Much of the church has surrendered its mantle of prophet in exchange for the title of salesman.
Relevance. One could argue it makes sense to be relevant. We want people to have a legitimate, life-altering encounter with Jesus. He will reach people at the core of who they are, and they would absolutely confess their engagement with deity would be relevant. Jesus knows how to touch people's lives in exactly the right way.
Listen to the podcast…
However, what most consider relevance in today's vernacular has resulted in a deviation from the hard-core, white-hot truth of Scripture.
Check out this definition:
rel·e·vance | \ ˈre-lə-vən(t)s practical and especially social applicability
To meet the demands of relevance, so much of today's church has dressed up Jesus, wrapped a bow around him and paraded him down the fashion runway in hopes that people will like his style, that he would be appealing, and sign on the dotted line of salvation. Their ultimate goal is for people to close their eyes, raise their hands and say a prayer that somehow seals their eternity with Jesus. Sadly, this method of evangelism has most probably resulted in millions of people following Jesus in an unsaved condition. There are many “Rich Young Rulers” out there who have been welcomed with open arms by today's preachers but who have not surrendered all.
Relevance has required that we lay down our mantle as a prophetic people who boldly preach soul-piercing truth in favor of the methods of a salesman. The result is innumerable people being added to an ever increasing lukewarm stew that will soon be vomited out of God's mouth. Relevance has neutered the church and has drained it of its power.
THE CHRISTIAN ROCK LESSON
Somewhere around 40 years ago, give or take a few, the phenomena of Christian rock emerged. As a youth pastor in the 90s, I preached multiple times about Christian rock, and the risk it presented. My belief is that music was never intended as an evangelism tool. Christian rock violated the original purpose of music as God intended. Music in it's purest form is anointed, glorious worship. Personally, my life is strengthened when I pump my spirit full of supernatural music that's devoted to exalting God. I'm listening to some old school Vineyard music from the 90s as I write this. (It doesn't get much better than that!)
The fruit of this spiritualized, worldly amusement includes a Christian culture that has no issue with secular music today. Pastors and worship leaders are often drawing from that ungodly well, giving no thought to the source of their entertainment. Add to that immoral movies, television and online media, and you have a compromised church that has lost its oil, if not its lamp stand.
As a youth pastor, intense worship, powerful deliverance, baptisms in the Holy Spirit, fervent prayer and visitations of God marked our culture. We had no need or desire to tone things down in the hopes that people would give a thumbs up to an altered form of Jesus and jump on board. While we must weep and mourn when people reject Jesus, we must also allow them to walk away if they aren't interested in surrendering all, signing up as martyrs and truly following God on his terms.
Attempting to sell the “Christian thing” with movie nights, parties, skits, ice-breakers, “Christinized secular music” and other attempts at relevance are foolish at best, devastating at worst. Hit your face, tremble under the weight of the Holy Spirit, get saturated with his glory and then worship and preach on fire—and watch those who are truly hungry rush in.
SEEKER SENSITIVE EVERYTHING
Additionally, the primary church service wasn't meant to be an evangelism tool. Yet, we have all watched seeker-sensitive churches emerge and thrive as prayer and the activity of the Holy Spirit took a back seat to coffee, music and human interest stories from the platform.
We must see the invisible, supernatural realm manifest in the earth again! We have become experts at using psychological, sociological mind-tricks in an attempt to connect with people and to compel them to consider Jesus. The seeker sensitive train wreck has impacted nearly every corner and crevice of today's church as we attempt to sell Jesus, sell our church and sell salvation.
What happened to revival? What about the indescribable glory of God that should be flooding our churches? Where are the manifestations? Tongues of fire? In most churches, quenched. All of it. Why? Because it's not relevant according to the expectations of today's culture. Manifestations of the Holy Spirit irritate the pretenders in the church and repel the mockers outside the church. Instead, many church leaders have adopted an often “successful” model of ministry that fills the seats while dumbing Jesus down and deeming the church impotent.
WE ARE NOT SALESMEN!
We need preachers who have the unction of the Holy Spirit in their gut and the fire of Holy Spirit in their mouths!
Our goal is not to rack up points for every soul “saved.” We must present truth and make it hard, not easy, for people to decide whether they want to follow Jesus or not.
Jesus died for you, what else could you want? That's a legitimate evangelism question. You see, none of us have bargaining power. We don't have leverage. We can't haggle. We don't have the option of jumping in at a lesser level. Without Jesus, we will be tortured and tormented every second of every day for ever and ever. We don't have a say in how we connect with Jesus. It's everything or nothing. It's full surrender or no surrender. It's radical repentance or no repentance. It's all or nothing.
I explained the extreme cost of following Jesus to a co-worker many years ago. I revealed the difficulties and the glories. I highlighted the issue of sin, God's solution and the permanence of eternity. I made it clear that life would be more challenging than he could ever imagine should he follow Jesus. Many friends may leave him. He might be lonely. His life of darkness would have to be abandoned. The love of God and the severity of God was presented unapologetically.
You see, I was honest with him. I didn't hold back. I revealed the indescribable invasion of life that Jesus alone can bring, but I didn't parade Jesus as a spectacle, as someone other than he truly is. I certainly didn't want it on my record that I led someone into an illegitimate relationship with Jesus. He understood without question what it was to follow Jesus. His response to me was equally honest. He said, “I just can't do that right now. I don't want to surrender my way of life to follow Jesus.”
I honored him for his honesty and let him know that Jesus was pursuing him. I pray he ultimately made the right decision and is an on-fire disciple of Jesus today as I believe the Holy Spirit used me to present to him a solid foundation to start from.
WHOLESALE CHANGE OF OUR MINISTRY METHODS
It's beyond time that we learned the Christian rock, seeker sensitive lessons. We are not of this world. We should stop mimicking it. We are aliens. We need an Area 51 experience as a curious people flock to look at the spectacle of an alien culture that doesn't try to blend in to society. Revival will do that. In Acts chapter two, many people marveled and many mocked when they saw the manifestation of the Holy Spirit. They were provoked by the aliens.
If you truly want to win the lost, then do away with delusions of relevance. Preach on fire. Pray on fire. Evangelize on fire. Worship on fire. Do everything on fire! We need to turn the temperature up, not down, when attempting to reach the lost. Too many have built a bonfire where people can warm their flesh when God has called us to surrender fully to the refining fire, to lay across it and die.
12 And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” 13 But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” Acts 2:12-13 (ESV)
Pastors are called to lead you to the furnace of intercession. Stop resisting.
Why is it so rare to find churches that are baptized in fire and saturated in the manifest presence of the Holy Spirit? So many long to walk into a church on a Sunday morning where people are laid out all over the room, others pacing in prayer and many trembling under the weighty glory of God as the fire of the Holy Spirit burns over everyone.
I'll give you a one reason, and it might not be what you want to hear: Manipulative and controlling people.
2 Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. Romans 13:2 (ESV)
I wonder if the typical church goer understands the extreme warfare revival and prayer-minded pastors and church leaders experience every single day. The swirls of demonic activity blows violently around them and their families nonstop, and the wickedness that provokes this assault is very often initiated from those who are supposed to be holding up their arms. Christian witchcraft manifesting through hand raising, Bible reading, tithe paying, small group leading members of their church is suffocating—and sickening.
