People are leading ministries and churches all while the Bible instructs us not to even eat with them. It’s time for a house cleaning.
Facebook is a great, if unscientific, medium for discussions about culture and Scripture (and kittens, food, vacations, etc.). I’ve participated in many such discussions online and I constantly find myself shaking my head when supposedly solid, Spirit-filled Christians flat out reject clear, simple truths found in the Bible. We have declined into a church that all too often employs human reasoning in favor of biblical principles.
As an example, when is the last time you heard a pastor teach on the issue of divorce? At best they may suggest it’s negative and painful while fully ignoring what God himself has to say about it.
Right in the middle of Luke chapter 16 we see the following:
“Everyone who divorces his wife and marries another commits adultery, and he who marries a woman divorced from her husband commits adultery. Luke 16:18 (ESV)
We have a bunch of people in our churches today who are living in adultery because they divorced and remarried without validation. We need a mass movement of repentance for wrongful divorce and remarriage! After getting remarried, there can be redemption and forgiveness, but that is a process that must be completed. Divorce rates in the church should be near zero. I say near zero because there are legitimate and approved reasons to initiate a divorce. There are times when it’s fully appropriate to get remarried as well. God is in the restoration business, but we must submit to his process and follow his protocol.
The point on divorce was simply one example as I begin this article on discipline in the church. We have to agree that Scripture rules. We must stop minimizing it, modifying it, ignoring it or rewriting it.
Before you attempt to crucify me for being cruel and unfeeling regarding divorce or the other issues I’ll address in this article, I want to challenge you. First, my heart is broken over sin in the camp. Second, why do you presume you have the right to dismiss clear directives in Scripture? You don’t. Neither do I. I believe it’s an act of love and humility to trust God’s wisdom as we deal directly with sin in the church. God has given us a measure of stewardship over his holy church, and we are failing, especially in regard to holiness.
IT’S TIME TO CLEAN HOUSE
Take a moment and let the following verse sink in:
I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:9-13 (ESV)
Sin in the camp is defiling the house.
The above passage reveals that God judges the unsaved, the lost, those in the world. It also reveals that we have been mandated to judge those within the church. This, friend, rarely happens and that is a key reason revival is not near.
Please remember, we don’t have the right to exercise mercy that’s not endorsed by the Word of God. We don’t have the freedom to let someone off the hook when God demands we deal with their situation.
You were running well. Who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you. A little leaven leavens the whole lump. Galatians 5:7-9 (ESV)
One immoral person in a church can compromise the entire congregation.
LOVE THEM OUT THE DOOR
It’s time to express love, with tears in our eyes, by inviting people to leave our churches. Multiplied thousands of professing Christians must be shown the door—and fast.
If they profess Christ and are guilty of sin, we cannot even eat with them. This is severe, and it is necessary. It’s also literal.
Are there any people attending church today who are greedy? We can’t go grab coffee with them. Is anybody involved in porn? Do they get intoxicated? Do they have idols in their lives? Are they abusive? We must deal directly with them for the sake of their souls and those of everybody in the church! Why? Check out a verse that’s strangely similar to what we read in 1 Corinthians 5 (it takes it to a whole other level):
Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 (ESV)
While so many are welcoming these offenders into church services and functions every week, God has determined they will not be welcomed into Heaven. We are celebrating the people God is rejecting! We are confirming those God is calling out!
Allow me to make this point very clear: If anyone who names the name of Christ is guilty of these sins, they must immediately repent while bearing fruit or they must be removed from fellowship. Period.
Yes, most youth groups will be wiped out. Elders in the church will have to go. Many pastors will have to relinquish their positions. Churches will decline significantly in number as they lose those guilty of sin AND their sympathizers!
What will be left? A holy, remnant church that can finally move in power, unity and purity.
TURN THEM OVER TO SATAN
Sexual sin is especially destructive. If anybody tells you all sin is the same, don’t believe them. It’s not true. For example, one type of sin cannot be forgiven. Other sins are not unto death. Sexual sin is one that demands a more severe response. Again, the response is rooted in love, not revenge. It’s to protect the church and to awaken the offender.
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 1 Corinthians 5:1-7 (ESV)
The world has the right to accuse Christians of hypocrisy. When sin happens, it’s swept under the rug. It’s ignored. It’s certainly not dealt with. It’s rarely judged.
The instruction is clear and cannot be modified. The one who is guilty must be turned over to Satan. They must be excommunicated. They are a danger to themselves and to the church.
