Posts Tagged ‘intimacy’

Powerful resources on revival, prayer and reformation

Enjoy a large and growing library of video, articles, books and equipping at www.burton.tv!

Thank YOU for connecting with us and aligning with our passion for legitimate revival and awakening in the nations!

By now you’ve most likely heard about my book The Coming Church. If you haven’t started reading it yet, I encourage you to dive in! You will find yourself coming alive and burning hot as God shakes you to your core!

In addition to The Coming Church, I’ve written nine other books on topics such as prayer, intimacy with God, dealing with authority and fulfilling your mission.

Also, I have a massive library of articles, both on my site at www.burton.tv/articles and on Charisma Media’s sites. You can check them out here: www.burton.tv/charisma.

If you like to watch or listen to full length teachings, head over to www.burton.tv/media. Teachings from my studio here in Branson, Missouri and also other messages from the road are available at no cost to you!

Lastly, you may be ready for three months of fire! If you are hungry to grow fast and deep, check out the School of Revival! This is an online school of fire that will stretch you and equip you in prayer, revival and other key end-time focuses. Go to www.schoolofrevival.tv today!

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Most of all, I love to hear from all of my partners and friends!

Let me know what God is doing in our region.

I’d love to come out and hold some meetings in your church or at your camp or conference. Let’s connect and see what God might do!

John Burton

I’m Going to Hell? That’s Impossible!—The Terror of Hell

THE TERROR OF HELL

The-Terror-of-Hell-PaperbackHow could I be going to Hell?

What I was experiencing messed with my theology to a radically uncomfortable degree. The Holy Spirit was making sure I would never be the same again. Mission accomplished.

I count the early 1990’s as the most significant season of my life to date. God had invaded my life. (Do you feel the weight of that reality? The burning, raging Creator thrust himself into this mere mortal!)

The Holy Spirit took me beyond a mere understanding of my need for a savior and a simple acceptance of Jesus as that savior to a place of breath-taking experience in his extreme, fearful and surprisingly vivid invisible realm. The sudden all-consuming desire of my heart was to be intimately joined with the Lover of my soul every moment of my life. I was craving and experiencing a legitimate, reportable and constant weighty manifestation of the presence of God in my life. I was burning! The desire and the cry of my heart was, “More!”

In those early years, as I was diving into the increasingly deeper realms of life in God, many things happened that I’ll never forget–but one event shook me like no other before or since. 

I HAD A DREAM

The night I had this uninvited invasion of both God and Hell into my sleep, I was living in an old, vacant church building as the care taker. The dramatic scene was what you would imagine–the church was a relatively ancient stone structure. I would regularly encounter God as I walked through the now empty corridors, hidden rooms, sanctuary and other mysterious places throughout that relic. The countless hours praying in this vacant building resulted in forming me as a young burning man in some very memorable ways. 

One destined evening I prepared for bed as I did every other night. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I prayed myself to sleep in the weighty and wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit as I had done so many times before.
What was about to happen as I slipped into sleep that fateful night would result in a tremble that is with me to this day–twenty-five years later. I was invited into an other-worldly encounter that I had no freedom to turn down.

Because of the unimaginable panic and terror I experienced that night long ago, I would often pray as I went to sleep, “God, please don’t give me any dreams tonight.” I prayed that way for thirteen years.

Thirteen years! God eventually spoke clearly to me, after thirteen years of receiving many visions, but no dreams of God, “John, I need you to stop praying that prayer. I have things to reveal to you. I need to talk to you. I have dreams for you to dream.” I relented and have since craved dreams, angelic visitations and other forms of communication from the heavenly realm.

During this night of terror over twenty-five years ago I fell asleep in the old, empty church building and found myself dreaming.

In my dream I was laying on my stomach in a one room building. It was very comfortable inside, though there was nothing in the room. It was empty. I rested on the carpet and looked out of the two windows, one in front of me and one to my right. The overwhelming feeling that I had was one of comfort and relaxation. I had no concerns and no thoughts beyond enjoying the atmosphere I was in. This feeling is what drove my entire experience. Obviously nothing could be wrong if I was feeling so good, right?

Through the windows I could see a peaceful, lazy and bright sunny day unfolding. It was beautiful! The trees were blowing in a gentle breeze. The birds were chirping and flying from tree to tree. What a brilliant Creator we have! Everything was so refreshing and alive! I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon.

Then, suddenly, I experienced a changing of the scene. Like time lapse photography, as I was in the same position on the floor looking out the window, I watched the atmosphere suddenly change. There was an immediate and progressive shift. The clouds were ever so slightly darkening and increasing in coverage in the sky. The gentle breeze picked up velocity and the brilliant brightness started to go in and out as periodic shadows covered the area while the sun hid beyond the advancing clouds. It seemed as if some rain may be moving in. I rested there, stretched out on my belly with my head in my hands as I watched it unfold. I remained immersed in my own comfort. I was taking deep breaths and enjoying every moment of my day.

Time lapsed again and I saw the sky completely covered in clouds–clouds much darker than just a few moments ago. I could now smell the fresh and unmistakable scent of the coming rain.

Matthew 24:36-39 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. or as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

The birds were taking cover as the wind picked up significantly. In the distance I saw several lightning strikes. It sure seemed as if this could be quite a storm. How was it that I was feeling no concern, no urgency to prepare as I enjoyed my personal, careless experience in that small, one room shack? I stretched out and relaxed even more. The greater the threat, the greater the “peace.” What a wonderful day I was having.

Again, for the third time, I watched the scene in front of me change suddenly. Now, it was fully obvious the storm would most definitely hit–and soon. The wind was intense and large, ominous drops of rain started to hit the windows. Violent and arrogant lightning that seemed to have a personality all its own struck less than 300 yards away. The thumps of hail hitting the roof started and quickly increased in force. It was time for concern. The threat of danger was increasing by the second, but I didn’t feel any urgency or need to respond. I remained prostrate on the ground, refreshed and at ease, just as I did when it was a beautiful sunny day. I was enjoying the perceived safety of my environment. I was feeling so good.

Once again, time lapsed and I found myself in the center of a churning, dreadful force that seemed powerful enough to split the Earth in two. The storm of the century was upon me. The massive trees were nearly snapping in two as they bent over parallel to the ground. The hail was massive in size and was slamming every surface around me. The windows were buckling in and out as the incredible pressure of the storm weighed on them. The lightning that burned hotter than the surface of the sun was literally striking mere feet from the shack. The walls were shaking. You can imagine what I was experiencing in that terrible and fearful moment. You guessed it: beautiful peace, safety and comfort. It truly was a wonderful day, until…

In a fraction of a moment my overwhelming sense of peace and safety and relaxation turned to the most gripping terror I had ever known. It was as if every source of life and good had been eliminated from the atmosphere. Evil dominated the place that just moments ago was so enjoyable.

My mind raced in an attempt to figure out what had just happened. The fear I was experiencing was beyond description. It made no sense. What was going on? Everything was so perfect! Today was supposed to be about enjoying life!

Suddenly, as I was confused, horrified and trembling on the floor, two hands grabbed my ankles. My terror instantly escalated to levels I cannot describe. I quickly looked back and saw nothing–but I knew a demonic entity had grabbed on to me.

The grip on my ankles was like a vice. The thought of escaping was a ridiculous one. It was impossible. My life, which seemingly just moments ago had been under my own control, was now overpowered by an invisible yet horrifying force. A force that I knew had intents–and the ability–to destroy me.

Again, the terror immediately increased nearly to the point of literally losing control of my mind as that demon started to pull me backwards–and then down. My feet and legs were disappearing below the floor of that shack. I knew I was going to Hell.

YOGA-000000034How can this be? It’s impossible! I’m going to Hell? But, I’m saved. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. This is contrary to everything I have ever learned in church. Yet, the moment was real, and I was losing every ounce of hope. I was about to enter an eternity of continual torture. Never ending panic, madness and torment was upon me.

The demon kept slowly pulling me downward, as if he was relishing every single moment. My feet were well below the floor and my waist was at ground level. Then, suddenly my hope increased. I thought to myself, “If I say the name of Jesus, the demon must flee!”

So, in my new state of hope I was able to squeeze out, “In the name of J—–. In the name of J—–. Ahhhhh!”

I couldn’t say it! The demon was controlling my very breath. I was suffocating every time that name was about to be said. I could have said any word in the dictionary–but that one. My hope instantly was lost and I started to cry out as I convulsed under the unbreakable control of that demon.

He continued to pull me down, one grueling inch at a time. Finally, my neck and then my mouth were entering Hell as my body was taken below. At the height of my madness and terror, and as my eyes were about to descend beneath the floor, I woke up.

I sat straight up, trembling in my bed in that old church building. I was sweating in such volume that my entire bed was saturated. The light switch by my bedroom door was no more than seven feet from my bed. Just two quick steps to the wall would have been all it took to lighten the room. But I was frozen. I sat there for at least three hours in the darkness in absolute terror.

What Just Happened?

I finally fell back to sleep and awoke the next morning. I didn’t realize how radically my life had taken a turn the previous night. As I tried to gather my thoughts while the events of the previous night overwhelmed my spirit and my mind, I looked outside the two windows that were there in my bedroom in that old church building. It was a beautiful sunny day–but I did not feel comfortable or relaxed. I was shaken.

I begged God to tell me why I had that dream. What had just happened? Finally, later on that day, He spoke to me, “John, you represented the church. You were comfortable in your place of supposed safety. The storm was intensifying yet you were lulled into a state of apathy. Many in the church will be surprised one day, just as you were surprised in the dream, to find themselves under the control of demons as they are taken to Hell.”

Proverbs 14:11-14 The house of the wicked will be overthrown, But the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above.

There is a way that seems right. Intellectually it makes sense. Other people seem to confirm that it is right. Common sense tells us that it is right. Even our theological dispositions confirm it is right. But, it leads to death. And, if it’s the type of death I experienced in my dream–it must be avoided at all costs. 

A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him.
This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.

Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.

We need a wakeup call, church. We can’t presume to be in a place of safety simply because we said a prayer, go to church, give offerings and talk about Jesus. An intense pursuit of holiness and intimacy is required.

This is a message that must be shouted from the rooftops.

I can’t imagine multiplied millions of people who are current following Jesus in an unsaved condition crying out in terror one day, “I’m going to Hell? That’s impossible!”

“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. 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. 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. Revelation 3:1-3 (ESV)

You can order THE TERROR OF HELL here.

The sexual frenzy in our culture must stop.

