By M. Wayne Benson
We continue now with Pastor Wayne Benson’s
timely and powerful series on “The Passion of the Vanguard
The vision and the passion of the ones on the cutting edge, the “Vanguard
,” is that their lives and everything that they do is dominated by the Holy Spirit’s presence and power – consumed by a spiritual passion for God! Because when we have had our spiritual passion restored, when the heart for God has been quickened, when our desire for the Lord stands above every other desire in our lives, that is the answer to being on the cutting edge of what God is doing – that’s the spirit of “The Vanguard
Once again, as we go along, my own comments will be in brackets.]
1. THE VANGUARD – REDIGGING THE WELLS
In Genesis 26:12-22, Abraham has died and Isaac is now becoming the one to assume the covenant of promise. It will one day be said that the “Faith” was that of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Remember? At this point, it’s Abraham and Isaac. But as you trace the story through this chapter, you find that the Bible tells us as the Lord began to prosper Isaac. The Philistines became indignant, and they went to the wells that had been dug in the valley by Isaac, and the herdsmen of Gerar began quarreling with the herdsman of Isaac.
Now WELLS back then were the same as CASH FLOW today. We’re talking about the fountainhead that is necessary for the success of business, or if you are in agriculture. The wells were stopped up and clogged by the Philistines who hated the prosperity that God was giving Isaac, so they went and poured dirt and clutter and junk into the wells.
But the story goes on to tell us that, after the Philistines had done that, Isaac went and redug the wells that his father, Abraham, had dug, and he renamed them after the same names that his father, Abraham, had named them. Those names incidentally, with the exception of REHOBOTH, the last one, each one of them are Hebrew names that relate to STRUGGLE, WARFARE, or CONTEST.
And the significance is that Isaac redug the wells, and Isaac had to navigate this transition in his life by entering into and enduring an onslaught that sought to clog the flow of God’s blessing, and the means of Isaac realizing the purpose of God. Isaac redug those wells, and I think it’s very significant that Isaac had to go through some of the same battles his father did, and it’s even more significant that he named the wells the same names. But he himself had to come into that battle, and he himself had to identify and name the struggles.
You see, I think that there’s an inclination for us to sort of insert our own creativity into what God is doing. It is almost change for change’s sake at times. Or I’ve seen people who will be embarrassed to identify what God was doing in a previous time or a previous generation and absolutely refuse to call it by the same name that the “Old Timers” used to call it in their day of God’s move. And it is almost an attempt to say, “I’m not really a part of that same stream.” I could talk about that at length, but I think you get the point.
The point is:
“ISAAC NEEDED TO CONTEST THE STOPPAGE OF GOD’S
WELLS, GOD’S FLOW.”
[That is always the passionate work of God’s “Vanguard.” It was for the “Vanguard” in our grandfather’s and father’s days, and it is the same today, for the enemies of God and His Word are always trying to dump lies and falsehoods into the “Wells of Truth,” and stop the flow of truth to a thirsty and dying humanity. Truth is to the human soul what water is to the thirsty tongue. Never forget:
“THERE IS THE SAME THIRST IN THE HUMAN SOUL FOR
TRUTH AS THERE IS IN THE HUMAN EYE FOR LIGHT.”
The only problem is that Satan has deceived the human race, and mankind continues to mistake falsehood for truth, and to drink the polluted water of Satan’s lies and kills himself with it. Or as Roman’s 1:25 puts it,
“They exchanged the truth of God for a lie….”
And we must never forget as Jesus said in John 8:44 about Satan:
“…he is a liar and the father of lies.”
That is not what he does, rather, who he is. Nothing is truer than this:
“NO ONE IS AS BAD AS THE DEVIL, AND NO ONE WORSE
THAN A LIAR.”
In Satan you have both rolled up into one. Jesus is truth (John 14:6), and Satan is untruth, and even as it is impossible for truth to produce anything but truth, so it is impossible for untruth to produce anything but untruth. Even as Jesus is passionate for truth, so Satan is passionate for untruth, and everywhere he can he dumps the dirt of untruth into the wells of truth to plug up their flow. It is happening in the world and the church today on an unprecedented basis.