The purpose of discipline is twofold:
- The restoration of the person—God, in his wisdom, knows just what it will take to give people the greatest chance of restoration. Biblical discipline is a part of that process.
- The protection of the body—A little leaven leavens the whole lump. We must insist on a holy church for the sake of the innocent and unsuspecting.
…deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” Hebrews 12:6 (ESV)
For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. Hebrews 12:10 (ESV)
When restoration works, the Bible tells us that we will win our brother. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work out the way we’d prefer, but it’s imperative that we try as Scripture demands:
“If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Matthew 18:15-17 (ESV)
Keep in mind that severe church discipline must follow earlier attempts at restoration.
And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 (ESV)
The first step isn’t removing them from fellowship. It’s calling them higher, exhorting them to live righteously and patiently yet invasively, uncomfortably, demand they respond to the correction of the Lord. Walk the walk with them until their rebellion or repeated failures would cause you to violate the Word to maintain fellowship with them. That time comes sooner than we typically presume.
GOD DEMANDS THAT HIS CHURCH IS HOLY
John L. Dagg said this:
“When discipline leaves a church, Christ goes with it.”
Ichabod is posted above the doorposts as the presence of God vacates a once holy church that’s inundated with immorality.
The question is simple, do you want God to remain or the unrepentant offender? You can’t have both.
Considering the spotlight that homosexuality, transgenderism and various sexual deviancies have demanded, we must engage in a conversation about the ramifications such activity—in the church.
Unfortunately, immorality has always infected the church. In the book of Revelation we see a severe example of this, and an equally severe reaction by God:
“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. Revelation 2:19-23
The church in Thyatira was on God’s radar for their works, love and faith, but also for tolerating sexual immorality in the church.
So many have fallen for an unbiblical definition of true love that is devoid of correction or standards. It feels more like warm, fuzzy, emotional highs and affirmation of people regardless of their lifestyle, which is not biblical love. Love can feel quite repulsive and alienating at times. God is love. He can’t avoid it! This God of love, in the above passage, refused to play games with the issue of sexual immorality in the church. His response? Repent or be thrown into great tribulation!
Consider this question: “If you were a pastor and someone who identified as a ‘gay Christian’ started attending your church, or someone didn’t feel it was sinful to have sex with their boyfriend or girlfriend outside of marriage, what would you do?”
People most always respond by saying, “Love them.”
Okay, but what does that look like? Again, most would say that we should encourage, share the truth with them and pray that they would stay connected in church and eventually see the error of their ways.
This counsel is in contradiction with the Word of God. I asked this question on Facebook just a moment ago, and I’m so proud of my son Skylar who, on a lunch break at work at Silver Dollar City here in Branson, Missouri, responded by typing in: 1 Corinthians 5. He’s right:
It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. 1 Corinthians 5:1-5
This passage also uses a form of the word “tolerate.” Sexual immorality is not to be tolerated. Jezebel and the sexual perversion she promotes is not to be tolerated. The demand in today’s culture is for tolerance in the midst of sexual perversion. This has crept into the culture of the church and it is time to act.
God is not tolerant. His is longsuffering, but certainly not tolerant of perversion—especially within the church. This is his bride!
What is the loving reaction that leaders must have when unrepentant sexual immorality is discovered in the church? That person is to be removed. He is to be delivered to Satan for the destruction of their flesh—so that his spirit may be saved!
This is love!
Of course, there are significant differences between someone who is struggling with, for example, pornography and someone who indulges in it freely without repentance or any plan to change.
There is also a difference between a professing Christian who refuses to repent of sexual sin and a heathen who refuses to repent. The former is to be removed from the church while the latter should be welcomed with open arms in hopes that they are radically, gloriously saved! And, yes, at that time they will be held to an entirely different standard.
The passage in 1 Corinthians 5 continues:
Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump, as you really are unleavened. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. Let us therefore celebrate the festival, not with the old leaven, the leaven of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth. I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people— not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.” 1 Corinthians 5:6-13
If one who calls themselves a brother or sister in Christ are sexually immoral, greedy, idolatrous, a reviler, drunkard or swindler—we can’t even sit down at Starbucks with them! We can’t invite them over for a barbeque on the Forth of July!
This is love!
If we don’t take swift action the entire church will become infected. A little leaven leavens the whole lump.
But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. Ephesians 5:3
This is a MUST WATCH video on the uprising of rebellion in the church and how people are fleeing the corporate gathering—all at the cost of revival.
Today people are leaving churches and scattering, leaving the church vulnerable and the hope of revival threatened.