The god of sex is overtaking our nation—and the church—and it must stop now.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. 29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. Matthew 5:27-29 (ESV)

Dell-000050288Does anybody still believe that passage of scripture? The message is so abundantly clear that it would require a delusion to come over the church for us to miss it. Yet, in so much of the church today lust is treated as mostly benign and as an expected part of our humanity. The idea that we can live free from any form of sexual lust seems to be laughable.

I’ll never forget the time I was encouraging someone who was struggling with lust. I excitedly shared that they can live absolutely free from impure thoughts. His response was troubling. He unabashedly rejected that truth as unrealistic and absolute nonsense. To his credit he voiced what so many Christians feel—sexual lust cannot be avoided.

That deception is a brilliant plan of the enemy. Convince Christians that they are not expected or able to be free from the sin of lust (and pornography, pre and extra-marital sex, etc.). Create Matthew 5:27-29 casualties that result in an increasingly expanding eternal hell.

Do we even understand that those who willfully and continually surrender to the lusts of the flesh are living under the wrath of God?

1 And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. Ephesians 2:1-3 (ESV)

I’m not talking about those who are honestly wrestling with their sin nature, surrendering to Jesus, living a life of repentance and rejecting unrighteousness. They are in a good place being graced by God to have victory over sin. I’m referring to those who have given up or those who presume a life of sexual sin is to be expected. Those supposed Christians are in a very dangerous place.

12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. 13 Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. Romans 6:12-13 (ESV)

THE SEXUAL FRENZY MUST STOP

fren·zy [ˈfrenzē]
noun
a state or period of uncontrolled excitement or wild behavior.

It’s time for the barrage of satanic, unholy and deadly focus on sex to stop. I’m talking to you, Christian.

The only reason impure sexual thoughts parade through the minds of Christians is because they aren’t fully satisfied and deeply intimate with Jesus. The very real, passionate, joyful encounters with a holy God are absent. It really is that simple. When we are fully satisfied in God, anything that threatens that relationship, including lust and other sins, is soundly and immediately rejected.

We must put on the Lord Jesus Christ:

13 Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:13-14 (ESV)

Contrary to what most believe, impure sexual responses to the myriad of triggers that flood our senses every day are not normal for Believers. What I mean is this: for a Spirit-filled, blood-bought Christian who is on fire for Jesus, the expected response when seeing an attractive person is not sexual. Further, if one should accidently see something that would be an obvious sexual trigger (like soft-porn Victoria’s Secret murals at the mall), the immediate reaction is not arousal but rather a grieved spirit. If temptation is the initial reaction instead of a grieved spirit, we can know we lack in intimacy with Jesus.

19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:19-24 (ESV)

The preceding passage of scripture reveals two important truths:

  1. We can’t presume everyone who names the name of Christ actually knows him. Verse 21 makes that clear.
  2. Sexual desires (and other sins) that exist outside of the bounds of Scripture are deceitful. When we are renewed in the spirit of our minds, our reactions to those triggers become completely different.

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, 1 Peter 1:14 (ESV)

Pleasures that exist outside of the bounds of the Word of God are deceitful. According to 1 Peter we are only passionate about such pleasures when we are ignorant of the truth of God. When we encounter God, past pleasures are exposed as distractions, threats and are disgusting to our spirits.

Christian’s reactions to opportunities to sin are to be fully different than those who are lost. Don’t be at all surprised when those in the world are pushing the envelope further and further. Miley Cyrus’ actions shouldn’t surprise us. The homosexual’s sexual addictions aren’t shocking. Their grid is different than ours. They are living fully in the flesh and when that happens the demands of the flesh become more intense as dissatisfaction grows. It can’t be fulfilled. The only answer is to dive deeper into the only way they know to experience pleasure. 1 Thessalonians 4 makes this distinction clearly:

3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 (ESV)

The risk of anybody surrendering to the lust of the flesh is extreme. It’s deadly:

24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen. 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. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 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 1:24-32 (ESV)

If that doesn’t put the very real fear of God into us, nothing will. This describes our culture, and nobody is exempt from being given over by God to a debased mind! If we are unrelenting in our pursuit of evil, including sexual lust, we risk becoming unable to discern righteousness. We will embrace the very sin that brought us down, not only for ourselves but for others.

This is one reason pastors are starting to agree to marry homosexuals. Their minds became debased and they eventually gave approval to others who practice the sin they embraced.

Just this week I heard about a pastor in Michigan who led a Spirit-filled church that had been vibrant and biblical for many years. That church closed after he aligned with emergent philosophies and affirmed homosexuality. His debased mind brought destruction as he gave approval to others who were practicing sin.

We need pastors who will boldly preach truth and communicate to their congregations that living in sexual lust, according to Scripture, will cost them their eternities!

INTIMACY

14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:14-15 (ESV)

These verses are powerful!

Unbiblical sexual desire results in death. But, lets turn it around. I believe we should be enticed by desire for intimacy with Jesus! When it is conceived it gives birth to righteousness, and when it is fully grown it brings forth life!

8 Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8 (ESV)

A determined resistance of sin and a passionate pursuit of God go together. We can’t resist sin if we aren’t intimate with God and we can’t discover intimacy with God if we don’t resist sin.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. Galatians 5:16 (ESV)

A life of praying, walking and living in the Spirit is mandatory if we desire to be free from the desires of the flesh. There’s simply no other way. We will be satisfied supernaturally or we will be satisfied naturally. To live a supernatural life, and to be free from the desires of the flesh, we must pray in the Spirit as a regular part of our day. Our prayer life must be hot. Our faith must be alive. Our passion for Jesus must be ever increasing. It is, without question or argument, the only way.

Consider the Garden of Eden.

Adam and Eve were experiencing intimacy with God at a level that would overwhelm you and me. Then, their sin resulted in shame. Previously they were naked and innocent. After the fruit they covered themselves as guilt stole away their childlike freedom.

The answer to the shame is not to embrace it. Today the fig leaves have been removed as a celebration of the original sin of independence and rebellion. People like Miley Cyrus are making displays of decadence in a strategy of eliminating shame from ungodly sexual desire.

Her desire is for love and intimacy, but it will not be found the way she’s going about it. Destruction is her guaranteed end unless she surrenders all. (We should be praying for Miley. God’s passion for her is intense.)

The only answer is intimacy with Jesus. That’s it. True, immersive, indescribable, supernatural intimacy with Jesus will result in immediate rejection of anything unholy. Going back to the Garden of Eden experience only comes through repentance and cultivating a life of never-ending, love saturated intimacy with God.

We are being deceived by the god of sex. Listen, all the hype surrounding sex is artificial. Can I just say that sex doesn’t deserve all of the attention it gets? Yes, within the bounds of marriage it is a wonderful, bonding, playful and intimate experience. It’s holy. But even that can’t compare to the relationship and experience that comes when we are passionately in love with Jesus.

Nothing compares with intimacy with God! One moment in his presence and Miley Cyrus would be undone for eternity! She would soundly reject her previous belief system and behavior and be more satisfied than she had ever imagined!

3 His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of him who called us to his own glory and excellence, 4 by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. 2 Peter 1:3-4 (ESV)

17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. 1 John 2:17 (ESV)

Yes, God is better than sex and it’s time he gets the worship and adoration that the god of sex in our nation, and even in much of the church, has attempted to steal from him.

CoFI Group Video: Four Fires Part 2

Watch a powerful teaching on dead religion, unbelief and experiencing the wonder of God!

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The new video switch and cameras are up and running! Check out the updated tech as you watch this week’s powerful teaching!


Are you carrying spices in your hands, expecting a dead Jesus? Are you doubting as you walk down the road to Emmaus? Come alive as you discover resurrection power in your life!

From Series: “CoFI Group – Four Fires

John discusses four specific keys to experiencing revival on a regional level. The call is to burn hot and to see that fire ignite in our churches and in our cities. This is a powerful teaching that will leave you more passionate for Jesus and for an outpouring then ever before!

WATCH THIS WEEK’S VIDEO AND DOWNLOAD THE TEACHING NOTES HERE!

Intimacy with Jesus and the false-grace message

I agree with false-grace adherents on one key point—intimacy with Jesus is the goal.

As one who has an escalating concern over the false-grace (or what I prefer to call the unbiblical grace) message, you can imagine that I open myself up to all sorts of accusations.

I will take responsibility for failing to communicate my position comprehensively enough at times. This failure can result in knee-jerk analysis and critiques that often presume I hold to a particular position due to my silence on a related and connected point.

One such point that I want to clearly communicate here is that intimacy with Jesus is the goal. In fact, it’s not only the goal, but it’s also the primary focus of our journey.

When we are deeply intimate with Jesus our heart explodes with love and our passion for him becomes intense and immeasurable. Oh how I love to spend countless hours in the secret place enjoying God, praying in the Spirit and worshiping him with unbridled exuberance! If there’s anything that defines my life in God it’s intimacy!

If we are madly in love with him and are cultivating intimacy, the unrighteous invasions into our lives will be soundly rejected. We will guard our love connection with God jealously. This is where holiness dominates in a sin wrecked world.

So, where do unbiblical grace teachers and I part ways? In more than one place, but the key point is this:

If we don’t feel intimacy with Jesus, if we aren’t in a place of abandoned desire for him, we must beware. I think we would all admit that it’s terrifyingly easy to fall into a life of lukewarm apathy. The result is a careless approach to sin that puts our salvation at risk, and this is where the departure between the camps begins.

Neither camp would ever argue that it’s okay to sin. Neither would casually deal with sin. But one camp teaches that indifference to sin and a continued pattern of unforgiveness, anger, lust or any number of other issues will result in one following Jesus in an unsaved condition. The other camp would teach that those sins don’t threaten eternity. This is why we must deal with this topic carefully. I believe millions of people are living daily with unforgiveness in their hearts or with lust and they are not repentant. These are the people who are at risk of an eternity separated from God.

For the sake of clarity, if we are living a repentant life, rejecting our sin and understanding that God deeply loves us and is ready to set us free, we are in a very good place! It’s not a single sin that will cost us our eternity, it’s a willful, deliberate, continual life of sin that will.

If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. Hebrews 10:26-27 (NIV)

With this in mind, we’ll go back to square one—intimacy with Jesus.

THE COMMAND TO LOVE

Let’s talk about the call to love.  This is the call that God has for us to be intimate with him. Have you ever considered this mandate?  It’s very, very intriguing.  I can understand calling someone to serve, to give money, to feed the poor or to avoid sin.  That makes sense very easily.  However, a mandate to love?

