“For all of them were trying to frighten us, thinking, ‘They will become discouraged with the work and it will not be done.’ But now, O God, strengthen my hands.” -Neh. 6.9
If we would have anything to do with the enlargement of God’s purposes in the earth, we must be anchored in the understanding that quite frequently, we will experience severe and exacting conflicts.
There is a form of discouragement that feeds the self-life and nurtures cowardice. It might better be called self-pity. Oswald Chambers addresses this ill brand of discouragement like this:
“…. discouragement is disenchanted self-love.”
“…. self-pity is Satanic.”
When we have not adequately launched out with reckless trust in the Lord, we will be repeatedly overcome with self-pity until a deathblow is dealt to our egotism, and if we pass through that death rightly, our illusions of life and ministry will have been pulverized. This is the work of the Cross of Jesus Christ, and it is a mercy from the Lord. Not until the axe has been laid to this root can we even commence to participate in the building of His house.
“If our hopes are being disappointed just now, it means that they are being purified.” -Chambers
If behooves us to discern if we are bound by self-pity, for if we are, it is likely that we are stubbornly moving forward in something that He has not ordained, even if we are purportedly doing it ‘in His name.’ Our “strange fire” must be quenched, our self-initiated ventures must be crushed, and we must be wrung out entirely of the mirky waters of human ambition. It is a necessary pulverization, and once we get familiar with the good hand of the Lord that effects it, we learn to welcome that holy inward work.
When the Lord has permitted the pulverization of our brazen presumption, as was the case in the Babylonian invasion of Jerusalem (for Judah had not heeded to the real prophetic view), He gives vision to to men like Nehemiah. Such servants are required for the building of that which the Lord has envisaged in His great heart.
As with Moses, Paul, Nehemiah, or any other man authentically formed and sent by the Lord, the mountain of fulfilled vision is shown as off in the distance, and a great valley lies between the “Here am I, send me” and the “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Most men faint along the way, having been inspired by the distant mountain, but unwilling to brave the valley of obedience. We delight in the fragrance of the rose but are unwilling to await its growth, and we wilt when touched from time to time with an unexpected thorn. Yet every seasoned florist has felt the thorn from time to time. It is intrinsic to dealing with the genuinely precious things.
We need to come to grips with the fact that the principalities and powers of darkness will press against the true work of the Kingdom until the day that they are cast into the lake of fire. There is no such thing as coasting into the fullness of Jesus Christ. The Scripture says we “wrestle“ and struggle and battle against evil powers in this age.
We will necessarily be met with tumult and our categories will be jostled. This pilgrimage is not a vacation. It is, as one author has written, “a long obedience in the same direction.” Along with all the joys, we must be aware that there will be resistance.
“It is costly to go on to the heavenlies, it is painful; but it is the way of the pioneer, and it has to be settled that that is how it is.” -T. Austin Sparks
Nehemiah would not be discouraged. He turned to the One Who has ever and always been secure and enthroned above every power, for he was cognizant of the fact that he was not building a wall unto himself, nor even a wall within which his people could experience a padded life. It was “from Him, through Him, and to Him,” therefore the servant cannot succumb to self-pity, for that would not be in keeping with the pilgrimage or the work. It would not be in keeping with his calling as a man who walks circumspectly before the heavenly King.
This understanding is in the ‘DNA’ of the apostolic faith. Paul’s own calling was infused from the beginning with the idea that he would meet with serious hostility from men and devils.
“…. he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.” -Acts 9.15b-16
But the line of his obedience held because he was also conscious from the beginning that the call did not have to do with anything that issued to his ego or his self-glorification.
“….he is a chosen instrument of Mine, to bear My name….”
Dear saint, get your eyes off of yourself, pierce through the influence of the powers of darkness in prayer, and behold again the Lamb of God on the throne. Wisdom and strength for the pilgrimage are realized when we behold “the glory of God in the face of Christ.”
Not only is equipment available, but He will nourish, enliven, and hydrate your soul when you let go of self-pity and delight in His Person. “Thou preparest a table before me” in the wilderness, “in the presence of my enemies.”
He is worthy of the totality of your heart, He will fill “everything in every way,” and He will make clear that holy work to which He has called you. Whatever that simple and glorious work might be, let your preoccupation be the glory of Christ, and every bump, hurdle, and wind in the valley will be a privileged occasion for demonstrating His wisdom to the same powers that had previously incapacitated your pilgrimage.
