Functioning primarily out of our soul results in division, fear, recklessness and arrogance.
Social media has been distressing to my spirit this year. Really, all media has been, including the few sources that might be considered trustworthy. I'll be the first to admit it's easy to dive into debates at a soul level, arguing logic that seems so obvious while being legitimately confused at how anybody else just cannot see it the same way.
Everything from masks to President Trump to racism has polarized our nation. The damage left in the wake of the raging debates has been devastating. More concerning, the church has been caught up in the exact same soul-level social battles.
When our soul leads the way in our debates and decisions, the results can be quite toxic. We've seen fear and division overcome the people of the “home of the brave.” Arrogance has been masquerading as authority and recklessness as freedom.
The soul is the center of emotions and logic, and without the anointing of the Holy Spirit, arguments initiated from that level are not to be trusted. Powerful emotions with the help of seemingly obvious logic will convince people they are functioning from a place of wisdom when in truth they are reacting in fear. Faith is eliminated from the equation. Wisdom (fear) trumps faith when we don't live, breathe, pray and walk in the Spirit.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:25-26 (NIV)
DIVISION IS NOT ALWAYS NEGATIVE
34 “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I have come to turn “‘a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law– 36 a man's enemies will be the members of his own household.' Matthew 10:34-36 (NIV)
The true church will always introduce division simply because of the topics we are promoting. There is an agenda. Jesus made it clear that ecumenical unity wasn't his goal. World peace wasn't the focus.
We can expect division when the Gospel is preached. When revival hits, people will be split like the Red Sea with many running to the altar and many running out the back door.
Many pastors today are attempting to avoid the very necessary schisms that clearly define the remnant and the pretenders. Truth rightly presented demands decisions. In the end the Final Judgment will bring the greatest division of all, separating the sheep and the goats for all humanity to see.
Many Christians have attempted to apply this principle of biblical division to their own humanistic stubborn opinions. They celebrate as their pet positions cause others to get riled up and split off. They feel spiritual, but this is soul-level activity and it is grieving to the Lord.
30 And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another… Ephesians 4:30-32 (NIV)
Preach the Word of God and, often times, you can expect division.
Preach masks, politics, the Constitution and on the racial issues of the day? We as Spirit-filled, blood-bought children of the King should speak with great love and grace. Is there ever a time to strike against wicked arguments with force and precision? Absolutely. But, not from our soul. This type of engagement must be led fully by the Spirit.
WHAT IS GOD SAYING?
Church, it's time to come up higher. In this toxic season of politics, sickness, murder and distress, we need to resist the urge to function from our soul. It's time to minister from our spirits.
We've heard all of the arguments about masks, both pro and con. We know all of the reasons people are going to vote for Trump or Biden. People are dogmatic about taking a knee or not. The memes and GIFS and posts and rants about all of these volatile issues and others have become predictable — and nauseating.
Where are those who have emerged from their closets of intercession, those who have a clear word from the Lord? Where is the tangible anointing that pierces through arguments? In this critical, historic hour, where are the true prophets?
Understand, this doesn't mean we can't discuss issues at a logical level. I'm not even saying the soul (emotions and logic) should be minimized. God gave us a soul and he will certainly cause us to speak intelligently and even passionately on secular matters, with wisdom, love and clarity. Debates and discussions can be beneficial. The critical call, however, for every Christian, is to do so with the mind of Christ.
The greater the activity of the Holy Spirit in our lives, the more impacting our words will be. I would challenge you to disengage from the madness that has bewitched so much of the world and the church. Pull back. Stop functioning mostly from your soul. Don't get so excited about your logic. Be teachable. Die to your own opinions. Speak truth under the anointing of the Holy Spirit and people will be absolutely confounded.
When the truth you speak causes both people and demons to react, you know you've moved from soul-level arguments to spirit-driven, authoritative declarations:
22 The people were amazed at his teaching, because he taught them as one who had authority, not as the teachers of the law. 23 Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, 24 “What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” 25 “Be quiet!” said Jesus sternly. “Come out of him!” 26 The evil spirit shook the man violently and came out of him with a shriek. 27 The people were all so amazed that they asked each other, “What is this? A new teaching–and with authority! He even gives orders to evil spirits and they obey him.” 28 News about him spread quickly over the whole region of Galilee. Mark 1:22-28 (NIV)
TAKE A BREAK
As I said above, it's easy to get sucked into the soul-level debates of the day. And, as I said, not all of these debates are unhealthy. However, a whole bunch of them are.
They can distract those who are supposed to be functioning in the realm of the Spirit and cause us to fight in the flesh. If your revelations on the matters of the day aren't burning with anointing, take a break. If you aren't having dreams and visions about how to address the madness of this hour, take a break.
Seriously. Resist the urge and stop posting to Facebook. I'm not talking about the infamous month-long breaks from social media that people regularly announce. Those folks are back and active usually in less than 24-hours.
I'm talking about going deeper in God than you ever have. See the futility of your arguments. Humble yourself. Finally understand that nobody needs to hear what your soul has to say. Find your prayer closet and discover what God is yearning to reveal to our nation.
The whole world will want to hear what you have to say then.
This should be the shock to the system that pastors need, or the next pandemic just may take the church out.
You'd expect the church to respond very differently than the world in the midst of crisis. Sadly, this hasn't always been the case. Social media is filled with freaked-out Christians who are absolutely terrified, spending their energies seeking out natural solutions to a supernatural situation. The fact that they can't disinfect their hands or wipe their, well, you know, has sent many into a frenzy. Something is terribly wrong and church as usual is no longer an option.
If ignoring, minimizing or seeking a natural solution to a demonic threat brings relief, don't presume you have won the battle. The entity is merely resting alongside you, thankful his foe has refused to fight.
The response is a glaring indictment on the church, and without question, the church must not ever allowed to go on as usual. This pandemic may be the catalyst to reformation the remnant has been crying out for.
THE CHURCH ISN'T READY
7 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; Revelation 19:7 (ESV)
In an age when so many Believers are merely concerned with their personal eternal security and so many others are sitting back waiting to be raptured before the trouble comes, it's clear that the church is far from ready for the end-time waves of crisis that are crashing down.
Global traumas like the coronavirus very well may play a part in determining the wheat and the tares. Who will rise up in great, unmovable faith and who will shrink back in fear? Those who know God will respond very differently than those who are mere pretenders.
32 …the people who know their God shall be strong, and carry out great exploits. Daniel 11:32 (NKJV)
So, the question for pastors and every Believer in the midst of trial is, how can we prepare? Yes, there are natural precautions we should take. There are spiritual reactions that are necessary too. Many are suggesting adopting house church/small group models. That very well may come into play, but that's a functional shift. There are spiritual shifts that are much more important.
TEN WAYS EVERY CHURCH MUST RESPOND
INSTITUTE STRATEGIC PRAYER
The days of simply attending a Sunday morning service where we worship a little, pray a little and listen to a sermon before heading back into the world for a week must come to an end immediately.
The primary focus of every legitimate Christian church must be fervent, passionate, powerful and strategic intercession. The days of simple prayer lists and prayer chains are over as the call to groans and cries of spiritual prayer explode out of the saints.
For years I've been campaigning for services that are marked by people laid out at the altars from start to finish as the Holy Spirit broods over them. Deep, guttural groans of intercession will be heard throughout the sanctuary every Sunday (and ultimately, every day of the week).
I am absolutely convinced that a church filled with tongues of fire will do more than any other single activity to make everybody ready for the coming storms.
1 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. 2 And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. 3 And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. 4 And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)
DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SPIRITS OF FEAR
It's astonishing how a very dark spirit of fear has blanketed the church. Fear results in unsettled, nervous reactions while faith results in a confident, peaceful, calculated response.
Pastors must introduce deliverance into their churches as a primary ministry. The spirits that are tormenting Christians have been exposed all over the world during the pandemic. I believe nearly all Christians need or have at one time needed deliverance. The enemy is especially attracted to children of God as he seeks to find open doors to latch on and destroy.
We cannot afford a scared, timid people who shrink back at the sight of their own shadow. This end-time season requires mighty warriors, an army who has annihilated fear and who will stare right through the darkness and expose the enemy and send him fleeing!
In fact, it very well may be time to allow those who are afraid to step back so the church can finally do what God has ordained it to do—fight and possess the land!
3 Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever is fearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.' ” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained. Judges 7:3 (NKJV)
DEVELOP A PROPHETIC CULTURE
Possibly a primary source of fear in the camp is the lack of foresight, the absence of prophetic revelation. Imagine how different everything would be if God's people were made ready in their spirits as God prepared them with all sorts of prophetic communication.
Dreams, visions, God's still small voice, words of wisdom, words of knowledge and other divine impressions are extremely powerful and necessary if everybody in the church is to weather the storm.
Every Christian must be both equipped and activated prophetically. The church needs to hear God's ever-present voice now more than ever. To have some people who are not tuned in compromises the camp and gives the enemy a very powerful and secure foothold.
19 Do not quench the Spirit. 20 Do not despise prophecies. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-20 (NKJV)
GROW IN POWERFUL FAITH
There is an angry crowd of “Believers” who are demanding we “USE WISDOM!” regarding this crisis. I wish they'd shout “USE FAITH!” It's much more effective.
It's disappointing to see very little difference between the world and the redeemed in time of trouble. For so many, the initial and most powerful reaction is natural protection instead of supernatural advance. On social media I've run into an angry Christian crowd that snipes anyone who suggests peace, faith and authority over the schemes of the enemy are the answer. They see such counsel as a minimization of their human efforts and a threat to that strategy. I wonder just what counselor they are listening to.
They love to promote “wisdom” but tend to see faith as haphazard and even some sort of nonsensical supernatural voodoo. A life of true biblical faith is so foreign to them that the extent of their belief system is a cop-out by simply “trusting that God will do as he pleases.”
True faith looks nothing like that. It's confident, authoritative and declarative.