Certainly the act of love in many ways is fully intentional and can often be void of feeling.  We act in love toward others.  This is also quite easy to understand.  But this idea goes well beyond a call to act out in right ways.  It’s a call to intimacy,  a mandate to be deeply intimate with our Lover.   

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV)

In the original Hebrew, the word love is ahab. 

It means: to have affection for

Additionally it means to like as a friend.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I can be forced to like anybody, much less have deep affection for them.  But this is what Scripture is telling us.  Could it mean that the call isn’t for instant intimacy, but rather a determined and unwavering process of pursuit and faith toward the promise of experiencing an enjoyable God? 

As we, in faith, more easily believe that being with God in a continual and significant way will result in continual and significant enjoyment, we will allow the old things to pass away.  We will not stop until we discover the joy that only God can provide.

So, if we are to understand that God is mandating us to fall deeply in love with Him, there is a disciplined process that must commence.  The goal is deep and passionate intimacy with our Lover, the invisible God. 

It makes sense that when we discover this ultimate of pleasures, that we will not be as inclined to pursue the human desires that demanded so much of us in years past.  It’s been said more times and in more ways than we know, “Our sin causes separation from God.  We, in effect, trade intimacy with God for intimacy with the world.”

Certainly there is truth to that statement.  However, if we view the issue from the other side, we could say, “Intentional pursuit of intimacy with God carries with it the reward of perpetual discovery.  Deliberate surrender of human desire coupled with a craving for the manifest presence of God Himself in our lives will lead, sooner or later, to fulfillment that cannot be measured or effectively explained.  It’s that extreme.  It’s that good.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)

In the above passage, the Hebrew interpretation of the word “love” is different than ahab.  It is agapaō, which emphasizes the attitude of love.  It’s the moral and socially appropriate act of service and attention to others, including both mankind and God Himself.

Throughout Scripture we do see various translations of that single word “love”, and God is the central figure regardless of the interpretation.  However, it’s that unique call to ahab love that has captured my attention.  It’s a mandate to intimacy.

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, That you tell him I am lovesick! Song of Songs 5:8 (NKJV)

Lovesick!  What a word that is.  As you might guess, the Hebrew translation is ahab.  In the Song of Songs we see this amazing story of love unfold beautifully.  In the following verses the word “love” is translated ahab each time.  As we gain insight into the intimate longing of our God for us, our hearts melt and our understanding changes.

“I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.” I sought him, but I did not find him. The watchmen who go about the city found me; I said, “Have you seen the one I love?” Song of Songs 3:2-3 (NKJV)

[The Shulamite to the Daughters of Jerusalem] He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, Refresh me with apples, For I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, And his right hand embraces me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the does of the field, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases. Song of Songs 2:4-7 (NKJV)

He made its pillars of silver, Its support of gold, Its seat of purple, Its interior paved with love By the daughters of Jerusalem. Song of Songs 3:10 (NKJV)

How fair and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights! Song of Songs 7:6 (NKJV)

[The Shulamite to Her Beloved] Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised. Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NKJV)

Read the last passage, Song of Songs 8:6-7, over and over.  Its communication of passionate desire is intense.  As we establish a vow with our Lover, the intentional and disciplined pursuit of intimacy with Him is alluring and strong.  It is a vehement flame that even water, the fierce enemy of fire, cannot drown.  It’s this that we are pursuing, the fire of passion that will overcome the waters of human desire.

In the following Song of Songs passage, we discover a different translation of love.

Draw me away!
[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will run after you.
[The Shulamite] The king has brought me into his chambers.

[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.

[The Shulamite] Rightly do they love you.

Song of Songs 1:4 (NKJV)

The Hebrew word used for “love” in the part of the passage that says, “We will remember your love more than wine” is dôd.  The literal meaning is to boil.  The idea is that God’s love is actively boiling.  It’s hot and constant and intentionally set on us.

The enemy of human desire is a very strong one.  A simple resolution to avoid sin and do good is far too weak to be seriously considered for inclusion in our arsenal.  The burning fire of passion for God, ahab love, is our most effective weapon.  The reward of the perpetual discovery of new depths of God’s zeal for us is enough to keep us burning with a vehement flame that the waters of carnal human desire cannot put out.

No Naked People | Finding freedom from sexual lust

No Naked People—You can be FREE from the power of sexual lust!

Listen to this teaching delivered at a men's meeting in Prince Albert, Canada:

No naked people. That concept seems nearly ridiculous in today’s sexually driven culture.

Sexual images are flashing before our eyes from every angle through media, marketing, video games and other invasive sources.

I’ve actually had Christians challenge me by saying it’s not possible for a man to avoid lust, as if it’s an expected part of our make up! I heard about another who said that the Bible doesn’t forbid lust, only lusting about married women! The culture is causing many hopeless and some defiant Christians to believe that freedom from sexual fantasy is not possible, or even necessary. God help this nation.image

My wife, two daughters and I were walking through a mall in Wisconsin recently. We were stopped in our tracks right by the food court where families with impressionable children were scattered all around. There was a massive mural that stretched from floor to ceiling of a nearly naked woman. My wife immediately said, “I’m going in there to complain to the manager.” So, into Victoria’s Secret she went.

You might be thinking, “Where have you been the last few decades John? This type of imagery is everywhere!” Yes, that is true. Sadly. Since this is the case, do we simply surrender to the culture? My thought is that Christians are to take dominion and be the drivers of the culture. We can’t sit back and give up. We must fight! However, before that battle can truly begin in the malls and movie theaters, we have to wage war at home—in our own minds.

Consider how far our culture has fallen—including the culture of the church where only 3% of Christian men admit that they never view pornography! Per the Barna Group, 97% of Christian men are actively looking at porn! 87% of Christian women are entertained by pornography! Many Believers don’t “believe” it’s necessary to abstain from sex before marriage. My God!

Check out how it all began:

“You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves. Genesis 3:4-7

The serpent pleaded his case by telling Eve that she would not surely die if she enjoyed a deadly fruit that promised a deeper personal experience. The fruit was pleasing to the eye, and Adam agreed. We can see the striking similarities between the first sin and today’s rampant sexual sin. What is different is that they recognized their sin—and covered up their nakedness. Today? While Christians aren’t joining nudist colonies, they are embracing and celebrating nudity by enjoying that forbidden fruit in their minds. Today’s Christians have naked people performing sexual acts in their thoughts that are strictly and clearly forbidden by Scripture.

Do not lust in your heart after her beauty or let her captivate you with her eyes… Proverbs 6:25

“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant…” Exodus 20:17

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell. Matthew 5:27-30

I know there are many out there who will disagree with my position regarding eternity, but I firmly believe that continuing in the sin of lust (or any other sin) can result in eternal separation from God. The above passage of scripture in Matthew 5 speaks to this very directly. The reason I want to make this point is so you don’t casually dismiss this warning. Your eternity is at stake if you are entertaining lust. This is a battle we must fight with passion!

But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. 1 Corinthians 9:27

The results of lust are tragic. In addition to the possibilities of destroyed marriages, illegal sexual activity and other natural repercussions, I submit the most terrible result is what Adam and Eve both experienced:

Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?” He answered, “I heard you in the garden, and I was afraid because I was naked; so I hid.” Genesis 3:8-10

Separation from God. As I stated above, we risk being separated from God forever. We also risk being separated from God now. Those who are in bondage to porn and lust would easily admit they feel that separation. Just as Adam and Eve hid because of their nakedness, Christians today are missing out on their walks with God in the cool, refreshing garden.

INTIMACY LOST

Adam and Eve lost their intimacy with God. I propose they started to lose it before their banishment from the garden. There was a void there, and they sought to fill it with something unholy.

By the grace of God I’ve been blessed to be free from the traps and destruction of pornography, and I am humbled to say that God has enabled me to live lust free.

Several years ago I was deep in the Rocky Mountains on a prayer and fasting retreat. It was just God and me in a cabin in the middle of nowhere. I was connecting with God about a variety of things that night and a simple thought entered my mind.

Even though I was living a sexually pure life, I had a question for God. I’ll be transparent with you and share it.

If God’s design for sex is the perfect model, which it is, then it should bring the highest level of satisfaction. There should be absolutely no other competing desire that’s compelling enough to give in to. If this is the case, why would this happily married man who has the most amazing wife on the planet have an occasional temptation enter his mind? Why would the thought of thinking about someone other than my wife in a sexual way be the least bit tempting? Please understand, I wasn’t acting out on that temptation, but the question remained. Why is the temptation even there?

I understand today that most married people fantasize about people other than their spouses. That reality caused further curiosity. Again, if God’s design for sex is the best, why is there temptation for an alternative?

God spoke simply and clearly. “The one you are intimate with is the one you will desire.”

Intimacy. It’s all about intimacy.

That made so much sense to me! It’s true! When I am emotionally connected with my wife in an intimate way, any other competing thought would be an unwelcome invasion. It’s easy to reject such thoughts when I’m connected in a deep way relationally with her. However, in those seasons where we may be a little more distant due to busyness, stress or arguments (yeah, get over it…we argue it out sometimes!) then intimacy is negatively impacted. It’s easier to desire other things and to find temptation pressing in.

Of course, the same is true with God. If we are madly in love with him and are cultivating intimacy, the unrighteous invasions into our lives will be soundly rejected. We will guard our love connection with God jealously. This is where holiness dominates in a sin wrecked world. Can you imagine trembling before the Lord as his glory overwhelms you and then, five minutes later, watching a movie with nudity and foul language? That makes no sense.

I propose we refuse to be entertained by anything in media or in our thoughts that required the brutal torture and murder of the one we love. That unholy sexual fantasy required the death of Jesus. The cussing and sexual content in movies demanded the nine inch nails that were driven through his flesh. The simple lustful image that tries to dance around in our heads isn’t simple at all. It took a slaughtered Lamb to deal with that.

That slaughtered Lamb is the lover of your soul. His passion is for you!

You can find powerful and satisfying freedom from lust as you draw near to the Lord.

…put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. Ephesians 4:22-24

Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work. So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. 2 Timothy 2:21-22

THE COMMAND TO LOVE

Let’s talk about the call to love.  This is the call that God has for us to be intimate with him. Have you ever considered this mandate?  It’s very, very intriguing.  I can understand calling someone to serve, to give money, to feed the poor or to avoid sin.  That makes sense very easily.  However, a mandate to love?

