get his “son” back home. Hitting bottom, the prodigal lets go of his own false expectations and entitlement. He receives the father he didn’t wish to honor as his boss!

In order for the open door to Jezebel to be closed, the person must return to the place of pretense. There, they must surrender to God’s strategy.

God has a strategy for that person to “get what God wants” instead of what he or she wants. God has a strategy for that person to “be who God wants him or her to be” instead of who he or she wants to be. That strategy always includes leaders who are people, the father he left for a stranger.

Step 3 – receive the restoration of relationship to regain the fullness of inheritance. To inherit, you must become the person prepared and positioned for the purpose. The father restores a son, not a prodigal. “Prodigal” means “waster.” Inheritance wasted is not the same as inheritance lost. The father maintains the source of inheritance, so the fields the son left behind were continuing to produce, waiting for their true heir to return and work them again. (This really ticked off the elder brother.)

To be restored as a son or daughter, you should begin with your relationship with your father.

How many assume the restoration process means they should go choose a different father. They continue the “I’m in charge and I’m free to do what I want” mentality that opened the door to Jezebel influence in the first place!

If the father was not the problem in rebellion, the father will not be the problem in restoration. Return to the place of your last disobedience to step into your process of full restoration. Do not expect God to create a new inheritance for you somewhere else!

The Called-Together Ecclesia

While this is the most common launching pad of meaning for the term “ekklesia,” the meaning should be considered a bit more technical in nature than the sum of its parts. The term is a compound of two Greek words, “ek” and “kaleo,” that is certain, but the combination of their simplest meanings doesn’t produce our clearest understanding of the term, “ekklesia.”

Let us begin with a discussion of the word, “kaleo.” Certainly, its simplest meaning would be “I call.” Then, consideration must be made for the use of this simplest form. About a third of the time the word is used, it carries the idea of invitation, but more than two thirds of the time, the word means, “appointed, positioned, ordained, or designated.” Within this understanding of the root word from which ekklesia is built, we sense a more clear intention in the word we often translate “church.”

While the word kaleo denotes the idea, “to appoint, place, designate, position, or name” with equal substantive meaning, modern language no longer uses “call” for the concept “to appoint, designate, or position.” Previously in history, the king’s call or invitation to serve was equal to a royal appointment to a position, since none dared refuse the call of his monarch. Therefore, kaleo picked up a secondary sense of meaning from royal court protocol, a sense of inviting or bidding because an invitation from the king was equal to an appointment.

Now, let us apply this meaning to the term “ekklesia” and see that “invitation” does not enter into the meaning of the term. The “called” are “the appointed, designated, and positioned” with a sense of being placed. “Called together into assembly for a purpose” has a better sense of the meaning than merely “called out.” The “for a purpose” aspect of the meaning comes form the intentionality of the One calling them together.

For example, let us consider the words of Jesus: “I will build My ekklesia.” The sense that Jesus is inviting anyone and everyone to assemble and the gathered who respond to the invitation compose the Ecclesia does not fit the descriptors or purpose of His kingdom Ecclesia. The sense that Jesus builds an assembly of those positioned, appointed, and designated for a kingdom purpose does.

The “called together assembly” is built. Intentionality remains the impetus behind the assemblage, the building. Jesus does not throw out an invitation for everyone interested in hearing a Message and use that assembly to displace the strategically positioned authority of Hades. Jesus assembled appointed, designated, and positioned people from the kingdom, sets them into assignment, aligned with His kingdom leaders, and confronts existing entrenchments of the enemy.

This is not to say that gathering for other kingdom purposes are invalid, only to say that these gathering cannot fully define “ekklesia.”

Die to Live, Live to Die

Jesus lived to die. While that’s true, the more important aspect of His destiny is that He lived to die. He understood – as Creator, Redeemer, and Restorer – that dying to live becomes much more important than living to die. If merely lived to die, He would be a martyr. Noble, for sure, but not redemptive or restorative. To be redemptive, He must live to die. To be restorative, He die to live.

He lived to die as our Substitute. He died to live as our Restorer.

Any redemptive schematic that ignores this ignore the very heart of redemption, but modern redemptive thinking sacrifices this aspect of Father’s eternal purpose to accommodate a false sense of equality, grace, and eternal condition. Jesus lives to die in a redemptive sense, but He doesn’t die to live in a restorative sense. He dies to pardon, but He doesn’t live to transform. He dies to impute righteousness, but He doesn’t live evermore to empower righteousness.