Pastors have no option but to repent of their silly anti-faith positions and to actually embrace some of the teachings they previously dismissed. Whether you appreciate the whole of who Kenneth Copeland (or similar ministers) is or not, you cannot deny the powerful truth on the subject of faith that he carries.
38 Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him.” Hebrews 10:38 (NKJV)
GO DEEP IN THE WORD
The world needs pastors who have the smell of fire on them as they emerge from the prayer rooms and stand with great anointing and authority behind the pulpit. The low-level milk of Bible teaching must cease as the Spirit of God reveals the deep mysteries of Scripture.
The people of God must be students of the inerrant Word, allowing the truth to radically transform them. Times like this require a spiritual response, and the foundation of God's wisdom is found in his timeless Word.
The tired Sunday School style sermons must cease as earth-shaking revelation from God's Word shakes us to our core, and equips us as mighty end-time soldiers.
12 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. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
DEAL DIRECTLY WITH SIN
The greatest debilitating factor in the church by far is unaddressed sin. A church that isn't pure, holy and consecrated is a liability, a breeding ground for demonic manifestation and a magnet for God's judgment.
Hellfire preaching must return to the church and a call to intense consecration is simply mandatory if we hope to endure to the end.
The Bible clearly instructs certain people to be removed from fellowship, but it's rare to find a leadership team that is willing to follow those orders. I propose it's either an attempt to extend more mercy than God himself is, or the leadership are steeped in the same sins themselves.
11 But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person. 12 For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? 13 But those who are outside God judges. Therefore “put away from yourselves the evil person.” 1 Corinthians 5:11-13 (NKJV)
5 deliver such a one to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus. 1 Corinthians 5:5 (NKJV)
TEACH ON THE END-TIMES
I believe the church's greatest hour will be during the Great Tribulation. I understand that many others don't believe that at all. Eschatology is a volatile topic, but we can't afford to ignore it any longer.
It's laughable to think the church is ready to endure such a terrible Tribulation period, even though God's wrath won't be expressed on his true church in that season. The measure of protection we'll have will be enough for us to have an opportunity to stay true to God and to proclaim his truth.
Yet, today, with a comparatively very minor crisis in the world, the church is failing miserably. The church isn't ready. We need leaders who will emphasize the trials that are coming, whether they occur during the Tribulation period or not. We are in the end-times, and the end itself draws nearer every moment.
I believe a casual approach and the thought that we'll be raptured away is detrimental and will cost potentially millions of Christians their very salvation. The falling away will be very great as countless Believers fail the test and don't endure to the end. Their blood will be on the hands of the pastors for failing to prepare them.
EQUIP IN SIGNS, WONDERS, HEALINGS AND MIRACLES
I've been sadly stunned at the number of professing Christians who have little to no confidence in God's supernatural ability, and have even less confidence in their authority to move in wonders themselves.
Training in signs, wonders, healings and miracles can't be delayed for another moment. We need a supernaturally charged people who are fiercely opposed to the illegal activity of the enemy. This includes fear, sickness, poverty and other assaults of the devil.
The church needs to learn the difference between God-ordained pestilence and devil-initiated attacks. From that place, the church can rise up and function in absolutely remarkable signs and wonders as a traumatized world looks on and witnesses God in action. Hope will flood in and countless desperate lost people will be saved.
29 Now, Lord, look on their threats, and grant to Your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, 30 by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.” 31 And when they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken; and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:29-31 (NKJV)
KEEP ETERNITY IN FOCUS
The fact that Christians pay little attention to eternity and that their gaze is on the here and now has never been more evident in this generation than it is today. Instead of having peace and confidence about spending an eternity with Jesus, and being excited about that, so many are fearful and anxious about a virus that, in their minds, has the power to kill.
It's time for our preaching to be zeroed in on eternity and to prepare people for the place they will be living forever. I am personally gripped by forever, by the expectation of the glories of the age to come. Do I want to die before my time? Of course not. But, I place myself in God's hands, and I battle the enemy's attempts to bring destruction to me and I trust that I will go not a second before or after my designated time.
55 O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1 Corinthians 15:55 (KJV)
PREPARE TO GO UNDERGROUND
As easy as it was for our government to force everybody indoors, and to cancel everything from sporting events to church services, and to threaten imprisonment for those who defy the orders, we better be preparing the people to go underground.
We can't presume the internet will be available. We can't expect to be able to freely gather. There will come a time when we will have to choose to obey God rather then men and gather, illegally, to worship, pray and unite as Believers.
Read this passage and be ready to expect a very similar scenario as the end draws near:
27 And when they had brought them, they set them before the council. And the high priest questioned them, 28 saying, “We strictly charged you not to teach in this name, yet here you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” 29 But Peter and the apostles answered, “We must obey God rather than men. 30 The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging him on a tree. 31 God exalted him at his right hand as Leader and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. 32 And we are witnesses to these things, and so is the Holy Spirit, whom God has given to those who obey him.” 33 When they heard this, they were enraged and wanted to kill them. Acts 5:27-33 (ESV)
The call is for pastors to embrace a mighty shift in the church. Church as usual is no longer an option. We must see the people equipped as mighty men and women of great faith, fervent intercession, workers of miracles and prophetic instruments in the hands of God.
The church is suffering a crisis of faith as logic, experience, humanistic wisdom and emotional intuition are causing many to reject biblical truth.
5 …so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2:5 (ESV)
It's stunning to see how easily some Christians change their theologies to match their experiences, their compassion, their definition of love, their frustrations, their logic, their doubts, their temptations and their emotions.
Read the Bible. Believe the Bible. It's that easy.
I'll take the chaos of faith over the precision of facts any day. Common sense would tell us a beautiful painting of mountains, trees and a log cabin on the banks of a rushing river would be more valuable than an abstract splattering of colors applied by whipping streaks and smears of paint onto a canvas.
Jackson Pollock's abstract art simply titled No. 5 is currently worth $140 million. It's chaotic, nonsensical and it doesn't depict anything other than streaks, splotches and randomness. Yet it's currently ranked as the fifteenth most valuable piece of art in the world. This is how I see faith. It often doesn't make sense, and there are many other representations of reality that sure seem more worthy of attention. Yet, as Believers, we affirm what God values, and he deeply values great faith.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
The bottom line is that we believe God, no matter how obvious altering arguments seem to be. While an imperfect application, might I suggest that left brained people, those who are given to facts, figures, logic and intellectualism, might struggle more with faith then right brained people, those who see beyond the obvious and into the mystical. Their spiritual canvas is filled with random streaks and blotches that depict glorious life. They know truth trumps facts and it actually excites them to trust God at that level. Of course, as I said, this suggestion is not at all perfect as there are many brilliant intellectually wired men and women of God who are giants in the faith. Yet, the point I'm making is that many struggle to trust God when smacked in the face with seemingly clear and undeniable factual realities. Faith in the invisible can be snuffed out by reason.
For me, the Bible comes alive when I approach it as a trusting child. I read it and I believe it. I'm not saying I'm not challenged by it because of course I am. Yet, the collision of biblical truth with natural facts invigorates me. I come alive as I reject all that contradicts the Word of God, no matter how naturally convincing, and watch in faith for God's truth to miraculously activate in my life. If God said it, I believe it and that settles it.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
The world is currently cowering in fear over the coronavirus scare, and sadly this includes many Christians. In fact, churches are banning handshakes and laying hands on people at the altar! “Lay hands on the sick and they shall recover” has suddenly changed for many Christians. Now it's “avoid touching the sick so we don't catch it.” I wonder if they realize this is the exact opposite way Scripture instructs them to respond.
15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:15-18 (ESV)
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. James 5:14-15 (ESV)
In a recent article I dealt directly with the fact that coronavirus is embarrassing the church as supposed blood-bought Christians are freaking out just like the rest of the world, and faith is nowhere to be found.
Are you taking the opportunity to show the lost you are fearless, full of faith and joyful? Or do they sense your anxiety about coronavirus?
A crisis of faith has been exposed. Coronavirus is embarrassing the church.
Have you noticed any difference at all between the godless world and those who are seated in heavenly places with Christ Jesus, the Healer? Bold decrees of faith, not confessions of fear and worry, should be exploding out of our mouths!
Instead, Christians are hiding in caves, running from the battle and trembling not in the fear of the Lord, but the fear of the enemy.
Sure, take precautions, but don't cower. Don't respond like the world. Don't allow the enemy to impact your life. Live! Be free! You are covered by the blood of Jesus!
Of all people, we should be the ones preaching faith not fear. Put the ridiculous spiritual face masks away. Your mouth is your weapon! Don't allow the enemy to muzzle you. Speak to the fear and command it to dissipate! Renounce the tactics of the evil one! Let the world see just how powerful Jesus is and how different his children are! We run to the battle! ~Christians are being embarrassed by coronavirus, John Burton
Universalism, annihilationism, false-grace, false-love and other heretical theologies are growing at record pace today. Why? People have traded truth for a golden calf. Emotionally, they can't reconcile how God is the perfect representation of pure love while also choosing to cast those who don't serve him into everlasting torment. Logically they have concluded that since no human father would ever punish a disobedient child in such a fashion, then, of course, God who loves at an exponentially deeper level than any human father wouldn't either. Common sense for them trumps biblical truth. In fact, I've heard some reject conscious eternal torment so ferociously that they foolishly equate such an act with the child sacrifices of Molech. That's venturing into blasphemy of the Holy Spirit territory. Be careful.
I believe it's a mistake to be limited to the realm of logic and emotion. We can't allow our sympathy and our compassion to define our theology. Simply trust that God's love transcends our understanding of how it functions. Judgment does fit within the construct of love. I have no need to force God to fit inside my limited definition of love, and in fact I hope that he never would. His justice and his mercy aren't competing realities. Love and wrath aren't mutually exclusive. The Bible has the final say and it reveals with clarity that those who die in their sins do in fact enter into never-ending torment. We can't rewrite Scripture. Just believe it and respond accordingly.
