It’s time to take an honest look at the typical Christian experience that is largely disappointing for so many.
Sing along with me:
I went to the enemy’s camp and took back what he stole from me, took back what he stole from me, took back what he stole from me…
This is a fun song to sing and has a sold ring of victory to it, but it has always troubled me. I always wondered why Christians seemed to be playing catch up, perpetually trying to gain back what was lost and attempting to convince themselves that they are victorious. We often try to cheerlead our way to believing we are who God says we are. It’s as if we are sitting on a couch in a counselors office, looking into a mirror and saying, “I’m OK. God likes me. I’m a winner. I’m OK. God likes me. I’m a winner.” If we say it enough, surely it will sink in, right?
Again, let’s be honest. Yes, we as Christians all agree that in the end Jesus wins. Or, do we really believe that? Is it simply easier to believe something that’s far removed and chiseled logically into the stone that holds the tenants of our religion?
What if that end of times war exploded violently and experientially right now? Would we simply embrace peace and easily, confidently know that Jesus wins—or would we freak out and worry as devastation creeps onto our front lawn? Would it it result in a crisis of faith or an eruption of faith?
Our foundation of faith (or lack of it) will result in difficult situations either triggering hopelessness and despair or passionate expectancy.
Lets bring it closer to home.
At any Sunday morning church service I could stand in the pulpit and ask the congregation a question: Who here has a history of financial struggle?
Most hands would shoot to the sky. Yet, we know that scripture declares that every need that we have is provided for!
Philippians 4:19 (ESV) 19 And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.
Do you see the conflict? It’s a crisis of faith that is unfortunately experienced by most Christians!
Think about the 1260 promises in the Word of God. How many are inactive in the lives of Christians? How many have the enemy stolen away? Just where is that camp that we have to find so we can take back what he stole from us?
Psalm 84:11 (NKJV) 11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield; The LORD will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold From those who walk uprightly.
That’s a really good Bible promise!
Why does that verse feel more like a pipe dream than a common reality experienced by Believers?
Because many Believers are actually unbelievers.
They doubt. They are gripped by unbelief.
Check out this passage:
Matthew 13:10-15 (ESV) 10 Then the disciples came and said to him, “Why do you speak to them in parables?” 11 And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. 12 For to the one who has, more will be given, and he will have an abundance, but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. 13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. 14 Indeed, in their case the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled that says: “ ‘You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive. 15 For this people’s heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’
Seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. This issue is gripped the unbelievers in the church!
Why don’t we see extreme prosperity, healing, joy, life and freedom in the church today?
Matthew 13:58 (ESV) 58 And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief.
- Tradition. Another way to say it is historical evidence or past experience. If our confidence and expectations come from past experience and cultural norms instead of the wild realities of the Kingdom, you will live like most every other Christian out there—below the bar of Kingdom wonder.
Matthew 15:6-9 (ESV) 6 …So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. 7 You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: 8 “ ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 9 in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ ”
- Powerlessness. Christians are evidenced by their supernatural power. Check out this problematic passage:
Mark 16:14-18 (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. 15 And he said to them, “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation. 16 Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. 17 And these signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents with their hands; and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.”
What a situation we have here! In the same breath that Jesus rebuked them for unbelief he was telling them to wise up and figure this Kingdom thing out. They were commanded to deal with their doubt and change the world. The way they would pass the test? Faith-fueled signs, wonders and miracles. Does it strike you as concerning that there are Christians out there that have not discovered the power of God flowing through them? It’s a very serious issue.
- Failure of performance. Have you ever quoted verses that dealt with an issue you were facing? Did you add some prayer to the mix only to be disappointed by a failed mission? The Bible speaks to this directly:
Matthew 17:19-20 (NKJV) 19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, "Why could we not cast it out?" 20 So Jesus said to them, "Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,' and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you.
It’s unbelief. Doubt. The moment we give room for any ending other than what is promised in Scripture, you can label that unbelief. So, what was Jesus’ prescription for their unbelief?
Matthew 17:21 (NKJV) 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."
We don’t pray and fast to cause demons to come out. We pray and fast to cure our unbelief. Apply this verse to any enemy that is winning in your life. Depression, fear, poverty, sickness. If you don’t have belief that joy and power and prosperity and health are yours for the taking, then move into an extreme season of prayer and fasting. Breakthrough hinges on your ability to fully believe without wavering.
This verse makes the point very clear:
James 1:5-8 (ESV) 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
If we doubt, we can’t expect to receive. Period. If your mind entertains thoughts like, “God might heal me,” you are pretty much done before you began contending.
- No joy of salvation. Ouch. This one hurts, but must be addressed. We see salvation and faith so intertwined throughout scripture that we simply have do deal with this. If we as Believers are living most of our lives in the realm of unbelief can we casually presume to be saved? I’m not so sure. Check this out:
Luke 8:11-15 (ESV) 11 Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. 12 The ones along the path are those who have heard; then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13 And the ones on the rock are those who, when they hear the word, receive it with joy. But these have no root; they believe for a while, and in time of testing fall away. 14 And as for what fell among the thorns, they are those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by the cares and riches and pleasures of life, and their fruit does not mature. 15 As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.
Do you see how faith and salvation are connected? Here we see the devil stealing the very thing that ensures their salvation—their belief. The next group experiences the joy of salvation, but didn’t have sufficient belief when the trials came. They fell away. It’s the last group that hears the word (faith comes by hearing the Word!) and endures and bears fruit with patience.
