Whose sheep are you? What voice do you hear most regularly? The answer makes all the difference in the world.
When I travel for ministry, I regularly speak on the topic of Revelation Driven Prayer. I wrote a book on the topic, and in many ways this invitation to living an exciting prophetic life is my signature message. The undeniable and other-worldly miracles and wonders that I’ve experienced would never have happened had I not discovered a life in the Spirit. It truly troubles me that it’s so uncommon for today’s Spirit-filled Christians to walk in the Spirit and to hear God’s voice.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. John 10:27 (ESV)
Not only do people regularly admit to not being able to hear God’s voice, very often they honestly confess that they continually hear the voice of the enemy. My response is often intentionally direct, as I believe this is a crisis that must be addressed with urgency.
I ask them, “Then, whose sheep are you?”
A more comprehensive question would be, “Whose counsel are you receiving and what are you doing to ensure that counsel is only coming from the Holy Spirit?”
Simply, we must reject the incessant bombarding of unholy lies, counsel and revelation. Our minds must be renewed. Our walk must be not in the soulish, natural realm. God mandates that we live and walk and pray in the Spirit.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. Galatians 5:16-17 (ESV)
24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Galatians 5:24-25 (ESV)
In fact, the ability to pray in the Spirit is a key part of our spiritual armor.
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, Ephesians 6:18 (ESV)
WHOSE SHEEP ARE YOU?
The enemy of your soul works overtime to grab your attention, to introduce fear and unbelief and to take on the persona of the Holy Spirit—he wants to counsel you.
The question, “Whose sheep are you” isn’t necessarily one that deals with our position in Christ directly, though it could come into play. Enough demonic counsel will most certainly draw you away from Jesus. Satan’s goal is for that to be your eternal reality.
But, there are many steps and phases prior to such a finality. It’s possible, for a time, to be gloriously saved by Jesus while not allowing the Holy Spirt to be our primary counselor. We can, and many do, refuse to nurture a life of prayer and growth in the Word, instead casually attempting to live life as we always had. The enemy will take advantage of such an apathetic approach and appeal to our common sense and to our vulnerabilities.
The result? A life under the leadership of the wrong shepherd.
Again, most people, it seems, don’t hear God’s voice while, at the same time, decreeing with no uncertainty that the voice of the enemy is loud, clear and continual. This is a problem we must address.
PROPHETIC SHOCK AND AWE
16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone’s own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. 2 Peter 1:16-21 (ESV)
The call is clear: we must be carried along by the Holy Spirit!
Peter was emphasizing that everything he was sharing was because of his first-hand revelation. He was there and he experienced it all. Of course, you and I weren’t there when Jesus walked the earth. However, that absolutely doesn’t hinder our opportunity to have first-hand experience!
6 But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your heart. 7 Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. John 16:6-7 (ESV)
We are at an advantage because Jesus left the earth and the Holy Spirit arrived on the earth!
10 I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet Revelation 1:10 (ESV)
We have no option but to be in the Spirit! What an invitation! As we live in the Spirit, we will begin to see and hear and encounter the great Shepherd. The counsel of God will blow away the dead, humanistic, demonic wisdom we had been living according to.
6 Yet among the mature we do impart wisdom, although it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to pass away. 7 But we impart a secret and hidden wisdom of God, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this, for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10 these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. 1 Corinthians 2:6-10 (ESV)
This should launch you into a passionate pursuit of the wisdom of God! The truth that Spirit searches the depths of God is something that wrecks and rocks me every time I consider it. I yearn to live my life according to supernatural, other-worldly, holy revelation. The deep things of God are there to be discovered, and I’m provoked to live every day contending for the uncovering.
12 Now we have received not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, that we might understand the things freely given us by God. 13 And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. 14 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 2:12-14 (ESV)
The deep things of God will be revealed to us by the Spirit. This means we must learn how to shift from being driven by human understanding to being driven by revelation. If we don’t, we will not receive these truths because they must be spiritually discerned. This discernment doesn’t come simply because we are saved. We must allow the Holy Spirit to teach us how to receive this supernatural data.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. 6 In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. 7 Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD, and turn away from evil. 8 It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones. Proverbs 3:5-8 (ESV)
GROANS OF THE SPIRIT
I’ll leave you with a powerful first step that will help you transition from living a life driven by worldly or demonic counsel to one driven by revelation.
The following is from an article titled The Tone of the Groan:
I've been privileged to give leadership to some events where intercessors and hungry people have shaken and shocked atmospheres. The loud, erupting sound of groans have been resounding in our meetings. It's been prophesied many times that a new sound is going to be released. A new tone. I am convinced that this is not a new musical style, but rather a new groan of the Spirit. It's the tone of the groan that will be heard around the world.
One of the most misapplied scriptures is Romans 8:28. When people are struggling, it's common to share this verse with them. It's actually pretty bad counsel if we don't let them know that this verse is dependent on the preceding verses. Romans 8:28 (ESV) starts with the word “And,” which should reveal that it's connected to what came before it:
Romans 8:26-28: Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.
Things work together for good when we allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through us with groans! No groan, no guarantee of success.
This is talking about a literal groan. Just as praying in tongues requires a literal sound to come out of our mouths, the groans are also deep, zealous sounds, tones, emitted from the depths of our inner man.
Churches must begin to become prayer- and groan-driven! The sound will break strongholds and usher in deliverance into our nation.
Yes, it will make a lot of people uncomfortable, but the Holy Spirit will be radically comfortable.
When the groans begin, Romans 8:28 initiates. As the powerful mysteries of God are exploding out of us in prayer, we easily find ourselves loving God with deep intimacy. We embrace the calling on our lives. We have a resounding yes in our spirits even though we don't know logically what we are agreeing with! In fact, bypassing our logic and intellect through groans of intercession is a primary reason why we are in agreement with God.
Our minds can't understand what's being prayed and therefore can't come into disagreement with it.
A life of fervent, supernatural prayer will take us out of the natural and into the Spirit. Praying in tongues and allowing the groans that follow to rumble out of us will train us to tap into the spiritual realm of the Spirit. Our discernment will become sharp. Dreams and visions will start to come. Revelation will spike. Intimacy with Jesus will increase.
The result? We’ll finally hear clearly just what the Shepherd is saying. We’ll go where he is going and our lives will change so dramatically that we’ll wonder how we ever lived any other way.
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)
Powerful strategies to eliminate templated, programmed church services
An Azusa Street report:
…disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, “Repent,” and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, “The Comforter Has Come.”
It’s becoming less common for Christians to jump out of bed on Sunday mornings, excited about heading to church. Of course, many do still love their church experience. The worship environment is powerful, the vision is alive and the part they play causes them to feel the fire of the Holy Spirit coursing through them. However, sadly, if we were honest, we’d have to admit that many church services are much less powerful, less anointed and less impacting than we’d like. In fact, a church that looks anything like what was described in the above Azusa Street report can hardly be found.
There is a way to fix that. The end result is an atmosphere that’s placed in the Holy Spirit’s control. I’ll tell you this, it’s impossible to be bored when God moves. Impossible. It can’t happen. It’s possible to be provoked, irritated, offended or troubled, but not bored or disconnected. What this means is that, in many churches, God isn’t moving in real power. It may be hard to admit that, but we must if we want to prepare for revival and an outpouring that will make us say, “I can never do church the way I used to again.”
An Azusa Street report:
All who are in touch with God realize as soon as they enter the meetings that the Holy Ghost is the leader.
SEVEN SURE-FIRE STRATEGIES TO END BORING, PREDICTIABLE CHURCH SERVICES
1. Lead in lengthy sessions of corporate praying and singing in tongues.
True Christian leaders will confidently, passionately and continually lead people in fervent and supernatural prayer. Lack of a powerful prayer emphasis on Sunday mornings is an indicator of a lack of a powerful prayer discipline throughout the week. When we are burning in intercession throughout the week, there is an explosion that simply must come on Sunday mornings and any other time the saints meet together.
Nurturing an atmosphere where everybody is praying in tongues and singing in the Spirit simply cannot disappoint. How easy would it be, in the midst of worship, to spend fifteen or twenty minutes pacing around the room, laying out at the altar or finding a place to pray in tongues with a zealous spirit? I recommend integrating this into every church service, understanding that the wind of the Holy Spirit may blow the program for the rest of the day well of course.
In fact, it would be valuable to bring the worship team down off the platform on occasion during this part of the service so they can be free to let the groans and cries of their heart out. Often, worship team members find a comfort spot behind their instrument or microphone. You’d be sadly surprised at how many people who have been entrusted to lead us into the Holy of Holies don’t operate from a burning, overwhelming spirit of prayer.