10 The devil, who deceived them, was cast into the lake of fire and brimstone where the beast and the false prophet are. And they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:10 (NKJV)
15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (NKJV)
Born in Sin
Today it seems many have shifted from believing we are all born in sin to defending our various desires and temptations by declaring we were “born that way.”
Homosexuals, for example, are known for surrendering to feelings, emotions, yearnings and a strong pull to adopt what Christians know to be deviant lifestyles. They argue that the strength of their desires is evidence that we have been interpreting the Bible incorrectly.
Others believe it's ridiculous to suggest that a precious newborn baby is tainted by sin since they are innocent and have no capacity to commit sin. Still others suggest there's an “age of accountability” that must be crossed before sin becomes an issue.
The problem? The Bible suggests no such age of accountability. It clearly reveals that all are born in sin. It's also point blank obvious that certain lifestyles are in fact sin no matter how powerful the urges are. We were born wicked and every unholy desire must be crucified. We must surrender to Jesus if we hope to be saved.
Again, common sense, powerful desires, emotional cues, intellectual discernment and all forms of logic must submit to the truth of Scripture. Yes, it's truth that may at times seem contradictory and it is often mystical and too deep to grasp, but it's truth nonetheless.
Keep in mind that God has no obligation to explain himself to us. As harsh as it sounds, it's his way or the highway to hell. He is God and we are not. If you don't like that, don't follow him, but please don't attempt to redefine him to fit your perfect image of how a god should look and behave.
18 You shall remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you power to get wealth, that he may confirm his covenant that he swore to your fathers, as it is this day. Deuteronomy 8:18 (ESV)
Unbelief tends to consume people when it comes to finances. Remember, God is a very good God and he loves to prosper his children. In the age of certain greedy televangelists, it's common for many to renounce this pursuit as unrighteous, yet they are doing so in the face of clear Scripture to the contrary.
Common sense would say we can expect to lose money when we give it away, yet spiritual sense would agree with the Word. When we give, it's given back in much greater measure.
Don't attempt to rewrite the Word of God to match your own struggles with faith. Don't oppose other people who are standing in faith and who are seeing God miraculously move in their finances.
Does God promise to supply every need or not? Does God promise to prosper or not? Does God give us the ability to create wealth or not? We need to put to bed every argument in opposition to God's Word, no matter how logical they may seem.
19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:19 (ESV)
My article The Secret Sauce of Supernatural Encounter reveals several of the ingredients necessary to experience God. Answered prayer has a similar recipe.
It's grieving how quickly people give up on a life of intercession simply because they aren't seeing the breakthrough they are seeking. Natural proof has become their god and blind faith is deemed foolish.
Speaking of blind faith, I've heard it said that Heidi Baker prayed for every blind person she found for a solid year before the first one received their sight. This is critical to understand. God desires to heal. Period. He wants to move miraculously in every situation. The fact that we are experiencing breakthrough has nothing to do with God and everything to do with us. Heidi needed to learn how to see healing manifest. There was process. The fact that blind people weren't healed wasn't because of God, it was because Heidi was learning how to heal. To adopt a false teaching that says God doesn't always desire to heal due to our own delay would be a tragic decision. Unfortunately, it's a decision that many Christians have made.
There are usually several reasons why prayer goes unanswered, and few people are determined enough to wrestle through them. They prefer to blame God or to give up on the idea the healing is for today, that miracles are to be common and that we are to live in the supernatural realm.
There are multiple blockages to breakthrough including doubt, sin, a lack of fervency, misunderstanding of our spiritual authority, not engaging in spiritual warfare, misunderstanding the scriptural position on the matter, not hearing God's voice, not discerning his will, not praying in tongues, giving up too early, wrong motives and much, much more.
You see, you can't determine that God doesn't want to answer prayer just because he isn't doing so. We can't reject undeniable scriptural truths just because we can't break through. Prayer works when we pray correctly. It must be effective and it must be fervent.
16 …The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. 17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit. James 5:16-18 (NKJV)
I could address several additional arenas of struggle when it comes to faith, but I think you understand the point.
The chaos of faith is immeasurably more valuable than the seeming stability of logic. Your life will become dramatically more thrilling, more powerful and more miraculous if you step beyond the limits of intellectualism and the bounds of emotional experience into the realm where common sense is regularly defied. It's the invisible realm where faith explodes, miracles are to be expected and the power of God burns through us.
I challenge you to read the Bible and to believe it without qualification or reservation. When the Word of God floods your mind and your spirit, faith will spike and the supernatural reality you are craving will be revealed.
17 So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. Romans 10:17 (NKJV)
Many seduced by unbalanced grace theologies misunderstand the desperate need for the church to contend for a move of God.
“I felt such release when I realized I didn't need to work and contend like I had been taught by pastors and preachers. Instead I'm just relaxing in God and it is so freeing!”
“There's no need to work, war or battle. God's love for you is immeasurable! Nothing you can do could cause God to love you more!”
“Your identity isn't defined by what you produce, it's in a revelation of God the Father.”
“God is with you in your struggle. No need to beat yourself up over sin.”
I've heard these defenses of grace-centric ideologies many times, and while some of the statements do absolutely contain irrefutable truth, there is still some serious concern to deal with.
Of course it's true that our identity is in Christ and not in what we produce, but it's honestly not as simple as that. To dismiss the command to respond to the directives of God, to be productive, would raise the question of whether we are in Christ at all. The parable of the talents makes that clear.
26 But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? 27 Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. 28 So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. 29 For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 30 And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ Matthew 25:26-30 (ESV)
I believe there are churches and ministries that are all in on the grace teachings of Scripture, and unlike false-grace doctrine there is legitimacy to what is being communicated. However, the problem comes when these grace truths are adopted to the exclusion of the full counsel of Scripture. It's dysfunctional.
I propose there is a radical misunderstanding of the purpose of grace, and today's translation of it can result in a self-idolatrous culture. If the focus is mostly on how we can benefit, on who we are and on eliminating Kingdom responsibilities from our lives we can know we have fallen for a distorted view of grace. Grace actually empowers us to do, to obey, to work, to move, to heal, to deliver, to respond to God's Kingdom mandates.
I was stunned several years ago when someone actually admitted to me that they were praying against the prayer movement! I'm not sure if they appreciated the irony. They rejected the idea that we have to do anything in order for God to be revealed in our lives. Our identity, he said, is not in proving ourselves or in coercing God to move. He believes the prayer culture is damaging to our ability to understand our identity. We are sons and daughters and we don't have to do anything to convince God to love us or to move in our lives, or so he argued.
News flash: movements of intercession have little to do with us, though it seems so much of today's grace movement is very much about self. When we contend in intercession, we are pounding Heaven and assaulting Hell. We are seeking and knocking, warring and resisting. It's a governmental position of authority where we stand in our identity in Christ and move mountains, rebuke demons, establish truth and tear down strongholds. It's about other people! We are fighting for the freedom of others, we are moved to tears as we contend for freedom in other people. When we contend for revival, it's a strategic advance in the spiritual realm against barriers, demonic strongholds and wickedness. We are not doing this to discover our identity or to convince God that we are lovable. That is ridiculous! We do this to expose the darkness and rescue the perishing! We do this to awaken the sleepers and to prepare the Bride of Christ for his return!
To all of my grace friends out there, I'm thrilled that you have discovered the wonder of resting in your true identity in Christ, if that has truly happened. I appreciate and promote that same revelation without reservation. It's impossible to do what God has called us to do without it.
And, that's where I probably lost some of you. You see little need to “do” anything. You just want to be. After all, we are human beings, not human doings, right? Yeah, I've heard that more times than I can remember.
RESOLVE THE LOVE ISSUE ALREADY
God loves you. It's settled.
While I agree that there are never-ending realms, expressions and revelations of God's love, and that we will forever be experiencing new encounters in his love, it's time that we simply understand that we are loved, and then get on with the mission.
The problem comes when people discover a supposed fresh revelation of God's love that removes the very mandates and responsibilities that Scripture reveals he has placed on us. A revelation of love that minimizes or eradicates God's assignments doesn't exist. You have been deceived.
It's possible to be deeply loved by God while not being usable to God. Both being loved and being available impact our relationship with God and our eternities. Heaven and Hell lay in the balance. Obedience plays a role just as enjoying intimacy with God does. The parable of the Talents along with many other truths in the Bible make this clear.
Our very purpose of living on the earth is to bring God glory and to advance the Kingdom. As we develop intimacy with Jesus and as we grow in revelation of his love, we cannot help but to emerge as mighty warriors advancing against the darkness and setting the captives free.
God loves you. Now from that place of love, serve the Master with passion. Don't sit around for the rest of your life celebrating how free you are while the extent of your relationship with God is soaking in his presence and sitting in his lap. God loves you, but from here on out it's not as much about you as it is those God has called you to rescue. Remember, you aren't attempting to coerce God to love you more. That argument from the grace camp is true. However, the identifying mark of the dys-graced camp is to stop doing anything that smells of work, effort, contending or sacrifice and to simply focus on enjoying him. The appropriate response is to settle the love issue and to get moving, get working and change the world!
BEATING YOURSELF UP OVER SIN
In all my years, I've never seen the a collective shrug that I'm seeing in much of today's church regarding sin. The dys-graced movement is perpetuating this by promoting the idea that God is unconcerned with our sin and, over time, if people discover God's love in greater measure, the sin will auto-magically take care of itself. This is deception.
27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:27-29 (ESV)
No we shouldn't beat ourselves up in condemnation if we are truly repentant. However, the above passage sure seems more extreme than an internal, emotional beat down—and God sanctioned it. He suggested it. The reality of eternity in torment, darkness and maddening terror in Hell is so severe that we must go to whatever extreme necessary to avoid it.