Certainly the act of love in many ways is fully intentional and can often be void of feeling.  We act in love toward others.  This is also quite easy to understand.  But this idea goes well beyond a call to act out in right ways.  It’s a call to intimacy,  a mandate to be deeply intimate with our Lover.   

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. Deuteronomy 6:5 (NKJV)

In the original Hebrew, the word love is ahab. 

It means: to have affection for, sexually or otherwise.

Additionally it means to like as a friend.

I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I can be forced to like anybody, much less have deep affection for them.  But this is what Scripture is telling us.  Could it mean that the call isn’t for instant intimacy, but rather a determined and unwavering process of pursuit and faith toward the promise of experiencing an enjoyable God? 

As we, in faith, more easily believe that being with God in a continual and significant way will result in continual and significant enjoyment, we will allow the old things to pass away.  We will not stop until we discover the joy that only God can provide.

So, if we are to understand that God is mandating us to fall deeply in love with Him, there is a disciplined process that must commence.  The goal is deep and passionate intimacy with our Lover, the invisible God. 

It makes sense that when we discover this ultimate of pleasures, that we will not be as inclined to pursue the human desires that demanded so much of us in years past.  It’s been said more times and in more ways than we know, “Our sin causes separation from God.  We, in effect, trade intimacy with God for intimacy with the world.”

Certainly there is truth to that statement.  However, if we view the issue from the other side, we could say, “Intentional pursuit of intimacy with God carries with it the reward of perpetual discovery.  Deliberate surrender of human desire coupled with a craving for the manifest presence of God Himself in our lives will lead, sooner or later, to fulfillment that cannot be measured or effectively explained.  It’s that extreme.  It’s that good.”

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you … Matthew 5:43-44 (NKJV)

In the above passage, the Hebrew interpretation of the word “love” is different than ahab.  It is agapaō, which emphasizes the attitude of love.  It’s the moral and socially appropriate act of service and attention to others, including both mankind and God Himself.

Throughout Scripture we do see various translations of that single word “love”, and God is the central figure regardless of the interpretation.  However, it’s that unique call to ahab love that has captured my attention.  It’s a mandate to intimacy.

I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, If you find my beloved, That you tell him I am lovesick! Song of Songs 5:8 (NKJV)

Lovesick!  What a word that is.  As you might guess, the Hebrew translation is ahab.  In the Song of Songs we see this amazing story of love unfold beautifully.  In the following verses the word “love” is translated ahab each time.  As we gain insight into the intimate longing of our God for us, our hearts melt and our understanding changes.

“I will rise now,” I said, “And go about the city; In the streets and in the squares I will seek the one I love.” I sought him, but I did not find him. The watchmen who go about the city found me; I said, “Have you seen the one I love?” Song of Songs 3:2-3 (NKJV)

[The Shulamite to the Daughters of Jerusalem] He brought me to the banqueting house, And his banner over me was love. Sustain me with cakes of raisins, Refresh me with apples, For I am lovesick. His left hand is under my head, And his right hand embraces me. I charge you, O daughters of Jerusalem, By the gazelles or by the does of the field, Do not stir up nor awaken love Until it pleases. Song of Songs 2:4-7 (NKJV)

He made its pillars of silver, Its support of gold, Its seat of purple, Its interior paved with love By the daughters of Jerusalem. Song of Songs 3:10 (NKJV)

How fair and how pleasant you are, O love, with your delights! Song of Songs 7:6 (NKJV)

[The Shulamite to Her Beloved] Set me as a seal upon your heart, As a seal upon your arm; For love is as strong as death, Jealousy as cruel as the grave; Its flames are flames of fire, A most vehement flame. Many waters cannot quench love, Nor can the floods drown it. If a man would give for love All the wealth of his house, It would be utterly despised. Song of Songs 8:6-7 (NKJV)

Read the last passage, Song of Songs 8:6-7, over and over.  Its communication of passionate desire is intense.  As we establish a vow with our Lover, the intentional and disciplined pursuit of intimacy with Him is alluring and strong.  It is a vehement flame that even water, the fierce enemy of fire, cannot drown.  It’s this that we are pursuing, the fire of passion that will overcome the waters of human desire.

In the following Song of Songs passage, we discover a different translation of love.

Draw me away!
   
[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will run after you.
   
[The Shulamite] The king has brought me into his chambers.

[The Daughters of Jerusalem] We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.

[The Shulamite] Rightly do they love you.

Song of Songs 1:4 (NKJV) 

The Hebrew word used for “love” in the part of the passage that says, “We will remember your love more than wine” is dôd.  The literal meaning is to boil.  The idea is that God’s love is actively boiling.  It’s hot and constant and intentionally set on us.

The enemy of human desire is a very strong one.  A simple resolution to avoid sin and do good is far too weak to be seriously considered for inclusion in our arsenal.  The burning fire of passion for God, ahab love, is our most effective weapon.  The reward of the perpetual discovery of new depths of God’s zeal for us is enough to keep us burning with a vehement flame that the waters of carnal human desire cannot put out.

Yes, my friend, you can be completely free from lust, and you can live a powerful, joyful life full desire for Jesus.

If you are struggling with lust, don’t despair. Don’t quit contending for intimacy with God. You can absolutely find freedom! God loves you with a passion that’s deep…and he is longsuffering. He will be with you in your journey to freedom.

I pray for radical freedom to overwhelm you as you discover wave after wave of the other worldly, immeasurable love of Jesus! You were born for this!

Let’s make a decree over this nation together. We release a spirit of awakening, revival and holiness. As we go hard after God we will entertain NO NAKED PEOPLE. Not in media or in our minds. Amen!

Extravagant Intimacy | Watch last night’s service | Powerful soaking in God’s presence

Watch last night’s service NOW! Extravagant Intimacy

imageWe had audio issues last night during the live stream, but they have been resolved. You can watch the worship and teaching NOW, and it sounds great!

The presence of God was so sweet, and I’m sure you’ll feel that as well as you watch.

WATCH HERE: theFurnace – Extravagant Intimacy Part 2

theFurnace – Extravagant Intimacy Part 2 from John Burton on Vimeo.

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Join us THIS MONDAY at 7pm for worship, teaching and some great discussion.

We are currently in a video series by John Bevere. Trust me, it’s GOOD.

If you aren’t in the Detroit area, you can, as always, watch online at www.thefurnace.tv/live.

Live video streaming at theFurnace | The Main Event is tonight at 7pm ET

imageWatch our primary service TONIGHT via video streaming at 7pm ET!

First, watch last night’s School of Prayer. It was a powerful night with practical teaching on how to have extreme success in prayer.

We then modeled what was taught in prayer. You are SURE to learn a lot! WATCH HERE.

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Watch tonight’s service at www.thefurnace.tv/live!

theFurnace exists to gather forerunners who are united in the mandate to initiate reformation in the church and revival in the region. As carriers of the fire of God, we are single-minded in our mission to rally a generation that will embrace the cross of Christ, pursue radical holiness, engage in fervent prayer, live a life of repentance and experience both the freedom and the fear of the Lord.

You can DOWNLOAD NOTES and follow along with tonight’s message by clicking on “Extravagant Intimacy” under the Teaching Notes section next to the media player at www.thefurnace.tv/live.

“The coming moves of God will require nothing short of a revolution of our current structures, models and mindsets. Not an adjustment or an enhancement, but deep reform. The resulting fire and presence of the Holy Spirit will cause us to marvel and wonder why we ever resisted at all.”- John Burton, based on his book 20 Elements of Revival


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A Free Book: An encounter 23 years ago that keeps me wrecked every day of my life

The Terror of Hell: I prayed for fifteen years after this encounter that God wouldn’t give me any more.

(2nd last version of) The-Terror-of-Hell-Box-Shot-2011I never saw it coming.

What happened to me that fateful night 23 years ago is the reason I am unrelenting in bringing attention to anything that puts the people God so desperately loves in harm’s way.

Nearly a quarter of a century has passed, and I still shudder in brokenness and desperation every time I think about the encounter.

THEIR FREEDOM IS MY MISSION

Just a couple of years ago, twenty years after the encounter, I had a vision of multiplied thousands of people, mostly professing Christians, stretching in front of me, to my right and to my left as far as the horizons. As I looked at the sea of precious people, God spoke clearly to me: Their freedom is your mission.

I was overwhelmed with the weight of the mandate, and terribly distraught at its scope. So many people were in peril, and I couldn’t imagine even one of them not being rescued.

God was reawakening me to my mission that was given two decades prior—to shake the church and sounds alarms to a casual, sleeping people.

Every day I am in prayer, seeking the most impactful means possible to fulfill this mandate. Every day that passes without meaningful advance, without the message of awakening spreading to an unsuspecting church, is a day that grieves my spirit. There are millions of people who are unaware of their true condition, and who God is zealously pursuing. He is using prophetic messengers to help in that pursuit.

A. W. Tozer, a close friend of Leonard Ravenhill, had the following to say about him: “Those who know Leonard Ravenhill will recognize in him the religious specialist, the man sent from God not to carry on the conventional work of the church, but to beard the priests of Baal on their own mountain-top, to shame the careless priest at the altar, to face the false prophet and to warn the people who are being led astray by him.”

As I’ve said many times before, I am convinced that the greatest threat to today’s church is the false-grace movement. So many presume that movement to be simply another expression within the body of Christ. I am convinced that, to the contrary, that movement is actually resulting in massive amounts of false or compromised conversions.

I believe the hyper-grace message could be the end-time deception that will cause millions of people to fall away from God. ~Sid Roth

This is why it’s so critical that we are deeply devoted to the Word of God. The Bible is our final authority, and we need to, now more than ever, stay true to what it teaches. We must relay biblical truths to the masses!

The answer to false-grace is so simple that I wonder why so many are resistant. Simply, be intimate with Jesus, let him search your heart, and when he finds sin, immediately repent. That’s it! It’s so easy!

THE MISSION

I am going to include free of charge, in its entirety, the story of my encounter as told in my book The Terror of Hell.

First, I’ll reveal to you the end of the story—God revealed very clearly to me, “Many Christians will be shocked to find themselves in Hell one day.”

At that moment I had my life mission. Every day I am burdened with the reality that the blood of millions will be on my hands if I shrink back and refuse to sound the alarms. I can’t allow a day to pass without somehow doing what I can, with all of my weaknesses and limits, to shine a light on this tragic reality. People have to be rescued from a path that is leading them to Hell.

The cost of delivering such a message to a sleeping or comfortable church has been significant—but absolutely worth it. It’s a hard message to relay as it’s intended for those who are convinced of their security. It’s an offensive message because it introduces a radical redefinition to people’s concept of God.

