There is a well known book among those who read of historic Christian revivals entitled “I Saw the Welsh Revival”, by David Matthews. It’s an eyewitness account of the remarkable outpouring of God’s Spirit in Wales, 1904. It was a time like no other, and there is ample literature and documentation available for those who would look for it. The wise will do so.
I was not alive in 1904 (!), nor even in 1949, when the praying sisters in the New Hebrides and that great voice Duncan Campbell were witnesses to a true moving of God’s Spirit that transfigured the moral and spiritual climate of those islands off the west coast of Scotland. Campbell would later describe the revival as a time when “God stepped down, and was at work amongst men.” We need to be aware of what the Lord has done throughout Christian history, and learning more from these revivals- among many others- will kindle a flame of hunger and faith for a mighty work of His hand in our day.
We must make note of more modern works of God’s Spirit as well, and among the many, I aim here to share my own experience in what came to be known as the Brownsville Revival in Pensacola, Florida, 1995-2000. Men have criticized this moving of God’s Spirit, as is always the case in times of revival, and often the criticism came from those who had little or no understanding of what really occurred during those last years of the 20th century. To be sure, no revival is without flaws (as Wesley famously noted), but we err tragically if we permit the shortcomings of men to eclipse the glory of God’s work.
Prayer Leading Up to the Revival
The revival, unlike the Welsh or Hebrides revivals, was poured out upon a Pentecostal congregation, the Brownsville Assembly of God. Though the denominational roots differed, God was clearly at work in similar ways. He transcends our affiliations and responds to hearts that hunger and thirst after Him. You may have heard only negative accounts about Brownsville, but if you’ve studied past revivals as I have, it will be clear to you that the fires of revival were burning for those 4 or 5 years at the end of the 20th century.
In 1993, Senior Pastor John Kilpatrick changed the order of the Sunday night gatherings from the standard service where the congregation often heard from guest speakers, to a night of prayer for revival in the Church and in the nation. Evangelist Stephen Hill, principally used of the Lord to preach in the revival, later shared a journal entry from one of his earlier visits on these Sunday night prayer meetings:
If the Lord is going to pour out His Spirit anywhere, it will be at Brownsville.
He testified of seeing children prostrate before the Lord, some of them with fingernails sinking into the carpet, weeping and interceding over the condition of their unsaved loved ones. It was “deep calling unto deep” in the heart of the Pastor, and in the hearts of those in the congregation. A spontaneous, unusual moving of God’s people unto prayer has always preceded remarkable seasons of Holy Spirit outpouring.
“When God is about to do a mighty new thing, He always sets His people praying.” -Jonathan Edwards
“When God Stepped Down”
On Father’s Day, June 18th, 1995, Stephen Hill visited to preach. He was a 41-year old evangelist who had labored abroad in America, Europe, Russia, and Argentina. At age 21, he was dramatically saved from a life of sin, including drug addiction and multiple crimes that led felony convictions. He went through Teen Challenge and on to Twin Oaks for biblical training. This formative time, in ministries established by David Wilkerson, helped shape the manner of man that would make him a voice in the revival. His class on prayer in Bible school was taught by Leonard Ravenhill, whom he later developed a close relationship with. These influences undoubtedly marked him, and I am convinced that the revival itself was partly the fruit of brother Ravenhill’s tears in prayer for revival, as well as his fervent prayers for Stephen Hill and Michael Brown. He knew and prayed often for both of them in the latter years of his life. (It is an interesting coincidence that the revival commenced on what would have been his 88th birthday.)
Stephen’s insatiable burden for lost souls, which often drove him to tears while preaching a message of repentance and forgiveness, spread like an uncontrollable flame through the hearts of men in the revival meetings.
That Father’s Day in 1995, after the congregation had contended for revival in prayer for 2 years, witnesses testified that an unusual measure of the Lord’s presence and power came into their midst. What followed was a remarkable season of revival, wherein multiplied tens of thousands came to repentance and faith in Christ. The Spirit of the fear of the Lord gripped men’s hearts, ministers were quickened to prayer, a burden for the unsaved permeated the atmosphere, and “times of refreshing” came “from the presence of the Lord.” Within 5 years time, more than 200,000 souls had cried out to the Lord for salvation and mercy, over 200 laborers had gone overseas for long-term missionary labors, and countless Christians- believers and leaders- had responded afresh to the call unto a life of holiness, worship, prayer and evangelism. The Lord had heard the cries of His people for an outpouring of the Spirit, and the fruit of His answer was both glorious and historic. The fires of heaven-sent revival were burning.