- Faith in what is visible. If we default to what is visible and humanly understandable, we will fall well below the mark of belief. This can have often tragic results. The story of King Asa should be an alarm for all of us:
2 Chronicles 16:12-13 (ESV) 12 In the thirty-ninth year of his reign Asa was diseased in his feet, and his disease became severe. Yet even in his disease he did not seek the LORD, but sought help from physicians. 13 And Asa slept with his fathers, dying in the forty-first year of his reign.
I believe one reason we don’t see more healings in America is because it’s too easy to pop a pill and trust that the doctors can heal us. That misguided faith has been devastating in its impact. The majority of our lives as true Believers exists in the invisible realm of the unseen—in the realm of confident belief.
Hebrews 11:1-3 (NKJV) 1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. 2 For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. 3 By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.
For the Believer, the unseen realm has more substance than what our five senses pick up. For the Believer it’s easy and normal to believe the report of the Lord ahead of the report of human experience or human perception.
Church, it’s time we stop hoping and wishing our way to victory. Hope deferred makes the heart sick! We have to put an end to demonic thievery. Pumping ourselves up and cheerleading our way to a low level confidence in God’s Word must give way to a peaceful assurance of breakthrough. We don’t contend for victory, we start at the point of victory. Now, we don’t have to play catch up as we focus on personal identity and success. We can launch with great faith from the platform of success into the world changing missions that God has assigned us to. As champions and authorities in the Earth we don’t ever allow the enemy to steal anything—instead we take dominion over his camp, his domain!
I see a day coming in the church where everybody who simply yet fully believes is wildly joyful, prosperous, healthy and free—strong and ready to annihilate the kingdom of darkness with force!
Revival is a serious threat to the prevailing church structure as it will put at risk every comfort zone we know.
It’s important to understand that it’s a religious spirit that is the force behind anything that might resist a costly revival.
Religion is: man’s attempt to use God to get what he wants
Jesus threatened the church of the day—so the church killed him. They got what they wanted.
Today, it’s normal for many to attempt to use God or to use the church to get what they want. They want life to be comfortable and convenient. They want the church experience to be a certain way. They might shop around until they find the spiritual experience that meets their desires and demands. If people aren’t careful, they can unwittingly embrace a spirit of religion while minimizing the cost, the cross and the mandate to surrender all for the sake of Kingdom advance.
As revival approaches, here are some of the issues we will have to wrestle through:
- All traditions are at risk: Traditions have the power to void the Word of God (Mat 15)! It’s no wonder God is so intent on resolving this issue. The coming reformation will impact many traditions that have become signatures of church as we know it. It’s imperative that we don’t resist the change that will affect the days and times we gather together, the style of worship we’ve become familiar with, programs, etc. The coming church will look nothing like the church we know today. Kim Clement said recently, “The church as we know it is being abolished.”
- Pastors will have to face the risk of losing people, money and their reputations: The pressure for church growth, and the temptation to compete with other pastors and churches for the best ministry, is pretty extreme. Additionally, drastic change to the familiar church experience will be a serious threat to pastor’s salaries and retirements. The fear of loss will hit many. If people who are unwilling to buy into such a drastic change and such a zealous experience decide to leave the church, their money leaves with them. Further, if people leave the church, accusations of pastoral failure will start to fly. Reputations will be lost. The question is, is a move of God more important than security and position?
- Local church missions will have to adjust: When revival lands, it will probably land in a single location. That location most likely won’t be our specific church. This means that local church leaders will have to have open hands and and be quick to release the people in their church to participate at a high level in the revival. The pastors will need to lead the people out as they join forces with the greater city church. When I went to the outpouring in Lakeland, Florida I was saddened that no church marquee gave any indication that they were cancelling some services so they could participate in the revival. Not one. I wonder if the threat of that revival caused them to lock everybody down and keep them far from that tent where the fire of God chose to manifest.
- Investment will increase radically: The time, money and focus required to steward a revival is off the charts. Cares of life must finally be dealt with and preparations to spend day after day and dollar after dollar must be made. Lesser priorities will have to take a back seat to the coming ‘all hands on deck’ season.
- Acts 2:46 (NKJV) 46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple…
- We will have to release control: The Holy Spirit is going to manifest in such bizarre and extreme measure that those who are nervous about such environments will be tempted to shut it down.
- Acts 2:12-13 (NKJV) 12 So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, "Whatever could this mean?" 13 Others mocking said, "They are full of new wine."
- Most people don’t like change, and that is a problem: Leaders tend to shy away from alienating the people they are leading, but a crisis is coming. The change that’s coming to the church will cause most to vehemently resist. Will we as leaders respond to God or man? Peter, interested in man ahead of God, unwittingly renounced the great change and cost of the cross, and Jesus gave him one of the strongest rebukes in scripture. Peter was embracing religion, the desire to use God and eliminate the cross. This religious disposition is a serious risk to revival.
- Mark 8:31-33 (ESV) 31 And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again. 32 And he said this plainly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. 33 But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.”
- Sharp yet love filled prophetic messages must be preached: In Acts 2 direct and prophetic teaching was a direct result of the outpouring. The days of sloppy grace and tickled ears must come to an end.
- Acts 2:36-37 (NKJV) 36 "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
The systems that we have developed are about to be destroyed as God paves the way for the coming church. The revival that’s nearly hear will be both great and terrible. It won’t be a series of nice meetings, but rather it will break a lot so that the love and abundant life of Jesus can be felt in much fuller measure.