“The evangelization of the world [and every other true obedience] is a desperate struggle against the prince of darkness, and everything his rage can stir up in the shape of obstacles, vexation, and opposition, whether by circumstance or by the hand of man.” -W.C. Burns
“…. in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me.” -Acts 20.23
“We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God….” -Acts 14.22
“Therefore…. I was not disobedient to the heavenly vision.” -Acts 26.19
“Every man will sit under his own vine
and under his own fig tree,
and no one will make them afraid,
for the LORD Almighty has spoken.” -Mic. 4.4
The picture of the world, after being set aright by the judgments and mercies of God at the end of the age, is one of “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” Micah 4 is one of the most remarkable statements of that renovated order of reality, when God Himself dwells amongst men, and His ways become the prevailing government.
There is something about our consumeristic society- the pervasive addictions to entertainment and food, the rat races of the corporate world, the machinic and often heartless nature of industry, the radical mixture of truth and untruth in politics, and the overall nature of a me-first, ‘take care of number one’ culture- that is totally antithetical to the eschatological vision given in the Scriptures.
We are consumers to the hilt, from the nature of our eating and shopping to the whole tenor of our egomaniacal and inconsiderate customs, and they even find frequent expression in the best of our militaristic endeavors and political agendas. Everyone is wanting to be seen and recognized as the greatest and biggest, and this is even prevalent in American ministry. We are willing to step on the backs of others to consume what we desire, and to secure a place of prominence and prosperity for ourselves. The reality of the cross- which is the revelation of God’s self-sacrificial character- has become ‘old hat’, and we have fallen under the waves of an all-too-often noisy, glittery, violent, and irreverent culture.
When at once we are touched by the Spirit of God and brought into contact with His nature, we see that His way and His Kingdom are totally incompatible with the busy-headed spirit of this age.
Everything is calculated to trample the inner-man these days, and if we would come into the rest and sabbath reality of the Gospel, it will require us shutting the door on the world, entering the place of prayer, and “tasting of the powers of the age to come.” If we give in to this consumeristic age we will consume the wine of this world, and consequently, our inner-man will be consumed by the fires of sin and the debilitating values of the powers of darkness. But if we turn from the crookedness of this age, and abide in the reality of God by the Spirit, we will walk in a transcendent peace, humility, and righteousness.
Have you an awareness that the same Spirit and glory that the prophets foresaw in visions of the coming age have been shed abroad in your own heart, if indeed you have believed upon Christ? You need only to surrender your own heart daily, receive the life of the Spirit, and abide in the wisdom and power of that life. It is not in trying, but in dying, that the new life issues. Authentic kingdom living is not an issue of performing religious feats or exerting moral audacity, but abiding in the Man, Christ Jesus. As it will be in the age to come, when the Divine dew of His government permeates the earth, so will it be for the believer in the present age, who surrenders to His governance and luxuriates in His fellowship.
Hear this scholar’s description of the age to come as it is set forth in Micah 4; namely, the ending of war and the destruction of consumeristic values:
As a result of disarmament, every individual enjoys the fruit of his own labor in security (4.4). The rewards of righteousness on the international level work themselves out to peace for everyone. Instead of having to flee to the narrow confines of fortified cities as in times of war, in the new era of peace everyone can sit peacefully ‘under his own vine and under his own fig tree.’ The concrete image depicts the full enjoyment of God’s abiding peace and prosperity without fear of danger. The new age will re-experience the joy and happiness of Solomon’s golden days (1 Kgs 4.20; 5.5 [4.25]; 1 Macc 14.11-12). Zech 3.10 speaks of neighborly fellowship. In fact, there is a flip side to Micah’s vision: by sitting under their own vines and fig trees they show that they have also disciplined their swollen appetites. The dreams of disarmament and of agrarian well-being are inseparable. Those who live by war will die in war (Matt 26.52), and those with ‘swollen appetites’ cannot anticipate peace. W. Brueggemann wrote: ‘The prophecy anticipates lowered economic expectations. It anticipates a modest life-style of not having more than one’s produce and therefore a respect for the produce of others…. Thus this radical vision understands that a dismantling of the military machine carries with it a break with consumeristic values.”
(Micah, Bruce Waltke; Eerdman’s, 2007; p. 212)
If we are dominated by “swollen appetites”, moved by fashion and entertainment, delighting in violence and war, or gripped with fear of danger or poverty, we can be sure that we are neglecting the high calling of the saints; namely, to “taste of the powers of the age to come,” and to drink deeply of the knowledge of God in the place of prayer.
If our hearts have been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are abiding in Him and giving Him pre-eminence in all things, the evidence of that reality will be a grace-charged discipline in areas of appetite, a transcendent rest and peace, and a grace to love and forgive all men, even our enemies.