Listen to the podcast:
I remember my core intercession teams both in Colorado and Michigan would frequently cancel curses over my family and me. They'd stand in the gap. I was often in the hot seat receiving protective prayer as they broke off the arrows shot into my back, weapons of warfare that were wielded by people who shook my hand and smiled as they entered the church each week.
This was a distraction to the mission, and it impacted our ability to deal with the curses and attacks from actual witches and warlocks that had us on their Satanic prayer list as a target. To be hit from outside and from within is a smart strategy of the enemy. He's out to kill ministries, to destroy them. He's all too ready to use selfish people who demand they are heard and obeyed.
I know from the testimonies of other pastors and from my own experience, dealing with troublemakers, resisters and manipulators is absolutely draining. Distracting. Grieving.
Visionary leaders are single-minded. They are advancing, calling surrendered people to run with them as they are focused on assaulting the kingdom of darkness. They are Gideons. They are looking for those who are full of faith, who are humble, faithful and who won't shrink back as they run toward the enemy's camp.
I've heard from many people who are disgruntled with pastors, and some for good reason. But, how often do we hear about pastors who are just fed up with the witchcraft in their midst? It must stop!
Read the story of Korah. Read it slowly. You do not want to be counted among the resisters. Do you have any idea how serious God is about protecting his leaders and his mission? I know, many of you might be triggered at such a bold defense of men and women of God. I cannot apologize. It's time God's ordained end-time revivalists are supported and encouraged as they contend for an outpouring and the advance of the Kingdom of God.
11 Therefore it is against the LORD that you and all your company have gathered together. What is Aaron that you grumble against him?” Numbers 16:11 (ESV)
31 And as soon as he had finished speaking all these words, the ground under them split apart. 32 And the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them up, with their households and all the people who belonged to Korah and all their goods. 33 So they and all that belonged to them went down alive into Sheol, and the earth closed over them, and they perished from the midst of the assembly. 34 And all Israel who were around them fled at their cry, for they said, “Lest the earth swallow us up!” 35 And fire came out from the LORD and consumed the 250 men offering the incense. Numbers 16:31-35 (ESV)
THE RESISTERS NEED TO REPENT OR LEAVE
If you are resistant to revival, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit, to groans of the Spirit and tongues of fire and to an atmosphere of desperation, depth, freedom and extreme hunger, and your church is attempting to pursue and affirm these things…just leave. Disappear.
Stop being an irritant and a pain to the pastor you are supposed to be honoring and supporting. Quit with your manipulation, control and witchcraft. Stop presuming your opinions and insights are so important and that your voice must be heeded. You are hindering the Holy Spirit and those who are passionate about Jesus.
The enemy is using you and you need to either move on or repent in tears. I can't imagine being the one that stood in the way of a move of God. Grieving the Holy Spirit is a serious violation and I pray the fear of the Lord grips you.
Pastors, I pray you have the guts to power through the threats and spirits of control in your midst and refuse to hold back. There are masses waiting for you to help initiate a move of the Holy Spirit that will transform their lives and change where they spend eternity. It's on you!
I'd encourage you to read an article I wrote about the need for the manifestation of the Holy Spirit to return to our churches. Pastors, you must lead the charge. It's time for reformation. It's time for fire.
Read the article here:
Bizarre, supernatural manifestations should be normal in the church. What happened?
When given the choice between hearing another sermon and witnessing invisible and very active demons being cast out of a precious soul, I'm buying the ticket to the deliverance. Why then, if deliverance is even allowed at all, is it so often stopped so they can escort the individual into a back room somewhere? Today's church needs to see the power of the Holy Spirit overcoming the power of the enemy in people's lives right before their eyes!
Here's a podcast on this topic:
In fact, supernatural manifestations are consistently shut down as irritations or some sort of spiritual disorder. Manifestations should be expected, not avoided. We must allow our all-powerful God to interact with the people. When such a mighty force touches weak, finite humans, it's simply impossible to maintain our casual or dignified disposition. We will react with shock, awe and wonder!
THIS REACHES BEYOND SIMPLE SUPERNATURAL MANIFESTATIONS
Too often the Western church is functioning in the safe, natural, middle ground, and the demons remain in hiding, very active and unconcerned about any Christian interference. There is no threat.
However, when a deeply determined and wildly prophetic people who are devoted to intercession and warfare unite, the unseen world starts to shake under the weight of their authority.
When people like this advance together, they are met with dramatic and often bizarre supernatural reactions. Demons and angels engage and respond, and this will be easily discerned by men and women of God who live their lives in the spiritual realm. The invisible realm becomes exposed.
We must have mature warriors who understand the realm of the invisible and who function in great authority giving key leadership in our churches. It's laughable to think that a church is truly having impact if the enemy isn't provoked and if the Holy Spirit isn't manifesting.
A DEMONIC COMMAND CENTER IN MANITOU SPRINGS, COLORADO
I'm astonished at how often Christians live in disbelief (or disinterest) regarding the demonic world. The story I'm about to share can easily be dismissed as too extreme. They'd prefer to climb back under their safe, comfy blanket and deny reality—all while the demonic army gains strength and momentum. Hiding under the blankets or sticking your head in the sand is no strategy against such a formidable force.
The Lord had revealed to me that Manitou Springs was a demonic communication center, a command center, much like NORAD, which was an active center of defense for our nation for years just a few miles from our town at the base of Pikes Peak. Further, it was expressed that Manitou Springs, at the base of America's mountain, was called to be an angelic command center of revival for the nation. We had a lot of work to do. A complete take-over and shift in authority must occur.
My lead intercessors and I were prayer walking through the streets of Manitou Springs, Colorado several years ago. This city is well known for it's occult roots. Anton LaVey, who wrote the Satanic bible, lived there. Witchcraft is rampant and homosexuality and liberal ideals promoted. In fact, the pastor of the city at the time led a profoundly heretical church.
During this particular prayer walk, which was one of hundreds, we were interceding on the grounds of a very old Episcopal church property. Suddenly, I saw a dark entity, a hooded creature. I told my intercessory friends, Miles and Jodi, about the encounter and we quickly moved closer to the church building where this demon was seen (and had since ducked into hiding).
It's extremely important that we are all prophetic people, able to hear God's voice very clearly. If we don't, we can miss some life altering instructions and revelations. What God said next was absolutely critical for the advance of the Kingdom in this dark city.
God told us the demon was a messenger on assignment, and that he was there to receive the keys of authority to the city. He was to transport them to his leaders. Understand, the enemy is granted great authority to advance its agenda when humans are in agreement. It gives power to their assignments. God revealed this particular messenger, on a very important mission, was fully surprised to see Spirit-filled children of God at his rendezvous point. It was even more shocked that I saw it. We prayed, seeking instructions on how to deal with this situation. God told us to intercept the keys. The authority in Manitou Springs was being transferred that day in surprise fashion.
AN ASSIGNMENT DEEP INSIDE THE EARTH
Very shortly after this transfer of authority I, along with very experienced and high ranking intercessors from the surrounding states gathered together for a prayer assignment in Manitou Springs. After some dramatic prophetic experiences that day, we capped it off with our primary assignment deep within a cave system.
The intercessors knew Manitou had very evil roots and a wicked history, and they wanted to gain spiritual intelligence so they could devise a strategy. As we were all about to enter the cave, the regional intercessory leader, who was a little older than the rest of us, told me she wouldn't be going into the cave. She would stay back and cover us in prayer. She then privately gave me an assignment: determine whether the deep part of the cave where we were going to end up was a demonic command center.