He does both! And, the consequence of the Cross is the Resurrection as surely as day follows night!

And, we live to die so we can die to live as well. Here is the essential tension between Scripture and modern thinking. There is more to being saved than having our sins forgiven: Jesus doesn’t don rose colored glasses through which to see us so He can’t see our sinfulness. That is a human systematic thought, the consequence of a poorly considered concept of the Cross than empties the Cross of its power to transform.

We live to die. Jesus says, “How can a man save his life except by losing it?”

And He summoned the crowd with His disciples, and said to them, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it. For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, and forfeit his soul?”

You are not in control of your redemption. Complete surrender alone appropriates the Cross so you can walk in the power of His Resurrection. Consider the tragic betrayal of the idea that you could have resurrection life without living a transformed life.

Beware the tendency to assume that a revelation from God positions you to be the source and resource of leadership for a movement, or that His revealing this to you means you are the only one who has this message from God. The revelation itself does not establish an assignment beyond your responsibility to communicate it, and God determines how and to whom you should communicate the message.

Your position in the dream, the perspective of your awareness, may position you as the voice or the one doing the action and activity in the dream, but that doesn’t in and of itself mean that you are the one to speak and act in the application and implementation of the revelation.

Intercessors will have dreams that reveal how to pray for their leaders for whose assignments they pray. They may dream about miracles, preaching, crowds of people, outbreaks of healing so that they anticipate what God is going to do through someone and their intercession birth the reality of what their prophetic dream or vision anticipates. It does not mean they should expect to have an international healing ministry so they can take the mic and do the stuff. They may see a Kathryn Kulhman scenario but it doesn’t mean they are the next healing evangelist.

Prophetic people share assignments through alignments. Their revelation awareness of what God wishes to do directs their function within these alignments and assignments. The scope of the revelation doesn’t expand the scope of their function as much as it directs their function within a scope of assignment in which God has positioned them. They pray or prophesy at a regional or national level without being part the regional or national leadership team.

So, it is normal for a leadership team composed of the fivefold ministry, intercessors, warriors, worshippers, and many other types of kingdom leaders to experience revelation that produces spiritual consensus: they come into oneness by sharing God’s mind through revelation.

When the enemy whispers, “This revelation will finally give you the attention, recognition, and value you know you deserve, the temptation tests your ambitions.” This test of revelation presses you toward distraction and a dead end detour. You stop functioning in your assigned place because you await the recognition and honor that your presumption presupposes should be yours. A sudden discontent with other people’s lack of recognition for your importance becomes a settled disgust or discouragement about what God has called you to do. And, you stop that assigned function awaiting the arrival of a fantasy.

Such an immature approach to prophetic revelation fragments the kingdom because people extrapolate their revelations through assumptions of ambition. In the midst of great revelation and revival, some really spiritual people become offended by the very thing they spent years praying and anticipating because the subtle  suggestion that they would sit one on the right and one on the left fails to come to pass.

The example of Jesus questioning Simon Peter speaks to this issue. The true intent of Jesus’ questions about Simon Peter’s love for him is best seen at the point of the story in which Simon Peter asks Jesus about John’s future. This is the real moment of uncovering for Simon’s weakness in devotion and passion.

“What is that to you, Simon?” Jesus asks. “I’ve assigned you your place in the kingdom. Please fulfill that and stop worrying about comparison and contrast as a measurement of My love for you.”

Simon harbored feelings about John from a history of favoritism he perceived between John and Jesus. John is given responsibility for Mary, not Simon. John rests his head on His chest, not Simon. John and his brother asked for the right and left without a thought of Simon – or so he assumes. The history hasn’t settled for Simon, and Jesus touches this raw nerve with His questions, “Do you love Me more than these?”

Apply this scenario to revelation: revelation isn’t God’s way of giving you identity or promotion. Revelation rhythms prioritize your passion, position your performance, and prepare us for oneness when they are worked out in the place of your assignment, part of a greater assignment that produces God’s purpose.