Professor Vinson Synan, a leading Pentecostal historian and the Dean of the Regent University School of Divinity, has called it “the largest local church revival in the history of America,” writing that, “Brownsville, with its emphasis on conversion and people weeping over conviction of sin, seems to be a revival in the long tradition of American native revivals dating back to the preaching of Jonathan Edwards. There’s heavy preaching on sin, repentance, conversion, and holiness. And there’s a lot more weeping and wailing over sin than there are the so-called exotic manifestations.”
As with all historic revivals, there were unusual happenings, controversy, and various manifestations. But the overall tenor and message of the revival was in a continuum with all true revivals of yesteryear. Revival will glorify Jesus Christ, not a man or a peripheral doctrine, and the outbreak of rejoicing that occurs will be the result of His redemptive work in the midst of the people. The joy will not issue from the faddish buzz of a new emphasis or movement, but from the awareness of mercy that springs up from souls who have beheld the cross, experienced redemption, and who are thus overflowing with praise and thanksgiving to the Lord for “so great a salvation.” Such was the case at the Brownsville Revival. And this will be the case in all true revivals, great or small.
My Own Experience
In July of 1996, over a year into the revival, I was a 17 year-old atheist, regularly doing drugs, toting guns, given to drunkenness, filled with rage and bitterness, and battling suicidal thoughts.
My great-grandfather was an AG pastor, a man of holy living, and an intercessor. I had been raised in the Assemblies, but at the age of 17, I had not yet been born from above.
The youth pastor at my parent’s Church was planning a missions trip to a poverty stricken area in Medart, FL. His intentions were to stop for a day at the revival on the way down. My parents asked him if I could go along, and his response was, “It’s a missions trip. He’s not even saved!” He agreed to pray about it, and the Lord impressed him to bring me along.
We arrived in Pensacola on July 20th, 1996, and showed up at Brownsville AG at about 1 p.m. Already, nearly a thousand people were gathered in a large bunch near the door, waiting for the meeting which began at 7 p.m.! As an unbeliever, I thought, “What is wrong with these people? They’re nuts! Why are they so excited to get into an AG Church?” I remember spontaneous hymns of praise rising from the throng while we waited outside in the hot Florida sun. “How Great Thou Art,” “Amazing Grace,” and several others. Passers-by on the street (the Church met in the poorer area of the city) were hearing songs of praise to the Lamb of God, and this has been common in times of revival over the course of history. O, that every city would hear again of the glory of Christ, through the revived hearts of His people! But here I was, in the midst of the crowd, totally detached from their joy.
My hardened heart grew curious when the doors opened, as I saw men, women and children moving quickly and earnestly for a seat in the building. As I walked into the building, even as a hardened sinner, I began to sense a difference in the atmosphere. A strange pull began to affect me. I felt increasingly uncomfortable about my sin, but there was an unspoken yearning for truth, reality, and salvation rising in my soul. I watched the people engaging in fervent and sincere worship and praise which lasted well over an hour, and a conviction of my sinfulness was intensifying. I attempted to put a wet blanket over it, even turning to the young man next to me and speaking in jest about the people worshipping around me. But I could not evade or circumvent the fact that something, or Someone, as real as He was invisible, was moving in the midst of this people.
The evangelist then brought up several women from South Korea, who had come to America to pray and street witness at the Atlanta Olympics. “What did you come to Brownsville for, dear sisters?” “To receive the Holy Spirit,” they replied. Upon praying for them, they collapsed in a heap on the platform, with tears flowing copiously, crying out, “Oh God! Save souls in Atlanta…. Souls…. Souls….” The prayer went on for some time, and when it subsided, the evangelist began to preach. It was a passionate call to repentance, a cry to humble ourselves, turn from sin, have faith in the work of the cross, and receive the free mercy of Jesus Christ. I later discovered that this was his message every night at the Brownsville Revival, but on that night, I felt I was alone in a room with the preacher and the Holy Spirit.
The word was like a hammer that shatters the rock, and I could not resist the Spirit any longer. I understood clearly that I had to “flee from the wrath to come” and receive a new heart from the God of mercy. I was undone in my sin, and overcome with the revelation of the cross of Christ. I was gloriously born from above that night, and nothing has been the same since. Glory to the Lamb that was slain!
