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)
A simple principle found in Scripture is the answer we need for the Black Lives Matter vs. the police tragedy in America.
Anger and fear are erupting in the streets of our nation, and the crisis demands a solution that transcends human common sense. We need God to step in and provide a solution. The ancient wisdom that we need is found in the book of Romans, chapter twelve.
Before we explore that passage, I want to address what I believe to be a calculated strategy of Satan in these last days. I’ve watched him execute his plan via the homosexual activism that has emerged in recent years in addition to other social movements of our day.
While it’s true that many professing Christians need to be rebuked for their heartless dealings with people who associate with certain unrighteous cultural movements, such as the homosexual community, we have to look at how the enemy is manipulating that reality. True, compassionate, loving Christians have been forced into a position of faux sympathy. Instead of standing for the timeless, non-negotiable revelation found in Scripture regarding homosexuality, we have lost our prophetic voice. Most are remaining silent instead of confronting the spirit and dogma of the age, whether it’s through homosexual activism, Black Lives Matter, abortion or other counter-biblical movements. Some are actually surrendering to this spirit and aligning with those who are deviant. Why is this? Fear.
The accusation of the enemy is that we have lost our love for homosexuals (or abortionists or other groups who oppose the truth we embrace) and we have no option but to repent and “prove” our love for these people by affirming (or at least ignoring) their positions, desires, identities and supposed freedoms. Fear is even causing people to avoid saying “Blue Lives Matter,” or “All Lives Matter,” because of accusations that such comments are bigoted.
The devil is forcing Christians to reject biblical principals and to accept his theology of universal affirmation.
Satan himself is calling for a movement of repentance! The demand is to apologize for adhering to timeless Christian truth instead of embracing his more “compassionate” religion (that positions him as god). He is calling the church to abdicate our position of Godly love in favor of a demonic affinity, affirmation and agreement with what is unholy. The enemy is forcing us into a sympathetic position.
Now the chief priests and the elders persuaded the crowd to ask for Barabbas and destroy Jesus. The governor again said to them, “Which of the two do you want me to release for you?” And they said, “Barabbas.” Pilate said to them, “Then what shall I do with Jesus who is called Christ?” They all said, “Let him be crucified!” And he said, “Why, what evil has he done?” But they shouted all the more, “Let him be crucified!” Matthew 27:20-23 (ESV)
The demonic, religious demand was to affirm and release back into society what is unholy, represented by Barabbas, while calling for the eradication of righteous standards, of holiness, represented by the Holy One himself, Jesus. The crowds responded en masse.
Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter! Isaiah 5:20 (ESV)
The demand is to affirm evil and to reject good. Those who refuse, those who stand as true holy soldiers in opposition to the demands of the enemy are threatened and identified as haters. In fact, many Christians will lose their lives in the Tribulation because of this very situation. We will be marked as haters, as being in opposition to what is right and just, and will be martyred.
Today, anytime a Believer stands opposed to homosexuality, we are convincingly accused of hatred. If we oppose abortion, we are anti-woman and anti-freedom. Similarly, if we stand opposed to the rebellion that’s manifesting through the Black Lives Matter movement, we are labeled as racists who are fueled by radical hatred of African Americans.
The results are stunning. Entire Christian (actually, former Christian) denominations are now gay-affirming. They have surrendered to the enemy’s demand to “repent” and to prove their love and sympathy for those who choose to live as homosexuals. Many pastors and churches affirm the woman’s right to choose to end the life of their children. And most recently, Christians are forsaking biblical truth in favor of vengeance and anger toward our nation’s police force.
Satan, though evil through and through, is brilliant. He is duping Christians to submit to his demands for a sympathetic response of affirmation. It’s false love.
How can something so demonic and evil be embraced as loving, compassionate and true?
Satan has been masquerading as God since the beginning.
But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:4-5 (ESV)
The highest (or lowest) form of demonic deception results in people being convinced his wisdom is actually good, godly and superior.
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” Matthew 2:7-8 (ESV)
Satan and those who are advancing his cause want us to believe that they are in union with God. The true motive, obviously, is not to worship God or advance his causes. Their plan is destruction and coerced allegiance to the enemy.
And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. Matthew 24:4-5 (ESV)
Similarly many will advance deviant cultural norms and promote them as godly when in reality they will lead many astray.
Currently, police shootings and the resulting uprising of the Black Lives Matter movement have the nation’s attention.
Scripture gives us a clear, simple blueprint. Is it possible for our nation to reject the demonic deception and anger that’s ripping our land to shreds in favor of true love?
We don’t have to oppose our nation’s law enforcement officers to prove our love of African Americans. We shouldn’t denounce African Americans who are feeling very real pain to prove our support of law and order. There’s a more godly, effective way.
Here’s the simple, powerful biblical protocol found in the Book of Romans that must prevail:
BLACK LIVES MATTER:
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. Romans 12:14 (ESV)
THE POLICE AND SOCIETY:
Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15 (ESV)
Live in harmony with one another… Romans 12:16 (ESV)
ONGOING TRUTH FOR ALL:
…Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. Romans 12:16-21 (ESV)
Watch the video: What is love? Is it possible we’ve been confused about what love really looks like? Yes.
In our self-centered, narcissistic generation, the demand for others to respond rightly to us seems to be overwhelming the command to respond rightly to others.
In ministry I have had the unfortunate opportunity to witness people spinning out time and time again when they aren’t affirmed the way they think they should be. The enemy is offering his anointing of accusation to wounded people so they can point a finger and identify failures in others. The truth is that most often they simply don’t understand what love really looks like in the Kingdom.
It’s extremely easy to point out self-defined lack in another’s life with the accusation that they are not acting in love. This is an accusation that I and many other aggressive & prophetic leaders, who shock and rock and tear down idols and altars, have received more than once.
The problem? There’s confusion about what love is. True love will often shock us, and we are most certainly in a time when that jolt must come.
Here’s the questions we have to ask ourselves to ensure we are personally living in the love of God:
- Am I patient? This doesn’t mean we aren’t bold or that we don’t challenge people to pick up the pace. This is a heart issue. Can we advance with determination while also honoring people who are slower than us?
- Am I kind? This is also an attitude of the heart. It doesn’t mean we are passive or soft spoken. It just means we are looking out for the needs of others.
- Do I envy others? Jealousy divides. Enough said.
- Do I boast? Do I have pride that results in attempting to outshine others?
- Am I arrogant? Boldness and arrogance are closely related. One is Holy Spirit driven, the other is not. I’m sure people might accuse me of arrogance due to my aggressive, urgent focus on life, and my unwillingness to entertain lukewarm theologies, but I am consistently asking God to search my heart on this. I desire to be bold without reservation, even if it looks like arrogance. I’m not out to prove I love people. I’m to love them, and sometimes it can get testy as I promote God’s messages that irritate the resisters.
- Am I rude? I post a lot on Facebook and Twitter. My goal is to be extremely provocative (to shock!), and I’ll talk about that more in a bit. But, it is always extremely important for me to not be rude. It’s critical that while I provoke, that I also honor and refuse to react in a rude or condescending manner.
- Do I insist on my own way? This is about selfishness. Am I self-centered and demanding? Or, do I prefer others above myself?
- Am I irritable? I will admit that I wrestle with this one at times! It’s usually small but nonetheless meaningful issues. I have to be sensitive to my family by not getting irritated when they aren’t in the car ready to go on time or when the kids chores aren’t done. I have improved much, but I must remain sensitive to this.
- Am I resentful? When life doesn’t go as planned, do I resent God or other people who didn’t live up to my expectations?
- Do I rejoice at wrongdoing? Or, do I do the opposite as revealed in Ephesians 5 by exposing the fruitless deeds of darkness?
Even when accusations of lacking love fly, we can humbly go to prayer, let God search our hearts and review the above scriptural revelation of what love looks like.
True Expectations: Same love, different manifestations
I once mentioned to Chuck Pierce that it would be powerful to have a resource that explained how we can relate to various personality types, giftings and offices. What type of manifestation of love is typical in a pastor? What about a prophet? I was hoping he would write this book on interactive Christian love, but maybe I’ll have to tackle that at some point!
For example, I often hear people slander the prayer movement by shouting that those who lock themselves in the prayer room for hours a day don’t love people. If they did, they would be out on the streets feeding the homeless or doing something else that relational and meets and immediate need. This couldn’t be further from the truth. While certainly some people who pray all day might struggle with issues of love, the same is true across the board. It has nothing to do with the manifestation (intercession, serving the homeless), but rather it has to do with the condition of the heart.
So, what should we really expect from others? Here’s a short, extremely simplified explanation that should set you free. If you don’t expect someone to express love in a certain way, you won’t be offended when they don’t!
In America, church leaders are almost always called “Pastor.” We need to fix this. Why? There are expectations associated with the offices, and if someone is not truly a pastor, when you call them pastor you are putting a burden on them they can’t bear.
In a true pastor, you might expect someone who loves to listen to your story and is ready to encourage you in it. They may be very relational, conversational and invested in people one-on-one.
A teacher might spend most of his time behind closed doors in study, and might not have a relational bone in his body—but he loves people by rightly dividing the Word. He love is manifested not through smiles and handshakes but through hours of investment in you through study and prayer.
An evangelist will show love by leading people to Jesus. This can get confusing for some who get saved, and then don’t understand why the evangelist isn’t his best friend. After all, they shared a life changing moment together! The reason? The evangelist is off loving the next person!
A prophet will show love through irritating you! I’m a prophetic Apostle, so this is my area of expertise. Prophets may have tears in their eyes and fire in their veins in the place of prayer that results in an uninvited confrontations. In fact, you can consider a prophet an uninvited teacher. He delivers what is not desired to a people who are asleep. Whenever you awaken someone from their sleep, you can expect them to be irritated—yet this irritation is a result of a man or woman of God who loves you so much that they can’t leave you in your condition.
So, you can expect sharp words of warning that are love-fueled alarms designed just for you. You probably wouldn’t expect a prophet to be ultra-relational (they make too many enemies for this to work!). They make horrible counselors most of the time. They love you much as the teacher does—through prayer-driven messages from God.
Apostles are always on the move. They show love by inviting you on the journey. However, they usually don’t wait for too long for you to catch up. For some that feels unloving, but the opposite is true. Their love compels them to move and build and advance into new territory so that many can be saved! While an apostle may not wait long for you, he will always be there to pick you up on his next loop through!
Don’t expect apostles to be locally minded. If you need someone to help with your current life situation, an apostle will show you his love by inviting you on a journey regardless of your current situation! You may need to find a pastor if you aren’t looking for that quite yet!
Watch this video podcast: Are we are forming a culturally acceptable version of God?
And he received the gold from their hand and fashioned it with a graving tool and made a golden calf. And they said, “These are your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt!” When Aaron saw this, he built an altar before it. And Aaron made a proclamation and said, “Tomorrow shall be a feast to the LORD.” And they rose up early the next day and offered burnt offerings and brought peace offerings. And the people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play. —Exodus 32:4-6
The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. —1 Corinthians 2:14
There is a rapidly growing aversion to any discussion about God that includes anything that feels negative. The problem? Cover to cover in Scripture we see endless accounts of God displaying His attributes—many of which would not be defined as positive.
Instead of proclaiming the full counsel of Scripture, people today are looking for a buffet Bible when they can load up on chocolate cake and milk shakes while quickly stepping by the peas, carrots and salad.
People want to form a god of their own design as the Israelites did when Moses was meeting with a fearful God. The plan is to sit down to eat and drink and rise up to play.
Today it's nearly impossible (not an exaggeration) to find a church that preaches cutting, hard-core truths of Scripture that break us out of prison and into freedom. If you want to hear about how good God is and little else, then you can pick most any church in the nation.
“If Jesus had preached the same message that ministers preach today, He would never have been crucified.” ~Leonard Ravenhill
Sixteen dangers of the ‘positive Christianity' movement
False conversions—I could spend a lot of time on this point, and I do address it extensively in my book The Coming Church. For the sake of brevity, we must finally come to the understanding that salvation requires an extreme step—not a casual one. It's when we understand the great drama that includes God, Satan, eternity, heaven, hell, judgment and abundant life that authentic conversions can occur. Who wouldn't sign up to follow a God that promises gold coins and butterflies? The question must not be, “How can I benefit from salvation.” It has to be, “Is God worthy of my surrendering all I value to Him?” When we truly know Him in His fullness, in His grace and wrath, in His mercy and judgment, as a Lion and a Lamb, we will be able to make the fearful decision, “You, Lord are worthy of my entire life.”