When Satan was attempting to gather people together to accomplish an impossible task, the building of a tower to Heaven, God came down and scattered them. Now, Satan is attempting to use that strategy against God!
More than ever, we must honor and serve leaders, be in the church every time the doors are open and pray with out ceasing.
Evan Roberts' famous prescription must be followed today more than ever:
“Congregate the people who are willing to make a total surrender. Pray and wait. Believe God's promises. Hold daily meetings.”
The time of daily prayer events is coming, and revival will be held back until it happens.
People are leaving or changing churches at a record pace—when should we NOT leave a church?
Unity around the mission of the church is something Satan cannot risk. The moment people lock arms, take their positions and unify with the Great Commission in front of them, it’s over. He’s done.
Unity is so powerful that Satan used it as his primary weapon to build his kingdom on the Earth:
Genesis 11:4-8 (ESV) 4 Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” 5 And the LORD came down to see the city and the tower, which the children of man had built. 6 And the LORD said, “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language, and this is only the beginning of what they will do. And nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. 7 Come, let us go down and there confuse their language, so that they may not understand one another’s speech.” 8 So the LORD dispersed them from there over the face of all the earth, and they left off building the city.
The unity driven plan, as impossible as it seemed, was on track to succeed—so God dealt a blow to what? Unity. It worked. The people scattered.
Now, in an attempt to turn the tables on God as he is building his Kingdom through unified people, Satan is attempting to scatter the church. It’s working. The church is at risk.
A spirit of independence is convincing Christians that it’s time to take control of their lives and forsake the call to gather under leaders within the structure of the church. We must repent, and we must return to position and get ready to move as the alarm sounds.
While there are (rare) times to move from one church to another, I want to share five reasons NOT to leave.
5 REASONS NOT TO LEAVE A CHURCH
When you don’t fit in. My three sons and one daughter would never leave the Burton family if they struggled to fit in, if they were misunderstood or if they were having a bad season of life. My wife wouldn’t either, nor would I. If we see the church as a part of the service industry like McDonald’s or Wal-Mart we will end up leaving if we don’t feel welcomed or served. However, God plants us in a covenant family, not a shopping center.
What most people really mean when they say, “I don’t fit in at this church,” is that they aren’t enjoying themselves. Possibly, they feel rejected. I find it disturbing when rejection causes people to leave a church when rejection is what propelled Jesus to die and launch the church. Remember, the church isn’t to be there for us as much as we are to be there for the church. The mission of the church is demanding and not always enjoyable and we must be in position ready to work. I guarantee anybody who approaches leadership and offers to serve in the nursery or by cleaning the church would absolutely fit in. Their serving heart makes a place for them.
Acts 4:11 (ESV) 11 This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.
Luke 17:25 (ESV) 25 But first he must suffer many things and be rejected by this generation.
When its easier for you to connect with God elsewhere. I know this may be a shock, but the primary purpose of the church isn’t to make it easy for you to connect with God. If we understand this, a million arguments against staying at your church will instantly disappear. It’s our job, individually, to develop intimacy with Jesus. If we are dependent on a pastor, worship leader or others to nurture our relationship with Jesus, we’re in big trouble.
We should never arrive at church empty. We should be full of God and ready to pour out. If its easier for us to encounter God in our home or with a small group of friends, then great! That’s the way it should be! Then, take fire that you’ve cultivated to the critical corporate gathering and burn hot. Serve well. Get into position, lock arms, serve the leaders and advance the mission.
If we focus on personal edification and connecting with God as the primary purpose of the church, we can quickly forget the many additional needs that we have: Discipleship, challenge, discipline, accountability, maturing, giving, serving, and on and on.
Remember, you are not the church. You can't leave the corporate gathering and be a part of the church. The church only exists when we gather under the call of leadership. Read this article: You are NOT the church
Acts 14:21-22 (ESV) 21 When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, 22 strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.
The leaders aren’t doing things the way most people think they should. Many people believe leaders should make it easy for people to follow them. I disagree. Church leaders are mandated to lead people into some of the most challenging, risky and costly missions the world has ever known. People should actually make it easy for church leaders to lead them.
People made it hard for Moses to lead them into the Promised Land and they died. They made it easy for Joshua to do the same, and they dominated.
The demand of the people can be so strong sometimes that pastors and leaders forsake their mission. They end up pleasing the people instead of God.
Check this out. Jesus had just identified Peter as the church and made it clear that the gates of Hell would not prevail.