For me, I willingly embrace such challenging, provoking, troubling messages. I crave to hear truth no matter how irritating it is to me.

This is why I have said that I give myself about an 80% chance of making Heaven. If I were to die today, I’m about 99.9% sure I’d be there. However, it would take arrogance to presume I’m exempt from the great falling away, that I, unlike millions of others, have no risk of ever turning my back on Jesus. I am sober.

However, I’m not fearful or depressed regarding this. I’m full of joy! Why? Because I’m not focused on avoiding Hell! I’m focused on intimacy with Jesus—and I have that! That intimacy results in joy, peace and the ability to wrestle with the realities of my heart.

Understand one thing prior to reading about my encounter in the next section: If you fear Hell more than you are grieved at not being intimate with Jesus, you are not in a safe place. The first giant step to take is one right into the arms of a loving God. Pursue him with passion.

THE TERROR OF HELL

    How could I be going to Hell? What I was experiencing messed with my theology to a radically uncomfortable degree. The Holy Spirit was making sure I would never be the same again. Mission accomplished.

    I count the early 1990’s as the most significant season of my life to date. God had invaded my life. (Do you feel the weight of that reality? The burning, raging Creator thrust himself into this mere mortal!)

    The Holy Spirit took me beyond a mere understanding of my need for a savior and a simple acceptance of Jesus as that savior to a place of breath-taking experience in his extreme, fearful and surprisingly vivid invisible realm. The sudden all-consuming desire of my heart was to be intimately joined with the Lover of my soul every moment of my life. I was craving and experiencing a legitimate, reportable and constant weighty manifestation of the presence of God in my life. I was burning! The desire and the cry of my heart was, “More!”

    In those early years, as I was diving into the increasingly deeper realms of life in God, many things happened that I’ll never forget–but one event shook me like no other before or since. 

I had a Dream

   
    The night I had this uninvited invasion of both God and Hell into my sleep, I was living in an old, vacant church building as the care taker. The dramatic scene was what you would imagine–the church was a relatively ancient stone structure. I would regularly encounter God as I walked through the now empty corridors, hidden rooms, sanctuary and other mysterious places throughout that relic. The countless hours praying in this vacant building resulted in forming me as a young burning man in some very memorable ways. 

    One destined evening I prepared for bed as I did every other night. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary. I prayed myself to sleep in the weighty and wonderful presence of the Holy Spirit as I had done so many times before.
    What was about to happen as I slipped into sleep that fateful night would result in a tremble that is with me to this day–twenty years later as I am revising this book. I was invited into an other-worldly encounter that I had no freedom to turn down.

    Because of the unimaginable panic and terror I experienced that night, I would often pray as I went to sleep, “God, please don’t give me any dreams tonight.” I prayed that way for thirteen years.

    Thirteen years! God eventually spoke clearly to me, after thirteen years of receiving many visions, but no dreams of God, “John, I need you to stop praying that prayer. I have things to reveal to you. I need to talk to you. I have dreams for you to dream.” I relented and have since craved dreams, angelic visitations and other forms of communication from the heavenly realm.

    During this night of terror I fell asleep in the old, empty church building and found myself dreaming.

    In my dream I was laying on my stomach in a one room building. It was very comfortable inside, though there was nothing in the room. It was empty. I rested on the carpet and looked out of the two windows, one in front of me and one to my right. The overwhelming feeling that I had was one of comfort and relaxation. I had no concerns and no thoughts beyond enjoying the atmosphere I was in. This feeling is what drove my entire experience. Obviously nothing could be wrong if I was feeling so good, right?

    Through the windows I could see a peaceful, lazy and bright sunny day unfolding. It was beautiful! The trees were blowing in a gentle breeze. The birds were chirping and flying from tree to tree. What a brilliant Creator we have! Everything was so refreshing and alive! I couldn’t have asked for a better afternoon.

    Then, suddenly, I experienced a changing of the scene. Like time lapse photography, as I was in the same position on the floor looking out the window, I watched the atmosphere suddenly change. There was an immediate and progressive shift. The clouds were ever so slightly darkening and increasing in coverage in the sky. The gentle breeze picked up velocity and the brilliant brightness started to go in and out as periodic shadows covered the area while the sun hid beyond the advancing clouds. It seemed as if some rain may be moving in. I rested there, stretched out on my belly with my head in my hands as I watched it unfold. I remained immersed in my own comfort. I was taking deep breaths and enjoying every moment of my day.

    Time lapsed again and I saw the sky completely covered in clouds–clouds much darker than just a few moments ago. I could now smell the fresh and unmistakable scent of the coming rain.

Matthew 24:36-39 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. or as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.

    The birds were taking cover as the wind picked up significantly. In the distance I saw several lightning strikes. It sure seemed as if this could be quite a storm. How was it that I was feeling no concern, no urgency to prepare as I enjoyed my personal, careless experience in that small, one room shack? I stretched out and relaxed even more. The greater the threat, the greater the “peace.” What a wonderful day I was having.

    Again, for the third time, I watched the scene in front of me change suddenly. Now, it was fully obvious the storm would most definitely hit–and soon. The wind was intense and large, ominous drops of rain started to hit the windows. Violent and arrogant lightning that seemed to have a personality all its own struck less than 300 yards away. The thumps of hail hitting the roof started and quickly increased in force. It was time for concern. The threat of danger was increasing by the second, but I didn’t feel any urgency or need to respond. I remained prostrate on the ground, refreshed and at ease, just as I did when it was a beautiful sunny day. I was enjoying the perceived safety of my environment. I was feeling so good.

    Once again, time lapsed and I found myself in the center of a churning, dreadful force that seemed powerful enough to split the Earth in two. The storm of the century was upon me. The massive trees were nearly snapping in two as they bent over parallel to the ground. The hail was massive in size and was slamming every surface around me. The windows were buckling in and out as the incredible pressure of the storm weighed on them. The lightning that burned hotter than the surface of the sun was literally striking mere feet from the shack. The walls were shaking. You can imagine what I was experiencing in that terrible and fearful moment. You guessed it: beautiful peace, safety and comfort. It truly was a wonderful day, until…

    In a fraction of a moment my overwhelming sense of peace and safety and relaxation turned to the most gripping terror I had ever known. It was as if every source of life and good had been eliminated from the atmosphere. Evil dominated the place that just moments ago was so enjoyable.

    My mind raced in an attempt to figure out what had just happened. The fear I was experiencing was beyond description. It made no sense. What was going on? Everything was so perfect! Today was supposed to be about enjoying life!

    Suddenly, as I was confused, horrified and trembling on the floor, two hands grabbed my ankles. My terror instantly escalated to levels I cannot describe. I quickly looked back and saw nothing–but I knew a demonic entity had grabbed on to me.

    The grip on my ankles was like a vice. The thought of escaping was a ridiculous one. It was impossible. My life, which seemingly just moments ago had been under my own control, was now overpowered by an invisible yet horrifying force. A force that I knew had intents–and the ability–to destroy me.

    Again, the terror immediately increased nearly to the point of literally losing control of my mind as that demon started to pull me backwards–and then down. My feet and legs were disappearing below the floor of that shack. I knew I was going to Hell.

    How can this be? It’s impossible! I’m going to Hell? But, I’m saved. I accepted Jesus as my Lord and Savior. This is contrary to everything I have ever learned in church. Yet, the moment was real, and I was losing every ounce of hope. I was about to enter an eternity of continual torture. Never ending panic, madness and torment was upon me.

    The demon kept slowly pulling me downward, as if he was relishing every single moment. My feet were well below the floor and my waist was at ground level. Then, suddenly my hope increased. I thought to myself, “If I say the name of Jesus, the demon must flee!”

    So, in my new state of hope I was able to squeeze out, “In the name of J—–. In the name of J—–. Ahhhhh!”

    I couldn’t say it! The demon was controlling my very breath. I was suffocating every time that name was about to be said. I could have said any word in the dictionary–but that one. My hope instantly was lost and I started to cry out as I convulsed under the unbreakable control of that demon.

    He continued to pull me down, one grueling inch at a time. Finally, my neck and then my mouth were entering Hell as my body was taken below. At the height of my madness and terror, and as my eyes were about to descend beneath the floor, I woke up.

    I sat straight up, trembling in my bed in that old church building. I was sweating in such volume that my entire bed was saturated. The light switch by my bedroom door was no more than seven feet from my bed. Just two quick steps to the wall would have been all it took to lighten the room. But I was frozen. I sat there for at least three hours in the darkness in absolute terror.

What Just Happened?

   
    I finally fell back to sleep and awoke the next morning. I didn’t realize how radically my life had taken a turn the previous night. As I tried to gather my thoughts while the events of the previous night overwhelmed my spirit and my mind, I looked outside the two windows that were there in my bedroom in that old church building. It was a beautiful sunny day–but I did not feel comfortable or relaxed. I was shaken.

    I begged God to tell me why I had that dream. What had just happened? Finally, later on that day, He spoke to me, “John, you represented the church. You were comfortable in your place of supposed safety. The storm was intensifying yet you were lulled into a state of apathy. Many in the church will be surprised one day, just as you were surprised in the dream, to find themselves under the control of demons as they are taken to Hell.”

    Proverbs 14:11-14 The house of the wicked will be overthrown, But the tent of the upright will flourish. There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death. Even in laughter the heart may sorrow, And the end of mirth may be grief. The backslider in heart will be filled with his own ways, But a good man will be satisfied from above.

    There is a way that seems right. Intellectually it makes sense. Other people seem to confirm that it is right. Common sense tells us that it is right. Even our theological dispositions confirm it is right. But, it leads to death. And, if it’s the type of death I experienced in my dream–it must be avoided at all costs. 

    A backslider is focused on his own condition, on his own comfort zone while a good man is in tune with the heart of God. His pleasure comes from intimacy with Father God. His pleasure comes from going where God is going, doing what he is doing and feeling what he is feeling. There is no sense of ease in the storm, but there is satisfaction and joy in the presence of God and by being in active agreement with him.
    This message is a wake-up call for every one of us. Many wonderful people will be terribly shocked to find themselves separated from God forever.

    Matthew 7:21-23 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. “Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ “And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’

    This scripture is in reference to those who would call themselves Born Again Christians. People who have understood and actually flowed in the power of the Holy Spirit. They understood their heavenly position and earthly authority as they overcame demons. These were your miracle workers.