6 And when Paul had laid his hands on them, the Holy Spirit came on them, and they began speaking in tongues and prophesying. Acts 19:6 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Singing was sporadic and in a cappella or occasionally there would be singing in tongues. There were periods of extended silence. Attenders were occasionally slain in the Spirit.
2. Embrace a vibrant prophetic culture. Invite people to submit prophetic words during the service.
In order to stay right on track with the order of service and to ensure the focus of the day isn’t threatened, definitely do not promote a prophetic culture! Unfortunately, too many pastors have embraced that advice by eliminating or rejecting prophetic ministry on Sundays.
I’ve always believed one of the best ways to promote an absolutely electric church service is by allowing God to speak. When people are trained in the prophetic and are also given an outlet to reveal what God is desiring to communicate through them, the supernatural energy in the room spikes. I often wonder how many sermons have been delivered and how many church services have been conducted in such a way that God’s plan for the day was entirely missed.
As we effectively equip people in prophetic ministry, and facilitate an environment that affirms and promotes prophetic expression, God will blow through the saints and the atmosphere will shake under the weight of God’s Rhema word.
1 Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy. 1 Corinthians 14:1 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…devotees of the weird doctrine practice the most fanatical rites, preach the wildest theories and work themselves into a state of mad excitement in their peculiar zeal. Colored people and a sprinkling of whites compose the congregation, and night is made hideous in the neighborhood by the howlings of the worshippers, who spend hours swaying forth and back in a nerve racking attitude of prayer and supplication.
3. Have open mic intercession. Invite people to pray 10-15 second prayers, to make decrees and to stir the atmosphere.
Praying in tongues corporately will naturally lead to some incredibly potent revelation stirring within the people. I believe it’s extremely valuable to invite people, in that Holy Spirit infused moment, to release that in the form of short prayers and decrees.
Simply open the microphone and watch the line grow as hungry, passionate saints of God prepare to lead the people in intercession, one after the other. Imagine twenty or thirty people or more shocking the atmosphere with Holy Spirit driven decrees! Not only is it powerful corporately, but it also empowers people individually to take ownership of what God is doing within. As they all respond to the impact of the Holy Spirit, they become stronger and the service will definitely be marked with fire.
15 The eyes of the LORD are toward the righteous and his ears toward their cry. Psalm 34:15 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
There was spontaneous preaching and altar calls for salvation, sanctification and baptism of the Holy Spirit.
4. Invite people to make biblical declarations.
At another point during the service, open the microphone again. Invite people to release biblical declarations. The Word of God is alive, and when that sharp sword pierces the atmosphere as people read it and then call everyone to come into agreement with it, it will result in supernatural shockwaves.
5 Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O LORD, forevermore. Psalm 93:5 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
…in most services preaching consisted of Seymour opening a Bible and worshippers coming forward to preach or testify as they were led by the Holy Spirit.
5. Promote prophetic art, flagging, dance and other expressions during the service.
It’s disappointing that prophetic expression such as art, dance and flagging are almost extinct in the church today. I suggest we allow the dancers to dance! There’s serious prophetic power when anointed people flag, paint, dance and contend in the Spirit.
Put up the easels and allow the artists to draw or paint. Provide whiteboards for people to write down prophetic words anytime during the service. Celebrate the dance and encourage the flaggers. God has given them important gifts and it’s a mistake to shut them out.
I know many pastors would argue that they can be undisciplined. They might steal attention as they exhibit their gifting during the service. My question would be, what have you done to guide and equip them? Have you invested in them by training in protocols and equipping in prophetic ministry? If not, you can’t blame them if they don’t know exactly how to respond when their God-given desire to function in ministry is stirring within.
20 Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing. Exodus 15:20 (ESV)
6. Have prayer for deliverance, healing and freedom.
When’s the last time you saw someone vomit at the altar? Yeah, I know, that’s a funny question. I personally don’t prefer to clean up the mess! (I love that some pro-deliverance churches have “bucket brigades!”) The point is valid, however. When is the last time deliverance has happened on a Sunday morning?
The weight of God’s glory should be so intense that demons easily manifest and deliverance commences right there at the altar. I’ve had demons react in some intense ways in services I’ve been in. It’s actually a thrilling adventure, not something to be shut down for the sake of keeping nice, quiet and sanitized order. When we know who we are and the authority we walk in, deliverance is something we should all get excited about.
As we contend for deliverance, healing and freedom on Sunday mornings, the order of service will often have to be violated. I’d personally rather see people free than hear the prepared sermon or get out of the service on time.
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; Mark 16:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Among first-hand accounts were reports of the blind having their sight restored, diseases cured instantly.
7. Expect manifestations of the Holy Spirit and don't shut them down when comfort levels are threatened.
How is it we can worship God, preach about God and gather together because of God but shut God out when he starts to interact in a supernatural way? Manifestations of the Holy Spirit should be expected. If God’s not moving, something is wrong!
I remember a meeting many years ago where God was moving in extremely intense power. People were absolutely rocked. God was touching people for at least two hours before the preaching even began. When the preacher was bringing the message, one lady was laughing and crying, under the power of the Holy Spirit. Some in attendance kept looking her way as God ministered to her. The preacher became agitated and said something like, “Can you not hear me? Should I have the sound crew turn my mic up? Pay attention. Do you really want me to shut down God’s ministry to that lady just because you can’t stay focused?”
That was a powerful moment indeed. One I’ve remembered for over two decades.
17 “‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; Acts 2:17 (ESV)
An Azusa Street report:
Soon the crowds became very large and were full of people speaking in tongues, shouting, singing and moaning. Many people would continually shout throughout the meetings. Finally, the front porch collapsed, forcing the group to begin looking for a new meeting place. They shouted three days and three nights. It was Easter season. The people came from everywhere. By the next morning there was no way of getting near the house. As people came in they would fall under God's power; and the whole city was stirred. They shouted until the foundation of the house gave way, but no one was hurt.
The attendees were often described as “Holy Rollers“, “Holy Jumpers”, “Tangled Tonguers” and “Holy Ghosters”. Reports were published throughout the U.S. and the world of the strange happenings in Los Angeles.
CHURCH SHOULD NEVER BE BORING
While I’m not at all proposing that church should entertain us, I am saying that it’s just not possible to be bored in an environment where the Holy Spirit is moving, touching, engaging, healing, delivering, wrecking and encountering the people.
I’d challenge every pastor to initiate all seven of these strategies. The result will be a church on fire that draws in a hungry, passionate remnant that is ready to release the oracles of God…and shake the nations.
An Azusa Street report:
Christians from many traditions were critical, saying the movement was hyper-emotional, misused Scripture and lost focus on Christ by overemphasizing the Holy Spirit. Within a short time ministers were warning their congregations to stay away from the Azusa Street Mission.
Proud, well-dressed preachers came to “investigate”. Soon their high looks were replaced with wonder, then conviction comes, and very often you will find them in a short time wallowing on the dirty floor, asking God to forgive them and make them as little children.
Beware of the natural familiarity of Ichabod churches (where the glory has departed).
And she named the child Ichabod, saying, “The glory has departed from Israel!” because the ark of God had been captured and because of her father-in-law and her husband. And she said, “The glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” 1 Samuel 4:21-22 (ESV)
Most every day, in one venue or another, I’m hearing from disillusioned, frustrated people who cannot find a church that has been overtaken by the Holy Spirit. No extreme revival atmospheres can be found for many. The Upper Room experience that innumerable desperate people are searching for are nowhere to be seen, in some instances, within 500 miles of where they live. They complain of short, ordered, controlled services that, according to them, isn’t worth their time. There’s a measure of spirituality, but they don’t even come close to the explosive, supernatural experiences they are craving.
Pastors, are you hearing what millions are saying? The ark has been captured!
Open up your doors to the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit! The gifts must function. The order of service must be laid down. The crazy, unscripted, unrehearsed, unforeseen collisions that happen when an invisible, all-powerful Creator invades mortal humans must be expected. Every. Single. Sunday.
Do not quench the Spirit. 1 Thessalonians 5:19 (ESV)
HALF-FILLED LAMP CHURCHES ARE THREATENING KINGDOM ADVANCE…AND PEOPLE’S ETERNITIES.
And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ Matthew 25:8-9 (ESV)
Misguided compassion is resulting in the wise becoming foolish while eternities are put at great risk.
Churches are filled with people the Bible would call foolish—those who are not spiritually vibrant, personally disciplined and deeply intimate with Jesus. Their lamps are empty.