The other day I saw and heard Bill Maher, the American 21st century outspoken atheist, stating on TV that 60% of Americans still don’t believe in Evolution, and that therefore we will have to drag them into it in our schools. What used to be “Wells of Truth,” America’s public schools have now been urinated and defecated into for decades by Satan, and then dumped full of his lies. America’s children are being shanghaied by Satan into America’s dark continent of false education, as they are being now taught that their ancestors swung from branch to branch.
Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), a religious conservative, wants President Barack Obama to dump “school safety czar” Kevin Jennings. King’s claim: Jennings promoted “homosexuality” in elementary schools by penning a foreword for a book titled — I kid you not — “The Queering of Elementary Education.” The Obama Administration with it Czars from Hell make me more and more shudder with revulsion.
The “Vanguard of Righteousness” in American politics and jurisprudence has now been torn down by godless politicians and judges, and Washington D.C. is like mice, rats and other varmints crawling into an empty house. The White House has become a spiritual and moral outhouse that stinks to high Heaven, and the House of Representatives and the Senate are adding their own putrid aroma.
In today’s Washington D.C., the wells of Christian morals are being buried underneath moral relativity. Men continue to look to the sewers of Washington for solutions when Washington is in fact a major part of the nation’s problems. We must find national leaders who do not talk out of both sides of their mouths, but will stand firm as the “Vanguard of Righteousness and Justice” once more in America, even now more than ever when standing for Divine moral absolutes is so unpopular.
Satan is not only working overtime in government and education, he is with his bulldozer from Hell filling the wells of truth in the church with his lies. Already in many ecclesiastical fellowships the wells of Trinitarianism, Creationism, the Fall of Man and Human Depravity, Heterosexuality, Heterosexual Marriage and Family, the Sanctity of Life, Chastity, Marriage as a Permanent-Holy Covenant, and the Gospel of Salvation from Sin, are being filled in and covered over and buried underneath tons of devilish deception and false teaching. Government officials, school boards and church synods are now giving sin a Triple AAA rating.
All of these Biblical and historical wells of truth dug by the patriarchs of faith must be redug by the “Vanguard of Truth” in American society and the American church. It is more than ever the frontline, cutting edge call of the Spirit of Truth, and “Christ’s Vanguard of Truth” will be contested and fought against in church and state even as Isaac was contested in his redigging and restoring the wells dug by his father Abraham. That is always the “VANGUARD VENUE.” We read in Genesis 26:20,
“The herdsmen of Gerar quarreled with the herdsmen of Isaac,
saying, ‘This water is ours!” so he named the well ESEK
(CONTENTION), for they contended with him.”
And again in Genesis 26:21,
“Then they dug another well, and they quarreled over it too,
so he named it SITNAH (ENMITY).”
We need desperately “Vanguard Pastors and Parishioners” who will be as the Apostle Peter states in I Peter 5:8 “Alert,” that is to say, “Watchmen on the Walls,” “Watchdogs at the Gate.” “Vanguard-Watchdogs” who will passionately fight for the faith and who will prove the truth of the maxim that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog that makes the difference. We need “Vanguard Pastors and Parishioners” who as Colin Powell puts it, “Have fire in their bellies” – the fire of the Holy Spirit Who no longer allows them to be on the outside looking in or at the back of the parade, but are leaders in the good fight of faith and they do not lag behind.]
2. THE CHANGING OF THE VANGUARD
In Joshua 1, the Lord begins that chapter with these words, and I think they are profound words in verse 2,
“Moses My servant is dead….”
I mean, that statement is so unnecessary from the human point of view. I mean, Joshua knew that Moses was dead, that’s obvious. It is not a piece of information. Why does God have to say that? I mean, is God just sort of orating here before Joshua so it’ll get written down in the book for historical value or something? Not at all!
I believe God was speaking a word to Joshua. There was a message that Joshua needed to heed, and that message is that sometimes there is something in all of us that has been so impacted by the one who is a SPIRITUAL MENTOR of ours. Someone who has so much influence in our life, someone who is great strength in our life that there comes a disposition in all of us to view ourselves as – well you know, I guess I am just sort of the guy in the next generation! But the real POWER PEOPLE were back there. Not that the power died with them or anything, but, well, who am I?