Two Critical Keys to Salvation

  • Knowing Jesus–To be received by Jesus we must know Jesus. We must be hungry and intimate. We must ask, seek and knock. The pursuit of great intimacy with our Bridegroom has to be intense and continual. It’s not about our position, it’s about our love. It’s about our obedience and union with God in love, in life and in mission.
  • Lawlessness–This issue is addressed further in my book, Covens In The Church. In my dream, I represented a lawless church, or a lawless person. Someone who maintained control of my own experience. I was focused on what satisfied, on what comforted. I was not alert to the storm or surrendered to a place of radical participation in the moment.

    Again, many people will be devastated to find themselves in Hell one day. Many church-goers. Many who prophesy, many who smile when they see their friends, many who live a good life. Why is this? They refuse to pursue intimacy with God as they focus mostly on maintaining control of their own experience on the Earth.

    The call to intimacy is one of the most precious rewards for those who follow Jesus! Who could ever reject such an opportunity?

Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.

    The reward is intimacy with God! It’s the all-consuming fire engulfing us as we tremble in his presence! What a God we serve! His goal for us, and our life focus must be this–to be with him continually as he hovers over us and adores us as a Lover.

    However, this simple yet overpowering reality is so often avoided by people who are seeking comfort and control of their personal situations.

    Might I offer some sobering news to you? If our primary reason to follow Jesus is to avoid Hell and to go to Heaven one day, we are operating in the same self-centered, controlling attitude that resulted in my journey to Hell. Salvation for the sake of personal satisfaction is not salvation at all.   

Zechariah 7:5-6 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me–for Me? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves?

 

The Sinner’s Prayer

   
    The sinner’s prayer is one of the most misused evangelism techniques in the church today. This misuse has had devastating results.

    Listen to me closely: The sinner’s prayer has become a ticket to Hell for countless people. To ever present someone with a guarantee of Heaven if they simply say a prayer is irresponsible. How many people have you met that believe they are going to Heaven because they repeated a prayer at an earlier point in their lives? How many of these people have become deeply intimate with their Lover? 

    Let’s dispel something right now–salvation is not primarily about making it to Heaven. It’s identifying with the Lover of our souls, the Alpha and the Omega, the Healer, the Deliverer, and coming to a place of agreement. A place of complete surrender. An intimate encounter with God will result in adoration and desire for him alone.

    It’s saying, “Yes, I agree that you are God, that you love me, that there is nothing bad in you. You are perfect. You actually died for me. I deserve nothing, and regardless of my eternal destiny I will choose to love and serve you every moment of my life.” All I want on this planet is to spend every moment of my life in passionate union with my Lord and Master and wonderful friend.

    Salvation is falling so deeply in love with Jesus that we’ll gladly sacrifice everything to spend just a moment with him. God is so great that he lovingly extends this moment with him into an eternity. It’s all about being with God. This is salvation.

    I have a difficult question for you. I admit it is an imperfect question as it leaves many theological truths hanging in the balance. It’s a question that will never have to be answered, but it does make the idea of salvation for all of us crystal clear.         
   
    If Heaven was never guaranteed for you, would you still crave and love Jesus so much that you would give up everything you have on the Earth just to spend the next 30-60 years with him in wonderful intimacy?

    Of course, when Jesus finds his lovers on the Earth, those who have an intense yearning in the depths of their hearts to be with Him, he simply can’t wait to spend eternity with them! That’s what the cross was all about! It wasn’t a ticket to Heaven or immunity from Hell. It was a model of perfect love in an imperfect and hateful world. That’s why he is calling us to carry our cross–it’s the evidence of our love and desire for our Bridegroom.

 

The Rich Young Ruler

   
    Consider a great and critical bible story about a Rich Young Ruler that we all know very well:
    Very interestingly this story comes right after Jesus was talking to his disciples about allowing innocent, loving children to come to him. He said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.”

    Why is this? They just wanted Jesus! They wanted to crawl up in his lap! They wanted to embrace him! Now, let’s look at the Rich Young Ruler.
   
    Matthew 19:16-22 Now behold, one came and said to Him, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” So He said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. But if you want to enter into life, keep the commandments.” He said to Him, “Which ones?” Jesus said, “ ‘You shall not murder,’ ‘You shall not commit adultery,’ ‘You shall not steal,’ ‘You shall not bear false witness,’ ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ “ The young man said to Him, “All these things I have kept from my youth. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.” But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.

    Now, consider how this story goes. Someone decides he wants to follow Jesus, yet on his own terms. This person could easily be found going to a vibrant church every Sunday, repeating a sinner’s prayer, lifting his hands in worship, leading a small group, witnessing on the streets and owning several bibles.

    Remember, the Rich Young Ruler made the choice to follow Jesus. Most any pastor or evangelist would quickly rejoice and lead this man in a prayer. He would fill out a card and would be directed on how to connect in the church.

    This scenario plays out day after day after day around the world. Yet, in this story Jesus did not offer a sinner’s prayer, a card to fill out or membership in the church. Jesus knew he didn’t have this man’s heart, and made that reality clear.

    This man was what we would call a good man. He kept the commandments.

    However, Jesus was after something all together different from him. Jesus will always search the hearts of those who wish to follow him. In the end of this sad story, Jesus literally communicated to this man who wanted to be a follower of Jesus that he may not follow! Incredible!

    I heard a story of a great revivalist who was preaching in the first night of a week long revival. The anointing was so strong that a man rushed up to the altar to get saved right in the middle of this preacher’s message. He wanted to get saved!

    The revivalist rebuked him publicly and commanded him to return to his seat.

    “You, sir, are not ready to get saved. I have yet to reveal what it will cost you. Come back each night and I will let you know when it is time to respond to the call of Jesus.”

    Wow! Where is this type of gutsy presentation of the costly Gospel today?

    I often hear of salvation as a free gift. I completely understand the point that people who use that phrase are trying to get across, but I believe it can have damaging impact to those who are responding to it when it’s repeated without explanation. The reality is that salvation is very costly to every one who receives it.

    The point is that we did not have the ability to get saved on our own. We were not able to control the situation and do anything in ourselves to get saved. Jesus loved us so much that he did it all. He did what we could not do and extended his free gift. 

    Romans 6:22-23 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life. For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

    The free gift of eternal life must be responded to. We become servants and friends of the Most High God. If Jesus’ death on the cross was all that was required for salvation, then every person on the earth would be saved. The cost of our own surrender is high and cannot be overlooked. Every one of Jesus’ disciples, except John, were martyred, for example. High cost, yet worth it all.

    To extend the point, if a sinner’s prayer, or a decision to accept Jesus as our Lord and Savior was all that it took, much of what is revealed in scripture would have to be overlooked.

    Remember, salvation is all about intimacy with our Bridegroom and not simply a ticket to Heaven. Many who acknowledge the free gift of Jesus’ death on the cross, and his resurrection from the dead, and who repeat a prayer and make a decision to follow Jesus will end up eternally separated from God.

    The story of the Rich Young Ruler demonstrates this.

    Jesus will say to many, “Depart from me, I never knew you.”

    The attitude of the Rich Young Ruler is that of personal gain. I’m sure he wanted his sins washed away. The problem is this: Jesus didn’t come to relieve us of our guilt. He came to free us of bondage to sin. Presumed freedom from guilt and the penalty of sin can easily result in a passionless connection with Christ, and in a casual response to the call of holiness and intimacy. Jesus didn’t come so we could sin without guilt, he came to reveal himself as more satisfying and powerful than sin!

    When we are intimate with Jesus, embracing his emotions, his personality, his passion, we will buy into a life of fiery devotion. It won’t be possible to relax in the midst of the storm! We won’t desire sinful pleasures! It’s not about freedom from guilt, it’s about freedom from bondage that leads to death!

    For the sake of clarity on this very important subject, allow me to qualify briefly the point that is being made. The argument is that salvation is a very serious issue, and that a casual desire to go to Heaven and to take the name of Jesus is dangerous. The qualification is this–God is in charge of who goes to Heaven, and his heart cries out for all to be saved. 

    2 Peter 3:9 The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

    He is longsuffering and deeply desires for people to be saved.

    We don’t try to pay for or work for our salvation in lieu of full-blown surrender of our lives. Rather, fruit born in intimacy with God is the expected result of true salvation. Evidences. 

    With that in mind, scripture does make it clear that some who haven’t stepped into deep intimacy with Jesus will most definitely make it to Heaven. The thief on the cross is probably the best example. 

    While the Word tells us that those in the church who are lukewarm will be rejected by God, there is apparently a type of person who will live a substandard Christian life who will make it to Heaven.

    1 Corinthians 3:14-17 If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone defiles the temple of God, God will destroy him. For the temple of God is holy, which temple you are.
   
    This scripture reveals a very narrow exception for people whose fruit is proven to be lacking and unacceptable. This person will be saved–but barely. Can you imagine being in that terrifying position of waiting for God’s judgment to land on a life that was barely connected with him? Additionally, why would anybody want to live outside of God’s intimate presence? Why choose this low, risky level? What’s to gain?

    The scripture goes on to clarify the serious nature of eternal life. It’s not a simple matter, nor a light matter. If we destroy God’s temple, we will be destroyed. If we reveal inappropriate fruit, we may still be saved. But, if our work endures, and our temple is pure, salvation is a guarantee. 

    We can be confident in our eternal position, though I often find myself crying out to God something like, “Father, my heart longs for intimacy with you. I know I fail so often. I know I choose comfort over you at times. Please, Lord, help me ensure that you and I remain intimate. We remain in love. I don’t take your relationship or your salvation lightly. I know it’s possible to lose that relationship and that salvation. Help me surrender all, take up my cross and excitedly follow you. I love you.”

    Note that in that prayer I don’t reveal my fear of missing Heaven. My fear is losing intimacy with Jesus. Of course, I don’t want to go to Hell and I don’t want to miss Heaven–but that’s not my motivation. Our focus must be on the wonderful relationship with Jesus that we will either enjoy or lose sight of in our day-to-day experience on this planet.

    The churches in the book of Revelation reveal great truths in regard to the serious nature of salvation. God was not pleased with all of their works. In fact, in Revelation chapter 3 we see it revealed that names can be removed from the Book of Life.

    Revelation 3:5 “He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.

    If we overcome, our name is securely kept in the Book of Life. If we do not overcome, our name which was written in that Book at the time of our salvation will be blotted out.
    Salvation is serious stuff.