I eagerly accepted the challenge and then I, along with the rest of the team, started our journey into the depths. As I was walking deeper into the cave, I began to understand the severity of the assignment. I certainly didn't want to presume anything. I didn't want to guess. I needed to hear from God clearly about whether our final destination was in fact a center of demonic activity that was focused on destroying the people of Manitou Springs and the nation, or not.
When we finally entered the furthest room in the cave system, I was absolutely stunned at what I was experiencing. All I could think was, “The Holy Spirit isn't welcome here.” It was unlike anything I had ever experienced. The void created by the absence of God's manifest presence was something I never want to feel again. It felt like Hell without the fire and torment, and I can't imagine spending even a few seconds in there. However, I was on assignment and I had to deal with this supernatural reality. I couldn't leave. We stopped and turned off our lights and began to pray. It was perfectly dark.
I hit my knees, trembling, wondering what was going to happen and what God wanted us to do. In the spirit, I saw the earth open underneath me. A massive entity emerged from the depths. This was a portal between the demonic realm and the land of the living. I did in fact discover a demonic command center.
I was experiencing intercession unlike any time in my life. It's impossible to describe the experience. I was beyond overwhelmed, shaking, undone, disturbed.
It was confirmed that the determined agreement of humans in Manitou Springs with the Satanic realm was extremely strong, and demons emerged from the depths to give instructions to people and to receive information from them. These were messenger demons much like the one I experienced on my prayer walk by the Episcopal church.
Wait! The Episcopal church!
God reminded me of the encounter I had there. As this massive portal was opened up under my feet, it was clear what I was to do. I had taken the keys of authority. I had them! I was to use this new found authority to shut this portal down. Lock it up. Seal it shut. Take dominion.
I shared all of this revelation, in that pitch dark cave, with the other prophetic intercessors, and they all immediately agreed that I was discerning everything correctly. In that evil place where the Holy Spirit wasn't welcome, I felt a mighty shift. The anointing of the Holy Spirit filled me and I commanded, in the authority of Jesus Christ, that the enemy's assignment was over and that the portal must shut. We all roared and groaned in the Spirit, prayed with power, declared truth of the Word and successfully fulfilled our mandate.
As we emerged from the cave, the faithful general in the faith who remained behind to pray had a smile on her face. She asked me, “Well, was it?” I said, “Yes!” I went on to explain what happened. She nodded her head and told me that God revealed the same thing to her as she was praying.
Understand, this never could have happened if we didn't embrace the wild and bizarre supernatural realities that are all around us.
In fact, a secular drama company from Broadway in New York City put this experience and others into a production and toured it from Washington D.C to New York City to Chicago to Los Angeles. My prophetic decrees, powerful personal freedom and other supernatural stories from our ministry were depicted on stage in front of thousands of mostly liberal, atheistic people who were in a prime position to meet Jesus!
Isn't it amazing how God works when we start moving in the supernatural, spiritual realm?
A TEAR JERKING EMAIL
This assignment in the cave along with many others over several years (some even more dramatic than this one) resulted in powerful breakthrough.
This week, I received an email that moved me to tears. You see, we passed the baton to others as we eventually moved out of Manitou Springs. This message shows how much prayer, the prophetic, endurance and obedience can do to the enemy's camp. I pray this encourages you to allow God to move exactly as he wants, to invade the realm of wickedness with authority, to expect supernatural manifestations and to contend for freedom, even if you don't see the results on our watch.
I love getting your emails – they are so challenging and so good. Thank you for what you do!
I’m a huge believer in giving credit where it’s due – and since you were such a HUGE part of our transition and journey to Manitou, as David and I are a week away from transitionIng our, I wanted to give you an update – because you sowed seeds for so many years and made this ground so fertile.
You wouldn’t recognize Manitou today! It’s becoming a beautiful community – restoration taking place in the supernatural and in the natural. Houses and buildings being restored and families moving in seeking community.
We’ve prayed over every inch of this city. The bridge over rainbow falls was restored, and the day it reopened, we prayed over it as a city gate and renamed “beautiful” at the Lord’s prompting. The same weekend, we dedicated the old Masonic lodge as the new worship space for new life Manitou – cleansed the ground, and claimed that gate as well.
The mineral springs by the Loop was recently refaced, and, “coincidentally,” a new life member was contracted to do the work. He wrote our prophetic passage for Manitou on the back of each rock – Isaiah 41:17-20 – “the poor and needy are searching for water where there is none, and I THE LORD will answer them…” and now scripture is hidden in one of the central fountains in Manitou. It’s our little secret. 🙂
Not long after that, a sign that had been decades missing from the rainbow falls bridge was replaced. It says “Manitou Springs – healing waters.”
New Life Manitou has been a full-fledged, weekly church for 3 years now. We beat the odds! It’s a thriving community of believers serving the city and accepted as part of the community. We’re meeting in the renovated (and very well-cleansed!) Masonic lodge on El Paso and running around 150 each Sunday. Every week, it seems, a new family shows up saying they just felt called to Manitou. We’re literally the only evangelical church here – but Manitou has embraced and not just tolerated us.
Hiawatha Gardens, where you guys met for the HOP, is being restored. Interestingly, your banner is still hanging on the back door – even though they’ve been in there cleaning and renovating. There sign remains. Just a reminder of your mark on this community.
David and I have been here for 4 years, and now we’re being called away. My heart is so torn – I have grown to adore this town and its people – our neighbors who are atheists and lesbians and agnostics who we are leaving we now have to entrust to Jesus. We’re headed back to San Antonio to pastor a church there. I can’t help but think of your story of leaving and how it must have been so bittersweet for you and your family.
We have certainly felt the weight of living here – the call and yet the resistance and pressure – and yet the yearning to see more of God’s movement, knowing that you wouldn’t be here to see the completion firsthand.
Because of that, I wanted to tell you again that your hard work and toil and trials and prayer and faithfulness did not go unseen, unnoticed, or unfruitful. Your obedience here in Manitou for all those years paved the way for what is happening now and for the restoration and revival that is happening here in Manitou. I know from firsthand experience that it wasn’t easy and that you suffered for the call. But your legacy lives on here. Your faithfulness and intercession and prophetic words spoken over this city tore down strongholds and softened hearts. You pastored this city so well. Well done, good and faithful servant.
And thank you for giving us so much insight and comfort 4 years ago when we were so freaked out about moving here. Thank you for being the forerunner and for giving us the courage to carry the torch. Thank you for introducing us to Miles and Jodi, who passed the prophetic torch to us. I still have the house of prayer banner they gave us and still weep at the thought that our weekly prayer meetings were held in the very same room as your early prayer meetings were held.
God has such a heart for this place, and my heart breaks to leave it – We have wept over it, loved it, and learned so much in our time here – but our time is done and we did what we came to do – 4 years of so much joy, so much travail, so much beauty. And you were such a huge part – so thank you so much for your labor, John. You are a giant in the kingdom, and I just wanted to let you know that we recognize your sacrifices and work here. It lives on and you are part of a very beautiful story that God is writing in Manitou Springs.
Thank you, thank you, thank you. The Father is well pleased.
Sarah and David
I cried tears of joy.
Youth pastors, it's time to put away the games and to ignite a raging fire!