There is a remarkable kind of Kingdom modesty that we are lacking in this sensational age; a modesty in speech, attitude, appetite, and philosophy, and a bumptious, consumeristic value system has even been the basis for many of our church and ministry methodologies and paradigms. “Brethren, this ought not to be…”
The reason the prophets can describe this most beautiful version of the earth is that their visions are yet future. They predict a time when the earth, the remnant of Israel, and the nations have been purged with the fires of judgment, and after the smoke of that time has cleared, all that remains is a wonderfully God-centric existence.
Yet even now, if we have been touched by the “power” of that future age through the Gospel, and we are in fact abiding in a God-centric manner, our lives will exhibit the same qualitative majesty. Weak clay vessels that we are, a heavenly wisdom, character, and power will be demonstrated through us that will put the Kingdom of our God on display in the present age. We will go from living as consumers, and being puppets in the hands of a self-obsessed society, to “strangers and pilgrims on the earth,” who “desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.” (Heb. 11)
“…. and you shall be witnesses to Mein Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” (Acts 1.8b)
It behooves us then to abide in Him, not merely to toss around theories about what the faith is, and what the future age will entail. “Righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” have been brought nigh to us by the Blood of the Lamb.
I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. -Jn. 15.5
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?
“In the presence of the Lord is fullness of Joy and pleasure forever more.”
His presence in our lives is everything. His presence is our distinguishing factor. Israel was just another nation without the presence of God. They would have been destroyed without God fighting for them. Moses wouldn’t go without His presence. Gideon as one man would deliver the nation because of the presence of the Lord. The prophets stood in the presence of the Lord. John’s revelation was in the presence of the Lord. His presence is everything.
David said, “the nearness of God is my good (Psalm 73.28),” and “Better is one day in your house than thousands elsewhere… (Psalm 84)”
When the ark of the presence was at the home of Obed-edom everything flourished in his life (2 Sam. 6). So it is with knowing God; the flourishing of your life will be in exact proportion to the attention you give to His presence in your life. Only when His presence is the center-piece of our lives, can He make our lives His masterpiece. “Never let anything get bigger in your consciousness than the awareness of His presence… (Bill Johnson).”
Why is this? Because His presence empowers you to obey, and obedience brings nothing but blessing (Duet 28). Jesus said, “Come to me…I will give you rest (Matthew 11.28).” Isaiah 64 shows us that the Holy Spirit gave them “rest” in the wilderness from which “He lead them.” The leading of the Holy Spirit is in the place of rest. This rest is a place of transcendence above efforts and striving. It is the ceasing of striving. “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46.10).” It is the ceasing of your Adamic outflow that enables His Divine inflow. Jesus said, “…but the Father who dwells in me, does His works.” This is rest. Man ceasing from his own initiative and resting in the empowerment of the Holy Spirit within him; yielding to His direction and life. This is the end of your own efforts and the beginning of divine enablement.
Jesus said, “I do nothing on my own initiative (John 8.28).” Evangelist David Popovici said to me one day, “our job isn’t to try to become love, but rather to be filled with Him who is love, power, peace and infinitely more.” The totality of a life laid down is the ignition of this divine rest. We don’t stop going after God to rest, we press into Him who is rest to find rest. Rest is spelled, J.E.S.U.S. The tree doesn’t focus on bearing fruit, but on receiving the sap. We cannot pin fruit on the tree. It will just fall off. It must issue out of an inward connection. This inward connection is cultivated in no other place than spending time with God. Waiting in His presence for His voice to enter and quicken us with a revelation of Himself.
“Law” can be seen as a life focused on fruit, while “Spirit” can be seen as sap focused living. This is the higher life. “The mind set on the spirit is life and peace (Romans 6.4).” This is Christianity. Anything else is just another religion; an adherence to principles and efforts for outward modification without an inward transformation. Bill Johnson said, “to desire kingdom principles without His presence, is to desire His kingdom without the King.” In no other religion does one’s God enter into him and perform the works through him. Our character in God is measured by our ability to surrender to Him. One man said it like this, “the greatness of a man’s power is measured by his surrender.” Our ceasing to be is our greatness, for it makes that man a channel of God’s life.
Spending time with God is the training ground for spiritual life. You learn to hear His voice. You learn to feel His impressions. You begin to experience His heart. You sharpen your vision. You get aligned with His thoughts. This is the absolute heart of life in God. Without this time of diligently entering His rest you will die! The gospel taps you into this rest, but you have to be diligent to abide therein. Hebrews 4 shows us the divine paradox of diligently entering His rest. The rest is then laid out as trust (absolute surrender to Jesus) and obedience (the only outflow of such a disposition). It is as simple as salvation. Colossians tells us, “as you received Him, so walk in Him.”