Misunderstanding of the fear of the Lord—It's stunning to me that so many are renouncing any fear whatsoever, even the fear of the Lord! If we have a view of God that is only positive, we will reject anything that feels negative, and this includes the fear of the Lord. Let's set the record straight—the fear of the Lord is not simply to be in awe of God or to respect Him. Fear of the Lord is translated over and over as terror, to be afraid, to dread. The love of God and the dread of God are not mutually exclusive. In fact, His love shines brighter we we realize how fearful He truly is.
That is true. They were broken off because of their unbelief, but you stand fast through faith. So do not become proud, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will he spare you. Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. —Romans 11:20-22
God is limited—When we eliminate a major part of God's personality and character, we greatly limit our revelation of Him and His ability to move in our lives. God is much more than the leader of some euphoric land of fantasy.
Rejection of judgment (that we need so badly)—I believe one of the most important prayers I can pray is, “God, judge me daily.” For those who reject God's judgment because they perceive it to be negative, their lives will be marked by areas not given access to God's loving calibration. Additionally, our nation is in desperate need of loving judgment from a righteous judge. Judgment is not hatred; it's love. It is deep love. We see this in our own society. We are so touchy-feely that we react in anger when we presume someone to be judging us. However, it's true love that will judge an issue and help someone break free into healing. We must embrace judgment in these dire end times.
And he commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one appointed by God to be judge of the living and the dead. —Acts 10:42
Rejection of God—This is one of the most serious issues. God absolutely still judges in the New Covenant, and those who reject this will be at risk of attributing judgments of God to Satan. God's wrath is still on the Earth, and we have to understand that much of the trouble we see today has actually been initiated by God—all while many of His followers are rebuking Him and calling Him Satan.
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. —John 3:36
Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit—Even more serious is the risk of blasphemy. I believe we have to be radically opposed to God to fall into this unforgivable sin (I know many wrestle with this, but unpacking it will require more time than we have here), but, the “positive Christianity” movement can nudge people closer to falling into this. When we attribute an act of God to Satan, that is blasphemy, and this occurs often within “positive Christianity.”
“Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.” —Mark 3:28-30
Ignoring calls to battle—If we think God is mostly interested in our safety and happiness, we will deem unnecessary and invasive any call to battle. It's time we mature and understand we are already in the midst of a vicious battle, and it's our calling to fight hard. God really is OK with His children being tortured and killed as martyrs for the sake of other people discovering Jesus, and we should be too. We are end-time soldiers, and this means we have signed up for a life of inconvenience, brokenness and struggle. That negative reality is glorious when we understand what it is unto.
Misinterpretations of negative situations—News flash: It's not always the devil. How often do people rebuke demons when it's actually God Who caused the situation? If we think that God only functions positively, then what are we to do with the fact that God actually demonized Paul and refused his deliverance? What about God striking people with sickness?
So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. Three times I pleaded with the Lord about this, that it should leave me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. —2 Corinthians 12:7-10
God actually endorsed an assault of Satan on Paul to keep him humble! Paul embraced a “negative” God, because He was True. He was content with weaknesses, hardships, calamities. He didn't rebuke them, and that didn't cause him to attribute them to Satan. Of course, Satan wouldn't want to keep Paul from becoming conceited, so this wasn't his plan. Just as with Job, God will allow attacks of the enemy for our own benefit. In fact, it was Satan who was allowed by God to kill Jesus. He literally had thorns in His flesh as He hung on the cross, and they were not taken away.
Minimized need for intercession—If we think things are getting better and better, as many who support the “positive Christianity” movement do, than we have no need to intercede. However, if we truly understand that some very troubling times are ahead, and God has called us to stand in the gap, then our passion for intercession will skyrocket. We need Abrahams and Jonahs who will see the judgment of God ahead and pray with passion and warn those in its direct path. Our God who is the same yesterday, today and forever, totally destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. He destroyed the Earth in a flood. His wrath remains on those who reject Him today.
Then he said, “Oh let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak again but this once. Suppose ten are found there.” He answered, “For the sake of ten I will not destroy it.” —Genesis 18:32
Rejection of call to martyrdom—Martyrdom is the pinnacle of negative experiences for the Christian. Of course, the truth is that it's not negative at all. It's glorious!
Now when they heard these things they were enraged, and they ground their teeth at him. But he, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” But they cried out with a loud voice and stopped their ears and rushed together at him. Then they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul. —Acts 7:54-58
How powerful is it that Jesus stood as Stephen died! Not only that, but did you notice what young man was mentioned in the story? A young man who would end up turning the world upside down. Saul. Paul. We need Stephens to arise and lay down their lives in such a way that a new company of Sauls are awakened into their destinies.
Universalism—You'd be surprised at how many professing Christians reject any thought of eternity in hell—for anybody! After all, how could a good God cast people into eternal torment? It doesn't register on the grid of “positive Christianity.”
Rejection of tenets of the faith—I'm angered at how many of today's Christians get sad and withdrawn when core tenets of the faith are preached. The cross, hell, fear of the Lord, surrender, brokenness and repentance are minimized as they prefer to focus on how giddy God is about them! We absolutely need a fresh wave of Blood-bought fire-and-brimstone preachers again!
Wrongly discern God's presence and purpose—The presumption is that whenever God is manifesting that the feelings we experience are to be happy, warm and positive. Any manifestation that includes fear of the Lord, conviction, rebuke, challenge or mourning is soundly rejected. If the atmosphere isn't electric, many today check out and disengage.
Using God—A spirit of religion is in this “positive Christianity” movement. The thought is that God is there for our enjoyment and must respond to our cries for satisfaction. We determine the experience instead of letting God use us as He sees fit.
Self-centeredness—Related to using God, instead of focusing on the devastation in the world and our responsibility to bring resolution to it, those in the “positive Christianity” movement are focused on self.
Forsaking our anointing by always being nice—Boy, we have to stop this. We think God always has perma-smile with a twinkle sparkling off of His grin. If we think of God in this light, we'll attempt to do the same. It can manifest many different ways. For example, instead of boldly preaching repentance and the terror of hell, we might just smile and be sweet and sugary by encouraging people to take baby steps toward Jesus. We have become so tentative and passive when dealing with severe threats against the church, such as the homosexual agenda, the false-grace movement and others. We need prophets to rise up and preach judgment and repentance again!
Sometimes we need to look someone in the eye, under the unction of the Holy Spirit, and say with no hint of a smile that they are destined for hell. Repent!
Of course, there are limitless positives about God and our relationship with Him. However, we don't want to stop there. We must trust Him enough to embrace Him in His fullness.
The judge is coming, and He will start with the church. How many will fall away when He arrives, disappoints and confuses people by looking nothing like the god of their own design?
John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 20 years and is a sought-after teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. He has authored nine books, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. Additionally, he planted two churches, has initiated two city prayer movements and is currently directing a prayer- and revival-focused ministry school in Detroit called theLab University. John also has a web- and graphic-design business and is continually developing new and exciting ventures. He and his beautiful wife, Amy, have five children and live in the Detroit area. He can be reached via his website at JohnBurton.net.
Prophecy Games: Hearing God's Voice Through the Static of Me Focused Prophecy
The fear of deception is giving way to a demand for it—often at the cost of people’s souls.
We are living in the days of deception on demand—a prophetic culture that serves encouragement at the expense of truth. Prophecy is becoming a fun game that will entertain us, and so many are playing that game and devouring the resulting false information it’s conveying.
The scripture instructs us not to despise prophecies, BUT it also instructs us to test it and to only hold to what is good. This is what we must do now in the prophetic movement—bad prophecy is doing great damage.
Our goal is to hear the true voice of God through all of the static. The static can be best defined as me focused prophecy. When it’s about me and my blessing, my benefit, my dreams and my future the prophetic system becomes compromised. Tainted.
When we understand that it’s not about us, and that it is about Jesus, the way we steward prophecy changes radically.
God is absolutely still talking, and we can’t shut down his voice! In fact, the reduction of false and poor prophecy will result in a sharp increase in the timely, sharp messages of God shocking us and rocking us in the end-times.
This book will deal with the issue of selfish, me focused prophecy and also with the glorious opportunity we all have to clearly hear God's booming voice!
The Terror of Hell: I prayed for fifteen years after this encounter that God wouldn’t give me any more.
What happened to me that fateful night 23 years ago is the reason I am unrelenting in bringing attention to anything that puts the people God so desperately loves in harm’s way.
Nearly a quarter of a century has passed, and I still shudder in brokenness and desperation every time I think about the encounter.
THEIR FREEDOM IS MY MISSION
Just a couple of years ago, twenty years after the encounter, I had a vision of multiplied thousands of people, mostly professing Christians, stretching in front of me, to my right and to my left as far as the horizons. As I looked at the sea of precious people, God spoke clearly to me: Their freedom is your mission.
I was overwhelmed with the weight of the mandate, and terribly distraught at its scope. So many people were in peril, and I couldn’t imagine even one of them not being rescued.
God was reawakening me to my mission that was given two decades prior—to shake the church and sounds alarms to a casual, sleeping people.
Every day I am in prayer, seeking the most impactful means possible to fulfill this mandate. Every day that passes without meaningful advance, without the message of awakening spreading to an unsuspecting church, is a day that grieves my spirit. There are millions of people who are unaware of their true condition, and who God is zealously pursuing. He is using prophetic messengers to help in that pursuit.
A. W. Tozer, a close friend of Leonard Ravenhill, had the following to say about him: “Those who know Leonard Ravenhill will recognize in him the religious specialist, the man sent from God not to carry on the conventional work of the church, but to beard the priests of Baal on their own mountain-top, to shame the careless priest at the altar, to face the false prophet and to warn the people who are being led astray by him.”
As I’ve said many times before, I am convinced that the greatest threat to today’s church is the false-grace movement. So many presume that movement to be simply another expression within the body of Christ. I am convinced that, to the contrary, that movement is actually resulting in massive amounts of false or compromised conversions.
I believe the hyper-grace message could be the end-time deception that will cause millions of people to fall away from God. ~Sid Roth
This is why it’s so critical that we are deeply devoted to the Word of God. The Bible is our final authority, and we need to, now more than ever, stay true to what it teaches. We must relay biblical truths to the masses!
The answer to false-grace is so simple that I wonder why so many are resistant. Simply, be intimate with Jesus, let him search your heart, and when he finds sin, immediately repent. That’s it! It’s so easy!
I am going to include free of charge, in its entirety, the story of my encounter as told in my book The Terror of Hell.
First, I’ll reveal to you the end of the story—God revealed very clearly to me, “Many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”
At that moment I had my life mission. Every day I am burdened with the reality that the blood of millions will be on my hands if I shrink back and refuse to sound the alarms. I can’t allow a day to pass without somehow doing what I can, with all of my weaknesses and limits, to shine a light on this tragic reality. People have to be rescued from a path that is leading them to Hell.
The cost of delivering such a message to a sleeping or comfortable church has been significant—but absolutely worth it. It’s a hard message to relay as it’s intended for those who are convinced of their security. It’s an offensive message because it introduces a radical redefinition to people’s concept of God.
For me, I willingly embrace such challenging, provoking, troubling messages. I crave to hear truth no matter how irritating it is to me.
This is why I have said that I give myself about an 80% chance of making Heaven. If I were to die today, I’m about 99.9% sure I’d be there. However, it would take arrogance to presume I’m exempt from the great falling away, that I, unlike millions of others, have no risk of ever turning my back on Jesus. I am sober.
However, I’m not fearful or depressed regarding this. I’m full of joy! Why? Because I’m not focused on avoiding Hell! I’m focused on intimacy with Jesus—and I have that! That intimacy results in joy, peace and the ability to wrestle with the realities of my heart.
Understand one thing prior to reading about my encounter in the next section: If you fear Hell more than you are grieved at not being intimate with Jesus, you are not in a safe place. The first giant step to take is one right into the arms of a loving God. Pursue him with passion.
THE TERROR OF HELL
How could I be going to Hell? What I was experiencing messed with my theology to a radically uncomfortable degree. The Holy Spirit was making sure I would never be the same again. Mission accomplished.