Matthew 16:18 (ESV) 18 And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
Then immediately after this, Peter, the church, unwittingly renounced the cross. He removed the cost, the surrender, the sacrifice. Watch what Jesus did:
Matthew 16:21-23 (ESV) 21 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, “Far be it from you, Lord! This shall never happen to you.” 23 But he turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me. For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
Peter (the church) was mindful of the things of man, not the things of God. Wow. The pressure of the people to steer the church in a certain direction can result in heeding their demands instead of the inconvenient and extreme mandate of the mission. Don’t be one of those people.
Hebrews 13:17 (ESV) 17 Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.
When another church has better programs for you and your family. We should never choose a church based on what we can get out of it. We are actually assigned by God himself to serve and build it.
My definition of religion is: Man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants.
When we expect to gain from the church ahead of sacrifice, we are embracing the same spirit that killed Jesus. The spirit of religion wanted to use Jesus for personal gain.
Consider the money changers. Right after the crowds were ‘worshiping’ Jesus by shouting Hosanna (which actually means, “save us now,”) Jesus dealt with that spirit. The crowds wanted Jesus to save them, to focus on them, to give them what they demanded. Then, the money changers, driven by the same spirit of religion attempted to use the church for personal gain.
Matthew 21:12-13 (ESV) 12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.”
The sin of the money changers? They expected to leave the temple (the church) with more than they entered with. The used the temple for personal gain. We see this same spirit in churches around the world. The expectation is to leave the temple with less than we enter with. We bring a sacrifice. An offering. We serve. We give. We place no demands on the place of sacrifice, but instead honor God through the sacrifice of intercession for the nations. Prayer is the primary purpose of the church, and the church needs you to join in that mission.
When God tells you to. OK, I’m sure you are awake now! Have you ever played the God card? As a leader I’ve heard many times, usually through the grapevine, that, “God told so and so to move to another church.” Really? That’s odd. I was entrusted as their leader, which is a very serious position, and God just forgot to tell me about this? He left me out of the loop? Maybe Hebrews 13:17 isn’t what we think it is? The church I'm leading isn't important enough for people to honor the mission?
I hope you are getting the point.
We are called to submit to authority—even ungodly authority like judges, elected officials and our bosses at work. Certainly it makes sense that God would include our godly authority in a decision making process as important as leaving one family and one mission for another.
The point is this—God wouldn’t just tell you to leave without your leader being involved in the process. In fact, can I just be blunt? It’s extremely disrespectful, presumptuous, rude and self-serving to abdicate your responsibility in your current church by leaving without honoring the authority in your life. Your pastor has every right to participate with you in your process.
1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 (ESV) 12 We ask you, brothers, to respect those who labor among you and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, 13 and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work. Be at peace among yourselves.
The church is crying out for a new thing, yet when something new manifests a common reaction is suspicion and unbelief.
What’s your first reaction when you hear about gold dust, gold teeth, oil manifesting on people, healings, angelic visitations, trances, Third Heaven encounters, etc.? Joyous belief or skeptical reservation?
Let’s have an open discussion about signs, wonders, miracles and manifestations. It’s a burning hot can of worms that is only going to get hotter and messier. God is going to offend our expectation and our intellects as he invades our comfort zones and destructs human controlled systems.
EXPECTATION VS. EXPECTANCY
God is moving the church from a place of expectation to an culture of expectancy. What’s the difference? It’s simple yet profound. An expectation has a pre-determined outcome attached to it. For example, I have an expectation that the sun is going to set tonight. There’s a clear and definable reality that should certainly come to pass.
Expectancy is quite different. It’s open ended yet very powerful and all consuming. It’s often ambiguous, nebulous. What we sense is coming goes beyond our ability to define and contain it in our narrow constructs.
So, to have an expectation means that we impose limits and boundaries on what we want to see done. But, expectancy opens us up to anything and everything that God might want to do. We have a resounding “yes” in our spirits even though what’s coming is well beyond our realm of understanding or imagination.
Ephesians 3:20-21 (ESV) 20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.
At Revival Church and theLab School of Fire we’ve been experiencing undeniable wonders such as gold dust appearing on people, anointing oil coming out of people’s hands, a visible mist of God’s presence, angelic activity and more. I’m sure there has been a gut reaction of doubt and skepticism by many who read about it.
I believe God is lovingly testing and preparing us for the greater glory that’s coming. He wants to see how we will react when he does something new and unusual. Will the first reaction be skepticism and suspicion? Will we attribute what’s happening to him or his arch enemy, Satan? Or, will we be fueled by such expectancy that faith and belief is our immediate reaction?