Hearing someone share a revelation dream, I realized the person assumed the dream was God indicating they would do the things they saw in the dream when their position as intercessor and prophetically aware leader did not accommodate that application of the dream. No interpretation of the dream could properly position them to do what they dreamed because it was a revelation of intercession to produce an awareness of what God would do through the greater assignment of which they were part. Passing the dream on to their leaders and praying in concert with them and other intercessors would be powerful! Communicating the dream as a basis for expecting to be promoted to a platform position would be a dead end detour.

Five Important Contrasts Between Revival and Awakening

Definitions of revival differ as greatly as definitions of church because the definitions conform to consequences expected and desired by various distinctives. People wish to assume that any move of God will be characterized by more of the emphasis to which they ascribe. These definitions of revival feed exaggerations and excesses, assuming “if God sends revival, it will come through us to prove we are the ones who are right.”

More likely, revival will demand immediate reset of the priorities and emphases of everyone’s distinctives because revival is about restoring God’s purposes, not man’s distinctives.

In any case, revival cannot move into awakening if it becomes a validation of the very thing that separates God’s people into doctrinal idolatries. Revival isn’t about any one of the flavors and formations justified by “we are the ones carrying this torch.” Revival revives God’s purposes for a people and place by restoring what God has always wanted for them, and He begins by restoring what He has always wanted His Ecclesia to be.

When that happens, the Ecclesia Jesus builds displaces the strategically positioned authority of Hades, and the general population of a region experiences greater kingdom influence.

  • Revival restores kingdom leadership in a way that God’s purpose for any people or place dominates the region.

The phrase in Acts 19 that describes what the events of Paul’s apostolic work produced – the “ in this way” or “this is what happened because of this” – speaks of dominating the arena of spirit with “the word of the Lord.”

“In this way, the word of the Lord gained momentum through supernatural power and took dominion.” (Acts 19:20)

That is restoration of God’s purpose, the best definition of revival, through the development of kingdom leadership.

What people say of a people or place, what hell says of a people or place, or even what church says of a people or place cannot determine its purpose. What God says of a people and place alone can reveal the redemptive purpose. “The word of the Lord” reveals God’s heart and intentions for a people or place, and the adversary works to replace that purpose with an “anything but that” methodology.

False gods serve to create false purposes, practices, and principles to blind people about what is true about God, kingdom culture, and “the word of the Lord.” The spiritual condition that dominates a region must be changed, and the kingdom of God alone can shift a spiritual atmosphere.

Paul spends his time developing kingdom leaders, persuading and training them about “the kingdom of God” from his apostolic center, and during that time of kingdom establishing and expansion, authentic Ecclesia happens. The “in this way” story describes how kingdom confrontation with the prevailing spiritual conditions of Ephesus shift people into kingdom by evangelism, but the “in this way” undeniably describes more than “when we get everybody born anew our work is done” scenarios of simplistic evangelicalism. (We cannot really say that God revived the Ecclesia at Ephesus since there was no Ecclesia until Paul established the kingdom.)

When people are born anew, they can see and enter the kingdom of God. When kingdom expands and establishes the what-God-wants for a people and place, God’s purpose becomes a pervasive and persuasive spiritual force. The general population becomes increasingly more aware of God, and the push back against hellish authorities unveils their spiritual eyes.

Revival of God’s purposes through kingdom establishing leadership shifts the dominant spiritual condition so the general population becomes increasing more aware of God.

I like to ask leaders in a region, “What would your city look like fully transformed and restored to God’s redemptive purpose?” I have yet to discover four or five kingdom leaders anywhere with such revelation as the blueprint for advancing God’s purposes. Little wonder that revival seldom becomes awakening when our definitions of revival shift from revelations of God’s purposes to our experiences and distinctives.

  • Revival of God’s purposes confronts embedded and sacred cultural behaviors.

Revival produces riot. As people embrace kingdom culture, they alter their personal behaviors and beliefs in ways that threaten the existing culture. They offend and challenge the prevailing, embedded and sacred culture. They become a threat. They are persecuted. They remain faithful. Their commitment intensifies the confrontation. They become an affront to “a way of life.” They gain influence through their confrontation because they represent the God of heaven.

Revivals of existing emphases and doctrinal distinctives seldom become Awakenings because they actually exacerbate what separates the people of God. Revivals of any flavor or aspect of christianism, orthodox or not, Biblical or not, evangelical or not, seldom produce awakening because they fail to confront the prevailing spiritual condition that dominates the existing culture. Instead, they establish subcultures. They develop their own language and give meaning to terms that explain their shared behaviors and experiences; they value certain emphases or manifestations as markers of authenticity.