I count the early 1990’s as the most significant season of my life to date. God had invaded my life. (Do you feel the weight of that reality? The burning, raging Creator thrust himself into this mere mortal!)
The Holy Spirit took me beyond a mere understanding of my need for a savior and a simple acceptance of Jesus as that savior to a place of breath-taking experience in his extreme, fearful and surprisingly vivid invisible realm. The sudden all-consuming desire of my heart was to be intimately joined with the Lover of my soul every moment of my life. I was craving and experiencing a legitimate, reportable and constant weighty manifestation of the presence of God in my life. I was burning! The desire and the cry of my heart was, “More!”
In those early years, as I was diving into the increasingly deeper realms of life in God, many things happened that I’ll never forget–but one event shook me like no other before or since.
I had a Dream
The night I had this uninvited invasion of both God and Hell into my sleep, I was living in an old, vacant church building as the care taker. The dramatic scene was what you would imagine–the church was a relatively ancient stone structure. I would regularly encounter God as I walked through the now empty corridors, hidden rooms, sanctuary and other mysterious places throughout that relic. The countless hours praying in this vacant building resulted in forming me as a young burning man in some very memorable ways.
One destined evening I prepared for bed as I did every other night. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I prayed myself to sleep in the weighty and wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit as I had done so many times before.
What was about to happen as I slipped into sleep that fateful night would result in a tremble that is with me to this day–twenty years later as I am revising this book. I was invited into an other-worldly encounter that I had no freedom to turn down.
Because of the unimaginable panic and terror I experienced that night, I would often pray as I went to sleep, “God, please don’t give me any dreams tonight.” I prayed that way for thirteen years.
Thirteen years! God eventually spoke clearly to me, after thirteen years of receiving many visions, but no dreams of God, “John, I need you to stop praying that prayer. I have things to reveal to you. I need to talk to you. I have dreams for you to dream.” I relented and have since craved dreams, angelic visitations and other forms of communication from the heavenly realm.
During this night of terror I fell asleep in the old, empty church building and found myself dreaming.
In my dream I was laying on my stomach in a one room building. It was very comfortable inside, though there was nothing in the room. It was empty. I rested on the carpet and looked out of the two windows, one in front of me and one to my right. The overwhelming feeling that I had was one of comfort and relaxation. I had no concerns and no thoughts beyond enjoying the atmosphere I was in. This feeling is what drove my entire experience. Obviously nothing could be wrong if I was feeling so good, right?
Through the windows I could see a peaceful, lazy and bright sunny day unfolding. It was beautiful! The trees were blowing in a gentle breeze. The birds were chirping and flying from tree to tree. What a brilliant Creator we have! Everything was so refreshing and alive! I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon.
Then, suddenly, I experienced a changing of the scene. Like time lapse photography, as I was in the same position on the floor looking out the window, I watched the atmosphere suddenly change. There was an immediate and progressive shift. The clouds were ever so slightly darkening and increasing in coverage in the sky. The gentle breeze picked up velocity and the brilliant brightness started to go in and out as periodic shadows covered the area while the sun hid beyond the advancing clouds. It seemed as if some rain may be moving in. I rested there, stretched out on my belly with my head in my hands as I watched it unfold. I remained immersed in my own comfort. I was taking deep breaths and enjoying every moment of my day.
Time lapsed again and I saw the sky completely covered in clouds–clouds much darker than just a few moments ago. I could now smell the fresh and unmistakable scent of the coming rain.
Matthew 24:36-39 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. or as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.
The birds were taking cover as the wind picked up significantly. In the distance I saw several lightning strikes. It sure seemed as if this could be quite a storm. How was it that I was feeling no concern, no urgency to prepare as I enjoyed my personal, careless experience in that small, one room shack? I stretched out and relaxed even more. The greater the threat, the greater the “peace.” What a wonderful day I was having.
Again, for the third time, I watched the scene in front of me change suddenly. Now, it was fully obvious the storm would most definitely hit–and soon. The wind was intense and large, ominous drops of rain started to hit the windows. Violent and arrogant lightning that seemed to have a personality all its own struck less than 300 yards away. The thumps of hail hitting the roof started and quickly increased in force. It was time for concern. The threat of danger was increasing by the second, but I didn’t feel any urgency or need to respond. I remained prostrate on the ground, refreshed and at ease, just as I did when it was a beautiful sunny day. I was enjoying the perceived safety of my environment. I was feeling so good.
Once again, time lapsed and I found myself in the center of a churning, dreadful force that seemed powerful enough to split the Earth in two. The storm of the century was upon me. The massive trees were nearly snapping in two as they bent over parallel to the ground. The hail was massive in size and was slamming every surface around me. The windows were buckling in and out as the incredible pressure of the storm weighed on them. The lightning that burned hotter than the surface of the sun was literally striking mere feet from the shack. The walls were shaking. You can imagine what I was experiencing in that terrible and fearful moment. You guessed it: beautiful peace, safety and comfort. It truly was a wonderful day, until…
In a fraction of a moment my overwhelming sense of peace and safety and relaxation turned to the most gripping terror I had ever known. It was as if every source of life and good had been eliminated from the atmosphere. Evil dominated the place that just moments ago was so enjoyable.
My mind raced in an attempt to figure out what had just happened. The fear I was experiencing was beyond description. It made no sense. What was going on? Everything was so perfect! Today was supposed to be about enjoying life!
Suddenly, as I was confused, horrified and trembling on the floor, two hands grabbed my ankles. My terror instantly escalated to levels I cannot describe. I quickly looked back and saw nothing–but I knew a demonic entity had grabbed on to me.
The grip on my ankles was like a vice. The thought of escaping was a ridiculous one. It was impossible. My life, which seemingly just moments ago had been under my own control, was now overpowered by an invisible yet horrifying force. A force that I knew had intents–and the ability–to destroy me.
Again, the terror immediately increased nearly to the point of literally losing control of my mind as that demon started to pull me backwards–and then down. My feet and legs were disappearing below the floor of that shack. I knew I was going to Hell.
How can this be? It’s impossible! I’m going to Hell? But, I’m saved. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. This is contrary to everything I have ever learned in church. Yet, the moment was real, and I was losing every ounce of hope. I was about to enter an eternity of continual torture. Never ending panic, madness and torment was upon me.
The demon kept slowly pulling me downward, as if he was relishing every single moment. My feet were well below the floor and my waist was at ground level. Then, suddenly my hope increased. I thought to myself, “If I say the name of Jesus, the demon must flee!”
So, in my new state of hope I was able to squeeze out, “In the name of J—–. In the name of J—–. Ahhhhh!”
I couldn’t say it! The demon was controlling my very breath. I was suffocating every time that name was about to be said. I could have said any word in the dictionary–but that one. My hope instantly was lost and I started to cry out as I convulsed under the unbreakable control of that demon.
He continued to pull me down, one grueling inch at a time. Finally, my neck and then my mouth were entering Hell as my body was taken below. At the height of my madness and terror, and as my eyes were about to descend beneath the floor, I woke up.
I sat straight up, trembling in my bed in that old church building. I was sweating in such volume that my entire bed was saturated. The light switch by my bedroom door was no more than seven feet from my bed. Just two quick steps to the wall would have been all it took to lighten the room. But I was frozen. I sat there for at least three hours in the darkness in absolute terror.
What Just Happened?
I finally fell back to sleep and awoke the next morning. I didn’t realize how radically my life had taken a turn the previous night. As I tried to gather my thoughts while the events of the previous night overwhelmed my spirit and my mind, I looked outside the two windows that were there in my bedroom in that old church building. It was a beautiful sunny day–but I did not feel comfortable or relaxed. I was shaken.
I begged God to tell me why I had that dream. What had just happened? Finally, later on that day, He spoke to me, “John, you represented the church. You were comfortable in your place of supposed safety. The storm was intensifying yet you were lulled into a state of apathy. Many in the church will be surprised one day, just as you were surprised in the dream, to find themselves under the control of demons as they are taken to Hell.”
Proverbs 14:11-14 The house of the wicked will be overthrown, But the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above.
There is a way that seems right. Intellectually it makes sense. Other people seem to confirm that it is right. Common sense tells us that it is right. Even our theological dispositions confirm it is right. But, it leads to death. And, if it’s the type of death I experienced in my dream–it must be avoided at all costs.
A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him.
This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.
Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’
This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.
Two Critical Keys to Salvation
- Knowing Jesus–To be received by Jesus we must know Jesus. We must be hungry and intimate. We must ask, seek and knock. The pursuit of great intimacy with our Bridegroom has to be intense and continual. It’s not about our position, it’s about our love. It’s about our obedience and union with God in love, in life and in mission.
- Lawlessness–This issue is addressed further in my book, Covens In The Church. In my dream, I represented a lawless church, or a lawless person. Someone who maintained control of my own experience. I was focused on what satisfied, on what comforted. I was not alert to the storm or surrendered to a place of radical participation in the moment.
Again, many people will be devastated to find themselves in Hell one day. Many church-goers. Many who prophesy, many who smile when they see their friends, many who live a good life. Why is this? They refuse to pursue intimacy with God as they focus mostly on maintaining control of their own experience on the Earth.
The call to intimacy is one of the most precious rewards for those who follow Jesus! Who could ever reject such an opportunity?
Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.
The reward is intimacy with God! It’s the all-consuming fire engulfing us as we tremble in his presence! What a God we serve! His goal for us, and our life focus must be this–to be with him continually as he hovers over us and adores us as a Lover.
However, this simple yet overpowering reality is so often avoided by people who are seeking comfort and control of their personal situations.
Might I offer some sobering news to you? If our primary reason to follow Jesus is to avoid Hell and to go to Heaven one day, we are operating in the same self-centered, controlling attitude that resulted in my journey to Hell. Salvation for the sake of personal satisfaction is not salvation at all.
Zechariah 7:5-6 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me–for Me? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves?
The Sinner’s Prayer
The sinner’s prayer is one of the most misused evangelism techniques in the church today. This misuse has had devastating results.
Listen to me closely: The sinner’s prayer has become a ticket to Hell for countless people. To ever present someone with a guarantee of Heaven if they simply say a prayer is irresponsible. How many people have you met that believe they are going to Heaven because they repeated a prayer at an earlier point in their lives? How many of these people have become deeply intimate with their Lover?
Let’s dispel something right now–salvation is not primarily about making it to Heaven. It’s identifying with the Lover of our souls, the Alpha and the Omega, the Healer, the Deliverer, and coming to a place of agreement. A place of complete surrender. An intimate encounter with God will result in adoration and desire for him alone.
It’s saying, “Yes, I agree that you are God, that you love me, that there is nothing bad in you. You are perfect. You actually died for me. I deserve nothing, and regardless of my eternal destiny I will choose to love and serve you every moment of my life.” All I want on this planet is to spend every moment of my life in passionate union with my Lord and Master and wonderful friend.
Salvation is falling so deeply in love with Jesus that we’ll gladly sacrifice everything to spend just a moment with him. God is so great that he lovingly extends this moment with him into an eternity. It’s all about being with God. This is salvation.
I have a difficult question for you. I admit it is an imperfect question as it leaves many theological truths hanging in the balance. It’s a question that will never have to be answered, but it does make the idea of salvation for all of us crystal clear.
If Heaven was never guaranteed for you, would you still crave and love Jesus so much that you would give up everything you have on the Earth just to spend the next 30-60 years with him in wonderful intimacy?
Of course, when Jesus finds his lovers on the Earth, those who have an intense yearning in the depths of their hearts to be with Him, he simply can’t wait to spend eternity with them! That’s what the cross was all about! It wasn’t a ticket to Heaven or immunity from Hell. It was a model of perfect love in an imperfect and hateful world. That’s why he is calling us to carry our cross–it’s the evidence of our love and desire for our Bridegroom.
The Rich Young Ruler
Consider a great and critical bible story about a Rich Young Ruler that we all know very well:
Very interestingly this story comes right after Jesus was talking to his disciples about allowing innocent, loving children to come to him. He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”
Why is this? They just wanted Jesus! They wanted to crawl up in his lap! They wanted to embrace him! Now, let’s look at the Rich Young Ruler.
Matthew 19:16-22 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “ The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.