And there is that intimidating effect of having been influenced, whether it was first-hand influence in a discipling process, or just people that you have come to revere and respect. And the comparisons that are set up in your mind that can overshadow you and haunt you and taunt you! Even though you say, “Well, I believe God and I know God’s got a purpose for me,” yet there is something dark that lurks down in us that would resist what God wants to do in our own life until, finally, God has to speak to us like he did to Joshua.
And God said to Joshua in that chapter, right after the statement about Moses being dead, IN Joshua 1:2,3-
“Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, cross the Jordan,
you and all this people, to the land which I am giving to them,
to the sons of Israel.”
“Every place on which the sole of your foot treads, I have given it
to you, just as I spoke to Moses.”
And He goes on to challenge him to have courage and faith and makes promises to him that as great as any of the promises He gave to Moses.
But there’s something about navigating this transition where we have to break loose of the intimidating fear about God’s purpose in us not being fulfilled, or us not being able to live up to it. I believe that all of us long for the purpose of God. Most of us here long for the purpose of God to be fulfilled in our lives. But how many of us view someone as a mentor or whatever, and we tend to just say, “Well, they just overshadow us. I’ll never be quite what they were.” That sort of thing!
We need to see that:
“THE PURPOSE OF GOD TRANSCENDS THE ONE WHO
WENT BEFORE US.”
There was One who went before them, and He did valiantly as Conqueror and One who went forth to conquer. And upon His vesture is the name written:
“KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.”
God does not want to just limit us to the grace and faith of our forefathers. But in fact, He wants to multiply it to us so that with the increased intensity and the outpouring of the unholy spirit, there would be likewise an increased intensity with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So that, as we read in Romans 5:20,
“…where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.”
And I John 4:4,
“…because greater is He Who is in you than he who is in the world.”
And that conviction needs to settle in our heart. When that takes ahold of your heart, it will help you to navigate the transition [into the place of the VANGUARD].
God give us the SPIRIT of the VANGUARD and restore our spiritual passion that we might not be relegated to bringing up the caboose on some predestinated train of ours. But that we might be willing to move forward and wage war against the powers of darkness and be at the forefront of what God is doing as He moves us on to be the AVANT GUARDE on the front line of the battle. That we might penetrate and make a way for:
“THAT THOSE WHO COME AFTER US…THAT WE MIGHT LEAVE
BEHIND AN INERITANCE OF FAITHFULNESS TO ANYONE
WHO WOULD FOLLOW AS WE MAKE DISCIPLES,
WHETHER IT BE OUR CHILDREN OR THE NEW
CONVERTS THAT ARE GOING TO COME IN
And if there is anything that is characteristic of our time that should be significant to us in the Body of Christ, it shouldn’t be crying out for the good old days, whether from your context the good old days was the early days of Pentecost at the beginning of the century, or the charismatic movement, or a prior history of the church or whatever. But what the Spirit is wanting us to see is that we must have within us the “Spirit of the Vanguard” who exposes enemies and puts us on the cutting edge of what God is doing and saying now.
[Frankly, we should ask ourselves and our congregations whether we have truly ever made the “Vanguard Transition” from “Bible Times” into “Modern Times.” Or is it still true that as we view the “Vanguard Apostles,” we at best yet see ourselves as “The Rearguard.” You know, looking upon “The Apostles” as “Icons” and at ourselves as “Peons.” It is in my estimation one of the worst and most demoralizing attitudes in the modern Christian church, and that is the 1st century “Superior Them” and the 21st century “Inferior Us” mindset.
But let’s get real here about the Christ’s first century “Chosen Vanguard” and do so under a different metaphor. Remember when Jesus went up the mountain, then sat down and His disciples came to Him! Then among many other overwhelming things He looked at them and said in Matthew 5:14,
“You are the light of the world.”