Note, he didn't suggest following more closely or becoming a part of the family as they “do life” together. Nowhere do we see him unconcerned with sin. Quite the opposite, he makes it clear that continued sin will result in never-ending Hell.
Stop and think about this for a moment. Today many Christians would say it's ridiculous to think anybody could be free from lust. I've had people rebuke me for suggesting that. In fact, a “Christian” sex therapist scolded me in a long email after I wrote about this in a Charisma Magazine article and confessed that he actually prescribes sexual fantasy about other people to struggling married couples!
In fact, it's quite common for those in the dys-graced religious system to lambaste those who would encourage people to stop sinning. An angry retort often follows: “You can't put such a burden on them! It's not loving! Quit judging!”
Tell that to Jesus, who also famously once said, “Go and sin no more.”
With the high percentage of Christians regularly involved in pornography, and a huge percentage of pastors involved in the same sin, and with lust, greed, apathy, unforgiveness, gossip and other spiritual crimes rampant, how can we not shout from the rooftops, “Repent!” We need loving, zealous hellfire preaching in the church again!
The reality is that the Bible gives very clear guidelines regarding all of this:
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)
When is the last time you heard of a church obeying God's guidelines regarding immorality? It's extremely rare. Why? The infiltration of dys-graceful philosophies into the church. Do we not understand that it's a powerful expression of love to trust God's wisdom in the handling of sin in the camp? He desires redemption and he understand that it takes severity to get people there at times.
4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (ESV)
That is love in action. It should not be done with a heart of retribution, but rather with tears streaming down our cheeks we should intercede passionately for them. We have no choice but to obey God and administer his prescription for their behavior.
TRUE GRACE WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE AND SHAKE THE PLANET!
True grace empowers us to do the impossible. Who wouldn't want to sign up for that? What a life we can live if we step into the current of the Holy Spirit's movement on the earth! As we trust God's Word, preach the truth and move in supernatural grace we will live miraculous lives that will pierce the darkness and topple demonic kingdoms…and rescue precious souls.
Don't be shocked when prayer doesn't work. A comprehensive strategy is required to experience a powerful and effective life of prayer.
I've met many people who have become completely disenchanted with the hopes of encountering the supernatural power of God and they have lost all hope of experiencing regularly answered prayer.
The idea of God responding to prayer is fully ridiculous to the unredeemed who regularly mock this Christian concept. You will hear them laugh when God doesn't do what the religious zealots are petitioning him to do. Of course, it's no surprise that those who don't know God wouldn't understand the power of intercession. I get it.
What is grieving is when Believers give up on the call to surrender their lives to faith-driven, fiery and determined prayer. Their prayer ritual instead becomes a whispered request that flutters out of their mouths and into the great void of time and space. They fulfill their due diligence, so they think, by making their requests known. The reality is, however, that they doubt any answers will come. Their faith is at at similar level to those who don't know God at all.
The truth is that answered prayer at it's most basic level is a simple cry of the heart. But, if it's analyzed more closely, we'll see that many synchronized factors are required to experience a powerful and vibrant life of prayer.
A CONTENDING SPIRIT
Breakthrough prayer is most often a comprehensive supernatural strategy, not a momentary petition. Our lives must be marked by the fire that can only be found in the Upper Room, in that place of Holy Spirit impact. Night and day, praying continually, we give ourselves to a lifestyle of fervent prayer.
16 …The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much. James 5:16 (KJV)
As we live deliberately consecrated lives, we will be driven by a fervent spirit of intercession that refuses to relent no matter the cost. A casual approach will never do it. We will live well outside of the supernaturally wondrous life that God has planned for us and prayers will mostly fall to the ground.
Those who have a ferocious contending spirit will power through obstacles and shift atmospheres that result in miraculous breakthrough.
6 And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. Hebrews 11:6 (ESV)
I do not believe any person or any prayer movement can be sustained in intercession without faith being a primary attribute. Where there is no belief there will be no contending. Prayers will be weak and saturated with doubt causing them to have very little effect at all.
We are called Believers, not “Hopers.” We are know by our unwavering belief in an invisible, omnipotent, divine person we call God. He is our everything! We don't hope our way to success, we stand firm on truth and we believe!
If faith is challenged, shift your focus from the thing you were contending for in prayer to faith itself. Cry out for a mighty influx of belief that can then be the impetus of your contending intercession for breakthrough.
23 And Jesus said to him, “‘If you can’! All things are possible for one who believes.” Mark 9:23 (ESV)
22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” Matthew 21:22 (ESV)
When you contend in faith, you better know that there are forces of wickedness that will be resisting your advance into breakthrough.
So many get mad at God for not answering prayer, and this is evidence of an immature understanding of the spiritual realm. They see prayer the same way they do ordering a hamburger in the drive-through. They put in the order and expect the powers that be to have their lunch ready for them by the time they reach the window.
The truth is, to spiritualize the analogy, that many devils are doing all they can to keep the burger from being delivered. The answer to our prayer can absolutely be hindered by unholy entities who are running interference. They know that failure or even delay in answered prayer can negatively affect our faith and our contending spirit can lose its intensity.
13 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days, but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, for I was left there with the kings of Persia, Daniel 10:13 (ESV)
If we understand the warfare component of answered prayer, we won't lose hope, we won't lose faith and we will contend all the greater! It's from this place where we can truly engage the enemy, rebuke him and fight back with ferocity and even a greater measure of supernatural faith!
Prayer without prophetic infusion is greatly limited. The most powerful breakthroughs in my prayer life have come when God has clearly spoken to me. Whether it's a still small voice, dreams, visions or other forms of prophetic communication, you will come alive and your faith will skyrocket.
It can be very easy to be off, sometimes just by a degree or two, and miss the breakthrough entirely. When prophetic revelation becomes a part of the recipe of intercession, many of the questions and much of the confusion are eliminated. You can pray with extreme focus and with great precision.
When we pray precisely according to God's will, as revealed by his Spirit, everything changes. I'd encourage you to read an article titled Discover a 100 Percent Effective Prayer Strategy (links: part 1, part 2 & part 3) based on my book, Revelation Driven Prayer. It will help you develop a prophetic life that will lead to a legacy of non-stop answered prayer.
Intimacy with Jesus is the cornerstone of a life of revelation. If you give yourself to anything this year, let it be developing deep, intense and vulnerable intimacy with God. You will be forever undone as the lover of your soul breathes life into you, reveals his love for you and shares his heart with you.
It's extremely easy to contend for good things outside of an intimate relationship with Jesus and to quickly get off base. Being branded by love only occurs in the place of intimacy, and without that brand, our very good ideas and determined pursuit of breakthrough will be tainted. Our understanding of God's heart is mandatory if we want to pray effectively and advance in our strategy of prayer with the right motives, character and humility.
5 You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. Deuteronomy 6:5 (ESV)
Agreement with God's plans is critical if we want to experience answered prayer. Equally critical is severing any alignment and agreement with the enemy. We must repent of adopting worldly mindsets, paradigms and strategies if we hope to enter the supernatural realm.
In the realm of the Spirit, our own understanding becomes laughable. We must advance with revelation that can only be found in that invisible place. We renounce our own limited, human plans in favor of God's wisdom.
It takes courage to do this, to leave behind our own common sense and to move into uncharted territory as the Holy Spirit leads. We must agree with God every step of the way. We must trust his leadership and come into an unbreakable agreement with him.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. Proverbs 3:5-6 (ESV)
31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. John 9:31 (ESV)
If we aren't living holy, righteous lives, not only shouldn't we presume that God will hear our prayer, we shouldn't presume we are saved. Continuing in sin is a very serious thing.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
I don't know how many times I've counseled people over the last three decades regarding unanswered prayer. Flooding your soul with foul language, sexual situations and other immorality in media will most surely result in you living an extremely frustrated life of unanswered prayer.
On the contrary, if we eliminate the foul media, shut off the secular music and start living in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, listening to anointed and prophetic worship music night and day and then discover the overwhelming fear of the Lord, our prayers will be like fire!
17 When the righteous cry for help, the LORD hears and delivers them out of all their troubles. Psalm 34:17 (ESV)
DEATH TO SELF
Selfishness in prayer is a non-starter. Period. We must die to our own desires, our own pursuits, our own dreams and even our own perceived needs. We lay down our lives. We are walking dead people. Martyrs.
When we get fully out of the way and become available for God to move any way he desires through us, watch out. Talk about a supernatural life! This is the quickest way to get there.
There are a lot of people who forget to take something extremely critical on their journey when deciding to follow Jesus: their cross.
38 And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. 39 Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:38-39 (ESV)
When we lose our lives, take up our cross and surrender all, when we die, every day, the miracles begin.
PRAYING IN THE SPIRIT
If you want an explosive prayer life, there is no substitute to praying in tongues. This is an absolute non-negotiable element for every Believer if they desire prayer-driven breakthrough.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. 28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:26-28 (ESV)
If we want all things to work together for good, we have no option but to allow the Spirit of God to intercede for us with groanings.
If we don't know what to pray, what other solution is there? There is none. We must still pray with precision, we must still contend in the Spirit. We can't just stop and wait. The intercession must continue and the supernatural battle can't cease. We truly have no other option but to, in our weakness, pray in the Spirit. We need God's wisdom to manifest. We need mysteries revealed. We need supernatural infusion. Praying in tongues accomplishes this. Refusal to pray in tongues compromises not only our prayer lives but our lives as Christians.
Many articles and books could be written on this topic alone as it relates to prayer. It's utter foolishness to pray amiss, to pray outside of the bounds of Scripture. Yet, when we do pray from the foundation of biblical truth, look out. The prayer becomes nuclear!
Reading the Word with prayer in mind makes it an absolutely thrilling experience! Read it and then cry out for what it reveals. Contend for what you have discovered, believing in faith that it's true and that it must manifest in your life.
14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. 1 John 5:14 (ESV)
Confidence in prayer comes when we see God's will in Scripture. He wrote it, we believe it and we contend for it to manifest.