Now, consider how this story goes. Someone decides he wants to follow Jesus, yet on his own terms. This person could easily be found going to a vibrant church every Sunday, repeating a sinner’s prayer, lifting his hands in worship, leading a small group, witnessing on the streets and owning several bibles.
Remember, the Rich Young Ruler made the choice to follow Jesus. Most any pastor or evangelist would quickly rejoice and lead this man in a prayer. He would fill out a card and would be directed on how to connect in the church.
This scenario plays out day after day after day around the world. Yet, in this story Jesus did not offer a sinner’s prayer, a card to fill out or membership in the church. Jesus knew he didn’t have this man’s heart, and made that reality clear.
This man was what we would call a good man. He kept the commandments.
However, Jesus was after something all together different from him. Jesus will always search the hearts of those who wish to follow him. In the end of this sad story, Jesus literally communicated to this man who wanted to be a follower of Jesus that he may not follow! Incredible!
I heard a story of a great revivalist who was preaching in the first night of a week long revival. The anointing was so strong that a man rushed up to the altar to get saved right in the middle of this preacher’s message. He wanted to get saved!
The revivalist rebuked him publicly and commanded him to return to his seat.
“You, sir, are not ready to get saved. I have yet to reveal what it will cost you. Come back each night and I will let you know when it is time to respond to the call of Jesus.”
Wow! Where is this type of gutsy presentation of the costly Gospel today?
I often hear of salvation as a free gift. I completely understand the point that people who use that phrase are trying to get across, but I believe it can have damaging impact to those who are responding to it when it’s repeated without explanation. The reality is that salvation is very costly to every one who receives it.
The point is that we did not have the ability to get saved on our own. We were not able to control the situation and do anything in ourselves to get saved. Jesus loved us so much that he did it all. He did what we could not do and extended his free gift.
Romans 6:22-23 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The free gift of eternal life must be responded to. We become servants and friends of the Most High God. If Jesus’ death on the cross was all that was required for salvation, then every person on the earth would be saved. The cost of our own surrender is high and cannot be overlooked. Every one of Jesus’ disciples, except John, were martyred, for example. High cost, yet worth it all.
To extend the point, if a sinner’s prayer, or a decision to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior was all that it took, much of what is revealed in scripture would have to be overlooked.
Remember, salvation is all about intimacy with our Bridegroom and not simply a ticket to Heaven. Many who acknowledge the free gift of Jesus’ death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead, and who repeat a prayer and make a decision to follow Jesus will end up eternally separated from God.
The story of the Rich Young Ruler demonstrates this.
Jesus will say to many, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”
The attitude of the Rich Young Ruler is that of personal gain. I’m sure he wanted his sins washed away. The problem is this: Jesus didn’t come to relieve us of our guilt. He came to free us of bondage to sin. Presumed freedom from guilt and the penalty of sin can easily result in a passionless connection with Christ, and in a casual response to the call of holiness and intimacy. Jesus didn’t come so we could sin without guilt, he came to reveal himself as more satisfying and powerful than sin!
When we are intimate with Jesus, embracing his emotions, his personality, his passion, we will buy into a life of fiery devotion. It won’t be possible to relax in the midst of the storm! We won’t desire sinful pleasures! It’s not about freedom from guilt, it’s about freedom from bondage that leads to death!
For the sake of clarity on this very important subject, allow me to qualify briefly the point that is being made. The argument is that salvation is a very serious issue, and that a casual desire to go to Heaven and to take the name of Jesus is dangerous. The qualification is this–God is in charge of who goes to Heaven, and his heart cries out for all to be saved.
2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.
He is longsuffering and deeply desires for people to be saved.
We don’t try to pay for or work for our salvation in lieu of full-blown surrender of our lives. Rather, fruit born in intimacy with God is the expected result of true salvation. Evidences.
With that in mind, scripture does make it clear that some who haven’t stepped into deep intimacy with Jesus will most definitely make it to Heaven. The thief on the cross is probably the best example.
While the Word tells us that those in the church who are lukewarm will be rejected by God, there is apparently a type of person who will live a substandard Christian life who will make it to Heaven.
1 Corinthians 3:14-17 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
This scripture reveals a very narrow exception for people whose fruit is proven to be lacking and unacceptable. This person will be saved–but barely. Can you imagine being in that terrifying position of waiting for God’s judgment to land on a life that was barely connected with him? Additionally, why would anybody want to live outside of God’s intimate presence? Why choose this low, risky level? What’s to gain?
The scripture goes on to clarify the serious nature of eternal life. It’s not a simple matter, nor a light matter. If we destroy God’s temple, we will be destroyed. If we reveal inappropriate fruit, we may still be saved. But, if our work endures, and our temple is pure, salvation is a guarantee.
We can be confident in our eternal position, though I often find myself crying out to God something like, “Father, my heart longs for intimacy with you. I know I fail so often. I know I choose comfort over you at times. Please, Lord, help me ensure that you and I remain intimate. We remain in love. I don’t take your relationship or your salvation lightly. I know it’s possible to lose that relationship and that salvation. Help me surrender all, take up my cross and excitedly follow you. I love you.”
Note that in that prayer I don’t reveal my fear of missing Heaven. My fear is losing intimacy with Jesus. Of course, I don’t want to go to Hell and I don’t want to miss Heaven–but that’s not my motivation. Our focus must be on the wonderful relationship with Jesus that we will either enjoy or lose sight of in our day-to-day experience on this planet.
The churches in the book of Revelation reveal great truths in regard to the serious nature of salvation. God was not pleased with all of their works. In fact, in Revelation chapter 3 we see it revealed that names can be removed from the Book of Life.
Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.
If we overcome, our name is securely kept in the Book of Life. If we do not overcome, our name which was written in that Book at the time of our salvation will be blotted out.
Salvation is serious stuff.
There is a need for sober, humble and bold prophetic messengers to rise up and declare the piercing messages from God. These messages will provoke people to rush into the presence of God that results in trembling and collapse to their faces.
Matthew 23:33-34 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,
The call to intimacy with God is a call to slow the flow to Hell! The church must awaken and sound the alarm! We can’t rest in our comfort any longer! We have been called to steward this weighty reality.
Matthew 25:29-30 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
Note, that passage of scripture is referencing servants. Those in the church. Followers of Jesus!
We must understand that salvation is not free. Jesus did what we could not do by defeating death, Hell and the grave. Now, we do what Jesus will not do. He said, “It is finished.” Now it’s our turn to respond to his Kingdom design.
A false grace message would relay that we have no participation in the process of salvation (other than accepting Jesus into one’s heart). A true grace message actually embraces the power that was made available to us to obey the impossible directives of God.
1 Corinthians 3:10-13 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.
I have a definition for religion that brings clarity to both unbiblical grace and unbiblical works positions. Here it is:
Religion: man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.
If we attempt to use God through grace by excusing ourselves to laziness or by abdicating our responsibility, we are driven by a religious spirit.
On the contrary, if we try to buy or work our way into good favor with God outside of his radical sacrifice, that is a spirit of religion as well.
Grace is favor. We have favor given by God so we can be in deep relationship with him and respond in supernatural power to his plans for our lives. He did what only he could do so we could do what only we must do.
Jesus was favored. He was full of grace, yet he also had a responsibility. He walked in supernatural favor, and that favor enabled him to fulfill the necessary work of the cross.
John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
His grace enabled him to fulfill his assignment, and because of his fulfilled assignment, we now have the grace to fulfill our assignment. Grace enables. It doesn’t relieve responsibility.
Further, Jesus’ grace resulted in a paid price that we had no ability to pay. No amount of work or payment on our part could get us to eternity with God. We were destined for Hell, but because Jesus’ allowed grace to enable him to embrace the horrors and wonders of the cross, we can now run to him freely.
But, we’re called to do more than run to him. We must run with him and for him. We are his graced, favored and empowered instruments on the Earth.
1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.
Paul ensured God’s grace was not in vain by allowing that power to result in abundant labor for the Kingdom.
2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.
Grace will establish us in work. Grace has an expected outcome, and we have a part to play in that story.
So, just what is work? It is simply response to the passionate and active heart of God. This is why deep intimacy is so critical. It’s only in this place of intimacy (which is also a work) that we can more fully embrace the wild, challenging and seemingly impossible assignments of our loving Father. His grace lifted some burdens from our lives, but also placed new ones upon us. It’s when, in the place of intimacy with God, we trade human burdens with holy burdens that we come alive and grace is most fully activated in us.
I’ll share another experience that, I strongly believe, was critical in securing my relationship with Jesus. I believe a negative response to what the Lord was speaking to me would have put my eternal position at jeopardy. Would I have lost my salvation? I don’t know and I don’t want to play with that fire.
In the season of life where this experience took place, I knew that once saved, everything changed. A great barometer of salvation is to ask whether everything in our lives was open for change or not. I agreed that once I surrendered my life, God would begin to change me and require much from me.
2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Additionally, I understood that simply acknowledging that Jesus was God, or even agreeing that he was the only way to the Father wasn’t sufficient to guarantee salvation. I had to surrender all.
Acts 10:43 “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
This scripture does not indicate that all we have to do is have some belief that Jesus existed, and that he died and rose from the dead. Even the devil knows that! The word believes literally means, to be committed to, or to commit oneself to. It’s an all out surrender to the Living God.
Now, allow me to share with you the life-changing experience with God that radically changed my understanding of what it was to follow Jesus.
This event occurred shortly after I had the terrifying dream in the old church building. God was wildly challenging me and drawing me closer to him. I was in my early twenty’s at the time. Our church, along with several others in the area participated in a lock-in at a local YMCA. There were a few hundred people there enjoying everything from wallyball to basketball to ping-pong.
They had also set up a prayer room in one part of the building. As a young man who was getting blasted by the Holy Spirit with amazing regularity I presumed the room would be full of hungry young men and women of God. Sadly, I was wrong, though the nearly empty room provided me quite an atmosphere to pray in.
In many ways, that room was similar to the one in my dream. I was looking out of the windows over the city as I spent some time with the Lord. However, unlike the dream, I was passionately enjoying God with intensity. The atmosphere was full of the presence of the Holy Spirit and, to date, it was literally one of the most powerful God moments of my life. I was so full of life that I found myself pacing around with lifted hands and a fire in my belly for quite a long, wonderful time.
All of a sudden, I heard something in my spirit.
“John, I want you to give me permission to take your life.”
Huh? Where in the world did that thought come from? What an unwelcome interruption it was! I shook it off and moved back into prayer and worship. But, something was wrong. The warm and consuming presence of God had left the room. I didn’t realize it then, but God’s presence didn’t leave the room–it had simply changed. God was honoring me with a serious call to follow Him.
I tried for the next fifteen minutes to enter back into prayer, but I felt entirely alone. No unction, no flow, no passion.
I kept hearing the words, “John, will you let me take your life?”
I finally realized that the warmth of God’s presence had transitioned into the challenge of God’s purposes. He was testing me. Was I really ready to take up my cross? Was I really in it for Jesus? Or, was I into this Christian life mostly for what I could get out of it? You see, this crossroads question from the most Holy One would result in ensuring my destiny–either in one direction or in the other. And, it wouldn’t make any difference if I kept paying tithes, going to church and lifting my hands in worship if I chose the road toward personal satisfaction that fateful night.
The Holy pressure in that dark prayer room was extreme. I honestly thought, beyond any doubt, that the decision I was about to make to my Lord would result in my physical death that very night. The call was that urgent. But, I immediately realized I couldn’t stand to live the rest of my life outside of the warmth of the tangible presence of Jesus that I felt as I first entered that room.
“God, if it will result in warming your heart, and in advancing your Kingdom on the Earth, you can take my life. I love you and you are teaching me more about love in this moment than in my previous two decades. I trust you.”
The split second I communicated that in my heart, the fire of the Holy Spirit rushed in with power. It was better than any previous experience with God I had ever had. Far better. I was consumed by his love. I was surrendered to him unlike anytime in my life. I was his.
Song of Songs 1:2-4 THE SHULAMITE Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth– For your love is better than wine. Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you. Draw me away! THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will run after you. THE SHULAMITE The king has brought me into his chambers. THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.
To this day I don’t know if God will suddenly take my life–and while I wish to live for a long time on earth, I am longing to live for eternity with my Lover.