This begs a question: How is it so many people in this category are so at home in churches all over the world?
If a church is ablaze with the spirit of prayer and alive as the Holy Spirit blows and burns through everyone there, those who are asleep and without any oil will definitely not feel comfortable. There is no way they can integrate in such a place without feeling the pressure to fill their lamps.
So, what do many pastors do to ensure these people feel a part of the family? They share their oil. “Come on in, you take half of my oil, I’ll keep half. We’ll both meet the bridegroom together.” It sounds loving. It feels compassionate. It’s foolishness.
The water level of Holy Spirit activity is brought way down so those who are marginally surrendered can dip their toes in the shallows—and integrate nicely with others who are equally resistant to the deeper things of the Spirit. They are spiritually interested, but not spiritually invested. They have not paid the price and have not bought their own oil.
Human wisdom that argues that it’s better for people to be in a moderate spiritual environment is better than the being shut out is actually called foolishness by God. By sharing oil, by toning down the activity of the Holy Spirit, all become foolish, and all are put at risk of Hell.
The truth is that oil can’t be shared. A price must be paid. Oh, and to take the heat off of pastors for just a moment, for all of you disgruntled experience seekers out there, quit getting so frustrated when your church doesn’t move in the gifts the way you’d like. Are you trying to share their oil? Don’t you have enough yourself? Is your lamp not full? While I absolutely understand the cry for a supernatural church, I refuse to empower those who refuse to get their own oil. If your lamp is full, you should be overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit and deeply intimate with Jesus! Just exactly how do you want a human pastor to add to that? Go get your own oil. Pay the price. Quit complaining about the church.
A MIDNIGHT CRY
Take just a minute and read the entire passage:
“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13 (ESV)
In order to make sure our lamps are full (and that we have extra in our flasks), we must pay the price for the oil and then stay at the ready. In the midst of delay, we all can experience spiritual fatigue, but the wise will rise up when they hear the midnight cry!
The difference between those who have their lamps full and those who don’t is stark. Those who are not ready when God suddenly moves will have the door shut to them. God will declare that he does not know them (even if pastors assure them they are part of the family).
I think about the Upper Room in the Book of Acts. Most didn’t respond to the call to wait, to pay the price. The door was shut to them. After a delay of ten long days, there was a midnight cry! The Holy Spirit has come! Those who had their lamps full, those who responded to the command of Jesus to wait and pray, were ready when the wind and the fire came!
A MIDNIGHT CRY CHURCH
Pastors, don’t share your oil. Don’t let misguided compassion cause you to quench the Spirit. Don’t build your local church on those who refuse to pay the price.
Build a midnight cry church! Build the fire, contend in fervent prayer, expect unusual, otherworldly manifestations of the Holy Spirit and break off any temptation to moderate the service so the sleepy foolish people who are pounding at your door can join in. Love them by modeling a life of fervency, preparation and intimacy with Jesus. Warn them. Contend in prayer for them. Some will join you in your Upper Room experience, but most will not.
It’s time we desire the ark more than people. When we do, the glory will return to the church and that glorious midnight cry will be heard, “Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.”
Carry Like Mary: A raging youth movement coupled with an aging generation of lovers of God will ignite a revolution.
I am coming out of a glory zone in Hillsdale, Michigan. At Camp Michindoh, the Eastern Region Open Bible Youth Ministries summer camp was rocking and burning from the very first night. I had a continual tremble and residual anointing radiating on me non-stop the entire week. I’m still experiencing it today.
The freedom to bring the messages of fire the Lord seared into my spirit was amazing. There was no conditioning or awakening the people—they were ready to explode from the first note the worship team played and the first word I spoke from the pulpit. The altars were magnetic as people rushed forward and couldn’t break away. They didn’t want to. They were finding freedom. They were meeting Jesus.
There is something about desperate, raw young people who haven’t been stricken by unbelief and relegated to humanistic dignity that often results from decades of disappointment. I’ll take their naivety and passion any day ahead of the human, secular wisdom, caution and apathy that many who are advanced in years often subscribe to. I’m looking for the abandoned, the zealots.
An environment like I experienced the last four nights catapults us close to revival. Church should be this hot—and hotter. We must refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry. We must stop inviting God to wait outside the church doors so the visitors don’t freak out.
The openness and vulnerability of these supernatural students created a powder keg of an atmosphere.
They were on the floor crying and groaning.
They were on their feet dancing and spinning.
A fire tunnel resulted in bodies laid out all over as God was healing, freeing, loving and empowering desperate souls.
You might think this is emotional nonsense. I believe it’s supernatural, holy and evidence of people who won’t take no for an answer. They will wrestle with God and will encounter him—and stale religion won’t stand in the way.
Others were experiencing intense deliverance. When demons manifest and a service gets messy, it can be a very good sign! Evil spirits like to stay silent and hidden as they dig their claws deep into their host, but when the heat and pressure of God’s presence escalates like it did this past week, they can’t help but to be provoked—and terrified about their future.
Young people were crying real tears. One young lady, obviously rocked by God in an extreme way, told me after the service that she had makeup on when she arrived. By the end, it was all washed away by tears of freedom.
Ladies all around had makeup and mascara streaking down their faces. Suddenly their appearance didn’t matter anymore. Suddenly Jesus did.
I’d love to minister at youth camps every week of the year. However, I am equally fervent in my pursuit to see adults awakened. You see, both are needed in the coming revolution.
CARRY LIKE MARY
The revelation was hot and clear, and I was suddenly burning with a mandate that I couldn’t wait to communicate.
One of the key focuses of our ministry is to awaken sleepers and to call people’s God-birthed destinies out of them. It’s shocking how many Christians in today’s Church are hindered by a spirit of insignificance that convinces them they have little value and will have little impact in ministry.
The coming Church will be marked by bold, Holy Spirit-filled prayer warriors who burn night and day. They will be an explosive people who carry and release the fire of God into the cities of the Earth. There will be a regular tremble and a continual burn on them as they live in the supernatural realm in historic fashion.
Let’s check out the stories of a couple of people who carried God, Mary and Elizabeth. These are stories about history shaking carriers of God that turned the world upside down.
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.” Malachi 4:5-6
This prophecy was about John the Baptist who would arrive in the spirit and the power of Elijah. His goal? To turn the hearts of the fathers to their children and the hearts of the children to their fathers. This is a significant end-time Scripture! We will see, as the story continues, how God is preparing the generations to converge.
Now, at this point John the Baptist was not yet on the Earth. How would he arrive? Well, it’s quite simple. He would have to arrive the same way every other human ever had—he would be conceived, carried and then delivered. But, of course, there’s a bit of a problem with this scenario. Elizabeth, John’s future mom, was barren.
In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah. And he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and statutes of the Lord. But they had no child, because Elizabeth was barren, and both were advanced in years. Luke 1:5-7
So, Elizabeth had what was in her control taken care of. She and her husband both were righteous and blameless. They embraced holiness in the fear of the Lord. That set them up for quite a story. What was not in her control was the fact that she was barren. She was physically impaired. She could not conceive.
The coming Church will be identified by those who fear God and who walk uprightly—and who become conduits of God’s supernatural power.
As we continue in the story, consider Elizabeth’s predicament this way: she was old and barren.
Now while he was serving as priest before God when his division was on duty, according to the custom of the priesthood, he was chosen by lot to enter the temple of the Lord and burn incense. And the whole multitude of the people were praying outside at the hour of incense. And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. Luke 1:8-13
In the midst of a prayer-fueled church, there was angelic activity. The coming Church will be a prayer meeting first and foremost, and the supernatural, angelic activity will increase markedly.
Now, check this out:
…and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:15-17
Now, that is the way to carry a baby! Elizabeth would be carrying baby John the Baptist who, in turn, would be carrying God! This mighty prophet of God, this carrier of the Holy Spirit, would be birthed from the elder generation. Now let’s look at Mary, the younger generation.
In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” Luke 1:26-33
Elizabeth was old and barren.
Mary was young and a virgin.
And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. And behold, your relative Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son, and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For nothing will be impossible with God.” And Mary said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” And the angel departed from her. Luke 1:34-38
If that wasn’t powerful enough for you, look at what happens next. Do you remember the prophetic promise in Malachi? The generations would again come together through the ministry of John the Baptist. This happened quicker than you might think.
In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a town in Judah, and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the baby leaped in her womb. And Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For behold, when the sound of your greeting came to my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.” Luke 1:39-45
When the older and younger generations met, both carrying God (Elizabeth carrying John who was carrying the Holy Spirit and Mary carrying Jesus), there was a leaping of the baby and a greater in-filling of the Holy Spirit!