Check out this email I received this morning from a close friend who’s a student at ministry school:
John, I must admit I've been extremely skeptical about your Facebook reports of gold dust. People so desire the Lord move in their midst they will imagine many things. I mean, what's the purpose of gold dust anyway. Apparently, you can't collect it and take it to the bank. It just disappears after a while.
People can react to a song or phrase in a fleshly manifestation when nothing is actually happening. Although I think we must stay on guard against such things, something happened this morning that has radically shifted my thinking.
During admin time before moving into the prayer room this morning, a woman in the back of the room started laughing uncontrollably. After a short time of ministry to her, they took her out in the hall and continued with announcements.
A minute later, a young woman across the aisle from me started trembling and weeping. The girl next to her said, “There's oil dripping from her hands.” I looked and could see it with my own eyes. See laid hands on a sick woman and received healing. I must repent of my unbelief and skepticism. This girl seemed like one of the most introverted and timid I've ever met. Here with my own eyes I see the Lord manifesting something I don't understand through her.
O Lord help my unbelief.
7 Key Points to Consider
ONE. What’s the purpose?
Often people will doubt that a manifestation is a result of God moving because they can’t connect the dots. They can’t answer the “why?” What benefit does the gold dust have?
I personally think we’re overcomplicating this issue. Most realities that we experience in life don’t have a purpose, they just are.
What is the purpose of smoke at a campfire?
What’s the purpose of the smell of spring rain?
What’s the purpose of the sound of thunder?
There is no real purpose. They are simply evidences of fire, of rain and of lightning.
Gold dust, for example, is an evidence of God manifesting in glory in a certain location. That’s all.
But, that’s really not all. We know that evidences result in some pretty remarkable things—people get radically saved as they see God move!
Acts 2:43 (NIV) 43 Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles.
Acts 2:47 (NIV) 47 ..And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.
TWO. Should we ignore or deny what is clearly happening?
I’ll admit, when I hear from people who doubt that what we are reporting is true, my first reaction is, “I’m not sure what to do with your skepticism. I saw it happen.”
I mean, if it’s happening right there in front of us, with many witnesses, should we ignore it? Deny it?
If we allow unbelief or skepticism violate the clear evidence of God’s glory we are in a lot of trouble. God’s manifest presence will be gone that fast.
We also have to be careful not to jump to conclusions that are fueled by unbelief when we hear of God moving unusually somewhere.
Mark 16:14 (ESV) 14 Afterward he appeared to the eleven themselves as they were reclining at table, and he rebuked them for their unbelief and hardness of heart, because they had not believed those who saw him after he had risen.
Matthew 13:57-58 (ESV) 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his hometown and in his own household.” 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
Someone sent me this message today on Facebook. He couldn’t deny God’s presence or his manifestation:
Back in 2009, I had oil appearing to flow from my hands and gold dust appearing all over me. Most of the time this happened in my home. People were amazed when they visited my home…mostly because of the presence, NOT the manifestations. Well, I haven't had those happen in years, but I got so excited when I read your recent posts… not because of the manifestations, but because of the presence…and because of what's coming to you NEXT!”
THREE. Why do we immediately presume unusual signs and wonders are the work of Satan?
This point is more serious than we might realize. Yes, its absolutely true that Satan will deceive people through deceptive signs and wonders.
2 Thessalonians 2:9-10 (ESV) 9 The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, 10 and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Note that this passage emphasizes that it’s specifically those who are perishing, those who don’t love truth, who will be deceived. Those of us in love with Jesus should not be fearful or nervous when signs and wonders start happening!
If we are deeply in love with Jesus, we will easily identify the lover of our souls when he’s in the room. The anointing will overwhelming, and when the signs and wonders follow, there can be no denying that it’s God himself who’s manifesting.
The reason this point is very serious is because of the one sin that is unforgivable—blasphemy of the Holy Spirit.
Those in the suspicion driven heresy hunter movement often creep very close to the edge of this sin—and certainly some have gone over that edge.
Mark 3:28-30 (ESV) 28 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, 29 but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin”— 30 for they were saying, “He has an unclean spirit.”
Wow. That is sobering. The fear of God should rock us. They were saying Jesus was manifesting demonic power when in fact, of course, he was demonstrating the power of God.
FOUR. Should we not be more concerned when miracles aren’t happening?
Mark 16:17-18 (NIV) 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well.”
Is it possible that we have churches full of unbelievers? I’m not talking about those who haven’t repeated a sinner’s prayer. I’m talking about church goers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord. Yet, their unbelief results in no supernatural power in their lives. No demons driven out. No healings.