Calls from the heart of God like this one come to me from time to time. How serious am I? Am I in it for the benefits? Do I live my life for what I can get out of it? Or, am I a walking dead man? The positive response to the call of God is an indicator of the intimate love that we have for our Lover. It is a fruit of our salvation.
The Barometer of Prayer
I have many barometers in my life. I am an imperfect man who loves to discover lack in my life. That discovery leads me on an adventure of pursuit and acquisition of the new things of God for me. For example, if I don’t easily heal the sick, then I am thrilled to read books, study the Word of God, watch teachers on TV and pray a lot so I can grow in this gift.
I believe an absolutely critical barometer for any follower of Jesus is that of prayer. Prayer is simply being with God, engaging with him on a very real and personal level.
I shared a moment ago about my experience in the prayer room in the YMCA. Something else that was tragic and striking to me was that it was nearly empty. Volleyball was more desirable than being with God.
I remember another time during that year just after a youth worship service. I was experiencing God so dramatically and so continually that I was probably glowing in the dark! I went outside after that service, and with a goofy smile on my face, told some of my new friends just how amazing God is.
“Wow! Guys, God is so amazing! Whoa! His anointing and his fire is powerful! I can’t imagine ever living without him!”
These guys, whom I would pray with on a regular basis, just looked at me with a half smile and said something like, “John, that’s great. Yep, God’s good.”
Where was the passion for Jesus and the explosion of emotion that I was experiencing?
During that particular season of my life, every Thursday night just prior to the youth service there was an hour of prayer in the sanctuary. The leaders heavily announced the prayer meeting, put signs on the doors, talked with people one-on-one and ensured the prayer was the most emphasized portion of the entire night.
Week after week between 60-100 young people would arrive early–and stand outside of the sanctuary in the foyer. The large sanctuary looked empty as 5-6 zealots pressed into the presence of God for one hour and the small foyer looked like a fire hazard as it was jammed to its limits.
You may be saying, “Well, John, many of those young people may not even be saved. They were just babes in the Lord at best.”
OK, that may be true. But, let me ask a question–how many times have you seen a similar scenario take place with adults?
I talked to someone just the other day regarding prayer. She stated that her church of about 500 people is resistant to the idea of prayer. The prayer room was on the second level of the church and it had six chairs in it. Then, to make room for another church program, the prayer room was moved from the second floor to the third floor, and in the process they removed three of the chairs. How can this be?!
There is a GREAT SIN of prayerlessness in this nation! Again, prayer is simply being with God. Do we even understand the opportunity we have to encounter God in increasing measure every moment of our lives?
Intimacy must follow salvation and prayer is the vehicle of intimacy. I’ll never understand why the call to intimately encounter God in prayer is countered with excuses and no-shows. It literally breaks my heart.
I don’t know how often I’ve heard people respond to the call to the prayer room with excuses like:
- I am always in prayer–in the car, while doing dishes, at work.
- God is with me wherever I go.
- God knows my heart and my needs. I trust he’ll take good care of me.
The fact that we attempt to validate non-aggressive, passive and non-costly methods of prayer above the wonderful experience of spending hours of hungering and groaning as the Holy Spirit breathes through us in the place of visitation reveals a tragic crisis in the Church!
We should not be making excuses for not being with Jesus!
There is a difference between being in the omnipresence of God and being in the manifest presence of God. Everybody is continually in God’s omnipresence. Satanists, witches, children, adults, preachers and sinners. However, it costs much to press into God’s manifest presence. It takes time, effort and passion. Period. It’s radically inconvenient to a naturally driven life. God is drawing us into the Holy of Holies, yet we have become satisfied with the outer courts!
There is a difference between passively praying throughout our day and actively pressing into God’s presence. We must discover God’s heart in prayer. We talk a lot about lengthy prayer in our ministry. It is absolutely non-negotiable.
Prayer in the Cave
We often hold a unique event called Prayer in the Cave. We crawl into a deep cave, turn out the lights and be with God. It usually takes at least an hour of sitting in perfect silence before our hearts are at a place of being invaded by the Holy Spirit. Then, as we transition into the next phase of repentance, we find that we’ve gone well over the two hour mark. Worshipping and crying out to God takes more time. Then, finally, we can hear God. We wait and wait as the prophetic Word of God is delivered to us. Then (and now it’s been 3-4 hours) we are ready to come into agreement with what’s on God’s heart. We war in the Spirit and experience wildly enjoyable and effective prayer. Our love of God is intense, our passion is hot and the outcome is amazing. People who experience this wouldn’t trade it for anything! Excuses aren’t made to avoid prayer, but instead declarations are made to friends, family and our own calendars that we have an appointment with God that will not be violated! Saying no to God’s wooing becomes a laughable idea indeed!
Let me say this clearly–people who are legitimately saved simply crave to be with their Lover–Jesus. Lengthy prayer is an obvious reality for them as they understand the many issues of life that must be contended with in order to enjoy God freely.
Does that mean everybody is glowing in the dark and full of life and fire every moment of their lives? Does it mean that prayer isn’t hard work sometimes? Of course not! It also doesn’t assume that everybody has tangibly experienced God–but those who love God, whether they have experienced him or not, will do whatever it takes to experience him initially and then over and over again.
God yearns for us to be with him intimately and continually. Much of that time will be passive–while we are in the car or cleaning the house–and much will be very active. I consider the following passage of scripture to be one of the saddest in scripture. Its story was also indicative of things to come.
Matthew 26:42-44 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.
The saddest phrase is, “He left them.”
At history’s most critical moment, Jesus was craving intimacy with his friends, and when he found none, he went to be with his Father, alone. He had something to accomplish, so while he didn’t leave them in terms of his friendship with them, he did leave them when it came to partnering, or the lack thereof, in purpose.
Our desire to be with God will be maintained through thick and thin. God has much to do, and he is calling his lovers to be with him as he does it. Our love of Jesus will keep us awake and alert. The disciples wanted to experience very passive prayer (it is very possible to sleep in the Spirit!) while Jesus was calling them to the most active prayer of their lives. When they didn’t respond, Jesus left them.
I know some may quote a scripture at this point, which is one of my favorites:
Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”
“But John, God has promised us a light burden. It seems as if you are preaching a very heavy burden when you discuss lengthy prayer.”
First of all, let me say this–prayer is wonderfully enjoyable. Those who tap in to the heart of God simply become addicted to lengthy prayer.
But, let’s also address the incredibly difficult and important seasons of prayer that require much of us. God’s burden in these situations is very light only when we enter them in his strength and not ours. God’s assignments for us are so heavy and severe that it is completely impossible and burdensome for us to accomplish. Many get very frustrated as they stare God’s impossible directives for them in the face.
What’s the missing element here? The power of the Holy Spirit that can only be received through being with God! As we are with God intensely and with wild regularity, we will, day-by-day, discover the ability to obey God by carrying the burdens he has given us to carry.
Romans 8:26-28 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.
We should literally find ourselves in our prayer closets realizing the monumental tasks that God has placed on us, identifying our incredible weaknesses and falling on our faces yearning and groaning before the Lord. Many have not allowed the Holy Spirit to physically groan through them. We intercede and cry out and pray in the Spirit day in and day out as we receive the burdens that the Holy Spirit is willing and able to carry through us.
We must hear God’s voice so we can know what he wants us to do. We’ve all heard the scripture that “all things work together for good…”, but we miss the point all too often. If we are intimate with God and if we are receiving his purpose for our lives, the heavy burden which is made light through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, things work together for good. If we don’t hear God, don’t pray, don’t receive his burden and aren’t intimate with him, things in our lives can be very bad. We must intentionally be with God, hear God, be intimate with God, receive God’s ministry and mandates and allow the Holy Spirit to work and groan through us. Our flesh then becomes crucified and our spirits dance and stir as we excitedly move into the realm of the impossible!
Our flesh often tries to determine how much we will carry because it knows how much it can handle. Instead of surrendering to God’s plans, we attempt to manage our own burdens. Our tolerance for pain dictates how far we go.
Our flesh tells us how much to pray, how much to fast, how much to serve, how much to give. Our flesh determines the extent of our obedience.
However, when we are with God in the furnace of prayer, we become super-powered as the Holy Spirit takes over. We can now obey God and press into the incredible life God has called us to live.
Cares of Life
When I started Revolution Church in 2001, I naively assumed that people who participated with us would see the extreme nature of the vision to take a city for Jesus and would quickly conclude that a radical departure from life as usual must occur. I believed people would get so excited about accomplishing the impossible that they would immediately respond to calls to fast, to pray and to reorder their lives.
After all, the only way to do what God was calling us to do was to be empowered by the Holy Spirit through lengthy prayer. It seemed obvious to me.
God then spoke to me very powerfully, “You must communicate the following message clearly and continually–cares of life must be eliminated!”
Luke 8:14-15 “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.
Those who are inward focused and pursue pleasure and comfort, and who focus on the cares of life, will not mature. I knew a call to take an entire city required people to very quickly respond to this truth regarding the cares of life. It would take serious and maturing people. It couldn’t be a long process, but a quick response to press in, pray, fast and reprioritize their lives.
Those who hear the word keep it and bear fruit with patience. It’s a radical life.
I believe God is restoring the church to be much like the first church in the Book of Acts. While today church leaders avoid scheduling too many events because of the demands of life on people, we will see these demands finally giving way to the structure God had originally ordained. God’s ways will trump life’s demands.
Acts 2:46-47 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.
They were actually at church every day! They also met in homes. A lot of activity with God and other believers was taking place. They had favor and the harvest was large. Can you imagine people today praying in the church every day? Well, it is coming and it will mark the most powerful season the church has ever experienced!
The Lord spoke something to me recently. He told me the Holy Spirit is moving on the face of the earth right now, and he is recruiting. He’s recruiting those who will respond to him, and who will participate in a great end time move of God. A great battle. He said that he is not installing a draft. This end time army will be made up of those who are willing and ready–those who discern the signs of the times. Those who resist, some who will still be secure in their salvation and others who won’t, will feel the force of the move of God on the earth instead of partnering with God.
God is calling us to surrender all. Many are just cruising along in life, relaxing and doing their best to be comfortable. Many will not make Heaven.
Even Billy Graham’s own research shows a mere 2% of people who fill out a decision card at one of their evangelistic crusades ever end up pursuing their walk with the Lord.
I’ve heard of a person who was taken to Heaven in real time. He watched as people entered eternity. Some went to Heaven. Most went to Hell.
A recent Gallup poll reveals that 45% of people in America call themselves born again. On this particular day, this individual reported that only about 2% of the people who died that day entered Heaven. While this is not verifiable, it is nonetheless striking. We could deduct fairly reliably that well over 90% of people who had at one time repeated a sinner’s prayer, probably attended church and lived a good life were never known by God and ended up in Hell.
Intimacy with God is achieved through prayer. I suggest it’s a matter of eternal life and death to ensure the prayer rooms of America’s churches are full.
Revolution Church was transitioned to Revolution House of Prayer recently. God had spoken clearly to me about the deep importance of having entire cities that pray and worship him 24-hours a day. I decided to contact someone at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri. I emailed several questions to them, and one of their leaders responded back to me.
The answer to one question broke my heart and sent flags flying and alarms sounding.
“How do visitors respond when you tell them that the mission of IHOP is to minister to God 24-hours a day in prayer?”
The answer?“They often look back at us with a confused look on their face.” I too have experienced this tragic phenomena.
How can this be? How can they be confused? It simply doesn’t make sense. Where is the deep longing to be with the Lover of our souls? Where is the lovesick bride?
God’s house is a House of Prayer. Period. There is a trend that must be eliminated from our mind sets–the trend of participating in churches or spiritual activities based on what we can get out of them. Entire churches are set up with the mind set of having the most programs so they can serve the most needs of the most people! When did this happen?
We are called to bring our sacrifices to the altar! We are called to surrender all! To minister to God!
I contend that one of the best things that churches in America can do is to cancel all of their programs, small groups, Sunday School classes and activities–and pray. For a year. Who will stay? Who will thrive? Who will leave? Who will complain?
Can you imagine what this nation and this world would be like if for 365 straight days and nights every single church and every single pastor and every single believer would be in the prayer rooms? Revival would burn across this land and the harvest would be received in world record time!
As it is now, churches call a prayer meeting and the people scatter–America, we have a problem.
A reformation of ministry to the Living God is coming to our land. Churches are abandoning old wine skins and are transitioning to the original intent on God’s heart–for his house to be a house of prayer for all nations.