Related to praying from the foundation of the Word is confidently and boldly releasing decrees.
Many are addicted to petition as their primary form of prayer, and they generally live powerless lives. But, when we, as Kingdom authorities, release prophetic decrees that originate from the Word of God, and also from the Rhema messages God speaks to us, all Hell shakes!
So often people are asking for things that have already been promised in the Word. This ignorance leads to a failed prayer strategy. If it's promised, but it hasn't manifested, go through your checklist. Are you in sin? How's your faith? Are you contending for it? Are you battling the enemy? Add to that checklist bold, authoritative decrees and declarations. Don't ask the mountain to move, and don't ask God to move it. You command it to move.
When we are in the Word and when the Spirit of God speaks to us, our faith spikes and our prayer becomes a force to be reckoned with!
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (ESV)
If I know God is already settled on a matter, you better believe I'm not wasting time asking him about it. I'm shifting my prayer from talking to God to assaulting the enemy, to speaking to the situation and to commanding a shift!
I'd like to encourage you to get excited about the thrill-ride that a fully immersed life of prayer will give you. The low-level petitions and half-hearted requests that so many identify as a “prayer life” must give way to a much greater and extremely potent life of prophetic, intimate intercession. It will shake the planet and your love for Jesus will go to places you never thought possible!
Addressing error without compromising our credibility
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The need for people who rightly divide the truth is only going to escalate as the end-times season we are in continues to unfold. These Bereans are valuable and it would do us all well to embrace the opportunity to analyze our belief systems and to grow.
Instead, all over social media especially, we see critical and arrogant spirits assaulting others they disagree with theologically. For Christians to be rude and to operate in a spirit of accusation makes one wonder if they are saved at all. In fact, the moment we utilize methods of communication that contradict the fruits of the Spirit, we lose our credibility. Fortunately, there are many people who confirm their credibility by debating and discussing with love and honor. Communicating with them is a pleasure. However, all too often, supposed guardians of theology are zeroed in on proving their point and on shaming all who disagree. On the contrary, the shame is on them as they attempt to demoralize and invalidate people’s ministry. The focus is on mistakes, errors, disagreements and weaknesses instead of building them up, honoring them and encouraging them in the Lord.
10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. Romans 12:10 (ESV)
As one who absolutely affirms bold and provocative messages, I’m dismayed that so many who name the name of Jesus presume boldness equates to cruelty and divisiveness. Haters and debaters who are driven by a contentious agenda against those they disagree with are doing great damage to the church. Strangely, they presume to be the champions of truth, knights in shining armor who are to be celebrated for defending their absolutely “perfect” view of Scripture. They presume themselves to be Bereans when in reality they are aligning themselves with a dark spirit of accusation and assault. These are no Bereans. They are, in fact, Thessalonians.
THE SPIRIT OF THE BEREANS VS THE SPIRIT OF THE THESSALONIANS
2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. Acts 17:2-3 (NIV)
In Thessalonica, Paul was reasoning in the synagogue and revealing the glorious truth of Jesus. Some were persuaded, but many weren’t, and instead of exhibiting love in disagreement, they started a riot. This riotous spirit is driving the religious today, people who are not at all interested in life-giving truth. Their motive is selfish, protecting their own way of life and belief system.
5 But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. Acts 17:5 (NIV)
I think I’ve met some of the bad characters the verse mentions. They are all over Facebook. In the face of this, Paul and Silas moved on to Berea.
10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. Acts 17:10 (NIV)
Many presume the Bereans heard the message and then, with a nasty, suspicious look on their face and thick theological walls built up, they put their noses into the Scriptures, looking to refute all that was being said. This is not what happened at all. Many modern “Bereans” are some of the meanest, most arrogant and unteachable people in the church. They are so tightly wound up, fearing even the slightest threat to their personal doctrines that they often slander and accuse people they oppose. This is not how the Bereans in the Book of Acts responded. Not at all.
11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. Acts 17:11 (NIV)
Did you notice that the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians? Did you notice why? They received the message not with great suspicion, but with great eagerness! They were excited about this fresh, life-giving message that Paul was revealing to them! Their energy wasn’t spent discounting the message but rather in searching the Scriptures to see if it was true.
Because of this, many Jews and Greeks were transformed.
The story doesn’t end there, however.
13 When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up. Acts 17:13 (NIV)
The Thessalonians actually went to Berea to hunt down Paul and agitate the people because of his message!
I propose many who assume themselves to be Bereans are actually Thessalonians—people who are more intent on hunting, agitating and stirring up instead of eagerly receiving revelation from the Word of God.
When engaging in conversation, especially online on social media or in the comments section of articles like this one, simply be nice. Discussions and healthy debates are supposed to be fun and edifying!
I try to make it a point to address false theologies while never assaulting the minister. I know, there are many who would argue that there are times in Scripture where false teachers were named and they were addressed quite bluntly. Yes, there absolutely does come a time to do that, but it is not as often as many might presume—and it’s always in a spirit of great love.
I do my very best to honor all, even if I believe their theology is way off. What benefit is there in being rude, arrogant or aggressive toward them as a person? When I engage in discussions on Facebook or other places online, a core value of mine is to be nice. I never want the person I’m engaging with to feel like I’m attacking them or that I presume to be superior. While I will boldly communicate my position, I don’t want anybody who might disagree to feel unsafe or devalued. They are precious people created in the image of God. Yes, if they pose a risk because of their doctrine, we must deal with that. But, it’s usually more beneficial to attack beliefs than to call out and defame people.
If I’m not exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit in my conversation, I should not be communicating at all. It’s time to shut off the computer and head into the prayer room. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control should dominate our discussions.
Quit calling everyone you disagree with a heretic. Quit commenting on articles like this one with the sole intent of exposing the author as deceived, false or in some sort of error. Share your perspective. Offer your point of view. Reveal your concerns. Be teachable. Communicate with honor and humility without abdicating your mandate to be a true Berean. Your eagerness to receive truth will open the door for many to believe in Jesus.
Please understand, I have thick skin. By the grace of God I’m nearly unoffendable. When people are aggressive toward me personally when I write or preach, I honestly don’t take offense. Reading mean tweets and comments can be entertaining and even enlightening. I understand the messages I’m called to deliver are provocative and I do know the arrows will fly.
But, I will say this. As someone who is deeply troubled when other preachers and prophetic people are attacked simply because of a disagreement over their theology or style of ministry, I want to simply ask you to be nice. Don’t aim your arrows in their direction. Understand the accusations and cruel things you say don’t only hurt them, but they hurt their spouses and children. Do you have any idea how many tears wives have cried because their husbands are mercilessly assaulted by others in the church through gossip and all over the internet? This is a very real and terribly sad problem, and it simply shouldn’t be.
Let love lead. Be kind. Be gentle. Be patient. Be bold. Stand for truth. Don’t hate. Be tender in your debate. Put the arrows down and simply love.
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The weird and wonderful realm of the supernatural may contain the key to your breakthrough!
I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. That’s been a commitment of my ministry for years. I also refuse to disinvite the Holy Spirit when the manifestations cross the line of our human comfort. In fact, I believe many people will be held accountable for limiting the Holy Spirit in the name of biblical order. Simply, we need God to move in other worldly power!
That being said, I absolutely agree that it’s possible, and even common, for people to get weird in the name of God while manifesting mostly out of their emotions. As a senior pastor for many years, I understand the dynamics of attempting to give God the reigns while also not surrendering the reigns to overly zealous but immature people who are full of zeal but lack in wisdom. While I’m not going to address the inner workings of supernatural church services, I wanted to mention this because the question is sure to present itself as you read through this article—is it really God or is it nothing more than emotional passion and desire?
EMBRACING THE SUPERNATURAL
When considering just what is necessary to experience breakthrough in our lives, the expected points to ponder include faith, consecration, timing and other components that absolutely do factor into answered prayer. Am I genuinely confident that God is in control? Am I living a holy, surrendered life? Does God have me in a holding pattern or a desert season? Am I truly contending in intercession sufficiently? All of these questions are important and must be answered. However, there’s one question that few are asking: Am I fighting this battle in the invisible, supernatural realm?
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet Revelation 1:10 (ESV)
I’m a prayer freak. There are few things more satisfying and invigorating than pacing around a prayer room, contending in the Spirit, praying in tongues and experiencing wave after wave of God’s glory and revelation wash over me. Even when those waves are soft or intermittent, the expectancy that drives me is electric. I’ve experienced the supernatural too often to allow a momentary silence to deter me. You see, when I read accounts in Scripture like we see in Revelation 1:10, I’m provoked. I believe John had an encounter and I yearn for God to move in my life in a similar way. You’ll notice the trumpet only sounded when he was in the Spirit. He was living in the supernatural realm, even as he walked upon the earth.
To jump right to the point, I want to propose to you that, in addition to a life of faith, prayer, consecration and biblical soundness, venturing into an extreme supernatural life will result in absolutely remarkable and stunning breakthroughs, revelations and answers to prayer. No, life doesn’t get easier. Consecration doesn’t cost less. Discipline isn’t less intense. Yet, our fervent devotion to our beautiful, glorious and overwhelmingly supernatural Lord will result in shock, awe, wonders and abundant life that could never be experienced in our predictable, all too familiar natural life.
Many years ago when we were leading Revolution Church in Manitou Springs, Colorado, which is one of the darkest regions in the nation, filled with witchcraft and the occult, my oldest son was regularly tormented by night terrors. Demons would visit him, and even at his very young age, he would encounter them in the spirit realm. Typically, a few hours or so after Skylar fell asleep, my wife and I would be awakened to terrifying cries of, “Momma! Momma! No! No!” and other similar disturbing moans and shrieks.