The expected atmosphere for a Christian church is one of signs, wonders and miracles. They are the result of belief. It’s that simple. Check it out:
John 14:11-12 (NIV) 11 Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves. 12 I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.
It seems to me that a more accurate conclusion would be that the enemy is the key influencer when we don’t see signs, wonders and miracles. Demonic and humanistic conditioning results in unbelief. Unbelief ensures nothing miraculous will happen at all.
FIVE. The Bible doesn’t contain a record of every manifestation or Kingdom activity.
A lot of people get tripped up here.
Scrutiny causes them to shun anything unless they can validate it through a duplicate situation recorded in scripture.
The question shouldn’t be limited to, “Is this exact manifestation recorded in the Bible?” The question should actually be, “Does this manifestation line up with the truth of scripture, and is there anything in the Bible that would forbid or shoot down what we are experiencing?”
John 21:25 (NIV) 25 Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.
Have you considered that some of what is happening might be a part of what Jesus did that wasn’t contained in scripture? Have you also considered, based on John 14:12 that we are to do MORE than what Jesus did?
Take ten minutes and consider everything in our Christian culture that isn’t found in scripture. Do you really want to throw it all out?
You’ll have to stop using the word Trinity. There will be no celebration of birthdays, Christmas or Easter. We would be forbidden from tapping our toes during worship. There would be no electric guitars or saxophones in worship. The only valid spiritual dreams and visions would be those that are exact duplicates of dreams and visions in scripture.
God giving specific, personal answers to prayer would not be allowed, unless God also revealed that in scripture (He’d have to mention the exact city he wants you to live in and the exact place he wants you to work in the Bible, for example.)
What about paid children’s pastors? Media ministry pastors? Television ministry? Wearing crosses around our necks? Nope.
SIX. What about all that the Bible does contain that we aren’t experiencing?
An even easier way to address the issue raised in the previous point is this: Why aren’t we experiencing all of the dramatic signs and wonders that are in the Bible?
Cover to cover we see wild and bizarre manifestations and miracles of God.
A pillar of fire, a cloud, parting of waters, blind eyes opened, the creator, walking on water, manna, a burning bush, angelic encounters, trances, Third Heaven encounters, and on and on and on.
I believe we must repent for living below the bar of supernatural manifestation in our churches and have an increased expectancy for the unusual, strange and overwhelming manifestation of God today.
SEVEN. The Bereans weren’t skeptics.
There’s a Pharisaical spirit in a growing group of people that are masking themselves as Bereans.
The Bereans weren’t skeptical. They weren’t suspicious. They weren’t nervous. They weren’t divisive.
People often say that the Bereans were marked by their study of scripture—and that study was to police any activity that would violate the Word of God. People presume they were self-appointed protectors and “officers of the law.”
Most common day, self-described Bereans are filled with unbelief, suspicion, doubt and a spirit of division that’s used against anybody that threatens their personal, narrow interpretation of Scripture.
Those people are not Bereans, not by a long shot. Many of them venture very close to the Blasphemy of the Holy Spirit. Others are simply arrogant and mean spirited. Others are simply deceived. In fact, they could better be defined as Thessalonians.
Acts 17:1-9 (NIV) 1 When they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a Jewish synagogue. 2 As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ,” he said. 4 Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women. 5 But the Jews were jealous; so they rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason's house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd. 6 But when they did not find them, they dragged Jason and some other brothers before the city officials, shouting: “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, 7 and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar's decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.” 8 When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. 9 Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go.
The Thessalonians heard Paul talking about Jesus and about the supernatural miracle of resurrection from the dead. This was a problem for the Jews. It bothered their theology. They then adopted a spirit of accusation (a demonic spiritual gift) and declared that the message was not of God and that they were causing trouble.
So, the moved on to Berea. Here we find true friends of God and people who were expectant, open to a fresh move:
Acts 17:10-13 (NIV) 10 As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. 11 Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. 12 Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. 13 When the Jews in Thessalonica learned that Paul was preaching the word of God at Berea, they went there too, agitating the crowds and stirring them up.
Why were the Bereans counted as more noble? Because they received the message with great eagerness! They excitedly, expectantly searched the scriptures for confirmation. They were joyous, not suspicious. Not guarded. Not nervous.
So, a great question is this: When we hear of God moving in a new way, will we be like the Thessalonians who were threatened and full of doubt or like the child-like Bereans who excitedly received the Good News?