In this end-time generation, we are called to carry like Mary! There will be a leaping and a rejoicing and a great manifestation of the Holy Spirit when the carriers of God unite in faith and mission.
The burning fiery love of God in the coming Church of his presence will overtake end-time carriers who will impact regions all around the world.
Christ in Us
Now, this revelation causes everything to change. Christ, in fullness, is in you and me! That sounds impossible if you think about it. God, who created the universe fits inside of us fully! This should radically change the way we think and live.
Think of it this way. God knows everything. He lives in you. This means that every answer in the world is within you, correct? God knows the cure for cancer. I’m not talking about God miraculously healing someone of cancer, but rather, he knows the scientific resolution to this plague. He could enlighten a cancer researcher with the scientific blueprint that would once and for all end cancer on the Earth.
Do you understand what this means? The scientific cure for cancer is within you! The cure for cancer is in God, and God is in you. Of course, that knowledge hasn’t been activated and revealed, but the point is that the fullness of God is in us, and the power and resources of God are to be carried and released through us!
The powerful truth is this: We aren’t God ourselves by any means. We are weak and broken humans. However, that makes the truth so much more remarkable! We as weak, fallible people are carriers of an omnipotent God! This certainly opens up a lot of opportunities for God’s end-time army in the coming Church!
It’s time to carry like Mary, to unite the generations and to release the healing, awakening, consecrating fire of God in the nations!
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, o that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Ephesians 3:14-19
Without one key element, movements that emphasize signs, wonders and glory meetings are extremely dangerous.
I’m encouraged that we are witnessing a sense of awakening in parts of the church today. It thrills my heart that we are starting to move beyond the tired, predictable wine skins of yesterday and are yearning for a much deeper dive into the river of the Holy Spirit. There are meetings and movements that are enjoying a supercharged atmosphere. Some of these are extremely good, necessary and forerunners for the coming church.
The hunger is so overwhelming for some, however, that this current season is producing people who will run to any meeting that presents the hope of experiencing a supernaturally activated moment.
Of course, a deep desire to encounter the wonder of the Holy Spirit is not an indicator of impure motives. Quite the opposite, those who hunger for more of Jesus can be counted among the remnant—as long as their hunger is pure and their approach is stable.
Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. Acts 8:18-22 (ESV)
IMPURE SPIRITUAL HUNGER AND THE CALL FOR REPENTANCE
Simon was more than intrigued by the invisible force he was experiencing. He was so zealous to function in that power that he actually wanted to pay for it! I know that seems absurd, but that spirit is at play very commonly today. The rush of the super power he was experiencing was so remarkable that he couldn’t help but to go after more of it. His sin was not his hunger for God. His sin was his motive. He had no option but to repent—or die in his sin of impure spiritual hunger. This sin that Simon the Sorcerer was overcome by, the sin of of impure spiritual hunger, is rampant in the church today.
To deal with this temptation, a key element that must exist within movements that are marked by supernatural power is repentance. Of course, repentance and the cross must be the primary driver of any church, movement or ministry. Sadly, today that is not always the case.
I was stunned when I heard about a pastor that no longer preaches the blood and the cross because, as he stated, they are pre-resurrection. His focus is now the benefits and the bonuses we can experience on this side of Calvary. While this may shock many of you, the truth is that many are abandoning a keen focus on repentance, the blood and the cross, though they may never be so bold as to announce it.
The last two places I ministered, in Dayton, Ohio and Greenville, South Carolina, I received strikingly similar comments from people as I was connecting at the end of the service. In both places I had preached a straight forward message on holiness, repentance, surrender, sin, the cross and eternity. It was nothing original, but the anointing was strong.
In one of the events someone said, “I haven’t heard preaching like that in 30 years.” In the next event I was told, “I haven’t heard preaching like that in 27 years.”
That almost brought tears to my eyes. It did bring righteous indignation to my spirit.
From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 4:17 (ESV)
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Matthew 3:1-2 (ESV)
The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, Acts 17:30 (ESV)
HOLY GHOST PARTIES
I love to dance in the river, jump in the river, swim in the river, soak in the river. If the river is rushing, I’m there. I’ve been transformed in glory meetings and I can’t wait for the next one!
I’m also extremely careful to discern the motive of my heart. The glory of God is not meant to be used as a high inducing narcotic. God is holy and we must approach and enjoy him from that reality.
When God moves, it’s not a playground, though there are times for wild celebration. We need to experience great fear just like in the days of old. Holy Spirit comfort and fear of the Lord must go hand in hand.
So the church throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria had peace and was being built up. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it multiplied. Acts 9:31 (ESV)
I’ve had the privilege of being in the midst of some extremely powerful and unusual river events where manifestations of oil, gold dust, gold teeth and a mist of God’s presence filled the auditorium. People were dancing, trembling and rejoicing throughout. It was impossible to deny that joy was in the place and that humanly impossible wonders were occurring. I was giving leadership in that church but was continually awestruck at the very real, very powerful things God was doing. I was laid out many times during that season, including in the parking lot at 2am one late night as God spilled out after a powerful prayer meeting. I was undone. Many others were as well.
We enjoyed a Holy Ghost party atmosphere that was wonderful and legitimate. The celebration was joyous!
However, what grieves me to this day is that among the dancers were a few who were living very dark lives—and they were convinced that God affirmed those lifestyles. This is why they could dance and rejoice with such “freedom.” None of this came to the surface until God hit me hard one day. He told me it was time to shift the message from rejoicing to repenting, from dancing on our feet to crying out on our knees, and to let the Holy Spirit move in a very different way. God had set us up and it was time to marry true freedom with brokenness and surrender. This was the only way faux freedom could be exposed.
While the revelation of unapologetic sinful lifestyles was troubling enough, the point I need to make here brings something else into the equation: the plumb line of the cross.
Holy Ghost parties, glory meetings and river experiences are not enough to rightly deal with our hearts and to draw us into freedom. They are insufficient. As overwhelming it can be, experiencing God’s presence and his love are not enough to deal with darkness and rebellion.
God instructed me to preach with great unction and urgency on what was: the cross, Hell, holiness and the blood of Jesus. This ended the Holy Ghost parties and opened the door to Holy Ghost conviction.
This led to many rushing to the altars to allow God to break them, heal them and set them free.
Sadly, and disturbingly, there were previous Holy Ghost, glory meeting dancers who soundly rejected that message. One supported lesbianism and was convinced that God would never send homosexuals to Hell. Another was involved in sexual New Age practices and rejected the theology of eternal separation from God entirely. Others told me they didn’t affirm a definition of God that included judgment or anything negative. One of the most passionate young people in the church said that she doesn’t know the God associated with that message!
That was like an arrow piercing through my heart! I couldn’t believe what I was hearing!
In the midst of a true move of God, people were embracing deviant theologies and living in radical rebellion to the one they were dancing before!
As a leader, my heart was crushed. How could this have happened?
REJECTING THE MESSAGE
When I hit the messages of repentance and the cross with fervor, some people fled. Honestly, this shouldn’t have surprised me. In fact, I preach often that a true move of God will result in many being exposed and turning from God as deception and rebellion overtakes them. This is such a crushing truth that is hard to bear.
…they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 (ESV)
In Acts chapter two we see two responses to God moving. Some marveled. Some mocked.
The cross, when preached, will bring clarity.
“Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. Matthew 10:34 (ESV)
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account. Hebrews 4:12-13 (ESV)
The truth of the cross of Jesus will always have that type of impact. It divides. It reveals the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Holy Ghost parties must be founded on the truth of the cross, and that message must be shouted continually if we want to avoid deception at party central.
It’s easy to dance and rejoice when the benefits and blessings are preached, but when the call for repentance is in the mix, suddenly the party may shift into a season of mourning.
“Yet even now,” declares the LORD, “return to me with all your heart, with fasting, with weeping, and with mourning; and rend your hearts and not your garments.” Return to the LORD your God, for he is gracious and merciful, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love; and he relents over disaster. Joel 2:12-13 (ESV)
Then, the mourning and freedom that comes from true, deep repentance, can lead to another season of dancing!
You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness, that my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give thanks to you forever! Psalm 30:11-12 (ESV)
Today we have meetings that are focused intently on the glory, God’s presence and the river. Healings, signs and wonders are primary. They can no longer be primary if we want to avoid allowing darkness and deception to thrive in such an environment.
Calls to repentance must be sounded. A revelation of Hell must be had. The blood of Jesus must be foremost as the cross of Jesus is preached with unction.