When I went back to high school the next semester, 27 students called on the name of the Lord as a result of the transformation they saw in my life. I was immediately freed from the grip of drugs, alcohol, suicidal tendencies, and rebelliousness toward my teachers and parents. One day, I even jumped in my ’89 Thunderbird and ran over more than 250 of my music CD’s that were filled with immoral themes and profanity. What else could I do? I had experienced the cleanness of a forgiven heart for the first time, and I could not engage in that which contradicted it. I began preaching in youth gatherings, bearing witness to the Gospel on the streets, and leading prayer meetings.
In August of ’97 I went back to Brownsville to attend the ministry school (at which Dr. Michael Brown was the President), from which I graduated in May of ’99. It has been a remarkable journey with the Lord, and it all began on that day when I passed from the kingdom of darkness, into the kingdom of His glorious Light. This was the experience of many thousands of souls who came to the Lord through the Brownsville Revival. We were witnesses of this for years, as we saw souls from every background- prostitutes, wealthy businessmen, thugs, and even preachers- bowed low before a holy God, crying out for mercy over their sin, having found that they were in need of cleansing as “God stepped down” in the midst of the gathering. Many souls, like myself, entered through the doors in unbelief, “dead in trespasses and sins”, and were born anew of the Spirit of God, saved to the uttermost by the power of the Gospel.
I remember many meetings when the fear of the Lord would grip the whole congregation of 4 or 5 thousand souls. Unbelievers were screeching and crying for mercy, intercessors weeping and wailing, and many throughout the crowd calling out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord….” Sometimes hours would go by in this manner, and you were gripped with the sense that brings to mind the words of an elder in the Hebrides revival:
“Tread lightly, for God Himself is hovering over us!”
I used to meet with a brother for prayer before our Bible school classes, and I recall pulling up to the school property in March of ’98, where the student’s morning prayer meeting was moved upon by the Lord in a profound way. When I pulled into the parking lot, students were prostrate all over the campus, laying in the grass or on the sidewalks, groaning with hunger for God, and asking Him for mercy on behalf of our nation. Strong men were broken before the Lord, trembling and weeping in prayer, and everywhere in these times the hearts of God’s people seemed fixed on His throne. You were directed heavenward merely by being there. I felt as if I had stepped out of my car and into another world, where the earth was permeated with God Himself! O, that every community of saints would be marked with this kind of reality, for the glory of Christ!
True revival will not necessarily look the same in form, cultural expression, or style of worship. But when God is at work in the midst of His people, Jesus will be glorified, the “pure celestial fire” will burn in the hearts of men, the preaching will be marked with conviction, brokenness and holy authority, the burden for the lost will break out, heaven and hell will become real to men’s hearts, a passion for the Scriptures will increase, the Spirit of prayer and intercession will be kindled and will spread, the joy of the Lord and the fear of the Lord will mark the Church in a remarkable way. These are some of the fruits of authentic revival, and it ought to alarm our souls that they are so scarcely seen in the Church of our day.
When the Lord is at work in your midst, it won’t be identical to Brownsville, Wales, the New Hebrides, the Great Awakenings, or any other historic moving of His Spirit. But the reality of God, which purifies and revives the hearts of His people, exalts the Lord, and turns transgressors into saints will soon be evident. Do you long for Him to come to your community, dear Christian, or are you cool and content with the gravitation toward moral blurriness, prayerless Christianity, and a low view of the majesty of God?
We are in radical need as the Church in these days, particularly in Europe and America. As the moral tone of society continues to decline, as the saints find themselves more and more distracted by technological advances and novel forms of ministry, as strange doctrines and fraudulent gospels are introduced to the religious landscape of our nation, we are in need of true revivals again. O, that a cry would ignite in the hearts of His people! O, that the fire of God would again fall! O, that conviction would grip the house of God! O, that the tide of prayer and worship would rise again! O, that repentance and mercy would flow again in a watershed revival!
We’ve got to give ourselves to prayer, saints, that the Lord would quicken and awaken our hearts and our churches, that our cities would know something of His reality. I don’t know about you, but I’m dusting off my old revival books, and “remembering the deeds of the Lord.” I am not content merely to read about them. I want to weep and pray, repent of my own sin, respond to the Lord in obedience, turn to Him afresh, and cry out for an outpouring of mercy, “waters upon the dry ground.” He is stirring His people afresh in these days. Prayer is increasing, and something is happening in many hearts. We must take the “ancient paths” of prayer, worship, and obedience. We must pursue the knowledge of God, contending for revival and a recovery of foundations.
