Jesus always did what His Father was doing. Not because he got ‘a word’ every few minutes but because He and His Father were one. ‘Separation – the separation of Adam - ended at the cross. Jesus cried, ‘It is finished!’ And it is. Separation is finished and all who believe have Jesus’ union with Father and Holy Spirit. Our union with God is the basis of our Kingdom life and the gifts of the Spirit. Our prize is to walk in it.
'No more Ishmael's!' This is the essence of a prophetic word I received several years ago, 'You have had enough of the going about in circles ministry that is Ishmael and you are intent on investing yourself in the Kingdom.' That I am.
'Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her' Gen 16.1,2 NIV.
Abraham was a man whose faith, on better occasions, was counted as righteousness. Abraham and Sarah produced Ishmael when they took it upon themselves to bring about the fulfillment of God's promise in their own strength. An Ishmael is a child of the flesh, the result of pragmatism or the all too human belief that we 'must do something.' Abraham’s Ishmael is a parallel to Adam’s attempted godliness in separation from God. Attempted good done in separation from God is not life-giving. But union with God that we already have is spirit and life.
We are safer doing nothing if what we have heard is not from from God. Firstly we are released from the temptation to invent or imagine a word that rose up from our soul. Secondly we are set free from the compulsion to produce pieces of religion to fill a space. It cuts us free from adding to the culture and paraphernalia of religion, empowering us to release Kingdom life in everything we do.
‘Jesus gave them this answer: "Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does’ John 5.19 NIV. As a son/daughter of God, this is your relationship and you living way of advancing the Kingdom.
At its best Ishmael activity is a waste of time. At its worst it multiplies iniquity in the form of dead works and provides a home for the religious spirit. Here we might have a following but be lacking in spiritual leadership because we are doing what we are doing without the aid of the spiritual discernment that is ours in union with God. In union – which is our inheritance – we have the mind of Christ, the gifts flow without being polluted and our ministry is never onerous.
What are some examples of an Ishmael? Bible studies that go nowhere. Bible study for the sake of Bible study. Quoting scripture for the sale of quoting scripture. Home groups and house churches that are an end in themselves and doing church for the sake of doing church. In ‘Ishmael’ we can produce a culture that is clouds without rain. Incarnated with Christ’s life-giving Spirit we are rivers of living water.
'I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing' John 15.5 NIV.
‘He in us as we are in Him’ is the core of new testament life; the engine of Kingdom advance and the difference between the Kingdom of God and the kingdom of religion. A time is coming when Jesus will close the door on Ishmael's and nothing we do will bring them to life. It will be a blessing in disguise. We need to join with what Jesus is doing now – being in you! It beats adding Him as a footnote to our agenda and calling it 'our ministry.'