When I was a youth pastor over two decades ago, nothing grieved me more than the expectation that I create a culture of parties and slap the name of Jesus on them. I've seen it time and again—youth ministries that appeal to the natural and that develop social experiments in the hopes of drawing in the masses along with their friends. In fact, I've just described many adult church strategies too, but I'll leave that for another article.
As a youth pastor, I'd have nothing to do with such a tired, powerless ministry plan, no matter how great the pressure was to serve this candy to the kids.
No, the emerging young wonders I had the privilege of giving leadership to deserved more than that. They were ready to set the world ablaze, even if they didn't know it.
BRANDED BY FIRE
The baptism of the Holy Spirit is a non-negotiable pursuit for us today. Pastors and youth pastors alike absolutely must promote this immersion in fire. Our services must be marked by the searing hot activity of the Holy Spirit that intends to brand us all with his heart.
I'll never forget Nick. He was a remarkable young man, and God was moving powerfully in his life. Our youth services were prayer and worship fests. The Word was preached and the Holy Spirit rocked us all every week. It was normal to see people sprawled out all over as they met God at the altar. At times we'd meet outside on the basketball court, and it was quite a site for everyone driving by to see young people rocking back and forth, pacing, lifting their hands and laying face down on the pavement. God was moving and lives were truly impacted for eternity.
One day, Nick approached me. He wanted to bring some friends from the high school football team, but he was certain our supernaturally wild environment would freak them out. He asked if we could have a less spiritual, more social event that would make it easy for his unsaved friends to assimilate.
I loved Nick's heart! However, I also trusted the Holy Spirit to arrest his friends much better than our human strategies ever could. I challenged Nick. “Bring them.”
He did. The night was as crazy and intense as ever. Every one of his friends surrendered to Jesus. Yes, we can trust the Holy Spirit.
One of our favorite pastimes in that particular youth group was to jump on the bus and visit any revival, conference or Holy Spirit infused event we could find. We'd arrive early, pray at the altar and encounter God in new places all the time.
Young people have no patience for anything less than a legitimate move of God that will shock their system and transform them for the rest of their lives. They are yearning for a supernatural invasion of holy fire into their lives!
DON'T PUT OUT THEIR FIRE!
It's time we stop dumbing down youth ministry. We are looking for fire-breathers, and our teens are ripe for the assignment!
Every single young person should be equipped in supernatural prayer and intercession should be the foundation of every youth ministry. As you raise up an army of burning ones, you will certainly see this planet rocked.
Adults, you must be okay with messy services and an intense pursuit for your young people. I get so troubled when I speak at a youth conference or camp and God is moving powerfully with wild deliverance of demons, amazing confessions, life-rocking salvations and radical freedom, only to have the adults become uncomfortable with such a spectacle. They all to often apply their human wisdom and quench the fire that was started.
Let the young people burn!
It's time we see these burning ones trembling under the weight of the Holy Spirit, prophesying with passion, having dreams and visions and boldly encountering Jesus day after day. We need this army to emerge. Many young people have started this journey of intensity while most have no idea such a life is even possible.
FILL THE PRAYER ROOMS
Throughout my years both as a senior pastor and a youth pastor I'd always have an hour of fiery intercession before every service. There is literally nothing more important that I've ever instituted in my ministry. Gathering people together to literally encounter God before we kick into corporate prayer, worship and the Word will transform your church.
Often our pre-service prayer would flow right into the main service and those arriving late (well, actually on time) would wonder what in the world was going on. It was other-worldly.
The point is simple—develop your youth ministry and your entire church around the furnace of intercession. Most everything else will become less satisfying, less important and will pale in comparison to the revelation of Jesus that comes only through supernatural prayer.
Shut down the parties. Cancel your pizza orders. Eliminate the show. Stop the social experiments and contend in prayer. Promote holiness. Train the youth to know their God. They are waiting for leaders who will show them exactly how all of this works.
Preaching to the saints? You need to understand that many of them are not safe—if they are saved at all.
“Who then can be saved?” Matthew 19:25 (ESV)
The call of church leadership is not to confirm someone's salvation, but rather to challenge it. We need the fear and trembling to reverberate through our spirits night and day that only wrestling with our salvation can produce.
Jonathan Edwards brought his bold, fearful message to the church, to the saints:
The wrath of God burns against them; their damnation does not slumber; the pit is prepared; the fire is made ready; the furnace is now hot; ready to receive them; the flames do now rage and glow. The glittering sword is whet and held over them, and the pit hath opened her mouth under them.
The devil stands ready to fall upon them, and seize them as his own, at what moment God shall permit him. They belong to him; he has their souls in his possession, and under his dominion. ~Jonathan Edwards
I understand that many who read this will wholeheartedly disagree with my conclusions. They are either adherents of eternal security doctrine or some form of unstable, unbiblical or fully false-grace ideologies. Instead of tossing this article aside or attacking the viewpoint, I challenge you to humbly, soberly take it in and ask God to impact you, to shake you regarding this very serious topic.
As you might have guessed I believe that it's not only possible to surrender one's position in Christ, but I'm convinced it's common. Entire churches, many of them “Spirit-filled,” are fully lost while others are filled with people who have never had their relationship with Jesus challenged, and are as lost as the wicked of the world—yet they don't know it.
It's from this position that I am shining the light on possibly the greatest epidemic regarding the issue of salvation in the construct of the church today. Pastors commonly presume those who are faithful attenders, givers and friends in their churches to be saved. It's a given. It's obvious. It's settled. If they are raising their hands, dancing at the alters, serving in ministry, leading small groups or involving themselves in other activities, then, of course, they are true followers of Jesus, right? Not always. In fact, the salvation journey is one of endurance, and it's extremely easy to pull back, to slip up, to become casual or to lose faith.
12 And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold.
13 But the one who endures to the end will be saved. Matthew 24:12-13 (ESV)
Many in the church are simply not saved. They are following Jesus in an unsaved condition, all while the pastor is sharing messages on how to be successful in Christ, how to prosper, how much Jesus loves them and the benefits of the Kingdom—a kingdom they are not a part of.
Where are the gut-wrenching holiness messages? What happened to assaulting sin and compromise from the pulpit? Where is the weighty presence of the Holy Spirit that results in tearful repentance and an eager rejection of wickedness?
Pastors, do you realize that a large portion of your church is very possibly involved in pornography on a regular basis? Lust drives them. Many others are absolutely okay with filling their lives with movies, television and other media that is filled with filth. F-bombs, nudity and absolute evil is consumed day after day without the slightest conviction of the Holy Spirit. This puts their salvation at risk. To presume they are safe and destined for Heaven is to be blinded and duped. It's utter foolishness.
You've made it easy for them to fit right in on Sunday mornings, after a night of debauchery, to sing songs of worship and to blend right into the fellowship. You've convinced them that all is well and Heaven is their home, when the reality is that, absent legitimate repentance, they will be tormented in Hell forever.
I'm talking about elders and worship leaders, Sunday School teachers, youth pastors, ushers, children's ministry workers and faithful attenders. Many of these people are entertaining themselves with evil, fully devoid of discernment and convinced that God is unconcerned about their lifestyles.
ONE: Preach Hellfire and Holiness
“The Christian world is in a dead sleep. Nothing but a loud voice can awaken them out of it.” ~George Whitefield
It's nonsensical to teach the joys and blessings of the Kingdom to people who are foreigners, who are not truly adopted sons and daughters of the King. We have “Rich Young Rulers” filling our pews, except instead of alerting them to their unsaved condition, they are confirmed as legitimate followers of Jesus.