In other words, it is not something we occasionally do, but it is who WE ARE
. We are Christ’s light of the world, it defines us and we don’t turn that light on and off. That means we can never for a second darken our light by bad behavior or bad language like “Shut Up” or “Listen Stupid” or “Oh Crap.” We are the light of the world in the office and in the home. It is not a mode that we get into when it suits us. We ARE
the light of the world.
Shazaam! Are you kidding Lord? LIGHT of the WORLD!? At first impact, given the disciples difficulty in making transition from the natural to the spiritual, this must have sounded grossly overstated by the Lord, even as being called “Vanguards” does to us. LIGHT of the WORLD!?
We know, and I am sure they did too, that the light of the world is the sun, moon and stars. It must have sounded as if Jesus was likening them to the natural sun, and for them that must have been a major cosmic stretch. Sort of like calling a firefly a flamethrower! Or on a far more mundane level, He was calling us and them “HEADLIGHTS” when we barely can conceptualize ourselves as being “TAILLIGHTS.”
And remember also who He was talking to! There before Him was a motley crew of farmers, fishermen and tax collectors. Talk about a leap of faith! And let’s go further than that. Talk about a crazy idea! LIGHT of the WORLD! That bunch?! It must have sounded absurd at the time even to them, even as it does to us now. Only Jesus could have seen that through this motley crew God would indeed light up and change the world forever. At the time however, it probably sounded like so much chatter even as being “VANGUARDS,” “HEADLINERS,” “OUT-FRONTERS,” “CUTTING-EDGERS,” sounds to us. Yet, He said they were, and now do you want hear something really absurd – so are we?!
Even as VANGUARDS are responsible for leading the troops into battle and securing the fortress, so the LIGHT of the WORLD is responsible for just that – illuminating the world of blinded men so that they can see spiritually and eternally. A lighthouse steers ships away from the rocks and safely into port. A light bulb lights up an entire room. Light does not exist for its own glory but to brighten up a dark world. We as the LIGHT of the WORLD are responsible for all mankind, even as our being the VANGUARD makes us responsible for leading and guarding the entire army of God in the increasingly dangerous 21st century.
But we should note quickly that none of us alone are the entire LIGHT of the WORLD, anymore than one of us alone is the entire VANGUARD of the army of Christ. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, you in your small corner and I in mine! But together as CHRIST’S VANGUARD, we can protect His blood bought church, set the captives free and do great damage to the enemy.
It is amazing the creative solutions that people can bring to problems if we can just get them into action. I read a powerful story about a group of French prisoners of war during World War II. These prisoners were forced to work in a German munitions factory. Upon realizing that the very bombs they were building were being used to destroy their beloved homeland, they made a decision to create a malfunction in the devices that detonated the bombs. The bombs were designed to explode on impact. But the changes that the imprisoned-French loyalists made, the bombs were harmless – no explosion occurred on impact. Puzzled by so many failed attacks, the French government conducted an investigation of the unexploded bombs. Upon opening the bombs, they found slips of paper inside bearing these words:
“WE ARE DOING THE BEST WE CAN WITH WHAT WE’VE GOT,
WHERE WE ARE, EVERY CHANCE WE GET.”
That describes a “VANGUARD CHURCH.” We can pray until we are blue in the face, and well we should, for God to give us more faith. But God wants us to get into action using the faith we already have. God wants us to “do the best we can with what we have, where we are, every chance we get.”
Our problem is not our lack of faith, but rather, it is our lack of commitment, passion and dedication to put our feet to our faith. It brings us right back to passionless apathy, and the realization that it does us no good to be passionate about the truth of God’s Word unless we put it into action. Or as someone put it:
“I LEARNED A LONG TIME AGO THAT MANY OF THOSE WHO TAKE
THE BIBLE LITERALLY DO NOT TAKE IT SERIOUSLY.”
Here is the “TRUE VANGUARD PRINCIPLE” –
“WHEN IT COMES TO BEING THE CHRISTIAN VANGUARD OF TRUTH,
GOD’S VANGUARD IS AS PASSIONATE ABOUT EXECUTION
OF THE WORD AS IT IS ABOUT EXEGESIS OF THE WORD.”]