Leonard Ravenhill said it like this, “a man first collapses in the prayer closet.” Meaning, if a man has fallen in his life, he first failed to fall on his knees for strength. E. M. Bounds said, “the devil trembles when he sees the weakest saint upon his knees.” Why? Because he knows that he has gone to “fetch strength against him.” I tell you that, “praying men stop sinning and sinning men stop praying (Ravenhill).”
David told us to “Wait upon the Lord.” He also showed us that the secret to supernatural strength in God, is waiting on God (Isa. 40.31;Psalm 27.14).” The rest is entered by those who diligently come to Jesus to wait on Him. The rest is the Spirit. The Spirit of God leads and guides, strengthens and enables. So much so that Paul said in Galatians chapter 5, “if you walk in the Spirit, you will not gratify the desires of sinful nature.”
The Greek word that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit has many meanings. Jesus said, “The Comforter will come.” This word means, partner, teacher, leader, guide, advocate, strengthener, stand by, helper, intercessor, comforter and counselor.
What confidence! He knew the rest. He knew that it was above efforts and striving. He knew that in the rest, there is only victory. It is the place of hiding “under the shadow of the Almighty (Psalm 91).” It is the place of which David said, “oh God, My Strength (Psalm 18.1).” “You are my hiding place (Psalm 32.7). Prayer is the air of the Christian life. “When we cease to pray we quench the Spirit. When we quench the Spirit we cease to pray (Benny Hinn).”
The revolution of prayer in the Christian life is a major evidence of the infilling of the Spirit.
“Spending time with Jesus is number one. Don’t ever forget that (David Hogan)!”
“To be much for God, we must be much alone with God (Leonard Ravenhill).”
Spending time with God is your sap for fruit and your air for breathing. It is your heart of victory. It is your power for living. Without it, you will die just as sure as a fish out of water. You will become more and more worldly. You will lose your sense of conviction. You will lose sight of your spiritual purpose. You will begin to ooze the poison of the first Adam instead of the life of the last (1 Cor. 15.45). You will cease to find all your satisfaction in God and by default seek satisfaction elsewhere.
“The Kingdom of God is within you.”
The inward surrender of fixed and sustained full attention upon God in waiting and worship is the only way into the presence of God. David said, “To you I lift up my soul (Psalm 143.8).” His mind, will and emotions laid upon the altar unto God. As a cup could never be filled as it spins on the table so our spinning souls must get still before God for Him to flow into us. Madame Guyon said, “God dwells in absolute stillness.” There is no other place in which to meet Him. Just because you are quiet doesn’t mean you are still. Stillness is the soul laid upon the altar of God in worshipful whole-hearted fixation upon God Himself, anticipating the impartation of His life-giving words into your Spirit. This is waiting. We know very little about what is going on while we are on the earth, it is imperative that we are led by the Holy Spirit in prayer. He knows what is going on. Listen to Him. You will not hear Him in any other place than worship, waiting and whole-hearted attention.
Some use music, a certain prayer or phrase or some kind of aid to focus completely upon God. Once you are fixed upon God you must be sure to sustain your full attention upon Him in worship, not necessarily with words, but definitely with a whole-hearted surrender of love toward Him. This will cause you to become aware of His nearness that is always with you (Hebrews 13.8). This is the base for all of what God wants to accomplish in your time with Him. Here is the dispensing of the most vital nutrients for Spiritual life. His inflow of peace beyond all understanding and complete fulfillment in the most vulnerable parts of man is the overwhelming satisfaction that transcends anything else that exists. This is where the Scriptures will come alive. In Luke 24, it was only in His presence that the word of God revealed Jesus. “He expounded to them…” The presence of God is the key to the Scriptures because they are locked until He opens them.
From this base of an inward setting of yourself upon Him, prayer becomes a powerfully rich experience, both of your hearts releasing to God and His guiding you by His Spirit in seeing the desires of His heart. Prayer will come alive. And there is simply nothing like it. Nothing touches its caliber of fulfillment and life. You can really tell when a man has touched God in prayer. He becomes addicted to the experience of God in prayer.
It is here that He gives you to drink from the river of His delights (Psalm 36.8). Just as a man cannot drink from the river while he is moving, so the soul must stop its activities if it is to ever drink from this wonderful fulfilling river of God that He has granted us unlimited access to. But stopping is only the beginning. Because worship must transcend expression and become reception or it is of little value. No amount of external contact with the river can quench the inward thirst of the soul. We must drink.