For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret… 2 Corinthians 7:10 (ESV)
Only then can we truly celebrate and dance in the river.
“Many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”
I am so disturbed by the insanity of our culture that I refuse to hold back. I know I’ll be accused of being insensitive. Others will be enraged that I would presume someone to be in Hell. I’m sure I’ll be accused of being prideful and arrogant. Others might say I’m hateful.
Revealing that people are in Hell isn’t an indicator of hatred any more than reporting that an individual is in the state penitentiary. If I enjoyed the fact that they were there, however, I would indeed be deranged. I’m sick that they are there. I want to vomit. I can’t handle the fact that so many are in indescribable torment there right now. They will never find relief. I honestly feel helpless. For them, there is truly no hope.
Since you started reading this article, around 100 more people have died. For many of them it was unexpected. Just over 60 seconds ago, all was well as it had been for years. Now many of them are in the clenches of unrelenting darkness. The grip is too tight to struggle free from. It will never loosen.
I’m shocked at the number of people who are convinced that people are often, by default, considered Christian simply because they mentioned God at times or have given indicators of religious interest. Do we understand that MANY professing Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day? I’m talking about people living lives much more spiritually remarkable than those with simple religious interest ever did. Tongue-talking, Bible-reading, tithe-paying, hungry-feeding, naked-clothing Christians—many of them pastors and other ministers—will be cast into eternal fire. If even some of the most passionate appearing people in the church will not make Heaven, we should at least stop and consider that those who are less in love with Jesus could be at risk. It’s common sense.
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)
Now, for all of you who misunderstood the intent of this article, I want to make a very clear statement:
I do not know where specific people will be spending eternity. I am grieved when their lifestyles don't make the analysis easier. I am shocked more Christians aren’t sufficiently discerning concerning this.
The Bible tells us there is to be clear evidence of a person’s salvation. We shouldn’t be left guessing or hoping. This is why we have to talk about people who die leaving questions:
9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:9-10 (ESV)
I'm honestly disturbed that SO MANY people are using the deathbed conversion possibility as their excuse to eliminate any discussion about eternity. People have been declared to be in eternity with God because of a last minute radical life change that led to repentance. Yes friend, that is the hope that people are hanging on. Is it possible for it to happen that way? Sure. Statistically speaking however, the chances of someone rejecting Jesus their entire life suddenly falling in love with him and surrendering their lives to them is astronomically low. And, attempting to get saved at the last moment because of fear of death just won’t cut it. It’s self-serving instead of God-honoring. That is not true salvation. Unless it is true surrender, it doesn’t work.
Do we have any idea how rare it is to make Heaven? People are always declaring RIP…rest in peace…over people who have died. They say they are now in a better place. That's rarely true. The reason people say it is to provide false peace to those who remain behind—including themselves.
The reason we need to have this discussion is to awaken people to the reality of Hell. If people think they can be casual about their submission to God and that they can just repent when they die, their eternity is pretty much sealed.
PROFESSION BASED SALVATION
Somewhere in the recent world of instant and easy everything, people have fallen for the lie that a simple, casual declaration of the divinity of Jesus is all it takes to be saved. This is ludicrous.
I know, some of you are already warming up your fingers to type a response accusing me of promoting works based salvation. Let me spare you the effort. I’ve heard your accusations and arguments. I don’t believe in works based salvation. I also don’t believe in faith only salvation.
In 1983, a man by the name of R.T. Kendall wrote: Whoever once believes that Jesus was raised from the dead, and confesses that Jesus is Lord, will go to heaven when he dies. But I will not stop there. Such a person will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith.1 Later, he expanded on this saying: “I therefore state categorically that the person who is saved – who confesses that Jesus is Lord and believes in his heart that God raised Him from the dead – will go to heaven when he dies no matter what work (or lack of work) may accompany such faith. In other words, no matter what sin (or absence of Christian obedience) may accompany such faith.”
This is clearly unscriptural. There is a cost to discipleship. Evidence of salvation will always follow true salvation. Everything has changed for the person who has encountered and surrendered to Jesus.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. Matthew 7:18-20 (ESV)
…I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God. Revelation 3:2 (ESV)
16 They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work. Titus 1:16 (ESV)
We cannot simply profess that we are Christians and presume we are saved. There’s a lot more that we have to consider.
We must exhibit evidences of salvation:
- We will refuse to walk in darkness: 6 If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 1 John 1:6 (ESV)
- We reject sin: 9 No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. 10 By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother. 1 John 3:9-10 (ESV)
- We obey: 3 And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments. 4 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 1 John 2:3-4 (ESV)
- We follow after holiness: 29 If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. 1 John 2:29 (ESV)
Additionally, Intimacy with Jesus is a key component of salvation.
21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23 (ESV)
The goal of God is to know us, and to be known by us. That is the definition of intimacy.
1 “Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. 2 Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. 3 For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, 4 but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. 5 As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. 6 But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ 7 Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. 8 And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ 9 But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. Matthew 25:1-13 (ESV)
A simple profession of faith is insufficient when it comes to our salvation—radically so, in fact.
Is your lamp full of the oil of the Holy Spirit? Do you see the difference between simply professing and going on with life and actually cultivating a life of extreme intimacy with Jesus?
Some of you might be thinking back to your old Sunday School classes. Don’t we just have to believe on Jesus? Let’s look at that:
16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. Mark 16:16 (ESV)
The loaded word in this scripture is believes. This does not refer to an intellectual acknowledgment of the existence of God, or even of his divinity. To believe means much more. True belief results in significant spiritual fruit. This is one reason why it’s stunning to me that Christians don’t want to attend prayer meetings. Connecting with Jesus in a close, intimate way through prayer is a fruit. Show me someone who loves to pray and we’ll be looking at someone who is in a great place regarding their relationship with Jesus. It’s not the final word, but it’s a great indicator for sure.
If we keep reading beyond verse 16, we’ll see just what true belief looks like:
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” 19 So then the Lord Jesus, after he had spoken to them, was taken up into heaven and sat down at the right hand of God. 20 And they went out and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by accompanying signs.]] Mark 16:17-20 (ESV)
Mark records the above passage as the final words of Jesus before he left the earth. These are pretty important instructions.
How can we look at celebrities or any other person who gives a casual thanks to God or simply acknowledges his existence, or even those who have an affinity for Jesus and so quickly presume they are saved—and when they die that they are so obviously in Heaven? Such a stance is reckless and irresponsible. It’s opening the door for millions of others to presume casual, carnal Christianity is their key to salvation.
No, salvation requires much more. MUCH more. Even those who are truly saved are but a breath away from eternal damnation.
And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 1 Peter 4:18
I want to strongly encourage you to read a much more in depth article I wrote regarding this topic before you leave comments:
It’s common for the Holy Spirit to be asked to “sit this one out” as attempts at unity are made.
I have wrestled with this topic for years . It has troubled me considerably. I’ve held off writing on it for a long time to ensure I do my very best to communicate the issue as purely and precisely as I can. I believe now is the time to hit this head on, even though some will still misunderstand or completely disagree.
It’s extremely important to me that you grasp just how much I value people who are devoted to Christ, deep in the Word and living a life of integrity—whether they embrace the gifts of the Spirit or not. There are some absolutely amazing, humble, servant-hearted Christians out there who touch my heart deeply. Many of them are brilliant leaders who are models of both passion and compassion for the people on God’s heart. I look up to them and desire to emulate their lives.
I know others have the same testimony—they have been blessed powerfully by such people. It’s for this reason that gifts of the Spirit have been willingly minimized by some for the sake of unity.
Again, I highly value unity, and I do embrace unifying around the cross of Christ as opposed to dividing away on other lesser theological issues. It’s clearly true that anybody who is a legitimate believer in Jesus Christ should be embraced as a brother or sister. Unity, fellowship and love should be pursued and guarded.
20 “I do not ask for these only, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 that they may all be one, just as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that you have sent me. John 17:20-21 (ESV)
Additionally, I don’t presume those who function in the gifts of the Spirit to be better, more precious to Jesus or elite. The accusation does come at times that practitioners of the gifts presume themselves to be more spiritual. We better not think highly of ourselves, lest we fall!
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. Romans 12:3 (ESV)
Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. 1 Corinthians 10:12 (ESV)
I hope this helps you peer into my heart a little bit. I endeavor to be humble, teachable and full of honor for everyone Jesus shed his precious blood for!
This being said, I do believe we have underestimated the necessity of the Holy Spirit and His gifts—to the detriment of true, biblical unity and to Kingdom advance.