…. It is one thing to shout it, it is one thing to sing it, it is one thing to talk about revival, but give me a people on their faces, seeking to be rightly related with God, and when that happens, we will soon know the impact of God-realisation in our country.
God is not going to respond to a feeble fleeting wish.
If you want revival, get right with God. If you are not prepared to bring the “last piece”, for God’s sake stop talking about revival….
It is about time we got into the grips of reality. Are we thirsty?
Daniel Kolenda, a new writer here at VOR, is a fifth generation Pentecostal preacher who received a calling to take the gospel to the nations as a young boy. In 1997 his life was radically changed after an extraordinary encounter with God’s power at the Brownsville Revival. After attending the Brownsville Revival School of Ministry and Southeastern University, Daniel began to travel with evangelist Reinhard Bonnke as an assistant, seeing multiplied thousands of people physically healed and put their faith in Jesus. He is now on the senior leadership team for Christ For All Nations, and regularly preaches at CFAN crusades.
What does an African CFAN crusade look like? The following video shows the crowd at a meeting in Nsukka, Nigera during a message from Dan on who Jesus is (an estimated 300,000 people were in attendance):
I was raised in a pastor’s home. In fact I am a fifth-generation pastor’s kid. I cannot remember a time in my life when I did not love Jesus. I was born again when I was 6 years old and have followed Him ever since.
What do you believe God has called you to do?
As a young boy I felt the calling to preach the Gospel. I used to ride on my bicycle from house to house knocking on doors and witnessing to anyone who would listen. As a teenager I started street preaching. Today, I do the same thing I have always done, just on a larger scale. Along with the preaching of the Gospel, I have a desire to inspire and equip people to do the same. This is done through conferences, writing and any other means available.
What drives you?
I just want to hear Jesus say, “Well done”.
You preach to hundreds of thousands of people at Reinhard Bonnke’s gospel crusade events in Africa. Describe what that’s like.
Contrary to what many people imagine, I do not feel nervous at all. Instead there is an overwhelming sense of responsibility. To stand before half-a-million people and realize that, for many, I might be the last chance they have to find the “Narrow Gate,” is a sobering reality. But when I hear the massive crowd praying with me, receiving Jesus, many with tears, I feel as though all of Heaven is watching and listening. It is without question the greatest privilege in this world to lead millions of people to Jesus. My eyes well up with tears just thinking about it.
Unbelief often infiltrates our hearts in the most covert ways. Sometimes we don’t even realize that it’s there. It is good from time to time to take stock of our own belief system to see what is based on God’s Word and what is simply something that we have heard repeated, even by godly leaders, and accepted as fact.
One of the most common questions that people ask me is, “Why do these incredible miracles happen in Africa but not in the western world?” I have heard very well known and well-intentioned ministers give entire teachings about why God doesn’t do it here. I have even heard one use Reinhard Bonnke’s crusades (where I preach) as an example. Some of the explanations I have heard are actually very rational and really explain in detail why it works this way. I must admit, for a long time I also had various answers to this question. And then one day, it occurred to me…the problem is revealed by the question itself.
Hebrews 11:6 says, “…He that cometh unto God MUST BELIEVE.” Anyone who approaches God with the preconception that God heals there but not here (wherever “here” and “there” may be), has already prophesied the outcome of there own request. You cannot approach God like that. Faith is the fundamental basis upon we can and must approach the Almighty.
Where did we get the idea that God does greater miracles in third-world countries than he does in the west? Many people, in asking this question, have just accepted this notion as fact, but what data is it based on? There is certainly nothing in scripture to support it. I can tell you from my own anecdotal experience, as one who ministers all over the world, that THE POWER OF GOD IS THE SAME in the Western world as it is in Africa, Asia or any third-world country. I just returned a couple weeks ago from a tour in the United Kingdom. We saw incredible miracles in every single service. Tumors were disappearing, deaf ears opening, arms, legs and eyes instantly healed. In fact, given the relative numbers, I would say that in many places in the west I have seen more healings then even in Africa – you can’t tell me that miracles don’t happen in the west!