God’s analysis of authenticity differs from subcultural distinctives that drive mini-movements. He is pleased when a mini-movement produces a kingdom movement, but a kingdom movement immediately the mini-movement into a greater expansion of the kingdom culture instead of annexing a specific neighborhood for its memorials.

No mini-movement alone can confront the cultural norms in a way that advances revival into awakening. No human unity can produce this wave of restoration. Only a kingdom culture can confront the existing substitute of hell for the purpose of God. That kingdom culture has oneness with the King. It has no political agendas to promote intercession, prophetic, apostolic, or one flavor of revival over another. Any mini-movement that fails to become an offering to the King, purified by sacrificing it to His kingdom movement, becomes a source of false distinction, confusion to the spiritual purposes of the King.

The mini-movement began as an authentic assignment, but the assignment became an exaggeration when leaders determine to establish it as a distinctly different message or emphasis. Exalting it to a necessity, it became a distraction. Any kingdom subculture serves to distract from “the word of the Lord” as much as the sacred beliefs and values of the work of hell that usurps God’s purpose. Instead of confronting that pervasive spiritual condition, the mini-movement becomes an alternative, but the only valid alternative to existing culture is kingdom culture.

When the culture of the kingdom meets the culture of a region, revival and riot ensue. It is naïve to assume anything less can produce Awakening. While our history of revival and Awakening usually recounts the aspects of the move of God that confirm our viewpoints of how God does stuff and His priorities, moving revival into awakening has always required all the authentic aspects of kingdom we tend to separate into mini-movements. Defending the necessity of our mini-movements markets exaggerations of the original assignments until the “if only’s” produce mini-movement wars. The “if only’s” syndrome simply says, “If only everyone would do what we are doing, then…”

Only when kingdom culture expands does “the word of the Lord” gained momentum through supernatural power and dominate.

  • Revival redefines “church” as an aspect of kingdom, so kingdom Ecclesia can confront the prevailing spiritual condition.

Purpose produces strategy. God has both a “what I want” and “a way to get it God what He wants.” Both aspects of this advancement come by revelation. Revival has so many definitions and false expectations because there are so many definitions and false expectations of “church.” Immediately revival comes, every one of the definitions will be challenged, church leaders begin an analysis aimed at maintaining something God mostly ignores as incidental, and people divide along the lines of their substitutes for authentic kingdom.

Mere unity cannot fix this dysfunction because unity requires a common commitment to something other than the purpose of God, else unity does not occur. In order to unify, some agreeable definition for God’s purpose that presents opportunity for agreement must be offered, but the agreeable definition is not “the word of the Lord.” It is whatever compromise of commonality that produces unity.

Only when revival of God’s purpose shatters the structures of distinction can a revelation of “the word of the Lord” for a people and place become dominate. Without it, miracles, signs, and wonders, would confirm something “other than,” promote a person, principle, or a purpose other than His.

Revival cannot become Awakening without altering the dominating spiritual condition that removes the veil of blindness. Making more and more people aware of a mini-movement does not produce kingdom momentum, and the confrontation it creates between mini-movements constructs defenses for their differences, and the people of God spend their time the superiority of their distinctives by exaggerating them. As a result, God’s people confront one another instead of the prevailing spiritual condition. They wish to change other mini-movements instead of changing the existing culture.

In this way, a veil blinds the church as much as it blinds the culture it is assigned to transform.

  • Revival produces leaders whose success is measured by the kingdom norms.

Early on, the apostles discovered the necessity and validity of having leaders who could maintain ministry of a shepherding nature. “Protect and provide at a personal level” was obviously important, and the leaders who would be assigned to this would be leaders with wisdom and power. (Most people have come to assume these leaders were deacons, but the word is not used in the context at all.) They set these leaders in place because they knew they could not make this valid aspect of kingdom the priority of kingdom. They did not call it a distraction to the Ecclesia, but they did see it as a distraction to their priorities. In other words, they met the need with the leadership dynamics Jesus bestows upon the Ecclesia. Caring for people is a valid kingdom norm but a long way from the totality of the kingdom!