We’d rush to his room, pick him up, pray over him, rebuke the enemy and do all we knew to do to see peace return. Understand, we were living mega-clean lives. We understood the tragic cost of watching the wrong things on TV or at the movies. We knew we must be full of the Spirit. We had already experienced many wild spiritual victories. What I’m saying is that, to the best of our knowledge, there were no open doors or obvious reasons why this demon had access. Don’t let your mind wander at this point, thinking up reasons why this might have happened. God had a powerful lesson for me to learn and I don’t want you to miss it.
Some of the most troubling moments were when, after we had responded to Skylar’s cries, Skylar would sudden look just to the side of my wife and become terribly startled. He’d say, “Right there! Right there! Momma! Momma! It’s right there!” He was seeing a spirit directly next to us.
After ten or fifteen minutes, Skylar would eventually settle down and fall back to sleep. In the morning he’d never remember what happened. It was all occurring when he was asleep and vulnerable. I was beside myself. My wife and I had done all we knew to do to see him set free. It bothered me that the enemy wasn’t responding to my rebukes.
One night Amy had gone to bed and I was still up working late in my office. Skylar once again started to manifest the terror of being haunted by evil spirits. I went to his room and pulled him out of bed and held him in my arms. I prayed over him, as usual. I sang over him. I prayed in the Spirit. Then, all of a sudden, I was surprised by a form that was suddenly standing in the corner of the room. It was invisible, yet I could see its outline, much like you can see heat radiating in waves off of extremely hot asphalt in the summer. The moment I saw the entity, Skylar started screaming and freaking out as he looked directly at it. The enemy was exposed.
Faith immediately, without effort, rose up on me. I didn’t have to address the spirit. I felt authority pulsing out of me into the room. I knew it was over. Skylar’s night terrors stopped, finally, on that night. Our victory was found in the supernatural realm. Our consistent prayer, faith, prophetic decrees, praying in tongues and pursuit of victory didn’t result in the problem simply disappearing. It enabled me to venture into another realm and displace the enemy. That’s what the breakthrough required.
WATCHERS HAUNTING OUR HOUSE
I believe in haunted houses. Another way to say it is, I believe invisible spirits can wreck havoc in naturally discernable ways.
Years after our experience in Manitou Springs, we lived in the Detroit area. My wife and I had our bedroom on the second floor of the house. There was a door that led to a balcony. It had no stairs, so the only way to access it was directly through our bedroom.
Most nights, right at 3am, we would be awakened by a loud, steady knocking on the door to the balcony. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Knock. Over and over it would continue. When we got up to look, of course there was nobody there. The knocking would stop and we’d go back to sleep.
One night I had a very interesting dream. I was in our home, in the evening, hanging out with my family downstairs. Suddenly I saw two red eyes staring through the window. I was able to move to the window and clearly see what was looking at us. It was a man covered in feathers. He then slowly walked away and into the trees.
I immediately woke up and I knew this was a spiritual dream. God spoke to me and revealed what I saw was a Watcher. I had never heard of such a thing. So, I decided to Google what I experienced, fully certain nothing would come back on my search for “man covered in feathers watcher demon.” Boy was I wrong.
And there appeared to me two men very tall, such as I have never seen on earth. And their faces shone like the sun, and their eyes were like burning lamps; and fire came forth from their lips. Their dress had the appearance of feathers:…
That was from the Book of Enoch (a historic text not part of the biblical canon). Enoch was visited by two Watchers as he rested on his bed.
In the Book of Enoch, the watchers (Aramaic עִירִין, iyrin) are angels dispatched to Earth to watch over the humans. They soon begin to lust for human women and, at the prodding of their leader Samyaza, defect en masse to illicitly instruct humanity and procreate among them. The offspring of these unions are the Nephilim, savage giants who pillage the earth and endanger humanity. ~Wikipedia
Don’t get tripped up over the use of a non-biblical book. What God revealed to me in the dream took me on a journey of discovery. To this day I don’t know why the Watcher was there, but it was evil and God confirmed it in miraculous fashion. From that night on we never heard knocking again.
HOW TO LAUNCH INTO THE SUPERNATURAL
We certainly don’t want to venture into false, New Age mysticism. We don’t want to entertain angles of light. We don’t want deception to creep in. But, we also don’t want to minimize or discount the very real, potent and critical realities of the spirit realm!
I have many more stories of supernatural intervention. I’m hooked. I’ve been transformed. I don’t want to be limited to what my eyes can see. There is a glorious spiritual realm to abide in! You can do this too!
Stay grounded in the Word. Study the amazing stories of supernatural manifestations and interactions. Pray in the Spirit with passion. Develop a prophetic life. Decree and declare the Word of God and the truths that the Holy Spirit deposits into your spirit. Put on your armor. Grow in authority. Ask God for revelation. Be expectant! Do as John did: Be in the Spirit on the Lord’s day!
Most definitely, be encouraged. Don’t simply pray and wait for an answer. Become active in the resolution! Live, pray, walk and advance in the Spirit!
Those who argue that all sin is the same need to take another look at Scripture.
11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:11 (ESV)
There is an emerging, deadly argument that is growing in strength among Christians when confronted with issues of holiness and repentance in our culture.
As I write this, the Christian world is abuzz about the recent news that Christian music artist Lauren Daigle failed to renounce homosexuality. You can read my two-part article on that situation, where I both cheered Lauren on in hopes that she would make a course correction in her life and dealt directly with the danger she created for her millions of followers:
The argument that so many Christians use in defense of Lauren and her position is quite revealing. It reveals a lack of biblical understanding, but that’s not what’s most troubling. The argument often manifests through people conditioned by the spirit of the age that rejects everything that isn’t tolerant, permissive and, as they would say, loving. The idea is that we must never confront or expose error if the person in question would risk being troubled by the process. Their definition of love is misguided. It’s false-love.
From my article, The Great Love Deception: A False Love Movement is on the Rise:
Keep in mind that false or tainted love doesn’t flow mostly from an evil, debased heart. It also doesn’t mean that there is nothing about the argument or viewpoint that is true. A person who craves pure love can, in their zeal or in their weakness, allow impurities into their expression of love that twists and compromises it. The reason I needed to say this is to encourage you if you’ve been hit by the false-love spirit. Your desire for manifested love is very probably true, yet the enemy can come in and confuse the process.
Those with a strong mercy gift often have a tender heart and function from a strong desire to minster one-on-one to an individual. They desire to protect and encourage them. This is a valuable, pastoral gift that can bring much life and healing to people. However, as with other gifts, there are blind spots that must be addressed. While they are focused on the individual, they tend to overlook the resulting risk and/or damage to others. In the situation with Lauren Daigle, they want to protect Lauren and rally around her, which is good. We all should be doing that. The expression of love must not stop with Lauren, though. There are millions of others who are now at great risk due to Laruen’s comments. If they do not see the church bring loving correction to the situation, they will automatically presume that Lauren’s position is valid and that the issue of homosexuality isn’t urgent enough to have a biblical position on.
At this time, Lauren has yet to publicly repent and clarify her position. I pray that it happens quickly for herself and the sake of her millions of fans.
THE BIBLE CLEARLY TEACHES THAT ALL SIN IS NOT THE SAME
I have yet to reveal just what the argument so many are using in defense of Lauren and others who are in sin or in error is. Here it is:
All sin is the same. Those who practice or affirm homosexuality are no different than those who worry or gossip. Those without sin should cast the first stone. Who are we to judge?
Those are actually two or three distinct arguments that are often grouped together when defending those who are in sin or error. (I believe sin and error are not always one in the same. One can be in error without realizing it, and without being in sin. Their response to correction, however, does matter. That’s where error can morph into sin quite quickly.)
Some would also argue that Jesus never confronted sin in anyone except the Pharisees. That also is woefully inaccurate. The New Testament is filled with various dealings with sin in the lives of Believers.
Further, many insist that dealing with sin or error is unloving. They suggest the only appropriate response is to pray for them and to approach them one-on-one, in private. Again, we must contend in intercession for those in error, and if we are in relationship with them in a local church setting, and their sin is against us personally, there are absolutely steps that must be taken (Matthew 18). However, the church has no option but to step in as the moderator when public failures put others in harm’s way. Love demands that we do.
Matthew 18 protocol would not be in effect in this scenario since it’s not a sin against a person in a private setting. Public situations demand a public response. Of course, it must be done rightly, with great grace, humility, love and with redemption as the goal.
The focus at its core is two-fold:
- See redemption come to the violator
- Protect the innocent who have been put at risk due to the individual’s sin
According to the Gospel of John, the Pharisees, in an attempt to discredit Jesus, brought a woman charged with adultery before him. Then they reminded Jesus that adultery was punishable by stoning under Mosaic law and challenged him to judge the woman so that they might then accuse him of disobeying the law. Jesus thought for a moment and then replied, “He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone at her.”The people crowded around him were so touched by their own consciences that they departed. When Jesus found himself alone with the woman, he asked her who were her accusers. She replied, “No man, lord.” Jesus then said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go and sin no more.” ~Dictionary.com
Correcting error either privately or publicly, as the situation demands, does not automatically equate to casting stones. In fact, we see God correct error time after time, cover to cover, from Genesis to Revelation. Further, God’s leaders, prophets and apostles did the same thing. We must understand that error correction and confronting sin are core responsibilities of the church for the sake of the one in error and the ones under their influence.
Jesus was in no way teaching that we should not deal with sin publicly. He was revealing to us the appropriate model for doing so.
When dealing with people in sin, hatred can manifest as a desire to see the sinner destroyed. This is how demonic accusation works. Redemption is not the goal.
On the contrary, Jesus loved the woman caught in adultery in three specific ways:
- He saved her from those who would attempt to hurt and kill her.
- He acknowledged the accusations were true, but forgave her instead of punishing her.
- He commanded her to repent.
Many who are conditioned by false-love tend to only focus on protecting and forgiving. In the face of undeniable evidence, they may casually admit the accusations against the person in question are true, but then quickly dismiss them as irrelevant as they rush to their defense.
Unfortunately, all too often, they miss the third point: We must call for repentance, making it clear that such behavior will only bring destruction.