Relationships will be developed in the prayer rooms. We’ll go out for coffee after our prayer watches and study the Word together. We’ll enjoy each other’s company in our homes. We’ll live a life of continual prayer, continual growth and continual relationships with other fire-breathing Christians–and it won’t be dependent on a program!
What about the lost? I contend that they will finally have a good reason to get saved. And they won’t get falsely saved into a cozy, self-centered experience. They won’t ever have to face the terror of Hell that gripped me in that shocking and horrific dream. Salvation for the coming harvest will equate to passionate surrender to a zealous Bridegroom. They will be launched into a life of intimate pursuit of Jesus through the vehicle of continual, fervent prayer.
Let’s go churches of America–open up the prayer rooms again!
I knew there was a risk of losing everything when the call to the deep was announced.
We’ve become such a passive church society that the abrasion that’s coming will be wholeheartedly rejected by mainstream Christianity. False-humility and superficial pleasantries are masquerading as spirituality while truth is moderated to ensure it doesn’t disturb anybody.
The result is a Christian culture that celebrates the shallows and merely acknowledges the depths as optional for those who may want to venture in.
Going on eastward with a measuring line in his hand, the man measured a thousand cubits, and then led me through the water, and it was ankle-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was knee-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and led me through the water, and it was waist-deep. Again he measured a thousand, and it was a river that I could not pass through, for the water had risen. It was deep enough to swim in, a river that could not be passed through. And he said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he led me back to the bank of the river. Ezekiel 47:3-6
The time is coming when the deep is no longer presented as an option for the Christian, but rather, it’s the only hope for those who desire to truly follow Jesus. Prophetic awakeners will be boldly moving into deep waters and calling out those who are splashing like children in the shallow waters while presuming themselves to be normal, biblical Christians. These awakeners will be shocking an apathetic people like madmen!
Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 2 Corinthians 11:23
We have fallen for the deception that we are all equal in our Christianity and any type of distinction based on maturity, passion or discipline is quickly hushed out of fear that the less committed will feel alienated. This fear is going to cease as prophetic voices will be calling all who are willing into the deep—and those who choose to splash and play will do so of their own volition.
But I, brothers, could not address you as spiritual people, but as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3:1
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Ephesians 4:11-14
About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing. For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, Hebrews 5:11-12
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. 1 Corinthians 13:11
Grow up and get into position! That’s the call of the hour. It’s time to count the cost, get into position and run with passion as the Church worthy of the name of Jesus Christ!
Don’t think for a minute that you can’t do it. That would be an insult to the grace of Christ!
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. 2 Corinthians 12:9-10
Paul refused to shrink back. He moved in great grace and turned the world upside down! He ran. He fought. He knew his sole purpose on the Earth was to advance the Kingdom and that mission burned in him night and day.
Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. 1 Corinthians 9:24
Paul said to the people, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” and not to Jesus, “Hey, wait up, let’s move at the pace of the people.” God sets the pace, not us.
The fear is that others will presume we are arrogant or haughty when we call them higher—after all, if we are calling them higher, we must think we are higher already.
- First, the closer we get to Jesus, the deeper we go, the more humble and broken we become—our own depravity, weaknesses and struggles are clarified as the holiness and majesty of Jesus are magnified. The deeper we go the deeper we have to keep going. The deep is truly the point of no return.
- Second, what would the suggestion be? That we lessen our intimacy with Jesus and encourage people in their apathy so as not to offend any or invite division within the camp? No way.
And blessed is the one who is not offended by me.” Matthew 11:6
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person’s enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:34-39
When I called the church into the deep in Colorado several years ago, I knew that I would lose many people, a lot of money and even my reputation. Many would be angered that we were picking up the pace and raising the bar—beyond where they were willing to go. I fully understood there was a risk of killing Revolution Church when we did this—and it literally almost happened. Many truly thought I was a madman—and they were right! The remnant came alive to the call and ran with passion, but, sadly, those who were given to this costly, fiery, normal Christianity were very few and far between. I decided early on that I’d rather have a small church on fire with Christians who were ready to invest their very lives than a church of two or three hundred people who gathered around a space heater—and I knew I could have either. A church of 200 would provide a good salary and stability for my family. Good programs and honey-dipped messages would draw the socialites who would invest just enough to provide a cozy, Laodicean environment for all of us. I get sick even thinking of that option—and so does God.
So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. Revelation 3:16
In a world where lukewarm is normal, the common response to an extreme church environment is that it’s not the appropriate church experience, that it’s not for a typical Christian, even though some would agree such a ministry has some value, for some people. An extreme church culture to many is more like a para-church ministry than a legitimate church. It doesn’t fit within their definition of what a church is suppose to be and do. The accusation is that such an extreme focus is only for a small minority of Christians—and then, most probably just for a short season.
I’ve spent years and tears attempting to address this fallacy. Normal church today is that of mildly committed followers of Jesus who put limits on their passion and devotion—it’s children splashing in the shallows. This is not the Christianity of the Bible.
“But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their playmates, “‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we sang a dirge, and you did not mourn.’ Matthew 11:16-17
Revival Church is not an extreme environment, not even close. However, compared to the user friendly, bread and breakfast version of the church that dominates the landscape of our nation, it does feel like a para-church, over the edge, specialized ministry for the minority instead of the majority. This grieves me—not because I want more people to stuff themselves into our church building, but because the thought of extreme passion feels specialized and uncommon, unwanted and unnecessary.
The church experience in our nation has become more about living a wonderful life instead of dying a remarkable death—and pastors know very well that a focus on surrender versus benefit will result in empty pews and offering plates.
While I would never presume to have a perfect understanding of the function of the church, I am confident on several points—and when I employed these critical elements into our ministry I fully believed that the result would be a sound, vibrant and biblical church. We are para-church in no way. I want to alleviate the fear pastors may have of being accused of not being a legitimate church—when you gather together to pray on fire and release the messages of the Lord, you are modeling the coming church. This is what the church will look like when the reformation is complete! That being said, the accusations will fly, but don’t relent. Stay the course, gather the people and pray.
Blow the trumpet in Zion; consecrate a fast; call a solemn assembly; gather the people. Consecrate the congregation; assemble the elders; gather the children, even nursing infants. Let the bridegroom leave his room, and the bride her chamber. Between the vestibule and the altar let the priests, the ministers of the LORD, weep and say, “Spare your people, O LORD, and make not your heritage a reproach, a byword among the nations. Why should they say among the peoples, ‘Where is their God?’” Joel 2:15-17
The call is for every person who has made the radical and costly decision to follow the living God to dive into the fire together. No matter how long we’ve known Jesus, our pace should be the same—intense and fiery.
Have you ever met someone who was recently radically saved? They can’t run fast enough or burn hot enough! Yet, we’ve fallen for the deception that new Christians need to take baby steps! No way, no more!
Extreme church is the only option in today’s end-time climate. The formula is simple—too simple for most—pray with fervent passion together with others several times a week, read the Bible, believe it and respond to God’s mandates with faith and obedience. Pray continually. Live in the spirit. Die daily. Surrender all. Be holy.
This is normal church. It’s a culture of uncommon holiness and passion for intercession where we refuse to be amused by darkness and endeavor to slow the flow to Hell with prayer and action. This is why were are on the Earth.
I believe we would be much closer to the true, biblical model of the church if we did little more than pray nonstop in tongues for two hours on a Sunday morning than what we see today.
The Coming Church
Please understand this point. Consider it. Pray on it.
We live in a day where Christians are boldly, unapologetically defending their measured religious devotion and are denouncing calls to extreme commitment. I hear it all the time—fervency is shunned in favor of the status quo. Can you believe this? Being extreme for Jesus is an unwelcome negative attitude, an invasive intrusion into the well guarded lives of American Christians.
If the thought of the church experience being made up mostly of praying in the Spirit with infusions of apostolic messages and reading of scripture feels incomplete or uncomfortable to you, you will find yourself frustrated and resistant in the coming church.
Change is coming. For example, many are looking for a church with an amazing worship experience where it’s easy to sit back and bask in the atmosphere. In the coming church, in place of polished worship teams, we will see an environment where groans of intercession are echoing in the room—with or without instruments. Everybody will be on their face burning, groaning and crying out as acts of worship in place of today’s Christian karaoke. Imagine gathering together multiple nights a week to hit our faces and groan in intercession together! Most everything else that we’ve come to know in today’s church will be done away with as we all serve as worshiping intercessors in the house of prayer for all nations. We will worship in spirit. In truth.
But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” John 4:23-24
This type of a church environment seems extreme, and demanding, and uncomfortable. Yes. Today it will feel like that, but when the reformation and revolution in the church is complete, it will feel normal, and God will call us to yet another level—a level today that we wouldn’t even think is possible. It’s a level, one beyond the level where we are going next, that will result in continual supernatural power. Keep that in mind. If the next level seems extreme, just compare it to what’s coming beyond that!
Again, the coming church, the next level, will be white hot and perfect for every Christian at every maturity level. The prayer room is the only room for the new Believer and the apostolic leaders who are investing into them! This is my heart for Revival Church. I see this model being perfect for people of all levels as it calls everybody into the same place—death and destiny. Everybody gathers, prays, grows and is intentional in their discipleship. It’s intense and life changing. And then, when the remnant does this together in unity, it will be world changing.
Our ministry school, theLab University, is an extreme experience of prayer and maturity—and my view is that the school is closer to a normal, biblical church than churches we see today.
The commitment level at theLab is high (by today’s standards)—we meet together four days and nights a week. We have homework to complete and turn in on a weekly basis. There are prayer events that are required for us to attend somewhere in Detroit every Friday night. We are held accountable for our attendance and participation. Holiness is commanded. We are a family. We are locked in and ready to grow at a rapid rate together. This, my friend, is church. However, in America, it’s para-church. It’s extreme. It’s not for the general Christian. This, again, deeply grieves me.
Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. Romans 12:11
Zeal is not a personality trait! It’s a command!
And he said, “Come with me, and see my zeal for the LORD.” So he had him ride in his chariot. 2 Kings 10:16
I challenge you—live so boldly that others take notice, and call them to experience your zeal for the Lord! Call them higher! Call them out of the dead and dying manmade American church system that is headed for judgment!
“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. Revelation 3:1
…If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. Revelation 3:3
The coming church is what the scoffers and mockers and seekers and disillusioned are waiting for. They want to see a people who are serious about their God, radical in their devotion and done with the imitation religion of our day.
They want to see a church that’s finally devoid of hypocrites—people that won’t be amused by unrighteousness in media that required the death of the one they say they love.
They are waiting for a church that will not only boldly expose the sins of the nation, but also pray night and day for it.
The world needs a church that burns with such love and anointing and holiness and that’s single minded in it’s purpose—to set the world ablaze.
No more programs, productions or promotions. It’s time to pray as the church again. America is waiting.
The fear of deception is giving way to a demand for it—often at the cost of people’s souls.
We are living in the days of deception on demand—a prophetic culture that serves encouragement at the expense of truth.
“Both prophet and priest are ungodly; even in my house I have found their evil, declares the LORD. Therefore their way shall be to them like slippery paths in the darkness, into which they shall be driven and fall, for I will bring disaster upon them in the year of their punishment, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 23:11-12
It’s important that you know as I begin this article that I hold a high value for prophecy. I’ve written and taught on it for years, and I strongly encourage everybody to live a bold, active prophetic life.
Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-21
It would be equally as easy, and important, to write about movements that are defying scripture by quenching the Spirit and despising prophecies. Today, more than ever, the church must live and walk in the spirit as it hears God’s Rhema voice. God is absolutely talking and we must absolutely hear him—and relay key end-time prophetic data to the church and the world.
“For the Lord GOD does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. Amos 3:7
God has established the office of Prophet, and we need to embrace that office. Additionally, we are all called to live prophetic lives, and we should embrace that gift.
Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1
With that established, we have to ensure the prophetic revelation is accurate, and that we don’t modify it at all—even if the message will be violently rejected. The way we handle prophecy will result in people either knowing God in the clarity of truth, or in people living a life of deception that may very well lead to an eternity in Hell.
The scripture instructs us not to despise prophecies, BUT it also instructs us to test it and to only hold to what is good. This is what we must do now in the prophetic movement—bad prophecy is doing great damage.
