I'm convinced many Christians have no understanding of the term “Spirit-filled.”
Stay with me. The topic of this article could easily trigger those who are easily offended at the suggestion that some churches are more Spirit-filled than others. I'd like to challenge you to remain engaged and to honestly consider what I'm about to communicate, even if you ultimately disagree.
Someone asked a question in a Facebook group I'm subscribed to about the types of churches in our area. They mentioned some particular churches, including Upperroom in Dallas, Texas, as the type of church they were looking for.
It seemed clear, at least to me, that they were looking for a church that many would label as Spirit-filled. This, however, was lost on most of the people who responded.
Some wonderful Christians started filling up the comments with suggestions. What struck me was that the majority of them were not Charismatic, Spirit-filled churches. Many of the people were emphasizing the upbeat, contemporary style of worship, the relevant teaching and the family atmosphere their suggested church offered. As I read through everybody's input, I couldn't help but to flashback several years ago to my first Sunday in town.
Our family visited a fairly large, well-established and vibrant church that was filled with friendly people. The worship was concert-style, professional and well polished. Several people were closing their eyes and lifting their hands as they sang along. The preacher was a young guy with the rough, raw yet skilled edge you'd imagine in an environment like this. He communicated well and the message was biblical.
I couldn't get out of there fast enough.
Again, stay with me. Please hear my heart. I'm convinced this place was filled with legitimate Christian brothers and sisters, people who were devoted to the Lord and who loved their church home. I applaud this. It wasn't for me, though. Why? I later discovered this was not a church that believed in the manifestations and gifts of the Holy Spirit. The Bible tells us that spiritual things must be discerned spiritually and, while what I discerned naturally was really appealing, spiritually I was discerning a lack of Holy Spirit activity.
This is the point of this article. Churches that do embrace Holy Spirit gifts and manifestations are radically different than those that do not, even if they may look similar to the human eye.
THERE IS A DIFFERENCE
Years ago when the worship movement really began to take off I often wondered how churches and movements that were “more Baptist” in theology and practice would respond. Would they move on from hymns or resist the new sound in the earth? To my surprise many of them adopted the songs, the vibrancy, some of the more mild expressions and the passion. What was missing in many of these scenarios however was the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The invisible move of the Spirit of God was absent.
Yesterday's Facebook conversation confirmed yet again the idea that many Christians simply don't understand the difference between “Spirit-filled” and not “Spirit-filled.” They are limited to human emotion and intellectual understanding. They are looking for songs that move them, sermons that inspire them, teachings that inform them and a Christian experience that saves them. Supernatural discernment and spiritual revelation are foreign concepts.
Again, please hear my heart. I despise mean-spirited finger pointers who look down on others who “don't line up” with their definition of appropriate. I cringe to think I'd be one of them. At the same time I believe it's important to discuss some potentially irritating topics so we can all go deeper in Jesus. This is one of those topics.
There certainly is a difference between Charismatic and non-Charismatic churches. The theologies of cessationism and continuationism are definitely not the same. Those who endorse and practice spiritual gifts and those who don't are in different places.
A SPIRITUALLY ELECTRIC ATMOSPHERE
It would only be fair to admit that even many of today's Spirit-filled churches have disengaged spiritually. They have stepped back from the movement of the Holy Spirit more and more in recent years. The glorious manifestations of an omnipotent, invisible God interacting with finite man are undeniably rare today.
My message is a call to all. Whether you affirm supernatural activity or not, I encourage you to dive deeper into the realm of the Spirit than you ever have in your life. It should be normal for everybody in today's church to have dreams and visions. Praying in tongues, prophecy and trembling in the fear of the Lord should be experienced by all. Supernatural boldness, signs, wonders and miracles and burning night and day with the fire of the Holy Spirit are our portion!
The church should be the place where Believers gather to collapse to the ground in groans of intercession. The place to boldly decree prophetic oracles, to prophesy and to get equipped in the Spirit.
Loud guitars, a perfectly orchestrated set, ripped jeans, fog, lights, friendly people, relevant talks about the Bible and programs for all is not what makes up a New Testament church. All of that can be there, but it's nothing more than paint on the walls. Decor. Instead of fog machines we need to contend for the mist of the Holy Spirit to descend into our churches. It should be difficult to stand at times as the cries of our heart explode out of us and as the weighty, tangible presence of God covers us.
Yes, a Spirit-filled church is something to behold. It's a place where God orchestrates everything and man gets out of the way. It's where God's presence is so thick that our human intellect cannot process what's happening. It's a revival atmosphere. It's a place of miracles. It's church.
The moment you experience it is the moment you understand that there's a stark difference between churches that promote Holy Spirit activity and those that don't. It's night and day, black and white. When you are swept over by the most powerful force in the world and filled with indescribable fire and love and freedom and joy, you'll never be able to go to a church that doesn't experience that.
I'm excited about the opportunity to introduce people who have never experienced this all-consuming fire, this invisible force, to something so wondrous that they are transformed for all eternity.
Core, historic biblical truths must be embraced in the church again—and we should expect an unusual supernatural reality to result.
It seems that the weirder the Charismatic camp gets, the more the cross and other key Christian doctrines are minimized. The new wine and fresh revelation often trumps a radical adherence to the very foundational, scriptural truths.
The cross must become central again. Repentance has to well up and cry out of us again. As we return to these core doctrines, we will be surprised to experience the shock and awe of a realm that is so supernatural, so other-worldly, that the most demonstrative Charismatics will pale in comparison.
When the cross is preached in power, miracles, signs and wonders are an expected result.