Psalms 78:40, 41 gives us some fascinating insight on God’s frustration with the Children of Israel in the wilderness. It says, “How oft did they provoke him in the wilderness, and grieve him in the desert! Yea, they turned back and tempted God, AND LIMITED THE HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL.”
Of course the Children of Israel had seen great wonders and signs unlike any generation of human beings before them. They knew that God was powerful, but they subjected Him to a set of parameters and constraints based on their own experiences. God was provoked and grieved by their limitations and allowed their doubt to become a self-fulfilling prophecy (ie. Ex. 14:11 the Israelites say, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” – Num. 26:65, God says, “They shall surely die in the wilderness. And there was not left a man of them, save Caleb the son of Jephunneh, and Joshua the son of Nun.”)
Even Jesus had a taste of this in His own ministry. When He returned to His hometown Mark 6:5 says, that He was not able to do any miracles there. I can just hear the locals asking each other, “Why do miracles happen in Jerusalem and not in Nazareth?” Their unbelief was literally enough to limit what He was able to do in their midst. Their unbelief had become a self-fulfilling prophecy.
The philosophy that God doesn’t do it here, is nothing more than an insidious, demonic doctrine of unbelief, and I, for one, refuse to humor the bogus assumption discretely tucked into the question any longer. How has Satan managed to get us to buy into this baseless lie wholesale? It was in the west that the Great Awakenings took place. It was in the west that people like Smith Wigglesworth, Kathryn Kuhlman, William Branham and all of the great healing evangelists of the 30’s 40’s and 50’s witnessed some of the greatest miracles in recorded history. It was in the west that the Holy Spirit was poured out in Wales and Azusa Street and the Hebrides. The Charismatic movement, the Jesus People movement, the Toronto outpouring and the Brownsville Revival, all happened in the west.
It’s worth mentioning that this is not a uniquely western problem…it is a human problem, a problem of unbelief, a problem of limiting God. You see, for some reason, many have subconsciously bought into a philosophy that says miracles can happen everywhere except here. Those in the west find it easy to accept that something miraculous can happen far away like Africa or Asia. But I have also heard those in Africa and Asia talk about the wonderful things happening in America. The voice of unbelief says that anything can happen…somewhere else. This is not faith and it does not please God.
What other notions have we adopted into our belief system that limit God? Maybe we will find that some of our great questions have a very simple solution, one that we have actually known all along, “He that cometh to God must believe…”
One man told me recently, “I consider myself a ‘Chari-skeptic’.” He apparently took great pride in his unbelief – two sins for the price of one. I know people who feel it is somehow noble and a great service to the Body of Christ to question everything that God does. Every healing has to be verified by a doctor, every manifestation needs a logical explanation, and every miracle must be approached with skepticism and cynicism. Their default setting is to doubt their “beliefs”.
While I am certainly not one who endorses mindlessly swallowing everything that comes down the line, I would like to see a new breed of skeptics arise; skeptics that question uncertainty, doubt doubts and are cynical about unbelief.
Jesus was this kind of skeptic. In Mark 6:6, we read that Jesus “…marveled because of their unbelief.” Jesus couldn’t believe that they couldn’t believe. Why are the unbelievers always on the offense and those with faith always on the defense? Isn’t it more logical to trust an all-knowing, all-powerful, everywhere-present God rather than the six inches of grey matter between our ears? I say we should be skeptical of anything that hints of unbelief.
As mentioned earlier, many people ask, “Why do more miracles happen in Africa than in the west?” My response, “Who says that more miracles happen in Africa?” I’m skeptical about the premise of that question.
Here’s another question I get asked often; “Why doesn’t everyone get healed?” My response to that is the same as the one above: “Who says everyone doesn’t get healed?” A valid question might be, “Why didn’t everyone get healed in that particular setting?” But to just assume, based on your own experience or something you have heard, that in every instance, only a percentage of those sick receive a healing, is in my opinion, founded in unbelief.
Another question I often hear is, “Why don’t miracles happen like they used to?” You see, just like it’s easy to believe that miracles can happen…somewhere else, it’s also easy to believe that something miraculous happened in the past, or can happen sometime in the future. The only thing people have difficulty believing is that God can do it right here, right now…but here and now is all we have.
I think that often these questions, and others like them, are really nothing more than a subconscious attempt to let ourselves off the hook. But Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever. His Word, His power and His promises are the same. What’s more, there are plenty of people who are seeing God’s mighty power demonstrated here and now. Bottom line: there is no excuse.