Wrong information will lead to a tainted analysis.
While many of today’s prophetic voices trend toward affirming people in their current condition via false words, these people are falling into deception that puts their very souls at risk.
How often have you heard someone affirm somebody’s salvation in order to bring them comfort? This is an example of a violation of prophetic protocol. We should never assure someone of their salvation, especially since we don’t know the depths of their hearts and we don’t know what type of decisions they will make in the years to come. False information like this is dangerous. Just as the disciples did, we need to all wrestle with our own salvation.
And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Matthew 19:23-26
Theologies and prophetic insights today rarely address the issue of salvation in any way other than affirming it—even for those who are only marginally devoted to Jesus. Somehow, there appears to be a certain valiance associated with the idea of easy salvation. What it communicates is that Jesus is willing and able to save every person regardless of their personal commitment and relationship with him. That feels heroic, and it is great news for those who are not fervent in their relationship with Jesus. Unfortunately, that great news is not the Good News.
Not everybody who hears the Good News receives it. In fact, the Good News doesn’t usually feel like good news at all. Most reject it.
And a ruler asked him, “Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Luke 18:18
When Jesus heard this, he said to him, “One thing you still lack. Sell all that you have and distribute to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” But when he heard these things, he became very sad, for he was extremely rich. Luke 18:22-23
I am convinced that it is exceedingly rare for people to be legitimately saved. I’ve said before that I often wonder if even 10% of people in vibrant, Spirit-filled churches will end up in Heaven. Of course, there is no way to scientifically arrive at a literal percentage, but the inspection and analysis is appropriate. This is a prophetic process that is much different than the sugary prophetic imitations that are most common today.
When I have this discussion about uncommon salvation with fellow Christians, the reaction is most usually a mixture of shock, anger and fierce resistance. How dare somebody question their salvation!
It’s love that propels me to shine the light on the “angel of light” belief systems that are temporally satisfying yet eternally damning. Feel good messages are delivered which are actually not good at all—they are doctrines of demons.
And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons, 1 Timothy 4:1
In fact, as I’ve said before, I only give myself an 80% chance of “making Heaven.” I am not exempt from deception. I am not immune to temptation. I have a free will and I can walk away at some point in the years ahead. The great falling away is coming, and every one of us will be courted by it. If I died today, I’m confident I’d be with Jesus, but tomorrow is another day.
Salvation is not a status, it’s a dynamic lifestyle that isn’t gauged by an on and off switch. It’s measured by a deep, growing, intimate love relationship with Jesus that manifests radical obedience and surrender.
Jesus warned about false prophets that will put people’s salvation at risk. This is very real, and we are in those days right now.
“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:9-14
Lying prophets would never think of alerting an at risk person of their eternal future. Instead, they serve what is demanded—a promise of a future and a hope.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you, filling you with vain hopes. They speak visions of their own minds, not from the mouth of the LORD. They say continually to those who despise the word of the LORD, ‘It shall be well with you’; and to everyone who stubbornly follows his own heart, they say, ‘No disaster shall come upon you.’” Jeremiah 23:16-17
As people are flooding into Hell while thinking they are on the road to Heaven, it’s horrific to think that we wouldn’t warn them!
Today’s lying voices who are building their own reputations are about to experience the reformation of the Lord in their lives. This reformation is coming to the entire prophetic culture in today’s church.
…spirits like Baal and Jezebel are working through those who accepted the call to ministry but have given in to the financial pressure of building their own kingdoms rather than serving the kingdom of God. ~Jennifer LeClaire
When supposed prophetic voices share nothing but happy, encouraging words, they lose credibility. There is absolutely no way, in today’s volatile world, that everything is OK and getting better. Where are the warnings? Where are the rebukes?
True prophets will warn as often as they encourage. They will rebuke just as they build up.
One of the most often misused verses in scripture is Jeremiah 29:11:
For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Jeremiah 29:11
This is one verse that doesn’t stand on its own very well. Context is necessary.
This is a perfect example of today’s prophetic culture—encouraging people without supplying the context and the often challenging instructions that are attached. Lets look at the context.
“For thus says the LORD: When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will visit you, and I will fulfill to you my promise and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will hear you. You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the LORD, and I will restore your fortunes and gather you from all the nations and all the places where I have driven you, declares the LORD, and I will bring you back to the place from which I sent you into exile. Jeremiah 29:10-14
Instead of receiving a nice, comfy personal prophecy that all will be well, that there’s a great future ahead, the truth is that there’s much more to this prophetic process!
The future comes after seventy years! The hope arrives when God’s plans are reactivated after the exile is over. It’s then that they can pray and be heard. It’s then that they will find God, but only if they seek him with all their heart! Not only is the prophecy about the far off future, it’s also conditional.
The process is spelled out precisely:
“Thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel, to all the exiles whom I have sent into exile from Jerusalem to Babylon: Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters; take wives for your sons, and give your daughters in marriage, that they may bear sons and daughters; multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the LORD on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. For thus says the LORD of hosts, the God of Israel: Do not let your prophets and your diviners who are among you deceive you, and do not listen to the dreams that they dream, for it is a lie that they are prophesying to you in my name; I did not send them, declares the LORD. Jeremiah 29:4-9
The prophecy they wanted to hear was that they would be freed immediately. God warned them not to listen to lies, false prophecies that would be exactly what they wanted to hear, and even words that seemed to validate their view of the goodness of God. Certainly, a good God would never approve of being held captive by their enemies, right? Wrong.
Remember, God assigned a demon to Paul. He cast Jonah into a fish. He threw Joseph into a pit. God’s ways most certainly aren’t our ways, and he most definitely is not compelled to fit within our definition of what is good and right.
For those in exile, the true word was inconvenient, disappointing, challenging and irritating. It even put the hearers at risk of losing hope and having an emotional meltdown!
The truth remains—they were to build houses, plant gardens, get married, have kids and even wait for them to get married and have kids. What a prophetic word! Their was no hope until they were grandparents!
Here’s a huge point—God was certainly interested the individual’s plight, but, as always, he was more interested in the bigger picture. This is such a critical issue in today’s narcissistic Christian culture! Yes, God loves us as individuals, but he is more interested in the future of his entire people. He will allow one to go through great trouble for the sake of the freedom of many. Of course, Jesus is the perfect model of this truth.
Martyrdom is another model of this truth. God will allow one to be tortured and murdered for the sake of the advance of the Kingdom. What if today’s prophetic messengers started revealing people’s call to die at the hands of a terrorist for the sake of the Gospel? What if they started affirming our call to die before we live? True prophecy will be troubling as often as it is affirming.
What this means is that our process is not only about us, but for many others.
So, instead of demanding the flaky, invented prophetic words that promise a quick improvement to our personal lives, we need to hear the difficult messages that deal with our sin, our struggle, our disobedience and what should be done to correct. We need the words that call us higher.
There are generally three types of messages:
- What God has done for us and the benefits that result
- What God is about to do to benefit us
- What our responsibility is
The first two are all too common, and when delivered appropriately, these messages are great.
The last one is what we must see an increase of. In fact, we need to hear what we are doing wrong! We have to be OK with that so we can be calibrated to God’s plan for our lives. This is great, great news indeed!
Lets move beyond generic, incomplete words that reveal that God has a future for us. Instead, we need to know what he expects from us, how we have failed, what we can build on, how we can grow and what the big picture is.
Prophecy should propel us to action, not satisfaction.
Eat the Scroll
The prophetic words of God will be weighty, and won’t usually be received very well.
And he said to me, “Son of man, eat whatever you find here. Eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” So I opened my mouth, and he gave me this scroll to eat. And he said to me, “Son of man, feed your belly with this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it.” Then I ate it, and it was in my mouth as sweet as honey. And he said to me, “Son of man, go to the house of Israel and speak with my words to them. For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel— not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand. Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you. But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart. Behold, I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads. Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead. Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.” Moreover, he said to me, “Son of man, all my words that I shall speak to you receive in your heart, and hear with your ears. And go to the exiles, to your people, and speak to them and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD,’ whether they hear or refuse to hear.” Ezekiel 3:1-11
Today’s false or flaky prophetic movement is not birthed in the place of trembling intercession. It’s open to hear the most satisfying words that will result in the church elevating it, affirming it and celebrating it.
That’s why we need true prophetic messengers who will eat the scroll, carry the weight of the revelations of God and fearlessly confront the stubborn rebellion in the church. When we eat the scroll, we are undone, fearful and trembling.
Watch how Ezekiel, a true prophet, responds:
Then the Spirit lifted me up, and I heard behind me the voice of a great earthquake: “Blessed be the glory of the LORD from its place!” It was the sound of the wings of the living creatures as they touched one another, and the sound of the wheels beside them, and the sound of a great earthquake. The Spirit lifted me up and took me away, and I went in bitterness in the heat of my spirit, the hand of the LORD being strong upon me. And I came to the exiles at Tel-abib, who were dwelling by the Chebar canal, and I sat where they were dwelling. And I sat there overwhelmed among them seven days. Ezekiel 3:12-15
He was lifted up by the Spirit and experienced bitterness and heat in his spirit. His investment resulted in him being overwhelmed for a week. We need prophets who are overwhelmed.
Prophecy on Demand/Paying for Prophecy
I wrestle with the issue of prophecy on demand. On one hand, I do believe that God is always talking and that we can receive messages about others on a regular basis. On the other hand, all too often the prophetic words are nothing more than encouraging words that may or may not be accurate. There’s great immaturity and a lack of the fear of the Lord all too often.
True, biblical encouraging words are great, but I believe we need to take the prophetic label off of that ministry if it’s not truly prophetic.
That being said, there’s something that I am absolutely alarmed about—a growing trend of payment for prophecy. This must stop.
I see this in the prayer movement and there are many who affirm ministries that offer prayer and prophetic words in exchange for financial support. Boy, this is dangerous.
Not only is the financial exchange iffy, it puts people on the spot. If a prophecy is ordered, the supposed prophet must come up with a prophecy. What if God isn’t talking? What if the word is negative? What if the prophetic person is having a bad week? What if they can’t hear easily? We could go on and on with the issues.
The spiritualized fortune telling has to stop. I’m not saying it’s all entirely inappropriate, but the precedent it’s setting is dangerous at the least. The fear of the Lord must hit the prophetic movement, and by all means, ministries that charge for prophetic ministry must be shut down.
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. Acts 8:18-22
Prophecy for payment is functioning today in the spirit of Balaam—administered by for prophet false prophets.
Balak paid Balaam to deliver a specific word of the Lord. Balaam was not invested in the process, but God did in fact put a word in his mouth, as a test. Balaam delivered this word, but Balak was furious—it wasn’t the word he paid for!
Behold, these, on Balaam’s advice, caused the people of Israel to act treacherously against the LORD in the incident of Peor, and so the plague came among the congregation of the LORD. Numbers 31:16
Woe to them! For they walked in the way of Cain and abandoned themselves for the sake of gain to Balaam’s error and perished in Korah’s rebellion. Jude 1:11
Prophecy for payment feels right—Christian people are delivering words that even God may have initiated, just as he did with Balaam, but the foundation is that of divination.
The money changers in the temple are about to be overturned.
If someone wanted me to be their resident prophetic counsel, I’d direct them to a much more reliable source—the Bible.
All of this brings me to the issue that’s burning hottest in my spirit. The purest prophetic messages are those that are read directly from scripture.
The Bible must return to front and center in the prophetic culture.
The greatest anointing won’t come when we are foretelling or reading somebody’s mail. It will come when a prophetic spirit comes upon us as we declare the ancient truths of scripture.
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
The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the LORD are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter also than honey and drippings of the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. Psalm 19:7-11
Wow! It seems everything people are looking for in personal prophecy can already be found in the Word of God. Rejoicing, enlightening, reward.
The issue is this—we must invest our lives into the Word of God. It takes effort. Personal prophecy is easy. We ask and receive.
Have you ever wondered why God is intentionally silent when we pray? Is it possible he doesn’t want us to have the information that a supposed prophet would be more than happy to divulge? Is it possible God wants us to search scripture for ourselves?
Personal prophecy has a place, but a reformation must come. It’s time we stop being lazy and resistant to the tough love of God as he either withholds information for a season or requires our radical participation in the process.