Mark records the final words of Jesus before he left the earth to be:
17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” Mark 16:17-18 (ESV)
MINIMIZING THE ACTIVITY OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
I understand there are many Christians who do not agree theologically with the practice of the gifts of the Spirit. I also understand that unity with a greater number of Christians would, by default, require that we minimize the activity of the Holy Spirit in our combined events.
This is where we can stumble into trouble. This is where a reformation must come if we hope to have the necessary power to fulfill a humanly impossible mission. Holy Spirit power must be non-negotiable.
Isn't it interesting that the Holy Spirit is called the Comforter, yet He makes so many Christians uncomfortable?
I saw something on a church website that disturbed me. What I read sounds good, and a lot of churches and ministries are adopting this philosophy, but that's all it is—a philosophy. I believe it's extremely dangerous. We simply cannot reject the activity of the Holy Spirit in the hopes that unity results. Here’s what was posted:
Those who claim to possess the gift of tongues and other sign gifts are welcome to worship and fellowship with us if they are willing to be a source of unity rather than division within our church body. UNNAMED CHURCH seeks to prevent the propagation of doctrines that would cause divisions within an individual church. Therefore, members of and adherents of UNNAMED CHURCH are not to propagate the teachings and emphases of the current charismatic movement.
Before you presume me to be naïve, you need to know that I fully grasp that the above church is not what we would consider to be Spirit-filled, and that they are attempting to take a healthy position in the name of unity. However, consider that many, many Spirit-filled churches today are also minimizing the activity of the Holy Spirit in the hopes that they can attract, and not offend, visitors. It’s extremely common for the Holy Spirit to be dismissed for the Sunday morning service while inviting him back into HIS house for the Sunday evening service.
I have always, unapologetically, declared to those in churches I was giving leadership to that I refuse to tone down the activity of the Holy Spirit out of respect of those less hungry.
How could we ever presume that less supernatural, less spiritual methods that are driven by our human spirit and human wisdom could have more impact with visitors and others than the Holy Spirit? It is nonsensical.
The manifestation of the Holy Spirit is absolutely necessary if we hope to experience the power required to see lives transformed.
4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; 5 and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; 6 and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. 7 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 (ESV)
While we can be unified in love as brothers and sisters while disagreeing about the activity of the Holy Spirit, I firmly believe it’s time that we as Spirit-filled believers humbly admit that we cannot accomplish much of anything without the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. The activation of the gifts of the Spirit is mandatory. The level of power in the church today is embarrassingly low. We can’t use unity as an excuse to keep the Holy Spirit on the bench any longer. It’s His time to shine.
The above passage of Scripture reveals that the gifts of the Spirit are for the common good. That sounds like unity to me. It also says that God empowers these gifts in us. This is for the sake of the fulfillment of ministry.
When the Holy Spirit was given in that Upper Room, two specific manifestations were imparted into the people who were baptized in fire:
- Boldness: And when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness. Acts 4:31 (ESV)
- Power: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (ESV)
The church must not only experience boldness and power, but we must be fueled by it in every moment, every service, every event. This is what was happening at Brownsville Assembly of God:
All told, more than 2.5 million people have visited the church's Wednesday-through-Saturday evening revival services, where they sang rousing worship music and heard old-fashioned sermons on sin and salvation. After the sermons were over, hundreds of thousands accepted the invitation to leave their seats and rush forward to a large area in front of the stage-like altar. Here, they “get right with God.” . . . Untold thousands have hit the carpet, where they either writhe in ecstasy or lie stone-still in a state resembling a coma, sometimes remaining flat on the floor for hours at a time. Some participants call the experience being “slain in the Spirit.” Others simply refer to receiving the touch of God. Regardless of what they call it, these people are putting the “roll” back in “holy roller.”— Steve Rabey
I believe we must see the manifestation of the Holy Spirit increase to a radical degree—enough that we have the supernatural power necessary to succeed. We need an outpouring like Brownsville to become normal in our churches again.
This means those who don’t embrace the gifts will have a decision to make. Understand this very clearly: we must never divide away from anyone who names the name of Christ, and who is living according to the Word of God. However, if others refuse to participate because the gifts are in play, they are the ones causing disunity. They are making the choice to pull away. It’s on them.
If we shut the gifts down, we are communicating that we are more interested in people being in attendance than the Holy Spirit, or at least, we want people to give leadership and determine what the Holy Spirit is allowed to do. This mindset should terrify us.
When I hold prayer events, praying in tongues is a constant. I absolutely love it when those who have yet to experience the baptism of the Holy Spirit join in with us. Honestly, that is one of my favorite times in prayer—when those who don’t pray in tongues refuse to allow that to get in the way.
Sadly, there are also those who refuse to attend such gatherings. It’s their decision, not mine.
But, let it be known: I will always choose the attendance of the Holy Spirit ahead of people. I will always allow the Holy Spirit to manifest the way he chooses, even if it upsets people. I will never offend the Spirit of God, even if that offends people.
I am smart enough to know that the goal of any corporate meeting is absolutely impossible without the power of the Holy Spirit raging throughout.
The manifestation of the Holy Spirit can’t be limited to times of prayer and worship. We need anointed men and women of God to preach with such power that entire rooms are filled with fire! Our church services much change, and fast!
While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. Acts 10:44 (ESV)
It’s time we see the temperature of Holy Spirit activity shoot so high the thermometer explodes. We need to have meetings that are so full of God’s presence that people have to crawl through the door! It’s time for a shaking, quaking, Spirit-filled environment of eruptions in prayer every Sunday morning (and every other day of the week)!
Doing ministry any other way just won’t work. It will accomplish some things, sure, but the goal we have been given requires power, boldness, signs, wonders, miracles and a lifestyle of burning, Spirit-driven intercession and worship. It’s time we actually become okay with scaring the visitors with the tangible, fearful movement of God in our services! They may actually hit their knees and cry out in repentance instead of sitting quietly filling out a visitor card. Maybe the greeter’s handshake in such an environment might actually impart something:
Then they laid their hands on them and they received the Holy Spirit. Acts 8:17 (ESV)
We can’t keep the Holy Spirit on the bench. We can no longer choose when or how he manifests. Do we want revival or not? Try to imagine revival without a supernatural atmosphere. You can’t. It doesn’t exist.
A newspaper report on the Asuza Revival:
..disgraceful intermingling of the races…they cry and make howling noises all day and into the night. They run, jump, shake all over, shout to the top of their voice, spin around in circles, fall out on the sawdust blanketed floor jerking, kicking and rolling all over it. Some of them pass out and do not move for hours as though they were dead. These people appear to be mad, mentally deranged or under a spell. They claim to be filled with the spirit. They have a one eyed, illiterate, Negro as their preacher who stays on his knees much of the time with his head hidden between the wooden milk crates. He doesn't talk very much but at times he can be heard shouting, ‘Repent,' and he's supposed to be running the thing… They repeatedly sing the same song, ‘The Comforter Has Come.'
Are you ready for the Comforter to come?
Church planting, conferences, events and church growth efforts must yield to a greater strategy of Kingdom advance.
More churches must be planted, effective conferences and events must take place and biblical church growth should be a focus. This cannot be debated. My attempt in this article, however, is to highlight what the predominate strategy must be—an emphasis that has to become non-negotiable for every pastor, leader and every Christian in a region. The focus must be prayer. Not only prayer, but regional prayer. This means that local emphasis must give way to regional emphasis.
Instead of people asking, “Where do you go to church,” I believe we need to start hearing, “Where do you go to pray?”
When the primary call of every Christians shifts from attending a local church to gathering continually for Spirit-fueled prayer in the region, this is the question people will begin to ask.
REGIONAL PRAYER MOVEMENTS
And day by day, attending the temple together… Acts 2:46 (ESV)
They were present at all the times of public worship, and joined together in prayers and praises to God… ~Adam Clarke's Commentary
Unless everything we are giving energy to in our church and ministry growth strategies begins to yield to the call to pray, our hopes of experiencing any measure of revival or effective Kingdom advance are futile.
I travel quite a bit, and I find it nearly impossible to find a regional, ongoing movement of prayer in cities I visit. Of course, I can find churches and occasionally I can find houses of prayer, but a fervent, strategic, regional strategy of prayer is extremely hard to come by. In fact, other than my experience with the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri, I have not found a regional prayer focus that is the predominate experience, ahead of Sunday services, programs and events.
People who are well trained by the American system of leisure, busyness and independence find it laughable that someone would suggest gathering together every day for corporate, Spirit-fueled prayer. The religious system hasn’t helped either. The Sunday service model of ministry has unwittingly communicated to a busy culture that attending a worship and teaching service a couple of hours a week is the expected maximum level of participation.