The apostles made kingdom norms the priority of the Ecclesia. They measured success with a standard of “what the King wants” in order to sustain the momentum of kingdom advancement. In this way, revival of God’s purpose for Israel grew, confronted the existing culture (that killed Jesus), and revival and riot marked the moments of its maturity. The resulting persecution dispersed them into other cities.

When Paul arrives in Ephesus, his efforts entail training, activation, fathering, and expanded assignment. Paul defines kingdom leadership development for Awakening Revival. The Ecclesia assembled kingdom leaders to expand and establish kingdom culture. (When I say, “leaders,” I assume that because kingdom is God’s leadership in the earth, every citizen is a leader in this sense.)

Revival without kingdom norms cannot produce Awakening. Awakening comes from spiritual momentum, not mini-movement momentum. That is, Paul did not invest himself in a subculture. He trained leaders who could confront the existing culture through spiritual authority and power. While taking care of God’s people remained a valid consideration, it was never the success standard of leadership. That is, maintaining something was not what created momentum.

Suddenly set into modern situations, this focus upon leadership development would quickly morph into a different enterprise because the momentum gained by Paul’s ministry would be shifted to administrative bureaucracy and kingdom leadership immediately minimized or redefined by that structure.

Instead of revival restoring purpose, it would be consumed by subculture called “church-anity.” The training would be shifted to maintaining a good Sunday morning show and showing. Spiritual babysitting would dominate the expenditures of energy and resources. Spiritual entertainment would replace the training school discipline that produces personal transformation and maturity. Some odd form of “its our turn now” would take over the move of God as people assumed revival had arrived to validate their agendas. (I mean this is the prevailing spiritual condition of the modern form of church.)

Paul produced radical people. People burned their darkness in public. Extraordinary miracles marked Paul’s leadership. (Inferring ordinary, every day miracles marked the movement?) Holy Spirit set elders with expertise and experience in place with specific counsel and warning about the effort of hell to destroy the Ecclesia, but the kingdom expanding and establishing enterprise continued even after Paul left the area. Ephesus became the center of Christianity for more than 200 years when John visited the city later on.

Paul produced leaders unafraid of persecution and intent upon living the culture of the kingdom when doing so challenged the fabric of their city’s economic, political, and religious ways. Paul did not produce leaders adept at accommodating cultural trends, because he trained them to establish kingdom culture. He produced leaders bent upon testing the prevailing spiritual conditions at the expense of their own wellbeing, to do the right thing to their own hurt.

Ecclesia assembles to establish, expand, explain, and energize the kingdom of God on earth. Within that kingdom culture – defined by love – kingdom remains the focus. Kingdom leaders must have the strength of will to maintain God’s definition of “church” and perpetuate the development of kingdom leaders in every area of society. When Awakening arrives, the temptation to turn apostles into shepherds and warriors into health club workers must be overcome.

By the time John enters the Revelation vision, all of Asia Minor has experienced the dominating spiritual condition of “the word of the Lord.” When Jesus walks among the cities, His focus remains upon the Ecclesias responsible to expand and establish His purposes for those city-states. When you hear the words of Jesus to the seven Ecclesias, you can also hear His presuppositions about their kingdom purposes: that is, Jesus views the norms of the kingdom as the measuring stick of success for the Ecclesia.

  • Revival and awakening differ in leadership dynamics, so revival shifts the leadership development mode to preparing for Awakening.

A shallow, simplistic naiveté accompanies discussions of revival where definitions of “church” do not include kingdom. I remain in shock at the level of immaturity about elementary concerns in our forums that resemble discussions about thumb sucking and bed-wetting among first-time mothers. I hate diaper rash too but it isn’t the concern of revival!

Revival becomes about winning souls, Glory, power, miracles, and an end to our pet peeves. Period. The accumulation of believers, as a definition for church growth, leads to such a definition. Oddly, the very Gospel preached for winning souls calls people to enter the kingdom of God, but the definition of revival seldom includes kingdom purpose. When “being born anew” brings people into “church,” the definition of success alters to fit that conclusion, and the leadership dynamics necessary to the accumulation of believers becomes the higher standard of excellence. Souls come into the kingdom and are prepared and positioned to function in the Ecclesia.

Revival has no such accumulation assumption, and Awakening simply blows the assumptions into obscurity! They leadership dynamics of revival prepare people for a leadership in an Awakening, not for maintaining accumulations of believers.