Here we are at the end of another year – 2008, and facing a new year – 2009. I like this time, as it provides me with a great opportunity to thank God for what He has done, evaluate it and anticipate the new season of opportunity. In light of this, I am sensing God challenging me on a few issues as a leader in His Church. In 2008, I have sensed an incredible battle in the heavenlies regarding the Church. I am not one for speculative spiritual warfare type talk. (The Western Church is often confusing and messy over the issue.) However, this year I cannot get away from it. It’s as if there is an incredible opposition against the Kingdom of God. ‘Well, that’s obvious,’ you may say, but this last year has been significant in a way I cannot quite convey, and leaders across nations are saying the same thing. The enemy does not want the Kingdom being expressed as Jesus prescribed through the Church in these final days. Satan is attacking God’s people on all fronts – pride, secret sin, unbelief and fear of the new. It is crucial that the Western Church comes through this season in the right way, because I am convinced that there is a new day of Kingdom emphasis about to dawn. But it will cost us!
In the year 1998 the Lord changed my life during a season of intense dealing in the fires of revival at Brownsville, Pensacola, FL. I found myself as a 20 year old British guy standing face to face with Jesus. It seemed that everything I knew of the Christian life had suddenly taken on a larger magnitude, or had been emptied from me altogether. Everything now for the Lord was ALL or nothing. He wanted me to be His disciple, and in return, He wanted to give me Himself.
To add to that, the time of revival was not just about good feelings, although I experienced those. Rather, it was a time of incredible pain, as I went through a season where the Lord allowed a ‘dark night of the soul’ to come upon me for a month. A power of darkness came during that time and tested me, not with sin, but my standing before God and His call on my life. Yet in all of this, God was not only pouring in the new wine of the outpouring of the Spirit of revival, but He was preparing a new wine skin to hold that for future years to come. I needed stretching, changing, emptying, and that was painful but needed.
Mark 2: 22 says: “He pours new wine into new wine skins…”
This is a segment of Scripture which is remarkable, especially in the light Mark portrays these words of Christ. Mark has a beautiful way of putting accounts of Jesus’ life in a type of invisible connection, so that what the Spirit is speaking through Mark is not only seen in an isolated verse, but sometimes, in the connecting stories around it. Let me illustrate:
Mark 2 & 3 at first glance are an ad-hoc series of stories, with the lessons of the wineskin and Sabbath put right in the middle. But if we read this as a whole, in context, Mark is portraying a powerful truth. In Mark 2: 1 – 12, a paralytic man is placed before Jesus. But rather than proclaim healing over the man first, Jesus forgives the man’s sins! Never in Israel has anyone had authority to do this or dared to say this before! Yet Jesus did before the religious leaders of the day. And what’s more, to prove that that man’s sins were in fact forgiven, the man is healed – demonstrating that Jesus has the authority; that the man’s sickness was a result of sin; sins have been removed; and that Jesus was God – the Son. This was a new day, and it demanded a new understanding of this visitation of God through His Son.
Secondly, in Mark 2: 13 – 17, Jesus calls Levi to become one of His disciples. Levi is a tax collector, scorned by the people of the day. To make matters worse, Jesus and His disciples go to eat with Levi and other collectors and ‘sinners!’ Pharisees make judgments about those with whom He is eating and the One who is supposedly the Messiah. In a nutshell, Jesus says that He will call sinners to Himself and do it on His terms. This was not how men had perceived the supposed Messiah to have chosen His followers. This was new and demanded a new understanding of what this glorious Man was all about!
Then thirdly, the disciples are not fasting, as are those of John and the Pharisees. Jesus establishes before the critics that those with Him are not of an order according to man’s ideals, rather they are joined to Him. Those that are with Him are taking on a new law and Spirit as opposed to that of the old. This was not as men had prescribed things, yet a new understanding of the times and seasons was called for!
Fourthly, in verses 23 – 28, the disciples of Jesus are picking and eating grain on the Sabbath. Again, the establishment challenge Him. He replies that He is Lord of the Sabbath. A new understanding of Sabbath was dawning, and it demanded a new understanding of its meaning for the called out ones of Jesus.
Then in connection to the above, let’s take a general look at Mark 3. Jesus heals a man with a shriveled hand in a synagogue on the Sabbath. Now the authorities want to kill Him. The old cannot contain Him!