I firmly believe this has resulted in a generation of church goers who don’t know God, people who have a form of godliness but deny its power.
4 …lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. 2 Timothy 3:4-5 (ESV)
People who love God have a yearning to pray. This is beyond debate. Instead of avoiding those who don’t desire to be with the one they say they love, as is the instruction in the above verse, we are actually building our churches with them! Before you get too defensive, I do understand that growing in prayer is a bit of a process. But, it certainly is not to be resisted as it is by so many professing Christians today.
Our primary focus should no longer be faithfully attending a church once or twice a week, but rather gathering together with Christians in the region for Holy Spirit driven intercession.
In order for this to happen, Pastors are going to have to be okay with a diminished attention to their own programs and as they lead the people under their care to the regional prayer events.
We don’t need another church plant, another church growth seminar or another amazing program—unless they are founded on regional, continual, fervent and Holy Spirit saturated prayer. One hundred percent of those who attend our churches should be on their faces day after day “in the temple” devoting themselves to prayer. This isn’t a call only for the mature or those specially called. Every Believer should be baptized with fire in corporate prayer in their city. A new church culture is necessary. We can no longer validate people’s devotion to Jesus if the most basic, defining call is ignored—the call to pray without ceasing.
In my city of Branson, Missouri I am currently working on a regional prayer strategy. I contacted churches inviting pastors and others to gather together every Friday from 10pm-midnight for regional prayer. I’m excited at the response so far, but my heart broke when one particular church replied to my email invitation. They simply informed me that they already have a prayer meeting and that I am welcome to join them any time. Now, I’m thrilled that they actually have a prayer meeting! That is rare in today’s church. What broke my heart is that they dismissed the call to regional collaboration in prayer in favor of their own local focus.
Will pastors in your city give preference to regional focus ahead of their own local focus? Most probably won’t, but you should lock arms and move ahead with those who will.
25 About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them, 26 and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken. And immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s bonds were unfastened. Acts 16:25-26 (ESV)
Your city doesn’t need another great church program. They need to experience the power of prayer!
When we pray, the prisoners will be listening—and the earth will quake as it sets the captives free!
The enemy is working wonders and imprisoning millions of people—most of the people in the very city you live in—and we must bring impact through fiery prayer. I’m not talking about naturally minded petitions. We need a movement of fire that erupts through the groans of the saints! Every Christian must flow powerfully in prayer that is too deep for words!
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. Romans 8:26-27 (ESV)
This type of prayer is not reserved for a few. It is absolutely mandatory that we emphasize the critical need for every Christian under our care as leaders to pray at this depth! Prayer that is devoid of Holy Spirit fuel like this leads more often to frustration than breakthrough.
As we gather together continually with the other Christians in a region to pray on fire with groans that cannot be uttered, the anointing of the Spirit of God will overcome the church. Messages will explode out of yielded vessels that will carry a supernatural anointing that can only come through this type of prayer. Regions will be rocked!
18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints, 19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak. Ephesians 6:18-20 (ESV)
Did you notice the command in verse 18? We are required to pray in the Spirit at all times! How strange is it that prayer meetings are empty and churches are devoid of the spirit of prayer today. Prayer is not an extra-curricular activity! It is not optional. I believe a lifestyle of fervent prayer in the Spirit is an evidence of our relationship with Jesus!
When we pray in the baptism of the Holy Spirit as a regional church, bold messages pierce cities and nations! Check out what happened after the Holy Spirit was poured out in Acts chapter two. After explaining the move of the Spirit of God, and boldly, prophetically declaring the Word of the Lord, Peter didn’t hold back:
36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” 37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:36-38 (ESV)
Peter didn’t hold back in his accurate accusation against the religious in attendance. He declared the divinity of Jesus and he rebuked them for crucifying God! They cried out for an answer and Peter simply called them to repent, be baptized and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
We must see regional voices emerge out of a movement of prayer in a city. When the Holy Spirit flows through people, and the water level of his activity in a region increases, messengers of God will begin to boldly call out religious systems, apathy, theological error and other hindrances to the advance of the Gospel.
Trust me, as this happens, many pastors and leaders will strike out against such a bold, confrontational message. Apathetic people will reject an advance like this. People with a local focus instead of investing in the regional church will give preference to lesser activities.
I believe it’s time to see every pastor, every leader and every Spirit-fueled Christian in a city gather together every week (or every day!) for hours of Holy Spirit driven prayer.
We have to transition our understanding of church from local to regional. In Acts 2 the people met as a region every day in the temple for prayer AND they met day by day in homes.
In today’s busy culture such a devotion is soundly rejected. People would rather sleep or play than pray. The emphasis is given to a couple of hours on a Sunday morning.
Maybe Sunday morning should shift to nothing more than a prayer meeting. Then, the pretenders would stay home and the true church would show up and pray, in the Spirit, and set in motion an earthquake that prisoners in our city are waiting to experience.
Are you living on the right side of Acts chapter one? The answer will determine the course of your life.
Every morning when we awaken from a long night of sleep, we stretch, yawn and eventually step into a new day. In the natural we are functioning from a collection of experiences, training, opportunities, challenges and other influences that have helped determine our current experience. Some are waking up in the morning to get ready to operate on somebody’s heart because his natural training provided him that opportunity. Others are headed to classes in a university as a result of healthy planning. Still others are depressed, lonely, fearful, expectant, determined or are experiencing a myriad of other very real feelings due to their position in life. Their natural position.
Spiritually, where are you? Specifically, which side of Acts chapter one are you living on when you wake up each morning?
Acts Chapter 1
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” Acts 1:6-11 (ESV)
Of course, the first chapter of Act’s position on the historical timeline comes after the death and victorious resurrection of Jesus. The question I’m asking is directed toward those who have been redeemed by the blood of the Lamb—Christians—those who have responded to the greatest gift man has ever been offered. Christian friend, it’s possible to be functioning on the right side of the cross and on the wrong side of the rest of the story.
Read the short passage in Acts 1:6-11 again. Let the power of that dramatic moment impact you. Put yourself in the position of the disciples of Jesus.
They had just experienced, to put it lightly, a dramatic season of life that culminated with their hero, their friend, God himself being brutally, savagely tortured and mutilated. They were suddenly alone, fearful and confused. Their holy hope was gone forever—so it seemed. Dead people don’t just wake up and walk out of their tombs after all, right?
Lazarus might disagree with that. So would Jesus. The disciple’s overwhelming hopelessness was miraculously displaced by the impossible. Jesus walked out his tomb.
They were fearful, alone and confused no more. Now the celebration begins! Now plans for the future can be discussed! This was the day the Lord Jesus himself created and it was time to rejoice and be glad!
The obvious next step was for Jesus to set up his Kingdom and to reign! The disciple’s question was an honest yet misguided one:
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Acts 1:6 (ESV)
They didn’t understand at all what the future held. The victory on the cross, in their minds, would result in Jesus doing much more of what they saw him do previously. Jesus was the man of the hour and they wanted to be in the front row for the show.
After all, Jesus had just spent 40 days talking to them about the Kingdom, right?
3 He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God. Acts 1:3 (ESV)
Yes, the Kingdom was coming, but not at all the way everyone had presumed. Jesus was about to launch them out of Acts chapter one and into Acts chapter two.
If you’ll remember, Jesus had already given them a mandate that it seems they casually overlooked:
4 And while staying with them he ordered them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father, which, he said, “you heard from me; 5 for John baptized with water, but you will be baptized with the Holy Spirit not many days from now.” Acts 1:4-5 (ESV)
The disciples had necessary teaching about the Kingdom and a mandate to wait for a promise that would enable them to initiate a world shaking mission.
However, in their minds they wondered why they would need a Promise if Jesus was there with them. Why would they need anything else? Jesus was going to work wonders and they would be there as his most fervent supporters!
9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. Acts 1:9 (ESV)
Again, put yourself in the shoes of the disciples. What type of emotional crisis were they going through? First Jesus died, then he defied all odds and returned in victory. Now their plans for Jesus to build his Kingdom were cut down as they received an inconvenient mandate to pray and wait for some nondescript Promise—as Jesus again left them.
Now, their close friend, their superhero who would protect them from the threats of the many enemies in the land, was gone from them a second time—this time for good (at least in their lifetimes).
The Bible says that they were just standing there gazing into heaven.
My question to you is this: Are you gazing into heaven waiting for Jesus to show up and do what you are yearning for him to do? Or, are you taking action in the power of the Holy Spirit to do it yourself?