Matthew 27:51-54 (ESV) 51 And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. And the earth shook, and the rocks were split. 52 The tombs also were opened. And many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, 53 and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many. 54 When the centurion and those who were with him, keeping watch over Jesus, saw the earthquake and what took place, they were filled with awe and said, “Truly this was the Son of God!”
When we preach the cross, we’re not just encouraging people to ask Jesus into their heart. True ministry of this earth-shaking (literally) event will result in a drama that we couldn’t invent if we tried.
Did you see what happened when Jesus died? Note, this was before the power of the resurrection! It’s before the keys to death, Hell and the grave were taken! It was at a time of seeming defeat! The power of surrender in this story is phenomenal!
- The curtain was torn—Preaching of the cross will result in eyes being opened and supernatural encounters becoming standard. So many are blind and numb to the volatile invisible realm that’s all around us. The cross grants us access not simply to a hope to enter Heaven when we die, but access into the very presence of a fearful God right now!
- The Earth shook—Get ready! A great shaking will come, a trembling from deep within, as we all grab hold of the bloody cross of Christ. As we embrace our own crosses, and surrender our lives fully, the Earth will shake! I prophesied that this coming revival will result in a literal trembling in us that won’t stop until we leave the planet. Many have been shaking deeply already, and the more the cross is preached, the more it will build.
- Rocks were split—The cross is so powerful that unbreakable, immovable boulders will be shattered in our lives. Deliverance and dramatic freedom comes, and Jesus is the one who receives all of the glory! If you crave freedom, don’t simply plead the blood of Jesus, declare the power of the cross!
- Tombs were opened—What power! A sleeping church is about to be awakened! The offense of the cross will cause some to mock and flee, but the true church will immediately break free from the power of death and slumber and rise up with messages of life on their lips!
- Those who crucified Jesus were filled with awe—God will be praised by even the most vicious attackers! The proof of God’s greatness isn’t in the wisdom of words, but people will be convinced as they watch God’s power explode right before them!
1 Corinthians 1:17 (ESV) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.
1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV) 18 For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
I'm working on my 2010 calendar, and also have availability certain weeks during the rest of 2009. If you would like to schedule me to minister in your church or at your conference or event, visit www.praytherevolution.com/booking.
- Revival Nation Church– Join me in Sarnia, Ontario, Canada THIS SUNDAY morning at 10:30am as I minister the fire of the Holy Spirit. We can caravan- just let me know if you’d like to go and we’ll head out as a team. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Revival Church– Sunday evening we’ll contend for a strategic and overwhelming move of God in Detroit. Passionate and prophetic prayer starts at 5pm and we’ll flow right into the service at 6pm. www.detroitrevivalchurch.com
- Revival Radio– Join us every Monday at 8pm Eastern for prayer and discussion on advancing toward revival and an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. www.detroitrevivalchurch.com/radio
- Jeff Garvin– Jeff will be back with us in December for THREE NIGHTS. Friday, December 5th he’ll be at the International House of Prayer East Detroit and Saturday and Sunday evenings he’ll be at Revival Church. www.ihopedetroit.org
I wrote a book titled The Terror of Hell about an encounter I had with demons who were dragging me into the Earth- toward Hell.
I can’t begin to communicate the absolute terror that I experienced that night in the early 1990’s. However, the message that has caused me to tremble in the fear of the Lord ever since is this- many church goers, many people who have faithfully attended and supported the churches on the corners throughout our nation will be shocked beyond measure to find themselves in Hell one day.
I won’t go into the detail that is best found in the book, but suffice it to say that there is a critical connection between one’s salvation and one’s intimate relationship with Jesus.
I feel the infamous ‘sinner’s prayer’, when handled wrongly, can easily become a ticket to Hell instead of Heaven. We must never over-sell the prayer. We can’t guarantee someone’s position in Christ simply because they are having a rough day and decide that they want things to get better, and hope a prayer does the trick.
I was at an event recently that caused me to cringe. A pastor was leading a large room full of people, many of them children, in the sinner’s prayer. At the end of the prayer, everybody repeated after the pastor, “…thank you Jesus that I am saved.”
Is it possible that many of then may go through the rest of their lives with a tragically false assurance of their salvation?
A Crisis in the Church
Allow me to attach this to the emotion that’s raging in my heart right now. There is a move all across churchdom against the experiential reality of the Holy Spirit. People are increasingly anti-emotion, anti-trembling, anti-encounter, anti-feeling. It’s a left-brained world that’s resulting in a logical, passionless ‘connection’ with religion.
For me, to not be emotionally impacted in the presence of God should send red flags flying! How can we simply stand there are grin as the power of God burns around us?
Understand, people are tired of hype, false representations of the activity of the Holy Spirit, etc. They should be. I am too. However, the right reaction is not to deemphasize the dramatic, experiential activity of God. The appropriate response is to contend for it and settle for nothing less!
To dismiss the norm of living a revelation and encounter driven life, to not expect a biblical life to result in an inner trembling that never ends, is a terrifying proposition.
We can’t call for the presence of God to invade our lives and be absent of a powerful, prophetic, weighty encounter.
Here’s a great quote from someone who has grown tired of ‘charismania’ that I fully agree with:
- If I ever experience the “manifest presence of God” where human flesh cannot stand, that’d be great. But until then, I choose to avoid pale imitations.
Here’s other quote that causes concern:
- I’ve come to believe that the only definite thing we have to go on is what is promised to us in the Bible. And I don’t see the Bible as advocating an experience-oriented faith.
There must be an alarm sounded. God is real. He is to be encountered. He can be felt. He can be heard. This is a serious issue to say the least.