The prophecy games must come to an end. It isn’t harmless encouragement if it’s contrary to truth. The players in this game are being setup for eternal loss, and God is about to hold all of us accountable.
A deeper, weightier revelation of God’s love is coming—and it will look much different than we realize.
Are you ready for a deep, heavy, absolutely overwhelming revelation of God’s love?
I’m sitting in a powerful session with Barbara Yoder, Cindy Williams and a ministry team from Catch the Fire (Toronto) at Shekinah Church in Ann Arbor. It’s all about encountering the love of God, soaking in his presence and preparing to serve in love in a revival atmosphere. I’m yearning for more of this presence! I love what this ministry is about!
There is a MASSIVE increase in revelation of the love of God and the experience of his presence coming, and much of it will fulfill the yearnings of our heart. I’m convinced that much of it will also be quite surprising to you at how it manifests.
In order for there to be a false-anything, there must be a true, pure reality. 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.
Philippians 1:9-10 (MSG) 9 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 10 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…
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.
In the 1960’s and 1970’s we saw the emergence of free love.
Free love is a social movement that rejects marriage, which is seen as a form of social and financial bondage. The Free Love movement's initial goal was to separate the state from sexual matters such as marriage, birth control, and adultery. It claimed that such issues were the concern of the people involved, and no one else.
Much of the free-love tradition is an offshoot of anarchism, and reflects a libertarian philosophy that seeks freedom from state regulation and church interference in personal relationships.
The free love movement was not a love movement at all. It was focused on self-satisfaction, personal experience and relational connections. The intimacy they sought after was never found as sexual promiscuity served as a destructive, unfulfilling counterfeit.
I believe we are experiencing a similar free love movement in the church today:
- Rejecting marriage—this speaks to a resistance to covenant. The desire is to control the love connection, the experience. When the emotional rush is gone, and relational intimacy is disappointing, so many of today’s Christians sever that connection and move on to more satisfying relationships. They move from partner to partner, driven by selfish ambition seeking to be served instead of to serve.
- Social and financial bondage—free love seeks after social and relational euphoria, and if this is not experienced, people tend to flee from the threat of bondage. True investment into others is resisted unless there is an exchange, unless what they are seeking after is given to them. The problem? This is relational prostitution. Many Christians will invest into others only if their friendship is given in return.
- Separation from the state—just as those in the free love movement several decades ago sought after liberation from governmental control, many Christians today reject biblical government. Government requires submission, and submission doesn’t feel like love—though it is. Kingdom order requires submission, respect of boundaries and a surrender of personal rights. This is love! We hear so much about human rights today, as if it’s the purest manifestation of love. It is not! The homosexual movement demands the government stays out of their intimate pursuits. The pro-choice movement demands the government stays out of their wombs. 1 Corinthians 13 reveals that love is not self-seeking! It’s not about human rights, it’s about serving God’s government, his purposes and his people.
False-Love Myths and Deceptions
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.
With that in mind, here are some false-love (or tainted love) myths and deceptions that have hit the church:
- Expecting or demanding love from others—Remember, love is not self-seeking. Have you ever been wounded by someone who didn’t act in love toward you? It is normal to desire to be loved, but true love doesn’t expect or demand others to be the one to fulfill that desire. If we point our fingers at others who aren’t acting in love, then it’s an evidence that we ourselves do not love. If someone isn’t acting in love toward you, isn’t relationally close to you, won’t befriend you, how will you react? Will you refuse to invest into them unless you get something in return? You have actually fallen into relational prostitution. Jesus laid down his life for those who hated him and we must do the same.
- Focusing on God’s love is all we need—This is a disturbing trend in the church, but it’s actually not mostly incorrect. It’s mostly right! The argument is that when we focus on experiencing the pure, true love of Jesus, everything else in life just falls into place. If we focus on love, sin won’t be an issue. Maturity will just happen. Not so. What is mostly right? Well, the greater the revelation of God’s love for us, the more we want to be holy, respond in obedience and mature. Love is a great motivator! However, experiencing love is not all we need! The Bible is filled with instructions and mandates and focuses that we are responsible to respond to even if the love connection isn’t there one day.
Additionally, the Bible is filled with stories of people who loved God, and who sinned. Being with Jesus, loving Jesus, being intimate with Jesus is worthy of most of our energy and focus. However, even in a deep, intimate place with Jesus, obedience can be hard. Flesh can rise up. Satan can tempt. We can be deceived. Our theologies can be off. This is why we must continually let God search our hearts for any wicked way in us. We must be in the Word! We must be submitted to authorities who watch out for our souls. We can’t just enjoy God and presume our job is done.
- Love initiated pride—There seems to be a rapid emergence of those who are going after love of Jesus, and who are resisting discipline and discipleship. The reason? Pride. The presumption is that their encounter with the love of God has elevated them to a point where they no longer need to be a student of the Word, to focus on the sin potential in their lives or submit to others. They wouldn’t say that they are above others, but their arguments reveal their hearts more than not. When the call for holiness, brokenness, study, obedience, etc. is presented to them, they become puffed up and in turn, while rejecting your “inferior focuses”, call you to come up higher and just focus on love. Their response very often is, “If you really understood the Father’s love, you would see what I mean.” It’s arrogance masquerading as spirituality. The very fact that this is happening is a revelation that they have not truly experienced love the way they claim.
- Love must always manifest a certain way—In scripture, we do have a great definition of love in 1 Corinthians 13. I’d encourage you to read a recent article where I unpack it HERE. So, it is true that, for example, love is always patient. If you aren’t patient, then, that is a specific issue that you can analyze in yourself. However, there is a spirit of accusation in the camp that moves outside of this scriptural definition and declares that if you don’t function a certain way, then you don’t love the way God loves. For example, someone might say to an intercessor, “If you truly loved people, you would move out of your prayer closet and hit the streets and feed the homeless!” It’s an accusation against a child of God that they don’t love because they don’t fit into an imperfect definition of what love really is. Can you really imagine someone looking at a sweet, passionate grandma who prays with tears every day that she doesn’t love people because she isn’t street witnessing? On the flip side, an intercessor might say, “If you truly loved people you would spend hours a day praying from them!”
Additionally, in the article I linked to above I explain how love will manifest through the different offices. Love looks different when delivered through a pastor than it does when delivered through a prophet. As a church leader I have had to expend a lot of energy explaining to people what type of love and connection they might expect from someone like me. Most people think I’m a pastor when they first meet me (because church leaders in America are almost always called Pastor). If people presume that I will express love like a pastor, they can actually get very offended when that doesn’t happen. Accusations can fly. But, if we simply understood that, in addition to the 1 Corinthians 13 definition, different people, different offices and different cultures will express love very, very differently, it will be easy to honor and love them instead of making demands of them.
- Love always feels good—Oh boy, this one is big. When we encounter love, we will be presented with a view of God that is quite different than what we previously understood to be true. God’s love can be expressed in a very direct, uncomfortable way that breaks you and may even wonder how a loving God could act that way. God’s expression of love will often put you at risk, threaten you and trouble you. Jesus’ expression of love on the cross put Peter at risk of the same grisly death! How could Jesus do this? Peter was confused as he was presented with a side of Jesus he never saw—and he denied that expression of Jesus and his love for the world! I guarantee that Peter did not feel good as Jesus loved him by rescuing him from Hell by dying on the cross. Today, sharp, provoking preaching is rejected because it doesn’t feel good. They might say in their disturbed state, “That’s not the Jesus I know.” The risk is, like Peter, rejection of God when the feelings aren’t warm and intimate. This is one reason why being people of the Word is non-negotiable. We can’t afford to call good evil and evil good. We must learn about Jesus and how he functions so that our emotions don’t lead us astray.
- God is always in a good mood—Not true. Period. I’ve said it this way: If God is always in a good mood, he would be a monster, laughing and doing a happy dance as he casts people he loves into Hell. If we believe God is always in a good mood, we will reject messages and revelations that don’t result in us being in a good mood. We will associate the love of God with the hate of Satan. We know that God is still wrathful. He still gets angry. He is saddened. He is joyful. He is happy. He has moods, and the deepest place of love exists when we partner with God in his emotions. What is on God’s heart? How can we serve him and minister to him?
- Love requires that you are emotionally connected—Again, not true. Humans have the ability to love many but can only befriend a few. Different people have different capacities, but the principle remains the same. Don’t presume someone doesn’t love you if they don’t get close to you at a heart level. In fact, may I be so bold as to say, they might not like you! To love someone does not require that we like them. So we can love the masses and only connect at a close, friendship level with a few. Think about it. Do you want to be friends with everybody? Nope. Why would you expect the same from another? A rejection complex has really done a lot of damage to people—and they look for their healing to come from others loving them the way they want instead of dying to self and refusing to place that burden on them. They love them.
I remember a mega-church pastor that was extremely popular. He felt like your best friend though you really didn’t have a real personal relationship with him. People often wanted to get close to him, and they actually had a bit of a system in place to handle that! An associate would approach those who were a bit overzealous in their attempts to befriend the pastor. He’d say, “The Pastor will serve you well and express love by leading you, teaching you and helping you connect with Jesus. However, don’t expect him to be a personal friend of yours.” The same scenario is true for small churches. The pastor may be an introvert, may have limited emotional energy or simply may be called to focus on different things! Don’t presume that someone doesn’t love you just because they aren’t serving you the way you want. How potentially offensive and seemingly arrogant is this passage?
Acts 6:1-4 (MSG) 1 During this time, as the disciples were increasing in numbers by leaps and bounds, hard feelings developed among the Greek-speaking believers—”Hellenists”—toward the Hebrew-speaking believers because their widows were being discriminated against in the daily food lines. 2 So the Twelve called a meeting of the disciples. They said, “It wouldn't be right for us to abandon our responsibilities for preaching and teaching the Word of God to help with the care of the poor. 3 So, friends, choose seven men from among you whom everyone trusts, men full of the Holy Spirit and good sense, and we'll assign them this task. 4 Meanwhile, we'll stick to our assigned tasks of prayer and speaking God's Word.”
They were saying that they would not be connecting to people who needed help! They would focus on connecting to God and their very specific tasks! And, my good friends, that is love! They weren’t to feed the widows. They weren’t to make hospital visits. They weren’t to answer their phones every time someone needed them. They were to pray and preach, and that was deep, fiery love!
- You have to convince people that you love them—We are to be kind, without question. However, we aren’t to modify our messages, to soften our speech or to attempt to convince people that we love them. We should simply love them! How’s this statement of love:
Acts 2:22-24 (MSG) 22 “Fellow Israelites, listen carefully to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man thoroughly accredited by God to you—the miracles and wonders and signs that God did through him are common knowledge— 23 this Jesus, following the deliberate and well-thought-out plan of God, was betrayed by men who took the law into their own hands, and was handed over to you. And you pinned him to a cross and killed him. 24 But God untied the death ropes and raised him up. Death was no match for him.
You pinned him to a cross and killed him! He was in their grill! He was bringing correction with a bold, fiery spirit! He wasn’t worried about hurting their feelings—he was proclaiming the power of Jesus! His goal wasn’t to sit down and ask how their heart was, how they were feeling, if they feel OK. He was in another mode, functioning in love, and rocking their world and exposing their thinking that would lead them to Hell! I’m sure they didn’t feel loved, but if they responded to Peter’s message, they would have been flooded with the experiential, burning love of Jesus!
- Hard messages aren’t driven by love—This is attached to the above point, but it’s worthy of some extra attention. Jonathan Edwards’ message “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” is largely dismissed by today’s ultra-sensitive, thin-skinned culture as unloving. I’ve heard it said that he didn’t have a revelation of the Father’s love. This is not only wrong, it’s a violation of scriptural truth! We cannot avoid the hard messages of sin, Hell and repentance out of fear that we’ll be rejected by those who are offended. We can’t modify our messages to sound loving—we must trust that the Word of God is a message of love! Truth delivered in love doesn’t always feel great, and it will offend many, but those who receive it are changed forever!
We could go on and on for quite a while discussing myths and deceptions regarding love. The enemy is terrified of the manifestation of true love, and he’s offering a castrated version of it to those who are seeking after good, happy feelings. Castrated love feels good, but it has no ability to bring forth life!
It’s time for us to trust God as he is, not as we want him to be. It’s time to dive into the Word and embrace Jesus as he manifests a variety of emotions which are all rooted in love.