On the cross Jesus famously said, “It is finished!” His part is done. We have been left with an extreme mandate and a costly mission that must be in front of us every morning when we awaken, stretch and yawn and move into our day.
So often we are crying out for Jesus to heal the sick when he commanded us to heal the sick. Those on the wrong side of Acts chapter one will gaze into heaven waiting for Jesus to do it. Those who have been baptized with power and who have embraced their spiritual mission will function in the power of the resurrection by looking at someone and commanding that they take up their mat and walk!
True baptism in power results in an inconvenient life.
I’m convinced that casual ‘gazing into heaven’ type prayer is often unanswered because Jesus is putting the pressure on us to get into the prayer rooms where supernatural baptism can be found.
The angelic question in Acts 2 remains for us today:
11 …“Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven?” Acts 1:11a (ESV)
Those who are living on the wrong side of Acts chapter one have bought into the resurrection power of the cross but have yet to step into their life mission that requires a devotion that will put every other life focus at risk. They want to continue in their day-to-day life hoping that Jesus will be the hero and rescuer they might need in times of trouble. The call to greater consecration is unnecessary since they are already saved and the victory of the cross was complete.
The truth is that the victory of the cross launches our mission. It doesn’t end it. When Jesus said “it is finished,” for us it meant, “it has begun.”
The enemy is moving across the earth stealing, killing and destroying. How could we even begin to think our work is done or unnecessary?
The blood of Jesus doesn’t grant us immunity, it grants us authority—authority to tread on serpents, authority to heal the sick, authority to advance the Kingdom, authority to go and make disciples.
Those living on the right side of the chapter are burning with that mission every single day. They wake up on fire with an urgency to fulfill their extremely important commission.
The life of someone living in Acts chapter two and beyond looks radically different than the lives of other Christians.
The call to prayer was too inconvenient for most everybody who saw Jesus alive after the resurrection. Only 120 showed up in that room. Only 120 determined it was necessary to actually obey Jesus. To them Jesus was more Savior than Lord.
Living on the right side of Acts one requires obedience. It requires us to be people of extravagant, inconvenient prayer.
Acts two started with prayer in an Upper Room and it continued with prayer daily in the temple.
17 pray without ceasing, 1 Thessalonians 5:17 (ESV)
Today we have innumerable people who are naming the name of Christ who are living in constant disobedience by refusing to live a life of continual prayer.
Corporate prayer is such a clear and obvious mandate for Christians that it is beyond shocking and nonsensical that so many are not investing in it. They are living after the resurrection but before Acts, presuming that all is well and there is nothing left to be done. Both Resurrection power and Holy Spirit power are required before we can even begin to understand our life purpose—much less fulfill it.
The corporate prayer meetings are the most important meeting and every Christian must be in attendance. In fact, In Acts 2 corporate prayer was a daily occurrence. This is what must return to our churches today.
46 They worshiped together at the Temple each day… Acts 2:46 (NLT)
This means we can no longer continue without coming together for Holy Spirit infused prayer every day and presume it’s okay or normal. It’s not. Those living on the right side of Acts one can’t stand the thought of going a day without encountering God in prayer with other Believers.
Acts Christians were radically invested in both corporate church gatherings and planting of new churches.
I’m grieved at the number of Christian “church haters” (is that even possible?) that are on the rise. People are creating theologies that argue against the corporate church setting that are laughable.
Consider Chinese Christians who gather together every morning at 4:30am, seven days a week, to pray and worship together as the church before they begin their day. In America we think a couple hours a week is too inconvenient!
Can somebody explain to me how coming together with other Christians every day to pray on fire is a bad thing? How is that something that doctrines are being created to oppose? Truly those are doctrines of demons.
Some might say that they don’t need to attend church because “they are the church.” They would be incorrect.
From my article, You are not the church:
If we understand the meaning of the word ‘church’ we could never presume that we alone are the church. That idea is contrary to the origin of the word (ekklesia, meaning “assembly”). In fact, that word has secular origins. It literally means an assembly of people who have been called together by an authority in the city or region. Wow! That sheds a lot of light on what the church is.
The church is an assembly of people organized under defined governmental leadership. It’s a regular gathering of people who are deeply agreed and in pursuit of mission advance under God’s apostles, prophets and other governmental leaders.
Further, the pure definition of the word reveals that it isn’t used as easily in the context of the global company of believers as it is in the regional and local gathering of believers.
The definition reveals that it’s a well defined local group vs. a loosely defined larger group of people (who mostly don’t know each other at all). We can’t be a part of the church if we aren’t gathered together with other parts of the church. Church is corporate.
Additionally, the church is a group of people who assemble, fellowship, pray and respond together to apostolic teaching. That can’t happen in a more nebulous global context.
The church has inherent in it’s core call the expectation of assembly and a corporate response so as to ensure the local mission is fulfilled. Again, a fulfilled mission can’t be realized without this type of intentional and faithful participation at a local level where communication and commonality are clearly defined.
Those living in Acts Holy Spirit power understand the need to be rightly aligned with men and women of God. They understand the church gathering isn’t foundationally a social one. It’s a strategic one. Great numbers of people coming together to pray and to receive apostolic instruction is necessary on a daily basis if we are to advance the gospel in victorious fashion.
The church is a military. It has a mission.
Church haters have gripes about how they were treated, about disagreements with focus, about not being recognized, about most anything. True biblical Holy Spirit empowered Christians are ready to die to their own opinions and serve. Today when people are rejected they run from the church with complaints in their hearts. Two thousand years ago when Jesus was rejected he died for the church with love in his heart.
Acts Christians are not flowing under the radar, blending in with their culture. They are causing controversies and inciting riots!
40 For we really are in danger of being charged with rioting today, since there is no cause that we can give to justify this commotion.” Acts 19:40 (ESV)
It angers me that so many supposed Christians refuse to declare the offensive Gospel message out of fear that they may lose friends, offend family or put their financial security at risk!
Did you know that’s why there was a riot in Ephesus? People’s financial well being was compromised when Paul and his team of firebrands arrived on the scene!
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. 24 A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in no little business for the craftsmen. 25 He called them together, along with the workmen in related trades, and said: “Men, you know we receive a good income from this business. 26 And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that man-made gods are no gods at all. 27 There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited, and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” 28 When they heard this, they were furious and began shouting: “Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!” 29 Soon the whole city was in an uproar. The people seized Gaius and Aristarchus, Paul's traveling companions from Macedonia, and rushed as one man into the theater. Acts 19:23-29 (NIV)
I absolutely love Acts 19 verse 23:
23 About that time there arose a great disturbance about the Way. Acts 19:23 (NIV)
Where is such a disturbance today?
“God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life” is not the gospel message! It’s a true message, but it’s not the gospel message. When we start preaching about man’s depravity, our darkness, and God’s holiness and Lordship and his extreme sacrifice on the cross we will begin preaching the gospel. Anything that does not upset culture as it sets people free is suspect as a true message.
People on the right side of Acts chapter one will burn with a mission. Others will live normal, low impact lives. Sure, they may enjoy God, say their prayers, go to church, worship him, read their bibles and be people of great conviction. However, the very reason they were born eludes them. The tears over the lost and the zeal for intercession are absent. An aggressive, unwavering daily pursuit of humanly impossible God given projects and assignments is nowhere to be found.
The primary purpose of the Promise in the Upper Room was not to make us feel better as we worship or to help us in our daily lives. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit is to empower us to live free from sin (He’s the HOLY Spirit) and to preach the message of the cross to the world; to expand the Kingdom. How different this is than what the disciples presumed in Acts one!
The Holy Spirit enables us to work and to advance in mission in ways that are not possible via human determination. Jesus is physically gone and we are the ones to do the work!
12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. John 14:12 (NIV)
When on the earth, Jesus was about his Father’s business. Now that he is gone we are to be about our Father’s business!
49 And He said to them, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?” 50 But they did not understand the statement which He spoke to them. Luke 2:49-50 (NKJV)
I propose there are many post-resurrection/pre-Upper Room Christians today who also don’t understand what it is to be about our Father’s business.
Acts chapter one where we see disciples of Jesus transition into apostles. In a moment, they went from followers to ‘sent ones’ with a mission.
I want to encourage you, when you wake up each morning, stretch and yawn and get ready for the day that you function as a sent one. Burn with a passion for Jesus and the advance of his Kingdom. Embrace the impossible assignments that God has for you. Pray continually with others. Live and walk in the Spirit. Disrupt the culture you live in. Trouble the lukewarm and awaken the sleepers. Live in great power—power that’s found on the other side of Acts chapter one.