Those who are perverse, sleeping, unconcerned and driven by their flesh must have a shock come to their system! The fire from Heaven must consume them, but it's rare for a pastor to release that fire from the pulpit today. It's too risky. It's too costly.
Their eternal blood will be on the pastor's hands due to the failure to bring their rebellion and apathy to light. We need bold, confrontational messages today that strike us, break us and sear our flesh.
14 How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14 (NKJV)
After a sermon in Lyme, Connecticut, “many had their countenances changed; their thoughts seemed to trouble them, so that the joints of their loins were loosed, and their knees smote one against another. Great numbers cried out aloud in the anguish of their souls. Several stout men fell as though a cannon had been discharged, and a ball had made its way through their hearts.” (http://www1.cbn.com/spirituallife/a-great-awakening-stirs-the-colonies)
TWO: Cultivate an Atmosphere of Holy Spirit Fire
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (ESV)
Every meeting should be driven by the raging fire of the Holy Spirit. Cultivating a culture where bold, deep groans of intercession and praying in tongues is normal will have a clear result: those who are uncomfortable with an encounter with a very Holy Spirit will either repent or run.
I have often counseled pastors to bring this type of focus to their staff and leadership. Gather them to pray in tongues together for an hour a day and watch what happens. Staff members who are not on board with the vision, who are manipulative, who are functioning in Christian witchcraft and those who are gossips or resisters will be identified very quickly. When the Holy Spirit is present in such a deliberate and powerful way, impurities will be exposed. I also propose this type of environment be nurtured for the entire church body.
I heard in a message at church this morning that in the Assemblies of God, a historic movement that was shaped by revival and Pentecost, only 22% of people in their churches today have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues. How can this be?
Without this baptism of fire, oh my, the hope of living holy, obedient and fiery lives for Jesus is greatly and negatively impacted.
They are unable to build themselves up in the faith:
20 But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, Jude 1:20 (NKJV)
They are unable to pray the mysteries of God:
2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2 (ESV)
They are unable to overcome their limited understanding when praying:
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. Romans 8:26 (ESV)
Those who don't live, walk and pray in the Spirit are disadvantaged significantly. This is why it's crucial for all Believers to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit and to pray and groan in tongues daily! Doing so develops intimacy with Jesus. The prophetic in our lives intensifies. So do dreams and visions. Many will receive other gifts such as words of wisdom, words of knowledge, discerning of spirits, faith and more. And, most definitely, when the Holy Spirit is moving, the unholy won't be able to remain.
THREE: Revise How You Lead and What You Teach
The issue of salvation should be front and center week after week in the church. I'm not talking about simply giving the lost an opportunity to get saved. I'm referring to the sobering responsibility to lead the saints toward a successful transition into eternity.
Never presume someone is saved. Never confirm to them that they are. In fact, I never presume myself to be safe. It infuriates some that I would ever suggest that I or they may not retain our salvation. The great falling away will be very great. Enduring to the end is an intense and challenging call. Working out our salvation is a fearful thing.
Teach on holiness. Call people into obedience to the Word. Refute unbiblical grace theologies. Target the spirit of the age that has infiltrated so many in our churches. Expose the darkness of the media and entertainment that is being devoured by professing Christians without any concern whatsoever.
26 For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, 27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries. Hebrews 10:26-27 (ESV)
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? 30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.” 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. Hebrews 10:29-31 (ESV)
FOUR: Embrace Biblical Church Discipline
When is the last time you heard about someone being barred from the church for violations of Scripture that demand such action?
Failure to be faithful to the scriptural mandate to enact church discipline has resulted in compromised churches and a generation of people who are absolutely convinced they are saved, all while they are moving closer and closer to the fires of Hell.
Today unmarried men and women are living together, and they head to church together, hand in hand, each week, greeted by hugs and smiles. People who are consuming porn on Saturday are leading ministries on Sunday.
God is clear. We must purge those from among us who are sexually immoral, greedy or idolaters. We can't even eat with them.
In fact, turning them over to Satan is God's prescription in certain situations.
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. 6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? 1 Corinthians 5:4-6 (ESV)
We have entire churches that have been compromised because they are refusing to follow biblical church discipline protocols. This is extremely serious.
9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— 10 not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? 13 God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)
In fact, it's not only sexual immorality or drunkenness or greed that we need to deal with. Check this out:
6 Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. 2 Thessalonians 3:6 (ESV)
Those who are idle, lazy, not being productive as God has called them to be should be avoided as well. Why did I include this last verse? Well, first because it's in the Word. Second because I wanted to highlight just how serious God is about obedience and how we should respond to those who are in rebellion. Again, it's very serious.
Of course, when they are ready to repent, we run to them with open arms and welcome them back home!
19 My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, 20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins. James 5:19-20 (ESV)
So much focus is put on evangelism and people getting saved, while so little is put on staying saved. Failure in consecration and sanctification absolutely can impact justification.
Pastors, it's time to bring this issue front and center, and leave it there. Many under your care are in trouble. They are dying or dead spiritually and you haven't even noticed. That may be because your church culture is dead and they simply don't stand out. Or, it may be that your theology is off and that you believe salvation is easy and permanent. False-grace may have infected your ministry. You may have failed in the call to preach on the holiness of God. Hell and eternity may not be focuses as they should be.
I implore you to allow God to wreck you. Ask him to put the people in the church on your heart and intercede for them. Confront them. Challenge them. Awaken them. Eternity draws near.
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. 3 Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4 Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 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 3:1-6 (ESV)
Either the extreme activity of the Holy Spirit is critical to every Christian, or it is not.
I've resisted writing this article for a long time, as there doesn't seem to be a way around causing a schism, or at least provoking people to pick a side. Then again, maybe this is just what we need—an honest evaluation of the value and purpose of allowing the Holy Spirit to be fully free in our lives and in our churches.
Is the movement of the Holy Spirit vital to our success as Christians? Or, can we choose to tone down the manifestations due to personal discomfort or outright disagreement over how appropriate it is?
One of the reasons writing this article is such a struggle is because of how many truly amazing, godly and humble men and women of God there are who don't affirm the gifts of the Spirit. Additionally, there are many others who affirm the gifts and activity of the Holy Spirit, but don't emphasize them or give room for them in the church. In fact there are many “Spirit-filled” churches today that are sadly restrictive of the Holy Spirit. Yet, I've met so many of these pastors and leaders, and they are remarkable people.
I'm continually humbled by people like this who are lovers of God, faithful givers, students of the Word, brilliant leaders in the church and who possess truly tender hearts toward people. You won't find any praying in tongues, deliverance of demons, mention of dreams and visions or supernatural manifestations in their ministry. However, they are feeding the poor, visiting prisoners, giving to the needy, standing for righteousness, preaching with conviction and loving those God brings across their path.
There are those who would argue that people who discount or minimize the gifts and workings of the Holy Spirit are not saved at all. While I personally feel this is a serious issue, I could never jump to such an extreme conclusion. However…
BAPTISM IN THE HOLY SPIRIT IS CRITICAL FOR ALL
I must admit my spirit is grieved terribly when Christians attempt to shut the Holy Spirit and his workings away.
I recently heard someone raise the question as to why the activity of the Holy Spirit is even necessary today. He argued that if we focus on the basics, on salvation and preaching the Gospel, that is more than sufficient. He wondered out loud, “Just what else is necessary?”