THE VANGUARD CALL – A LIFE AND DEATH ISSUE
As you study the life of Saul, you will see some interesting things. One of the things that I was surprised at was, when I took a careful reading of Saul’s life, I discovered that Saul had some great promises. As you recall, he was the first king after the time of the Judges. Saul had every reason to be as blessed as David. But, I guess it is easy to believe the assumption that, “Well, David was really God’s first choice, and God just sort of tolerated Saul. And the reason that Saul’s reign failed was because God wasn’t really on his side anyway.”
There is nothing in the Bible that says that. To the contrary, for twice there were prophecies through Samuel over Saul’s life that God was going to bless and increase his life and his kingdom. Because of the failure of Saul, we don’t usually see that there were great promises given to this man, and it was his failure to understand and perceive those promises that eventually led to his spiritual failure.
But in I Samuel 11, Nahash, King of the Ammonites, came against Jabesh–Gilead (that’s one of the cities of the people of Israel), and Nahash was going to enforce a covenant with them. And the people of God said, “Well, if we submit to you, what will be the price?” And the price, of course, would have been a return on the annual tax and tribute. Once a year, they’d come to pick up the grain and so forth, and that would be verification that they have a covenant.
And Nahash somehow managed to exact an agreement that he would take the right eye of every man as a sign of that agreement. And that is when the people of Jabesh-Gilead said, “Maybe we’d better think about this.” And they sent for help from Saul.
And the Bible says in I Samuel 11:6,
“Then the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard
these words, and he became very angry.”
[The Holy Spirit filled Saul with a furious energy. Yes, the Holy Spirit does that in God’s Vanguard.] And it says that he took a yoke of oxen, under this powerful anointing, and literally cut the yoke of oxen into pieces. And he sent a chunk of meat to each of the 12 tribes, 12 chunks of meat special delivery from Saul’s farm yard. And he sent a message that got everybody’s attention. He simply said,
“This is what we are going to do to anybody who does not show up
for the battle.” [I’ll cut you in pieces too.]
And it was amazing, 330,000 soldiers showed up instantly for war, and they won. And it happened because of an indignation that had come upon a man stirred by the Spirit of God.
[Well, it worked, didn’t it? There is more than one way to get the “Vanguard of Israel” motivated and into action. I don’t think the ox meat was consumed with gusto at a nice cozy dining room table of leisurely fellowship before they came to Saul armed for battle when they were good and ready. I don’t think there were any AWOL’S either. I guess there is more than one way to chop an ox and motivate an army. If they refused to go to the cutting edge frontlines to fight, they would not simply be court marshaled or dishonorably discharged, but they would be meat-cleavered on the spot by Saul’s hit-men, or by Saul personally. Yikes!
When I was yet parenting, I thought about for years what might be the perfect threatened-punishment. I came to the conclusion that no such warning or punishment existed. I never thought about putting pieces of ox meat on their beds with Sauline bloody notes attached. But maybe King Saul had the answer all along. Sure sounds more formidable than the usual over-the-knee threat or the old warn out banishment-to-your-room ploy.
There comes a time when inspiration is not the need of the moment, but rather a strong dose of Sauline-righteous indignation from the pulpit is the order of the day. We have come to that time in Kingdom of God and Church of Jesus Christ history! King Saul had an attitude, and all those who refused to get on the frontlines of warfare were viewed as his and God’s mortal enemies. They were good for nothing, and seen as meat for the chopping block. This too is the “Strong Meat of God’s Word.
Heathen Nahash and the Ammonites in America and Washington D.C. are running roughshod over the children of God, the Holy Word of God and the holy institutions of God. They are making us pay taxes for their ungodly legislation, and trying to gouge out the right eyes of rightouesness of a nation so that it can no longer discern good from evil. All that will remain is left-wing vision which is synonymous with blindness. They are already gouging the eyes out of America’s children so that they can’t tell light from darkness, right from wrong.
Victory for the cause of Christ is not just the first thing, but it is everything on every front. Not only in our personal life, but in civic and national and church life we need to be and be raised up now as the “Vanguard of Truth and Righteousness.” Or else! God, not Saul, will hold us responsible.