In fact, the Bible makes it clear that we as Christians have a serious responsibility to judge. Jesus modeled a brilliant and righteous justice session with the woman caught in adultery. We must judge just as he judged.
24 Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment.” John 7:24 (ESV)
DIFFERENT TYPES OF SIN
I believe most would agree that different types of sin result in a variety of natural repercussions. If we gossip, the result will not be as severe as if we were to murder someone. It makes sense to all of us that some sin, in the natural, will have minor impact while others will put you in jail or on death row.
The point of disagreement comes when we talk about the spiritual repercussions. This is where so many rush to the defense of a homosexual or someone like Lauren Daigle who, as of this writing, is entertaining serious theological error. They argue that their sin is no different than the sin of lying, apathy or fear. They argue that all sin is the same. They are wrong.
There are most definitely different types of sins that have significantly different outcomes:
BLASPHEMY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
28 I tell you the truth, all the sins and blasphemies of men will be forgiven them. 29 But whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will never be forgiven; he is guilty of an eternal sin.” 30 He said this because they were saying, “He has an evil spirit.” Mark 3:28-30 (NIV)
The sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is much more common than many believe. This sin has radically different impact than other sins as it eliminates any possibility of salvation. When someone resists Jesus to such a degree that they determine that he is demonized, they have ventured very close to the line, if not over it. The Holy Spirit will stop drawing them and they will grow darker and more hateful toward God. In fact, I’ve written before that one’s eschatology comes into play here as well. Those who don’t know God accurately, those who presume he only functions in a positive way, will accuse him of being demonized, or Satan himself, when he begins killing millions in the end-times. They would argue that a loving God would never do this. They would be wrong. Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit is very much at play in this scenario. This is a topic of discussion for another day, but suffice it to say, we as Christians can’t presume we are exempt from committing this sin. We are not.
HOMOSEXUALITY PRACTICE AND APPROVAL
26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. Romans 1:26-28 (ESV)
The sin of homosexuality is an abomination and it comes with much more severe judgment than most other sins. There’s no way we can say that the sin of worry is anywhere near being the same as homosexuality.
God abandoned them to the operations of a mind incapable of reflection. ~Adam Clarke's Commentary
The result of being turned over to a debased, or a reprobate, mind is that God abandons them and they no longer reflect on or consider the possibility of truth. This is terrifying. But, it gets even more serious, and this is why the issue with Lauren Daigle and others who are on the fence regarding homosexuality is so urgent.
32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them. Romans 1:32 (ESV)
Giving approval to this abomination is a severe violation, and the person who does that is in grave danger.
18 Flee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, 1 Corinthians 6:18-19 (ESV)
Sexual sin has much greater, more devastating effects than most other sins. It violates the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. I understand the graphic nature of what I am about to say, but consider the disgust and filth of committing sexual sin in your church, at the altar. Friends, this is something that occurs in Satanic churches. The defilement goes beyond anything that most of us would ever understand.
Sexual sin is a violation of the church, of the temple, where the Holy Spirit dwells. It violates us, personally in a deep, deep way. Sexual sin overtakes and defiles the temple, inviting the Holy Spirit to leave. That is a major, life-destroying decision.
Further, refusal to repent from sexual sin can result in one of the most terrifying judgments:
4 When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:4-5 (ESV)
The person is to be publicly given over to Satan himself so his flesh may be destroyed! This is God’s last ditch effort to, hopefully, convince the violator to confess his sin and turn back to him.
LYING TO THE HOLY SPIRIT
1 But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property, 2 and with his wife’s knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles’ feet. 3 But Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land? 4 While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” 5 When Ananias heard these words, he fell down and breathed his last. And great fear came upon all who heard of it. 6 The young men rose and wrapped him up and carried him out and buried him. 7 After an interval of about three hours his wife came in, not knowing what had happened. 8 And Peter said to her, “Tell me whether you sold the land for so much.” And she said, “Yes, for so much.” 9 But Peter said to her, “How is it that you have agreed together to test the Spirit of the Lord? Behold, the feet of those who have buried your husband are at the door, and they will carry you out.” 10 Immediately she fell down at his feet and breathed her last. When the young men came in they found her dead, and they carried her out and buried her beside her husband. Acts 5:1-10 (ESV)
I don’t think most Christians realize how common the above scenario is today. My belief is that it happens often. We may be part of a church, invested in the vision and ready to give, serve and participate, yet if we lie and put God’s name on it, we are at risk of immediate death. The Bible makes it clear that this resulted in great fear coming upon the church. We need that fear to return today!
How often do people say, “God said,” or “God told me to…” when they are simply attempting to give validation to their own fleshly desires? How common is it for people to prophesy out of their soul and finish by saying, “Thus sayeth the Lord?” Common. Very common.
When we do this, we take God’s name in vain. We lie to the Holy Spirit. At times, when people do this, they have no time to repent. They are taken, and what they are up against in eternity is something none of us ever want to experience.
WRONGLY RECEIVING THE LORD’S SUPPER
27 Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord. 28 Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself. 30 That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died. 1 Corinthians 11:27-30 (ESV)
I doubt most people genuinely stop and consider the condition of their heart prior to eating the wafer and drinking the grape juice at church. I’ve led communion in such a way where most people in the church were actually hesitant to receive the elements! The repentance was powerful and the examination of hearts deep. When we approach God casually, with hearts that are not fully surrendered and tainted by sin, we have to know that our well being is compromised.
Fear and trembling must return to the church and sin has to be eradicated. If we aren’t in a good place in God, we really shouldn’t partake in the extremely holy sacrament of Communion.
SIN THAT DOESN’T RESULT IN DEATH
16 If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that. 17 All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death. 18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 1 John 5:16-18 (ESV)
God understand that sanctification is progressive, and if we are living a repentant life, the sins that we wrestle with will not cost us our salvation. This is the sin that is not unto death. So, if we slip up the moment before death, there’s a chance that God will count the sin as one that doesn’t result in death. However, I sure don’t want to risk an unnecessary analysis of the last moments of my life. I believe it’s much better to leave here with purity in our hearts and praise in our hearts!
Verse 18 is key: our wrestling match with the same sins should not be open ended. We should not continue in sin. Victory after victory should be the pattern of our lives as we leave old sinful patterns behind forever.
14 For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, 15 but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15 (ESV)
I believe unforgiveness is a specific sin that has unique penalties. God’s forgiveness of us was so precious, so valuable, so driven by love that our refusal to do the same for others is a violation more extreme and vile than most others. If we refuse to forgive someone, we can’t presume to be saved. We can’t presume to be forgiven. The verses in Matthew are crystal clear.
Consider Corrie Ten Boom. You may have read her story in the book The Hiding Place. She was a general in the faith as she and her family hid Jews during the Holocaust. Eventually they were discovered and were put into a concentration camp. She ministered Jesus in inhuman conditions. She was faithful in a time where all faith was lost. Ultimately, after torture at the hands of one particular guard and countless horrors, her entire family was killed. The war ended and Corrie was released.
Shortly after Corrie was walking down the road when a man approached her. He said, “Excuse me, you were in the camp, weren’t you?” Corrie affirmed that she was. He continued, “After the war I gave my life to Jesus. I prayed that he would allow me to find one person that I hurt so badly in the concentration camp.” It was the guard—the one who brutally tortured and killed her family. He said, “I told God that I wanted to seek their forgiveness. Would you please forgive me?”
Corrie, in her own words, shared her reaction. She said that she simply could not forgive him. As that thought consumed her soul, God spoke to her. He said, “Corrie, if you don’t forgive him, I won’t forgive you.” She knew, as a general in the faith, if she refused to forgive that man than she herself would die in her sins. Hell was her future. She then looked at the man who brought so much horror to her and took his hand and said, “I do forgive you.”
She said the love of God shot through her hand into the former guard’s.
Tragically, so many Christians today presume they are exempt from such truths in Scripture.
For if you forgive others their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if you do not forgive others their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses. Matthew 6:14-15
Watch a powerful, tear inducing video about Corrie Ten Boom and read more about the danger of sin in the lives of Christians in my article, Unsaved Christians—Thoughts on Sin, Hell and Following Jesus in an Unsaved Condition.
33 “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 You brood of vipers! How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. 35 The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil. 36 I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, 37 for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned.” Matthew 12:33-37 (ESV)
The condition of our heart will determine how we live, and what we say. If we yield good fruit, we can expect a glorious judgment. If we yield bad fruit, only a terrifying judgment can be expected. The words that come out of our mouths can be a great barometer of the condition of our heart. If we are speaking life, good fruit is sure to be there.
CONTINUAL, DELIBERATE SIN
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. 28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses. 29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? Hebrews 10:26-29 (ESV)
I firmly believe the doctrine of eternal security is false. I understand the arguments, and there are many wonderful men and women of God who subscribe to this theology. However, my personal opinion, based on what I see in the Word, is that it’s a very dangerous and false belief system. This passage in Hebrews 10 couldn’t be more precise. If we continue in sin, the sacrifice of Jesus will no longer have effect for us. We will be counted among God’s adversaries.
False-grace teachers would argue that Jesus no longer sees our sin. This verse, however, makes it clear that such a belief actually outrages the Spirit of grace.
Continuing in sin will, without question, result in our names being removed from the book of life.