He felt the outward expressions, the loud groans of intercession, tongues, deliverance of demons, and other manifestations were hindrances to the advance of the Gospel. I do understand why he has arrived at his position. There are too many people acting out in bizarre, emotional and strangely spiritual manners while excusing it away as the activity of the Holy Spirit. While I fully embrace the truth that it will become supernaturally intense and even quite messy when God invades a people and a church in great power, too often overly zealous people are getting a little nutty when the power really isn't there. Their passion can get the best of them and, for better or worse, it turns a lot of people away from such theatrics.
With all of this in mind, I must clearly reveal the core of my heart and my position on this matter:
Those who dismiss, reject, minimize or tone down the gifts and activity of the Holy Spirit due to discomfort or theological position are at great risk of rejecting God himself—and encouraging others to do the same.
Yes, the baptism in the Holy Spirit which results in a remarkable life of power, praying in unknown tongues, experiencing the supernatural realm and living a prophetic life is critical, not simply optional, for all.
WHY IS THE HOLY SPIRIT SO IMPORTANT?
No, preaching the Gospel and winning the lost isn't all that we are called to do as Christians. Not even close. However, it's easy to argue that the very act of preaching the Gospel and leading the lost to Jesus can't be done with any real effectiveness, anointing or power without the very direct and active influence of the Holy Spirit.
Now when they had gone through Phrygia and the region of Galatia, they were forbidden by the Holy Spirit to preach the word in Asia. Acts 16:6
Only the Holy Spirit knows when, where, how and to whom we should be preaching the Gospel. Of course, we should default to preaching and ministering everywhere we go—unless the Holy Spirit tells us not to.
If we are not tuned in to the clear and present words of God, we will not be able to discern his will on anything, including our ministry strategy.
Further, we know that praying in tongues edifies us, and the Bible teaches clearly that this gift is available for all. While some of the different gifts of tongues (tongues and interpretation, for example) are reserved for select people, as is true for most spiritual gifts, the prayer language of tongues is a critically important gift for every Christian. We all need the edification that only the Holy Spirit can bring, and his chosen vehicle for that edification is praying in tongues. There is no substitute. No tongues, no edification. That is a recipe for disaster.
He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the church. 1 Corinthians 14:4
Also, the Holy Spirit enables us to prophesy. We can hear God's voice, receive prophetic revelation, have dreams and visions and discern spiritually as the Holy Spirit moves in and through us.
Those who are not baptized in the Holy Spirit may occasionally receive rare and unusual revelation from the Holy Spirit, but such an important part of the Christian life is not supposed to be rare and unusual. Our lives should be filled with never-ending revelation from God. This is part of the wonder of the Spirit-filled life!
From my Charisma News article, Should the Church Get Scary?
We need a church on fire today more than ever. The lost are being introduced into lukewarm, natural, Ichabod religion instead of a supernatural shaking that can only come from the great I Am. They are convinced they are saved as they are assimilated into a community of like-minded quasi-spiritual people who would love to see God manifest in their natural realm—yet have no interest in manifesting in the spiritual realm where the Holy Spirit broods.
If you eliminate the activity of the Holy Spirit, you remove the navigator from your life. You fly blind without any unction in the depths of your spirit, without the supernatural stirring and unmistakable glory and presence of God radiating within.
Words of knowledge, words of wisdom, discerning of spirits, prophecy, power to do miracles, gifts of healing and other Holy Spirit endued abilities would disappear.
I often wonder how any Christian could ever attempt to live their lives much less lead a ministry, preach, write books, lead worship or do pretty much anything else without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, without tongues, without a prophetic spirit and without supernatural gifts.
Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit, evangelism, preaching, teaching and every other form of ministry reproduces not the electric, supernatural life of the Spirit, but, rather a simplistic, humanly understandable depiction of God. I'm not saying it's impossible to lead someone to Jesus or to teach the truth of Scripture if you aren't baptized in the Holy Spirit, but the efforts become more difficult at best and compromised at worst. If you aren't filled with power, just what are you imparting to them?
Without the baptism of the Holy Spirit and embracing the extreme activity of the Holy Spirit, and while attempting to subdue intense supernatural manifestations, deliverance won't happen, people will remain demonized, instantaneous healing will be rare, church services will be dead and naturally orchestrated, faith will be manufactured instead of imparted, prophecy will cease and power will fizzle out.
LIVING AN IMPOSSIBLE LIFE
I could write a book, no, many books, on this topic. This article is woefully incomplete, but I wanted to at least stir the waters and initiate some conversation.
We are called to live wildly supernatural lives. The experiences and mandates God has for us are fully impossible without moving in the power of the Holy Spirit.
The revelation that God has given me and my family over the years is so absolutely remarkable and other-worldly that I would be an entirely different person today if it had not come. The miracles and wonders that God has performed have marked us and moved us in directions that would have been impossible without the baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Yes, I'll say it loudly: The Holy Spirit is that important as are his gifts, revelation and power.
Everything changes when we become radically devoted, raging on fire and deeply intimate with Jesus.
I’ve been asked countless times throughout my years of ministry, “John, how can I experience the miracles and wonders of God?”
People are so hungry and desperate for an encounter with deity! The zeal they have to escape the trappings of the world and to dive into the glories of God is intense, yet so many just can’t tap into that lifestyle. They find themselves gazing into the heavens and crying out, “God, where are you!”
My answer to these passionate people is not complicated. In fact, it couldn’t be more simple: Live holy and pray in the Spirit—a lot.
HEARING GOD IS THE GOAL
17 So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ. Romans 10:17 (ESV)
One of today’s greatest tragedies is being invited into to the depths of God and the supernatural realm he moves in—and declining. So many are crying out for God to manifest in the natural realm while he is calling us to manifest in his supernatural realm! There are wonders to behold when we live consecrated lives and pray on fire night and day!
Please hear me: You can begin your journey into the place where the Holy Spirit broods right now! In fact, I feel in my spirit as I write this to invite you to contend in prayer with me for just a moment:
Jesus, I decree in your magnificent name that the person reading this is free from disillusionment, disappointment and unbelief. I command, in Jesus’ name, that every haunting and taunting evil spirit to loose your grip and break away from them, right now! I declare wild freedom, joy and exuberant faith, NOW! Faith rise up! Zeal increase! Expectancy come! It’s time for them to step into the wonders of God! Amen!
As we eliminate anything that would hinder a walk in the Spirit from our lives, and develop a lifestyle of fervent, urgent and enjoyable intercession, both in our prayer closets and with other brothers and sisters, the heavens will open up over our lives.
It’s at this point that we will be able to start hearing God. I’m convinced the only way to consistently hear God’s voice is if we are living holy lives, walking in the Spirit and praying in the Spirit. However, the price is worth it. When God starts talking, everything in our live shifts dramatically! A prophetic force will radiate from within. Dreams and visions will become regular. We will be undone as a fresh revelation of the glory of God shocks and rocks us to the core!
Yes, when you start hearing God, everything changes. Read on for an important truth God revealed to me—a truth I could only receive because I had developed a life of supernatural prayer.
STOP! YOU’RE PRAYING WRONG!
That’s what God told me one day as I was in some deep prayer. I was currently working part-time at a call center. I had been fairly frustrated that I wasn’t able to leave that job so I could work full-time in the church I was planting in Manitou Springs, Colorado.