We need to have church “Vanguard Teams” that are sharp and up-to-date on the issues, and constantly confronting personally and via correspndence members of the school boards, city council members, state and national legislators, with Biblical principles and the moral absolutes of God’s Word. These frontline “Vanguard Teams“should have sharp and spiritually passionate captains to guide the troops through the issues bathed in prayer.
The way things are going in the world of which we are the light, “Vanguard Team Members” will be so busyand drained by the opposition that they will have to be rotated every so often to be rested and ministered too. Vanguard Teams should be rotated like car tires, which keeps the ministry sharp and constant without giving the enemy a break.]
And among the things that the Holy Spirit has been wanting to say, is that the ministry of the church can never be relegated to the professional few, whose media platform becomes a substitute for the body of Jesus Christ. The Lord is not into the superstar business, but He does raise up people with unusual gifts and callings and graces them with great strength. We should desire that, and we should welcome that. It has great potential for the kingdom and for evangelism.
But when the church in large numbers that we may not even be aware of, lets that substitute for what they are supposed to be in Christ, and send their favorite religious superstars money to buy off their individual responsibility for the body of Jesus Christ, you know, the idea I’ll send you money and you be godly and minister for me, God draws a line and says, “Enough, I have another plan.”
THE DEFENSE OF THE VANGUARD
I believe that the cry of the Spirit today is to raise up a vanguard of people who know and discern good and evil, people who have a cry for the heart of God, a passion for God and all of His glorious holiness. And I also believe that the cry of the Spirit is to raise up a vanguard of people who will pray for one another, intercede for each other.
And I believe that the pathway for that defense is found in I John 1:1-10. He says,
“If we say we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the
truth is not in us.”
“If we say we have no sin, we make Him a liar, and the truth
is not in us.”
But he says,
“And if we walk in the light as He Himself is in the light, we have
fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son
cleanses us from all sin.”
There is the safety! You see, I need a circle of fellowship, I need a circle of accountability, I need a circle of companionship with others who walk in the light, people that I grow in fellowship with. And out of that fellowship in which I can grow, there is a hedge that is built up about me.
Are you hearing me? You know, this is the essence of the fellowship group ministry. It was never the intent that fellowship group ministry was the place where we get pizza or tacos. It wasn’t intended to be a place where endless theological discussions can ensue. But rather a circle of love and accountability in which the discipling process can take shape, a hedge of protection around me.
When you walk in that dimension of light you know what happens? He says in the original Greek language of I John 1:7,
“If we walk in the light as He Himself in the light, we KEEP ON
HAVING FELLOWSHIP WITH ONE ANOTHER.”
Then in the same regard:
“The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, KEEPS ON CLEANSING US
FROM ALL SIN.”
That’s what it says. We’re kept fast in the cleansing process of His blood that flows in the fellowship of His light; Oh, the precious cleansing blood of Jesus! And when you walk in the light, the darkness wil be destroyed, as the blood of Jesus, God’s own Son, cleanses us from all sin.
Do you know what this reminds me of? It reminds me of the Children of Israel when they came out of Egypt in Exodus 13:18. It says they were HARNESSED (KJV). The NAS says “IN MARTIAL ARRAY.” The Amplified Version says, “MARTIALED IN RANKS.” But the idea is that they were braided together in trremedous strenght. A number of translators go so far as to say that it means “STOUT‘”and “ABLE BODIED.” Think about it! Old men and children, yet there was tremendous strenght and wholeness. All because they were unified and made whole by the blood of the Lamb.
But you see:
“THE CHURCH OF JESUS CHRIST WILL NOT COME INTO THE
POWER OF GOD UNTIL IT COMES INTO THE PLAN OF GOD.”
“WE’LL NOT COME INTO THE BLESSINGS OF GOD UNTIL WE
INTO THE OBEDIENCE OF GOD.”
“WE’LL NOT COME INTO THE GLORY OF THE KINGDOM UNTIL
WE COME INTO THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE KINGDOM.”