15 And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelation 20:15 (ESV)
5 we have sinned and done wrong and acted wickedly and rebelled, turning aside from your commandments and rules. 6 We have not listened to your servants the prophets, who spoke in your name to our kings, our princes, and our fathers, and to all the people of the land. Daniel 9:5-6 (ESV)
10 And the people of Israel cried out to the LORD, saying, “We have sinned against you, because we have forsaken our God and have served the Baals.” 11 And the LORD said to the people of Israel, “Did I not save you from the Egyptians and from the Amorites, from the Ammonites and from the Philistines? 12 The Sidonians also, and the Amalekites and the Maonites oppressed you, and you cried out to me, and I saved you out of their hand. 13 Yet you have forsaken me and served other gods; therefore I will save you no more. 14 Go and cry out to the gods whom you have chosen; let them save you in the time of your distress.” Judges 10:10-14 (ESV)
We know what happened to Sodom and Gomorrah. Righteousness didn’t prevail, and God’s judgment destroyed the cities. There are too many examples to cite of God’s judgment coming to a city or a nation. The actions of the whole can bring either blessing or judgment to all. This means that I will feel the impact of the sins of others. Will their sin impact me eternally? No, not if I remain intimately surrendered to Jesus. However, national sin will result in such great pressure that many will reject God, others will turn from him and eternities will most certainly be affected.
We need an on fire, praying church to rise up in repentance, holiness and with a prophetic call to awaken!
1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write: ‘The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars. “‘I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:1-2 (ESV)
5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. I will confess his name before my Father and before his angels. 6 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’ Revelation 3:5-6 (ESV)
The Bible tells us that the lukewarm will be vomited out of God’s mouth. The above verses in Revelation are sobering. Those who are apathetic, dead and dying, are at great risk of having their name blotted out of the book of life and spending eternity in Hell. I believe passion for Jesus is one of the most important elements of a Christian’s life. We must wake up on fire, live our lives on fire, sleep on fire and enter eternity on fire!
7 Our fathers sinned, and are no more; and we bear their iniquities. Lamentations 5:7 (ESV)
I’m keenly aware that my five children and their children are at risk of bondage to any sins that I choose to embrace in my life. This keeps me sober and broken before the Lord. The thought of my wonderful, beautiful children feeling the impact of any sin that I would entertain simply wrecks me. There are sons who are destroyed by lust because of their father’s secret life of pornography. Daughters who are hooked on drugs because of the pattern of addiction in the family line.
We can break the cycle by living a consecrated life, fully surrendered to Jesus.
DECEPTION & FALLING AWAY
12 Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, 13 while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived. 2 Timothy 3:12-13 (ESV)
12 Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. 13 But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. Hebrews 3:12-13 (ESV)
When we entertain immorality, we are at great risk of falling away. Unbelief can creep into a Christian’s life very easily. Sadly, many will fall away. We must actively develop a life of purity and faith as we combat doubt and compromise.
PLEASURE IN UNRIGHTEOUSNESS
11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, 12 in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:11-12 (ESV)
This passage is brutal. Those who are taking pleasure in unrighteousness and who are rejecting truth can end up spiritually dead long before their names are written in an obituary. This sin can result in God actually sending a strong delusion so they will, as a result, actually believe what is false. God will not ever allow them to receive the truth they so aggressively rejected.
This is why I believe we must promote radical holiness in this hour. So much of the church today is carnal, enjoying the very things that required the slaughter and murder of the one they say they love. They take pleasure in unrighteousness by watching movies and television that are filled with foul language, sexual situations, coarse jesting and other impurities. They pump immoral music into their ears night and day. They are no different than the world. Those who reject truth and enjoy immorality are at risk of being the recipient of delusion, making it impossible to ever turn to Jesus.
Sin is not all the same. We can’t treat it identically. Of course, we don’t want to commit any sin, but we must also be keenly aware of the greater sins, the impact on our lives and the cost to our nation and millions of people if we don’t confront and correct it.
When sin is affirmed or error is proclaimed by people, whether in a local setting or on the public stage, the church cannot stay silent in the name of love. Such an apathetic act will result in millions being offered the fruit of deception. Many will eat that fruit and blood will be on our hands.
Let’s love well, confront evil, expose darkness, rebuke when necessary, speak life and be the prophetic voices that God is calling us to be.
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Ephesians 5:11-12 (ESV)
11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12 For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. Ephesians 5:11-12 (ESV)
People are leading ministries and churches all while the Bible instructs us not to even eat with them. It’s time for a house cleaning.
Facebook is a great, if unscientific, medium for discussions about culture and Scripture (and kittens, food, vacations, etc.). I’ve participated in many such discussions online and I constantly find myself shaking my head when supposedly solid, Spirit-filled Christians flat out reject clear, simple truths found in the Bible. We have declined into a church that all too often employs human reasoning in favor of biblical principles.
As an example, when is the last time you heard a pastor teach on the issue of divorce? At best they may suggest it’s negative and painful while fully ignoring what God himself has to say about it.
Right in the middle of Luke chapter 16 we see the following:
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. Luke 16:18 (ESV)
We have a bunch of people in our churches today who are living in adultery because they divorced and remarried without validation. We need a mass movement of repentance for wrongful divorce and remarriage! After getting remarried, there can be redemption and forgiveness, but that is a process that must be completed. Divorce rates in the church should be near zero. I say near zero because there are legitimate and approved reasons to initiate a divorce. There are times when it’s fully appropriate to get remarried as well. God is in the restoration business, but we must submit to his process and follow his protocol.
The point on divorce was simply one example as I begin this article on discipline in the church. We have to agree that Scripture rules. We must stop minimizing it, modifying it, ignoring it or rewriting it.
Before you attempt to crucify me for being cruel and unfeeling regarding divorce or the other issues I’ll address in this article, I want to challenge you. First, my heart is broken over sin in the camp. Second, why do you presume you have the right to dismiss clear directives in Scripture? You don’t. Neither do I. I believe it’s an act of love and humility to trust God’s wisdom as we deal directly with sin in the church. God has given us a measure of stewardship over his holy church, and we are failing, especially in regard to holiness.
IT’S TIME TO CLEAN HOUSE
Take a moment and let the following verse sink in:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)
Sin in the camp is defiling the house.
The above passage reveals that God judges the unsaved, the lost, those in the world. It also reveals that we have been mandated to judge those within the church. This, friend, rarely happens and that is a key reason revival is not near.
Please remember, we don’t have the right to exercise mercy that’s not endorsed by the Word of God. We don’t have the freedom to let someone off the hook when God demands we deal with their situation.
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Galatians 5:7-9 (ESV)
One immoral person in a church can compromise the entire congregation.
LOVE THEM OUT THE DOOR
It’s time to express love, with tears in our eyes, by inviting people to leave our churches. Multiplied thousands of professing Christians must be shown the door—and fast.
If they profess Christ and are guilty of sin, we cannot even eat with them. This is severe, and it is necessary. It’s also literal.
Are there any people attending church today who are greedy? We can’t go grab coffee with them. Is anybody involved in porn? Do they get intoxicated? Do they have idols in their lives? Are they abusive? We must deal directly with them for the sake of their souls and those of everybody in the church! Why? Check out a verse that’s strangely similar to what we read in 1 Corinthians 5 (it takes it to a whole other level):
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV)
While so many are welcoming these offenders into church services and functions every week, God has determined they will not be welcomed into Heaven. We are celebrating the people God is rejecting! We are confirming those God is calling out!
Allow me to make this point very clear: If anyone who names the name of Christ is guilty of these sins, they must immediately repent while bearing fruit or they must be removed from fellowship. Period.
Yes, most youth groups will be wiped out. Elders in the church will have to go. Many pastors will have to relinquish their positions. Churches will decline significantly in number as they lose those guilty of sin AND their sympathizers!
What will be left? A holy, remnant church that can finally move in power, unity and purity.
TURN THEM OVER TO SATAN
Sexual sin is especially destructive. If anybody tells you all sin is the same, don’t believe them. It’s not true. For example, one type of sin cannot be forgiven. Other sins are not unto death. Sexual sin is one that demands a more severe response. Again, the response is rooted in love, not revenge. It’s to protect the church and to awaken the offender.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:1-7 (ESV)
The world has the right to accuse Christians of hypocrisy. When sin happens, it’s swept under the rug. It’s ignored. It’s certainly not dealt with. It’s rarely judged.
The instruction is clear and cannot be modified. The one who is guilty must be turned over to Satan. They must be excommunicated. They are a danger to themselves and to the church.
The purpose of discipline is twofold:
- The restoration of the person—God, in his wisdom, knows just what it will take to give people the greatest chance of restoration. Biblical discipline is a part of that process.
- The protection of the body—A little leaven leavens the whole lump. We must insist on a holy church for the sake of the innocent and unsuspecting.
…deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6 (ESV)
For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Hebrews 12:10 (ESV)
When restoration works, the Bible tells us that we will win our brother. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out the way we’d prefer, but it’s imperative that we try as Scripture demands:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV)
Keep in mind that severe church discipline must follow earlier attempts at restoration.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)
The first step isn’t removing them from fellowship. It’s calling them higher, exhorting them to live righteously and patiently yet invasively, uncomfortably, demand they respond to the correction of the Lord. Walk the walk with them until their rebellion or repeated failures would cause you to violate the Word to maintain fellowship with them. That time comes sooner than we typically presume.
GOD DEMANDS THAT HIS CHURCH IS HOLY
John L. Dagg said this:
“When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.”
Ichabod is posted above the doorposts as the presence of God vacates a once holy church that’s inundated with immorality.
The question is simple, do you want God to remain or the unrepentant offender? You can’t have both.
The Great Love Deception E-book is my gift to you on Valentine’s Day!
Here’s a portion of what you will read in the book:
Those of you who are longing for a pure, love-driven move of God, get ready! We are about to have the opportunity to go deeper than we ever have. True love will change the world. The burning, churning crater is filled with molten, liquid love!
We could spend trillions of years learning about and discovering and encountering the love of God. In fact, we will do so throughout all eternity. The Bible itself exhorts us to learn about love:
So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of… Philippians 1:9-10 (MSG)
We are to learn to love appropriately. This Scripture is a critical exhortation! Why? It means there are inappropriate ways to love. There are deceptions that feel right but are poor representations or even counterfeits of truth.
As God’s love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.
The enemy is so terrified of pure love being revealed that he is willing to promote and endorse a compromised, lesser version of it. Love defined by human emotion instead of the Word is his plan.