Keith Green and the Apostle Paul, (formerly Saul of Tarsus). Two men. Two hairy men. That they both had awesome, well-developed beards is beyond question.
But, as much as I might like it to be, No Compromise isn’t a blog series focusing on beard-banter and gentrified bromance. It’s a blog series focusing on two men for whom it is true to say that the love of God was, literally, more than life. (See Psalm 63:3).
It might seem like a slightly odd tag-team to you but these two chaps, to me, seem to be an obvious example of zeal – the kind of zeal that consumes the laziness, apathy, professionalism, double-mindedness, dishonest hypocrisy of much of what is currently called church.
This isn’t anything like a biography (I don’t know enough about either men to even be remotely close to writing a piece like that) but it is an unashamed punch in the face to the religious, legalistic, powerless forms of church that continue to masquerade as angels of light – as “popular” as melting ice-creams in the summer sun.
Call me an angry young prophet (or just an angry young man), I don’t really care. But what I do care about is the glory of my Father, the readiness of the betrothed bride of Christ (of which I am a trembling part) and the eternal salvation of everyone reading this.
A Brief Word on Zeal
If you’re able to get a copy of Tom Wright’s biography on the life of Paul (otherwise known as N T Wright) you’ll notice that the first chapter is simply entitled zeal. I’m not seeking to dishonour Wright’s work by regurgitaing what he’s already said, but I am taking a steer from his chapter titles as a way of spotlighting Keith Green and the Apostle Paul in this blog series.
Zeal is an excellent place to start.
I have always been described by those who know me as an intense person. School reports, sermon feedback, personality profiles. What’s more, if I get around other intense people I will become even more intense – a kind of psycho-socio convergence that I prefer to call kindredness. I’m not trying to behave intensely, it’s simply the way that God has made me to be.
But there’s almost always a negativity to the word intense. “Chill out, you’re so intense…dial it down a little, would ya? Tell a joke, keep it light…” are common refrains from those who might not as quickly understand (or enjoy) the zeal of Keith Green and the Apostle Paul as I do.
The Context of Burning
It was Paul who told the exemplary Timothy to “fan into flame the gift of God…” (2 Timothy 1:6). The intense Paul teaching the intensifying Timothy towards greater intensity in the all-consuming Spirit of God.
Listen to what Winkie Pratney says of Keith Green in the forward to the biography No Compromise:
“No one who knew him would deny that he offended many. He often especially shocked established religious people in his youthful zeal to bring compassion, honesty and reality back to the Church. Perhaps the truest practical test of a real prophet is this: “Does he make me uncomfortable?” If he does, he probably is. If he doesn’t, he probably isn’t. After all, you never read in the Bible of a popular prophet except the false ones who always went around telling people the things they wanted to hear.”
Of Paul, Tom Wright writes,
Jews keep the Sabbath delighting in the weekly anticipation of God’s promised future, the day when God’s time and human time would come together at last. Again and again the ancient Israelites had forgotten these lessons, and bad things had happened. And now, in the recent memory of the Jewish people of Saul’s day, many Jews had forgotten them again, had compromised, had become like the goyim. And that is why some Jews, and he among them – one of the first solid things we know about young Saul – followed the ancient tradition of “zeal”. Violence would be necessary to root out wickedness from Israel.
Violence of Spirit
It seems very, very clear to me that men like Keith Green and the Apostle Paul are not common men. They don’t exist in every church, neither are all churches led by them and neither should they be. Prophets are not found on every street corner.
So, at the outset of this blog series, because of this dearth of undiluted dynamos, I’m considering what it means to be a prophetic man of zeal and violence. Obviously not of physical violence but of spiritual violence that refuses to accept the spiritual status quo that is so blindingly intoxicating for so many believers and non.
In 1 Timothy 4:1 the Bible talks about a future time when believers will fall away because of the deceptive teaching that their itching ears are longing to hear – but never actually will. (Beeching, Chalke et al).
We are living in those days now.
Many so-called Christian leaders – fakes and charlatans – are teaching millions to forsake the teaching of the Bible around, primarily, the issue of human sexuality. If you haven’t perhaps gathered, this specific issue of marriage and sexuality will be the primary cause for division (sanctification) within the true Church as time roles on. This process started some time ago but certainly since March 29th 2014 in terms of the UK church.
Here’s the point: Jesus once said, (Matthew 11:12)
From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force.
This means that those who are going to meaningfully, faithfully, consistently “lay hold” of the kingdom of heaven – those not hoodwinked by the pattern of this world/church – will need to exercise an intensity, a zeal and, indeed, a spiritual violence of spirit in order to do so.
God knows we need more men and women, like Keith Green and the Apostle Paul, who are of the all-consuming Holy Spirit of zeal.
Questions for Reflection & Prayer
What might it look like for you to become more ‘violent in spirit’ so as to “lay hold of the kingdom”?
Can you think of others who have emboldened you in your pursuit of God? Or, perhaps, some other resources?
Where might God be calling you into more of an aggressive confrontation with the powers of darkness?
What, like Habakkuk, would you say is your ‘complaint’ before God?