Nothing of the present infrastructure accommodates Awakening when that infrastructure assumes the accumulation of believers as the highest understanding of “church.” Preparing leaders to expand kingdom by confronting the existing culture says something to new converts seldom voiced by evangelicals. Paul’s leadership development strategy produced an Ecclesia dominated by leaders with influence, both spiritual and cultural, to spark a riot. I’m not saying riot is the sign of good leadership! I’m saying Awakening threatens the prevailing spiritual condition in ways that produce riot.

I’m not saying God saved people with cultural influence in Ephesus as much as I’m saying Paul produced leaders with kingdom influence that made an impact upon the culture. Big difference! If you don’t have leaders with kingdom influence, it is your job to make some!

I’m saying that kingdom leadership with regional influence marked the Awakening in Asia Minor, that it was more than a revival of God’s purposes when the general population became more aware of God, and that Paul’s leadership preparation took the greatest advantage of that change of spiritual climate. How many such leaders can the kingdom hold? How many such leaders should the kingdom want?

The argument that this measure of success will bring neglect to hurting people holds little water because the kingdom leadership dynamics Paul produced provided shepherding oversight. Kingdom leadership includes shepherding leadership. An Awakening will not do away with shepherding leadership but will redefine Ecclesia and leadership in ways that reset priorities beyond “the protect and provide” parameters of shepherding.

Neglect of people isn’t our biggest concern. Neglect of kingdom expansion is! Many of the issues to which we ascribed faulty or weak shepherding have more to do with a pandemic dearth of leadership development: we are treating leaders like sheep and neglecting to mature leaders in their functions. The modern church has false expectations for Ecclesia that produce mobility akin to vagabonding. People wander about looking for something other than the kingdom of God.

When the King’s agenda becomes ours, we operate in a revelation of His blueprint for His people and develop the leaders He has called and gifted so they can represent Him. Jesus calls and gifts His people. The dynamics of kingdom leadership necessary to Awakening come when we reset our leadership development to that blueprint revelation. Jesus always has the most appropriate ideas about kingdom. He is the King! That is, the King has a strategy for every person that fits perfectly into His strategy to restore His purposes to a region. So, our leadership development must respond completely to that strategy.

Modern leadership development seldom answers to this revelation blueprint to prepare and position members of the Body for function. So, it seldom has a design for developing leaders who can influence a region.

The infrastructure of leadership development will shift dramatically when revival focuses upon God’s purposes for a people or place. That shift in leadership development moves revival into Awakening, not the expansion of care and comfort modules. In fact, revival can never become Awakening by defining the ministry of Jesus with shepherding dynamics alone.

The metaphor of “God’s people as sheep” is a metaphor explaining a behavior for which Jesus provides a leadership dynamic. It is not to be taken as the working model for leadership development. Instead of thinking, “a few professional leaders for a massive flock,” we should be thinking “more leaders who require little shepherding because they have matured into cultural warriors.” (The sense of “warrior” here is spiritual in that positively pressing for God’s purposes produces confrontation with entrenched spiritual forces that oppose Him.)

Kingdom culture provides for the needy. Period. So does pagan culture. The distinction between these cultures begins with the motivation for care and comfort. Since culture is shared beliefs and values, kingdom influence enlarges and enhances the care of the needy by preparing for a response at a personal level. It always has and always will. Pagan cultures build upon the neediness of the needy as a means of controlling them and further establishing the power of their leaders at the expense of the needy. Kingdom cares for those truly needy while developing people capable of maturity to care for themselves, to mature in personal leadership.

Ecclesia should be dominated by kingdom leadership development! Producing kingdom leaders should be our measurement of success more than the accumulation of believers. We are called to confront existing cultures and prevailing spiritual conditions so that “the word of the Lord” for that people and place gains momentum through supernatural power and dominates.

Revival should produce leadership development structures so revival can both produce and feed the momentum of Awakening. Revival is always about the restoration of God’s purposes more than the revitalization of mini-movements, doctrinal distinctives, or spiritual emphases. Continuing to assume that mini-movements, with subcultures of exaggerated emphases, will produce a kingdom movement ignores the reality that all these mini-movements must become sacrifices. The greater kingdom movement suffers when mini-movements become recruitment distractions that parallel the restoration of God’s purposes.