That day, I was praying from a place of frustration. “God, oh God, please grow the church! Let the finances increase! Please God!”
That was when, as clear as a bell, I heard God say, “Stop! You’re praying wrong!”
What? How could that be? I was praying so hard. As I walked around the 1000 square feet of sanctuary space in the early days of Revolution Church, I really felt like I was doing well. Didn’t God want the church to grow?
Then God said something I’ll never forget. “You are praying as if I’m resisting you. Don’t you realize I put those desires in your heart? Why are you begging me for a desire that I initiated? I gave you the desire in the first place!”
Wow! That ruined my whole perception of what prayer was! I had to think differently.
God then said, “There is one who IS resisting you though. The enemy doesn’t want these desires I placed in your heart to come to pass. It is the enemy whom you must fight.”
So, I launched into a new dimension of faith filled and violent prayer!
I felt impressed that God wanted me to practice this new revelation he gave me. He told me He wanted me to have more time to pray and initiate revival in the city. He wanted me to quit my job at the call center. I had captured the heart of God and I knew it was my turn to enforce His will. The enemy must move!
“In the powerful name of Jesus Christ, I command you devil to release! Get off of my schedule! I declare the heart of God is for me to quit my job and to advance His Kingdom full time in Manitou Springs! How dare you touch the plans of God!”
1 John 5:14-15 Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him.
I prayed according to His will. He wanted me to work full-time in the ministry. One week later, as a church of about 35 people, we received a check in the Sunday offering for $50,000. The following week we received $25,000.
I was full time two weeks later.
That money was “more than enough.” We also used it to move into a 27,000 square foot building. God wanted us to have that all along. The enemy didn’t. I was praying wrong. I was praying as if the provision had to be coaxed away from God. In reality, God had already released it and I just had to go get it–and blast through the enemy’s resistance on the way.
Another story had an equal impact upon my life. I was again in a place of ‘frustration prayer’. I was crying out for needs to be met. I was banging on the doors of heaven in passionate prayer for finances, among other things. Once again I heard the voice of God deep within my spirit, “Your prayer is hindering you.” What? Did I hear correctly? God told me that my prayer in that moment was doing more damage than good. I should stop if I planned on continuing in that vein.
He then said, “Without faith it is impossible to please me.” He added, “Doubt in prayer will ensure that prayer goes unanswered.” Ok, He had my attention. I pondered this, and wrestled with these issues. I didn’t want to doubt. I wanted more than anything to be a man of faith. I wanted these pieces to fit together so I could arrive at some conclusion. God was telling me not to pray! Yet, I still had unresolved issues that demanded a miracle. Oh how alone I felt!
Then the answer came. God asked me why I was praying for something that was already promised in His Word. He has promised to supply all of my needs according to His riches in glory. The very act of asking God for my needs to be met revealed my lack of faith that it has already been done! I was attempting to convince God to do something that He already had resolved! My prayer evidenced my doubt which resulted in my prayer being unanswered!
The Bible reveals, as a man thinks in his heart, so is he. Doubt was in my heart. It also reveals that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. I was speaking unbelief. Finally, the Bible reveals that the power of life and death are in the tongue. The unbelief in my heart was manifesting as decrees of death over my finances! It would have been better if I didn’t pray at all!
Mark 11:24 Therefore I say to you, whatever things you ask when you pray, believe that you receive them, and you will have them.
No begging, no coercing, no convincing, no doubting allowed in prayer!
James 1:5-8 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
I hear God and then declare how the situation must conform to His will. It turns us from a position of defeat and passivity to a position of victory and spiritual violence and powerful faith! We change from the afflicted to the afflicter!
Rejecting Jesus should be the defining symptom of insanity.
One second in the presence of God will cure the most devoted skeptic, or so the saying goes.
Continually, as I watch the world go round, I am utterly stunned that people go about their lives while either casually or aggressively rejecting Jesus. Do they not know what they are doing? Many don't.
34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” Luke 23:34 (ESV)
Almost with intentional naivety, I wonder just why anybody would refuse such a life-altering, healing and glorious gift. Historically, people still rejected Jesus after being a witness to the resurrection. Others ignored the call to the Upper Room. Today people react similarly to calls to radical surrender to the most powerful being in existence. It truly does not make sense—or does it?
There must be a reason—or many reasons—why so many do the unthinkable.
WHY PEOPLE REJECT GOD’S GREATEST GIFT TO MANKIND
They have no grid for the presence of God.
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 2:14 (ESV)
One second in the presence of God will absolutely cure the most devoted skeptic. I believe it. I often wonder what unbelievers think when they witness moves of God that result in shaking, falling to the ground, groans of intercession, shouts of freedom and other manifestations. They have no option but to presume the people are hyper-emotional or mentally unbalanced. Why? They have not experienced the supernatural presence of God. Experiencing a visitation by a holy, supernatural force requires a “sixth sense.” They simply can’t understand it in the natural, so they dismiss it. Many mock it. They definitely reject it.
The countless times I’ve experienced the divine presence of God have changed my life many times over. It’s impossible for God’s presence to be invented, an emotional reaction, mind over matter or some other naturally explained experience. If you are standing in the ocean, you are wet. God’s presence is as tangible and simple to understand as that.
As a youth pastor in San Diego in the 1990’s, I took the teens to a powerful Vineyard Worship conference. It would be impossible for me to explain what happened there. God’s presence overtook me as he did many people there. I suddenly fell to my face as God’s weighty, holy and overwhelming presence consumed me. I was out. God was pouring out his love on me.
Hundreds of people eventually filtered out leaving me and a few others in the building. The youth helped me to my feet and I stumbled out of the room and to the van. When we pulled into the parking lot of the hotel where most of the people attending the conference were staying, I saw something I’ll never forget. All around I witnessed people being carried into the hotel, undone by the presence of God. This was no mass emotional delusion. God’s presence was healing and transforming people. Lives were forever changed. The lost have no grid for this.
They have never experienced a miracle.
11 And God was doing extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, 12 so that even handkerchiefs or aprons that had touched his skin were carried away to the sick, and their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them. Acts 19:11-12 (ESV)
I often say it should be absolutely impossible to doubt there’s a God when a legitimate miracle occurs. I mean, when an invisible God moves in great power and does the impossible, what else is there to discuss?
The signs, wonders and miracles I’ve experienced over the 49 years of my life are too numerous to list, though I’ve written about many of them in my books (www.burton.tv/shop). My life has been changed time and again as God revealed his love and power through stunning, incredible miracles that are fully indescribable in the natural. Only a loving Creator could move in that way.
People who reject God don’t typically experience wonders like healings or they explain them away. Financial miracles are foreign to them. Prophecy that comes to pass is dismissed. They just can’t grasp the reality of a God who moves in the lives of those who love him.
True peace, joy and freedom are absolutely foreign to them.
11 You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (ESV)
Speaking of miracles, when depression, fear and darkness are suddenly dispersed by a strange and wonderful supernatural invasion, you are forever free!
I love seeing before and after photos of people that reveal the transformation of Jesus. Before surrendering to Jesus you can often see emptiness, and after their countenance is erupting with joy and freedom!
How glorious is it to rest in God’s peace that passes all understanding and to rejoice with joy that’s unspeakable and full of glory!