 

False Grace

   
    There is a false grace message that’s spreading fast, and it’s critical that we deal with this eternally devastating message with vengeance. False grace can lead people out of intimacy and action.

    There is a need for sober, humble and bold prophetic messengers to rise up and declare the piercing messages from God. These messages will provoke people to rush into the presence of God that results in trembling and collapse to their faces.

Matthew 23:33-34 Serpents, brood of vipers! How can you escape the condemnation of hell? Therefore, indeed, I send you prophets, wise men, and scribes: some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city,

    The call to intimacy with God is a call to slow the flow to Hell! The church must awaken and sound the alarm! We can’t rest in our comfort any longer! We have been called to steward this weighty reality.

Matthew 25:29-30 For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

    Note, that passage of scripture is referencing servants. Those in the church. Followers of Jesus!

    We must understand that salvation is not free. Jesus did what we could not do by defeating death, Hell and the grave. Now, we do what Jesus will not do. He said, “It is finished.” Now it’s our turn to respond to his Kingdom design.

    A false grace message would relay that we have no participation in the process of salvation (other than accepting Jesus into one’s heart). A true grace message actually embraces the power that was made available to us to obey the impossible directives of God.

    Grace empowers us to draw very close to God and to respond to his mandates. A true grace message will always have a biblical works message attached to it. Because of grace we can now work.

1 Corinthians 3:10-13 According to the grace of God which was given to me, as a wise master builder I have laid the foundation, and another builds on it. But let each one take heed how he builds on it. For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is.

    I have a definition for religion that brings clarity to both unbiblical grace and unbiblical works positions. Here it is:

Religion: man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.

    If we attempt to use God through grace by excusing ourselves to laziness or by abdicating our responsibility, we are driven by a religious spirit.
    On the contrary, if we try to buy or work our way into good favor with God outside of his radical sacrifice, that is a spirit of religion as well.
    Grace is favor. We have favor given by God so we can be in deep relationship with him and respond in supernatural power to his plans for our lives. He did what only he could do so we could do what only we must do.
    Jesus was favored. He was full of grace, yet he also had a responsibility. He walked in supernatural favor, and that favor enabled him to fulfill the necessary work of the cross.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

    His grace enabled him to fulfill his assignment, and because of his fulfilled assignment, we now have the grace to fulfill our assignment. Grace enables. It doesn’t relieve responsibility.

    Further, Jesus’ grace resulted in a paid price that we had no ability to pay. No amount of work or payment on our part could get us to eternity with God. We were destined for Hell, but because Jesus’ allowed grace to enable him to embrace the horrors and wonders of the cross, we can now run to him freely.

    But, we’re called to do more than run to him. We must run with him and for him. We are his graced, favored and empowered instruments on the Earth.

1 Corinthians 15:10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me was not in vain; but I labored more abundantly than they all, yet not I, but the grace of God which was with me.

    Paul ensured God’s grace was not in vain by allowing that power to result in abundant labor for the Kingdom.

2 Thessalonians 2:16-17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

    Grace will establish us in work. Grace has an expected outcome, and we have a part to play in that story.

    So, just what is work? It is simply response to the passionate and active heart of God. This is why deep intimacy is so critical. It’s only in this place of intimacy (which is also a work) that we can more fully embrace the wild, challenging and seemingly impossible assignments of our loving Father. His grace lifted some burdens from our lives, but also placed new ones upon us. It’s when, in the place of intimacy with God, we trade human burdens with holy burdens that we come alive and grace is most fully activated in us.

 

Wonderful Surrender

   
    I’ll share another experience that, I strongly believe, was critical in securing my relationship with Jesus. I believe a negative response to what the Lord was speaking to me would have put my eternal position at jeopardy. Would I have lost my salvation? I don’t know and I don’t want to play with that fire.

    In the season of life where this experience took place, I knew that once saved, everything changed. A great barometer of salvation is to ask whether everything in our lives was open for change or not. I agreed that once I surrendered my life, God would begin to change me and require much from me.

    2 Corinthians 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.

    Additionally, I understood that simply acknowledging that Jesus was God, or even agreeing that he was the only way to the Father wasn’t sufficient to guarantee salvation. I had to surrender all.

   Acts 10:43 “To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.”
   
    This scripture does not indicate that all we have to do is have some belief that Jesus existed, and that he died and rose from the dead. Even the devil knows that! The word believes literally means, to be committed to, or to commit oneself to. It’s an all out surrender to the Living God.

    Now, allow me to share with you the life-changing experience with God that radically changed my understanding of what it was to follow Jesus.

    This event occurred shortly after I had the terrifying dream in the old church building. God was wildly challenging me and drawing me closer to him. I was in my early twenty’s at the time. Our church, along with several others in the area participated in a lock-in at a local YMCA. There were a few hundred people there enjoying everything from wallyball to basketball to ping-pong.

    They had also set up a prayer room in one part of the building. As a young man who was getting blasted by the Holy Spirit with amazing regularity I presumed the room would be full of hungry young men and women of God. Sadly, I was wrong, though the nearly empty room provided me quite an atmosphere to pray in.

    In many ways, that room was similar to the one in my dream. I was looking out of the windows over the city as I spent some time with the Lord. However, unlike the dream, I was passionately enjoying God with intensity. The atmosphere was full of the presence of the Holy Spirit and, to date, it was literally one of the most powerful God moments of my life. I was so full of life that I found myself pacing around with lifted hands and a fire in my belly for quite a long, wonderful time.

    All of a sudden, I heard something in my spirit.

    “John, I want you to give me permission to take your life.”

    Huh? Where in the world did that thought come from? What an unwelcome interruption it was! I shook it off and moved back into prayer and worship. But, something was wrong. The warm and consuming presence of God had left the room. I didn’t realize it then, but God’s presence didn’t leave the room–it had simply changed. God was honoring me with a serious call to follow Him.

    I tried for the next fifteen minutes to enter back into prayer, but I felt entirely alone. No unction, no flow, no passion.

    I kept hearing the words, “John, will you let me take your life?”

    I finally realized that the warmth of God’s presence had transitioned into the challenge of God’s purposes. He was testing me. Was I really ready to take up my cross? Was I really in it for Jesus? Or, was I into this Christian life mostly for what I could get out of it? You see, this crossroads question from the most Holy One would result in ensuring my destiny–either in one direction or in the other. And, it wouldn’t make any difference if I kept paying tithes, going to church and lifting my hands in worship if I chose the road toward personal satisfaction that fateful night.

    The Holy pressure in that dark prayer room was extreme. I honestly thought, beyond any doubt, that the decision I was about to make to my Lord would result in my physical death that very night. The call was that urgent. But, I immediately realized I couldn’t stand to live the rest of my life outside of the warmth of the tangible presence of Jesus that I felt as I first entered that room.

    “God, if it will result in warming your heart, and in advancing your Kingdom on the Earth, you can take my life. I love you and you are teaching me more about love in this moment than in my previous two decades. I trust you.”
    The split second I communicated that in my heart, the fire of the Holy Spirit rushed in with power. It was better than any previous experience with God I had ever had. Far better. I was consumed by his love. I was surrendered to him unlike anytime in my life. I was his.

Song of Songs 1:2-4 THE SHULAMITE Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth– For your love is better than wine. Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you. Draw me away! THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will run after you. THE SHULAMITE The king has brought me into his chambers. THE DAUGHTERS OF JERUSALEM We will be glad and rejoice in you. We will remember your love more than wine.

    To this day I don’t know if God will suddenly take my life–and while I wish to live for a long time on earth, I am longing to live for eternity with my Lover.
    Calls from the heart of God like this one come to me from time to time. How serious am I? Am I in it for the benefits? Do I live my life for what I can get out of it? Or, am I a walking dead man? The positive response to the call of God is an indicator of the intimate love that we have for our Lover. It is a fruit of our salvation.

The Barometer of Prayer

    I have many barometers in my life. I am an imperfect man who loves to discover lack in my life. That discovery leads me on an adventure of pursuit and acquisition of the new things of God for me. For example, if I don’t easily heal the sick, then I am thrilled to read books, study the Word of God, watch teachers on TV and pray a lot so I can grow in this gift.

    I believe an absolutely critical barometer for any follower of Jesus is that of prayer. Prayer is simply being with God, engaging with him on a very real and personal level.

    I shared a moment ago about my experience in the prayer room in the YMCA. Something else that was tragic and striking to me was that it was nearly empty. Volleyball was more desirable than being with God.

    I remember another time during that year just after a youth worship service. I was experiencing God so dramatically and so continually that I was probably glowing in the dark! I went outside after that service, and with a goofy smile on my face, told some of my new friends just how amazing God is.

    “Wow! Guys, God is so amazing! Whoa! His anointing and his fire is powerful! I can’t imagine ever living without him!”

    These guys, whom I would pray with on a regular basis, just looked at me with a half smile and said something like, “John, that’s great. Yep, God’s good.”
    Where was the passion for Jesus and the explosion of emotion that I was experiencing?

    During that particular season of my life, every Thursday night just prior to the youth service there was an hour of prayer in the sanctuary. The leaders heavily announced the prayer meeting, put signs on the doors, talked with people one-on-one and ensured the prayer was the most emphasized portion of the entire night.

    Week after week between 60-100 young people would arrive early–and stand outside of the sanctuary in the foyer. The large sanctuary looked empty as 5-6 zealots pressed into the presence of God for one hour and the small foyer looked like a fire hazard as it was jammed to its limits.

    You may be saying, “Well, John, many of those young people may not even be saved. They were just babes in the Lord at best.”

    OK, that may be true. But, let me ask a question–how many times have you seen a similar scenario take place with adults?

    I talked to someone just the other day regarding prayer. She stated that her church of about 500 people is resistant to the idea of prayer. The prayer room was on the second level of the church and it had six chairs in it. Then, to make room for another church program, the prayer room was moved from the second floor to the third floor, and in the process they removed three of the chairs. How can this be?!

    There is a GREAT SIN of prayerlessness in this nation! Again, prayer is simply being with God. Do we even understand the opportunity we have to encounter God in increasing measure every moment of our lives?

    Intimacy must follow salvation and prayer is the vehicle of intimacy. I’ll never understand why the call to intimately encounter God in prayer is countered with excuses and no-shows. It literally breaks my heart. 

    I don’t know how often I’ve heard people respond to the call to the prayer room with excuses like:

  • I am always in prayer–in the car, while doing dishes, at work.
  • God is with me wherever I go.
  • God knows my heart and my needs. I trust he’ll take good care of me.

