Without one key element, movements that emphasize signs, wonders and glory meetings are extremely dangerous.
I’m encouraged that we are witnessing a sense of awakening in parts of the church today. It thrills my heart that we are starting to move beyond the tired, predictable wine skins of yesterday and are yearning for a much deeper dive into the river of the Holy Spirit. There are meetings and movements that are enjoying a supercharged atmosphere. Some of these are extremely good, necessary and forerunners for the coming church.
The hunger is so overwhelming for some, however, that this current season is producing people who will run to any meeting that presents the hope of experiencing a supernaturally activated moment.
Of course, a deep desire to encounter the wonder of the Holy Spirit is not an indicator of impure motives. Quite the opposite, those who hunger for more of Jesus can be counted among the remnant—as long as their hunger is pure and their approach is stable.
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. Acts 8:18-22 (ESV)
IMPURE SPIRITUAL HUNGER AND THE CALL FOR REPENTANCE
Simon was more than intrigued by the invisible force he was experiencing. He was so zealous to function in that power that he actually wanted to pay for it! I know that seems absurd, but that spirit is at play very commonly today. The rush of the super power he was experiencing was so remarkable that he couldn’t help but to go after more of it. His sin was not his hunger for God. His sin was his motive. He had no option but to repent—or die in his sin of impure spiritual hunger. This sin that Simon the Sorcerer was overcome by, the sin of of impure spiritual hunger, is rampant in the church today.
To deal with this temptation, a key element that must exist within movements that are marked by supernatural power is repentance. Of course, repentance and the cross must be the primary driver of any church, movement or ministry. Sadly, today that is not always the case.
I was stunned when I heard about a pastor that no longer preaches the blood and the cross because, as he stated, they are pre-resurrection. His focus is now the benefits and the bonuses we can experience on this side of Calvary. While this may shock many of you, the truth is that many are abandoning a keen focus on repentance, the blood and the cross, though they may never be so bold as to announce it.
The last two places I ministered, in Dayton, Ohio and Greenville, South Carolina, I received strikingly similar comments from people as I was connecting at the end of the service. In both places I had preached a straight forward message on holiness, repentance, surrender, sin, the cross and eternity. It was nothing original, but the anointing was strong.
In one of the events someone said, “I haven’t heard preaching like that in 30 years.” In the next event I was told, “I haven’t heard preaching like that in 27 years.”
That almost brought tears to my eyes. It did bring righteous indignation to my spirit.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:1-2 (ESV)
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30 (ESV)
HOLY GHOST PARTIES
I love to dance in the river, jump in the river, swim in the river, soak in the river. If the river is rushing, I’m there. I’ve been transformed in glory meetings and I can’t wait for the next one!
I’m also extremely careful to discern the motive of my heart. The glory of God is not meant to be used as a high inducing narcotic. God is holy and we must approach and enjoy him from that reality.
When God moves, it’s not a playground, though there are times for wild celebration. We need to experience great fear just like in the days of old. Holy Spirit comfort and fear of the Lord must go hand in hand.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31 (ESV)
I’ve had the privilege of being in the midst of some extremely powerful and unusual river events where manifestations of oil, gold dust, gold teeth and a mist of God’s presence filled the auditorium. People were dancing, trembling and rejoicing throughout. It was impossible to deny that joy was in the place and that humanly impossible wonders were occurring. I was giving leadership in that church but was continually awestruck at the very real, very powerful things God was doing. I was laid out many times during that season, including in the parking lot at 2am one late night as God spilled out after a powerful prayer meeting. I was undone. Many others were as well.
We enjoyed a Holy Ghost party atmosphere that was wonderful and legitimate. The celebration was joyous!
However, what grieves me to this day is that among the dancers were a few who were living very dark lives—and they were convinced that God affirmed those lifestyles. This is why they could dance and rejoice with such “freedom.” None of this came to the surface until God hit me hard one day. He told me it was time to shift the message from rejoicing to repenting, from dancing on our feet to crying out on our knees, and to let the Holy Spirit move in a very different way. God had set us up and it was time to marry true freedom with brokenness and surrender. This was the only way faux freedom could be exposed.
While the revelation of unapologetic sinful lifestyles was troubling enough, the point I need to make here brings something else into the equation: the plumb line of the cross.
Holy Ghost parties, glory meetings and river experiences are not enough to rightly deal with our hearts and to draw us into freedom. They are insufficient. As overwhelming it can be, experiencing God’s presence and his love are not enough to deal with darkness and rebellion.
God instructed me to preach with great unction and urgency on what was: the cross, Hell, holiness and the blood of Jesus. This ended the Holy Ghost parties and opened the door to Holy Ghost conviction.
This led to many rushing to the altars to allow God to break them, heal them and set them free.
Sadly, and disturbingly, there were previous Holy Ghost, glory meeting dancers who soundly rejected that message. One supported lesbianism and was convinced that God would never send homosexuals to Hell. Another was involved in sexual New Age practices and rejected the theology of eternal separation from God entirely. Others told me they didn’t affirm a definition of God that included judgment or anything negative. One of the most passionate young people in the church said that she doesn’t know the God associated with that message!
That was like an arrow piercing through my heart! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!
In the midst of a true move of God, people were embracing deviant theologies and living in radical rebellion to the one they were dancing before!
As a leader, my heart was crushed. How could this have happened?
REJECTING THE MESSAGE
When I hit the messages of repentance and the cross with fervor, some people fled. Honestly, this shouldn’t have surprised me. In fact, I preach often that a true move of God will result in many being exposed and turning from God as deception and rebellion overtakes them. This is such a crushing truth that is hard to bear.
…they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (ESV)
In Acts chapter two we see two responses to God moving. Some marveled. Some mocked.
The cross, when preached, will bring clarity.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34 (ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV)
The truth of the cross of Jesus will always have that type of impact. It divides. It reveals the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Holy Ghost parties must be founded on the truth of the cross, and that message must be shouted continually if we want to avoid deception at party central.
It’s easy to dance and rejoice when the benefits and blessings are preached, but when the call for repentance is in the mix, suddenly the party may shift into a season of mourning.
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:12-13 (ESV)
Then, the mourning and freedom that comes from true, deep repentance, can lead to another season of dancing!
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV)
Today we have meetings that are focused intently on the glory, God’s presence and the river. Healings, signs and wonders are primary. They can no longer be primary if we want to avoid allowing darkness and deception to thrive in such an environment.
Calls to repentance must be sounded. A revelation of Hell must be had. The blood of Jesus must be foremost as the cross of Jesus is preached with unction.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret… 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)
Only then can we truly celebrate and dance in the river.