It’s an awesome thing when two strangers meet, and they both know the other is a Believer, without even saying a word. The presence of God is on them. The joy of the Lord is evident. Sadly, the lost cannot know this freedom outside of meeting Jesus and falling in love with him.
Their have settled for counterfeit love.
23 Jesus answered him, “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him. John 14:23 (ESV)
I’d encourage you to read my article The Great Love Deception for a comprehensive look at how both the world and the church are falling for counterfeit love.
As God’s love begins to manifest in such amazing, deeper ways at the end of the age, we have to be aware that the enemy will work hard to redefine, misrepresent and twist true love. He has a castrated version to offer us.
Today, those who have not experienced true, godly, supernatural love that transforms their hearts have no option but to seek out an alternative to satisfy their needs and desires. A counterfeit.
God’s love looks and feels very different than most would presume. When someone authentically encounters the love of God, everything changes. Everything.
They haven’t heard God’s voice.
3 Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. Jeremiah 33:3 (ESV)
My book Revelation Driven Prayer is a handbook that will help you discover the wonder of God’s voice. When God talks, it absolutely shocks and rocks us to our core! His voice is life-giving and life-altering.
The Bible tells us that it’s his sheep who hear his voice. The lost are wandering without a guide. They simply need to cry out to God in desperation and be amazed at the voice that bellows from the heavens!
God’s voice is real, not some weird, imagined, mystical message. God talks to us. We know his voice. Those who reject God enact radio silence.
Dreams and visions are foreign to them.
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)
My life has been impacted beyond description by the communication of God through dreams and visions. When you have a “God dream” you just know it. His truth explodes through imagery that is delivered in ways only a deity could. Mysteries are revealed. Questions are answered.
I’ve written about several of my dreams and encounters with God in articles and books, and have taught on them many times. Other Believers all over the world have had even more dramatic encounters. Those who reject God are not in tune with him, and therefore don’t regularly receive from him in this way. Of course, God has and will visit people who have rejected him, giving them an opportunity to surrender all and follow him. It happened with the Apostle Paul. It happens with Muslims today. It happens with many who have hit rock bottom. But, it isn’t until we develop intimacy with Jesus that the dreams and visions become normal in our daily lives.
They misunderstand the power of sin and the nature of God.
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)
The allure of the flesh is powerful and satisfying, and many who reject Jesus simply don’t think surrendering to their passions are that big of a deal.
The enemy is very good at bringing confusion in hopes of validating sin in people’s lives. Further, people presume God to simply be a “good guy” who is unconcerned with behavior and is smiling on them from a far away place. In fact, many delusional Christians believe in similar ways.
My article Five Marks of the False Grace Message will bring clarity to this point.
God is holy. God is aligned against those who choose to reject him and his love—until they turn from their wickedness. Then he will run to them and embrace them and welcome them as sons and daughters! What a glorious God we serve!
Ask anyone who was living in rebellion to Jesus before leaving their life of sin behind. Their surrender resulted in phenomenal life! They live in the fear and love of Jesus and they would not have it any other way. The transformation is very real indeed!
They haven’t experienced the transforming baptism of the Holy Spirit.
31 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)
When the power of God truly hits, natural man yields to supernatural wonder!
Suddenly we are aligned and calibrated with the heart and nature of God in ways we could never have experienced before this baptism.
The moment I was baptized in power is the moment timidity disappeared from my life. No amount of counseling could have done that. Positive thinking was futile. It was only when God himself burned through me like a fire and transformed me in ways I’ll never be able to explain.
A supernatural force is ready to invade any who would ask.
How powerful would it be for another Azusa revival to erupt, except this time among those in Hollywood. Can you imagine a Holy Spirit fire burning in people like Tom Cruise, Morgan Freeman, Brad Pitt, Robert Downey Jr., Johnny Depp, Will Smith, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Lawrence, Samuel L. Jackson, Harrison Ford, Angelina Jolie and others?
I’m not sure why I mentioned Hollywood at this point of the article, but as I’m sitting here in Starbucks writing this, a spirit of intercession came over me. Let’s all pray for a supernatural invasion of the Holy Spirit to interrupt movie sets throughout Hollywood!
The Word of God isn’t alive to them.
12 For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12 (ESV)
A barometer of spiritual vitality is when reading the Bible causes us to come alive! Reading the Word of God intellectually, as those who don’t know Jesus are limited to, doesn’t bring life. But when we are intimate with God, the Bible imparts revelation. The truths are enlightening beyond measure. You can’t get enough!
What they see with their eyes is more real than what is invisible.
5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. Proverbs 3:5 (ESV)
They simply don’t believe. They are skeptics. Without faith people are hopeless.
They must be convinced that, yes, there is an invisible God who loves them and who is ready to come to their rescue.
Again, the number of times God has manifested in miraculous ways in my life rocks me! Oh, is he real! When we walk by faith and not by sight literally everything changes!
Their prayers have gone unanswered.
31 We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone is a worshiper of God and does his will, God listens to him. John 9:31 (ESV)
The prayer of sinners God hears is the prayer of repentance, surrender and brokenness.
Those who don’t know God yet expect God to respond to their cries for personal satisfaction will forever be disappointed. It’s when we truly surrender all that God will hear our cry and move on our behalf.
Further, even Christians will go through desert times when the voice of God isn’t booming. God doesn’t just answer every email we send to him. He moves deliberately though often very mysteriously. He is to be trusted, not used.
They are unconcerned about eternity.
1 Now concerning the times and the seasons, brothers, you have no need to have anything written to you. 2 For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “There is peace and security,” then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3 (ESV)
There is no urgency. Today it’s becoming more rare for people to live in the fear of the Lord or at least acknowledging the severity of unavoidable eternity that rests just beyond the horizon.
They live for today. The need for God isn’t strong. There is life to live.
God sent a strong delusion and has turned them over to a debased mind.
10 …they refused to love the truth and so be saved. 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 2:10-12 (ESV)
From my article These Are Words We Never Want To Hear God Say:
How strange (and troubling) it is that God would do this. In His wisdom, He opens and closes the window of opportunity for people to come to Him.
Most often we presume people have until the day they die to turn to the Lord. This isn't the case. There are many who have been turned over to delusion. Eyes have been blinded. Others have committed the unforgivable sin of blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. It's too late.
Many are nearing the point of no return, and for a significant number of them it will come well before they die. They will be spiritually hopeless, fully dead, possibly decades before an obituary is written.
This is a terrifying reality, and it should increase our urgency for intercession and evangelism.
I’m so terribly grieved when people reject Jesus. The price he paid for all to know him was so great. His love is so deep. The lives people could live if they only fell in love with Jesus would be miraculous. I hate that so few choose to live this way.
I wrote an article titled Christianity: Failed mission or glorious victory? Yes.
Jesus died for all, but so few will be saved.
There are many reasons people reject Jesus, including the few I revealed here. People say no to Jesus day after day, no matter how much God loves them and no matter how great their lives could be should they surrender.
I don’t understand it. I despise it. I’m wrecked.
If you aren’t radically in love with Jesus, be you an unbeliever or a Christian, please know that God is ready to pour out his Spirit on you! The miracles and wonders are waiting for you. Yes, the sacrifice and surrender are very real. The brokenness can’t be denied. The humility required to say no to our own selfish desires is costly. But, remember, we are talking about being intimately united with the Ruler of the universe!
Who could reject such an opportunity?
3 how shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard, 4 while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will. Hebrews 2:3-4 (ESV)
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)