After this, Jesus is healing and delivering the masses. Evil spirits cry out in acknowledgment and fear. This has never been seen before! Jesus then goes and prays all night on the mountainside, and chooses the twelve to be His Apostles. THEY are now to carry this same authority and power. They are to take this ‘new thing’ of the Kingdom to the villages and towns. Yet despite this, the authorities claim He is working miracles and setting men free by Beelzebub’s power and even His own family says He is out of His mind! This demanded a new understanding of the Kingdom of God working through a Man and an uneducated band of followers in an unprecedented way.
To summarize, let’s get this straight in our thinking: Jesus is ushering in a new age of Kingdom ministry and grace, the religious establishment cannot grasp it; His family says He is crazy; yet demons KNOW and cry out and the everyday people want to be with Him. This ‘new wine’ is being poured out into a new wineskin, and religious men cannot fathom it, and powers of darkness are afraid and know of its potency!
You see it’s not that Jesus’ is being the latest new fad in town just to be different. Men like that kind of thing generally, and we have lots of that in the West today. Weird for the sake of weird, or radical for radical’s sake. (It might be rebellion!) But rather, the new thing He is doing carries a unique Spiritual power of a Divine order – that in itself is radical by nature. It’s as new wine, and it comes with tremendous force against the powers of darkness. The old order of Israel had tried to fit Him within their traditions, yet He was Lord of the Law and Prophets. Pharisees would not and could not hold Him, nor could His family understand Him. But demons know what’s really taking place, and a random concoction of young men from all backgrounds and dispositions are the ones chosen to be the new wineskin and carry the new wine. Through them demons are driven out. God is altogether radical and unique in His movements and His choosing of vessels, and He delights to reveal His Kingdom through such.
In Acts 1, Luke begins by recalling to Theophilus, ‘all that Jesus began to do and teach…’ – and then Luke proceeds with the beginnings of the new people of God, who carry on as a new breed of disciples, by continuing to do ‘ALL that Jesus is doing and teaching..’ Ministry is incarnational. The Local church is as Christ’s physical presence in a community – His wineskin, carrying what He is saying and doing to a lost world.
Therefore, as Christ’s initial ministry came with the potency of new wine fermenting in a wineskin, so too does His continuing ministry. His mercies are new every morning. Revival is like new wine, but so often the establishment wants to destroy or dampen, or our peers don’t always understand. History shows with the Wesleys, that the old cannot contain the new. It’s not that Jesus wants us to be divisive or rebellious – God forbid! But rather, when He pours out His works through us, the inevitable opposition will come, but His disciples are those who not only embrace the new thing but they allow deep reformation to come, that they may contain the wine.
A. W. Tozer said the following:
A religion, even popular Christianity, could enjoy a boom altogether divorced from the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and so leave the church of the next generation worse off than it would have been if the boom had never occurred. I believe that the imperative need of the day is not simply revival, but a radical reformation that will go to the root of our moral and spiritual maladies and deal with the causes rather than with consequences, with the disease rather than with symptoms.
Let’s remember that God has set His principles in His Word, for us to live by and practice, both individually and corporately. However, let’s not be guilty of trying to put our mold upon God’s people. I believe He is looking for the local church to carry His Kingdom, as a fresh and dynamic expression of the Head through a Body.
Finally, a new wineskin not only means that the Church’s practices must be radically examined, but that God’s vessels must be tested by fire. One man once told me: ‘If a man tries to bear the anointing without purity of the heart, eventually that anointing will crush him…’ We must allow God to radically reform us in such a way that pride, secret sin, unbelief and fear will be utterly eradicated from our hearts. Allow God to expand and enlarge our capacity for Him – what He is doing and saying.
God has also established His ministries in His people, through leadership. Leaders are a gift from God and needed to keep people from wandering and on track in ministry. We leaders are to be an example of flexibility in God’s Kingdom mission. Our job is to warn and instruct – yes, but also to train and release.
My prayer 10 years on from the fires of revival in Pensacola, and for this coming year, is that we will become that new wineskin that facilitates what He is DOING and TEACHING through us, to the World at large. We are to be stretchable and moldable in His hand, not according to systems of this world but according to His holy nature revealed in His Son, Jesus. God is looking for people as the sons of Issachar, men who understood the times and seasons. Such people uncompromisingly look for what God is doing and saying, and as Arthur Wallis said, ‘throw themselves into it…’
Nothing except this will turn the World upside down.