    The fact that we attempt to validate non-aggressive, passive and non-costly methods of prayer above the wonderful experience of spending hours of hungering and groaning as the Holy Spirit breathes through us in the place of visitation reveals a tragic crisis in the Church!

    We should not be making excuses for not being with Jesus!

    There is a difference between being in the omnipresence of God and being in the manifest presence of God. Everybody is continually in God’s omnipresence. Satanists, witches, children, adults, preachers and sinners. However, it costs much to press into God’s manifest presence. It takes time, effort and passion. Period. It’s radically inconvenient to a naturally driven life. God is drawing us into the Holy of Holies, yet we have become satisfied with the outer courts!

    There is a difference between passively praying throughout our day and actively pressing into God’s presence. We must discover God’s heart in prayer. We talk a lot about lengthy prayer in our ministry. It is absolutely non-negotiable.

Prayer in the Cave

    We often hold a unique event called Prayer in the Cave. We crawl into a deep cave, turn out the lights and be with God. It usually takes at least an hour of sitting in perfect silence before our hearts are at a place of being invaded by the Holy Spirit. Then, as we transition into the next phase of repentance, we find that we’ve gone well over the two hour mark. Worshipping and crying out to God takes more time. Then, finally, we can hear God. We wait and wait as the prophetic Word of God is delivered to us. Then (and now it’s been 3-4 hours) we are ready to come into agreement with what’s on God’s heart. We war in the Spirit and experience wildly enjoyable and effective prayer. Our love of God is intense, our passion is hot and the outcome is amazing. People who experience this wouldn’t trade it for anything! Excuses aren’t made to avoid prayer, but instead declarations are made to friends, family and our own calendars that we have an appointment with God that will not be violated! Saying no to God’s wooing becomes a laughable idea indeed!

    Let me say this clearly–people who are legitimately saved simply crave to be with their Lover–Jesus. Lengthy prayer is an obvious reality for them as they understand the many issues of life that must be contended with in order to enjoy God freely.

    Does that mean everybody is glowing in the dark and full of life and fire every moment of their lives? Does it mean that prayer isn’t hard work sometimes? Of course not! It also doesn’t assume that everybody has tangibly experienced God–but those who love God, whether they have experienced him or not, will do whatever it takes to experience him initially and then over and over again.

    God yearns for us to be with him intimately and continually. Much of that time will be passive–while we are in the car or cleaning the house–and much will be very active. I consider the following passage of scripture to be one of the saddest in scripture. Its story was also indicative of things to come.

    Matthew 26:42-44 Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.

    The saddest phrase is, “He left them.”

    At history’s most critical moment, Jesus was craving intimacy with his friends, and when he found none, he went to be with his Father, alone. He had something to accomplish, so while he didn’t leave them in terms of his friendship with them, he did leave them when it came to partnering, or the lack thereof, in purpose.

    Our desire to be with God will be maintained through thick and thin. God has much to do, and he is calling his lovers to be with him as he does it. Our love of Jesus will keep us awake and alert. The disciples wanted to experience very passive prayer (it is very possible to sleep in the Spirit!) while Jesus was calling them to the most active prayer of their lives. When they didn’t respond, Jesus left them.

    I know some may quote a scripture at this point, which is one of my favorites:
   
    Matthew 11:28-30 “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. “For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

    “But John, God has promised us a light burden. It seems as if you are preaching a very heavy burden when you discuss lengthy prayer.”

    First of all, let me say this–prayer is wonderfully enjoyable. Those who tap in to the heart of God simply become addicted to lengthy prayer.

    But, let’s also address the incredibly difficult and important seasons of prayer that require much of us. God’s burden in these situations is very light only when we enter them in his strength and not ours. God’s assignments for us are so heavy and severe that it is completely impossible and burdensome for us to accomplish. Many get very frustrated as they stare God’s impossible directives for them in the face.

    What’s the missing element here? The power of the Holy Spirit that can only be received through being with God! As we are with God intensely and with wild regularity, we will, day-by-day, discover the ability to obey God by carrying the burdens he has given us to carry.

    Romans 8:26-28 Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

    We should literally find ourselves in our prayer closets realizing the monumental tasks that God has placed on us, identifying our incredible weaknesses and falling on our faces yearning and groaning before the Lord. Many have not allowed the Holy Spirit to physically groan through them. We intercede and cry out and pray in the Spirit day in and day out as we receive the burdens that the Holy Spirit is willing and able to carry through us. 

    We must hear God’s voice so we can know what he wants us to do. We’ve all heard the scripture that “all things work together for good…”, but we miss the point all too often. If we are intimate with God and if we are receiving his purpose for our lives, the heavy burden which is made light through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, things work together for good. If we don’t hear God, don’t pray, don’t receive his burden and aren’t intimate with him, things in our lives can be very bad. We must intentionally be with God, hear God, be intimate with God, receive God’s ministry and mandates and allow the Holy Spirit to work and groan through us. Our flesh then becomes crucified and our spirits dance and stir as we excitedly move into the realm of the impossible!

    Our flesh often tries to determine how much we will carry because it knows how much it can handle. Instead of surrendering to God’s plans, we attempt to manage our own burdens. Our tolerance for pain dictates how far we go.

    Our flesh tells us how much to pray, how much to fast, how much to serve, how much to give. Our flesh determines the extent of our obedience.

    However, when we are with God in the furnace of prayer, we become super-powered as the Holy Spirit takes over. We can now obey God and press into the incredible life God has called us to live.

 

Cares of Life

    When I started Revolution Church in 2001, I naively assumed that people who participated with us would see the extreme nature of the vision to take a city for Jesus and would quickly conclude that a radical departure from life as usual must occur. I believed people would get so excited about accomplishing the impossible that they would immediately respond to calls to fast, to pray and to reorder their lives.

    After all, the only way to do what God was calling us to do was to be empowered by the Holy Spirit through lengthy prayer. It seemed obvious to me.

    God then spoke to me very powerfully, “You must communicate the following message clearly and continually–cares of life must be eliminated!”

    Luke 8:14-15 “Now the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity. “But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience.

    Those who are inward focused and pursue pleasure and comfort, and who focus on the cares of life, will not mature. I knew a call to take an entire city required people to very quickly respond to this truth regarding the cares of life. It would take serious and maturing people. It couldn’t be a long process, but a quick response to press in, pray, fast and reprioritize their lives.

    Those who hear the word keep it and bear fruit with patience. It’s a radical life.

    I believe God is restoring the church to be much like the first church in the Book of Acts. While today church leaders avoid scheduling too many events because of the demands of life on people, we will see these demands finally giving way to the structure God had originally ordained. God’s ways will trump life’s demands.

    Acts 2:46-47 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

    They were actually at church every day! They also met in homes. A lot of activity with God and other believers was taking place. They had favor and the harvest was large. Can you imagine people today praying in the church every day? Well, it is coming and it will mark the most powerful season the church has ever experienced! 

    The Lord spoke something to me recently. He told me the Holy Spirit is moving on the face of the earth right now, and he is recruiting. He’s recruiting those who will respond to him, and who will participate in a great end time move of God. A great battle. He said that he is not installing a draft. This end time army will be made up of those who are willing and ready–those who discern the signs of the times. Those who resist, some who will still be secure in their salvation and others who won’t, will feel the force of the move of God on the earth instead of partnering with God.

    God is calling us to surrender all. Many are just cruising along in life, relaxing and doing their best to be comfortable. Many will not make Heaven.

    Even Billy Graham’s own research shows a mere 2% of people who fill out a decision card at one of their evangelistic crusades ever end up pursuing their walk with the Lord.

    I’ve heard of a person who was taken to Heaven in real time. He watched as people entered eternity. Some went to Heaven. Most went to Hell.

    A recent Gallup poll reveals that 45% of people in America call themselves born again. On this particular day, this individual reported that only about 2% of the people who died that day entered Heaven. While this is not verifiable, it is nonetheless striking. We could deduct fairly reliably that well over 90% of people who had at one time repeated a sinner’s prayer, probably attended church and lived a good life were never known by God and ended up in Hell.

    Intimacy with God is achieved through prayer. I suggest it’s a matter of eternal life and death to ensure the prayer rooms of America’s churches are full.

    Revolution Church was transitioned to Revolution House of Prayer recently. God had spoken clearly to me about the deep importance of having entire cities that pray and worship him 24-hours a day. I decided to contact someone at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri. I emailed several questions to them, and one of their leaders responded back to me.

    The answer to one question broke my heart and sent flags flying and alarms sounding.

    “How do visitors respond when you tell them that the mission of IHOP is to minister to God 24-hours a day in prayer?”

    The answer?“They often look back at us with a confused look on their face.” I too have experienced this tragic phenomena.

    How can this be? How can they be confused? It simply doesn’t make sense. Where is the deep longing to be with the Lover of our souls? Where is the lovesick bride?

    God’s house is a House of Prayer. Period. There is a trend that must be eliminated from our mind sets–the trend of participating in churches or spiritual activities based on what we can get out of them. Entire churches are set up with the mind set of having the most programs so they can serve the most needs of the most people! When did this happen?

    We are called to bring our sacrifices to the altar! We are called to surrender all! To minister to God! 

    I contend that one of the best things that churches in America can do is to cancel all of their programs, small groups, Sunday School classes and activities–and pray. For a year. Who will stay? Who will thrive? Who will leave? Who will complain?

    Can you imagine what this nation and this world would be like if for 365 straight days and nights every single church and every single pastor and every single believer would be in the prayer rooms? Revival would burn across this land and the harvest would be received in world record time!

    As it is now, churches call a prayer meeting and the people scatter–America, we have a problem.

    A reformation of ministry to the Living God is coming to our land. Churches are abandoning old wine skins and are transitioning to the original intent on God’s heart–for his house to be a house of prayer for all nations.

    Relationships will be developed in the prayer rooms. We’ll go out for coffee after our prayer watches and study the Word together. We’ll enjoy each other’s company in our homes. We’ll live a life of continual prayer, continual growth and continual relationships with other fire-breathing Christians–and it won’t be dependent on a program!

    What about the lost? I contend that they will finally have a good reason to get saved. And they won’t get falsely saved into a cozy, self-centered experience. They won’t ever have to face the terror of Hell that gripped me in that shocking and horrific dream. Salvation for the coming harvest will equate to passionate surrender to a zealous Bridegroom. They will be launched into a life of intimate pursuit of Jesus through the vehicle of continual, fervent prayer.

    Let’s go churches of America–open up the prayer rooms again!

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