Waiting in His presence is renewing and faith building as you cease your outflow and subject yourself to His lead. It is this submission that releases you from the bondage of your own thinking. It makes you a subject and not the leader, respecting the Holy Spirit as the leader. We must be, “led by the Spirit.”
I know this one thing. Without His presence I don’t stand a chance. Neither do you. It is not God’s plan. He wants everything to hinge upon Him. The oneness of God and man! This is God’s desire. Worship; the inward fixation sustained upon God in the worship of total surrender waiting upon Him and His voice is the divine melting of the soul of Man into the Spirit of God.
Editor’s Note: Guest article from David Popovici of FIRE School of Ministry: Chicago.
“Christ in you the hope of glory.”
We are deeply entrenched in sin, within the chaos of this present evil age, to the extent that our minds and hearts are dominated by the pleasures of life and desires for other things. All the while, the devil sees no distinction between the sinful-wasteful son, who despises his inheritance (while on his knees in the midst of the pig trough) and the religious-biblical scholar whose head is vastly larger than his heart.
What has been the desire of God from ages past?
What is the triumph of this Gospel that has kept joyous smiles on the faces of men while facing their death?
I believe the answer to both of these questions the same, namely, Christ in you the hope of glory.
Both sin and religion keep us from knowing God. From garments made of fig leaves to towers built to the heavens, mankind’s attempts to reach and please God have fallen miserably short.
The reason we are in famine on this side of the cross and the New Covenant, is simply because we have not looked upon Him deeply enough. God’s plan for man far exceeds the bettering of our lives now. God is not interested in making you a better person, seeing that you are predisposed to self-centered humanistic living, but rather, He is pleased in filling you with Himself.
Whether the arrogant and pompous or the depressed and suicidal, the issue is this: man can’t get past himself. He is born with his back to God, and is merely breathing to death.
Jesus said to Peter, “flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in Heaven (Matt 16).”
It was only after Peter had eyes to see Jesus, that he could see himself as God had called him to be, “I will give you the keys of the Kingdom….”
In order to truly understand anything, we have to have a revelation of God. God has fully revealed Himself for all to see in the Man Christ-Jesus. He is the exact representation and express image of God and His nature.
“Jesus Christ is perfect theology (Bill Johnson, Bethel Church in Redding, CA.).”
All arguments and debates on God are met at the roadblock of the Gospels. Throughout time God had revealed Himself by His mighty acts, through His holy prophets and even the revelation of His names, yet never before has He fully revealed Himself as He has today in His Son Jesus. All other faiths deviate from Full Gospel preaching at the same point, “Who do you say that I Am?”
I am convinced that God dwelling in man was and is the greatest miracle of all time. The Word of God calls Jesus the last Adam. The man who came to reverse the curse placed on us because of the first Adam, by becoming a curse for us to bring us back to God.
He is not just the Savior from sins; he has forever become the perfect mediator and prototype man.
Jesus Christ is the prototype man!
The Incarnation was never meant to be a one-time event, but to be perpetuated in the lives of all who would repent and receive His Holy Spirit by faith.
We need a radical change of our definition and perception of God and ourselves! Jesus said, “unless a man is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of Heaven.” Paul, when praying for the Ephesian believers, prays that God would give to them the Spirit of wisdom and revelation and open the eyes of their heart, in order to know Him better and consequently, to know what they have been called to be (Ephesians 1.18); a revelation of God and in turn a revelation of what God has made us. “Jesus doesn’t call us for what we are. But because of what He makes from us (Reinhard Bonnke).”
God will not just hold us accountable for what we were, but for what we could have been in light of the Cross and Pentecost.
“…There exists a draft by the hand of God of what our lives could have been…find and live near to that divine original (D.M.Panton).”
It is these two events that divide the New Testament from the Old.
The Cross forever separates you from your own will and this world. Paul said, “I am crucified to the world and the world to me…”
Pentecost imparts Him into you like nothing else can. Madame Guyon said, “the more we posses Him the more we posses His traits.”
Jesus said when speaking on the parable of the Sower, “Do you not understand this parable, how will you understand any of the parables.”
The parable of the Sower, sowing the word of God, is the most radically fundamental parable of all parables. Its end goal is seen in the parable of the mustard seed, which is small until it uproots all other plants/trees that challenge its pre-eminence.
What does that mean?
The Word of God when applied by radical obedience and single-mindedness will put to death in our hearts all that challenges His Lordship. All this is in view of God’s predetermined plan to produce in us the image of His Son (Romans 8.29). Paul travailed in prayer for it.
“My children with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (Galatians).”
Martha was distracted and bothered by so many things and all the while, the Creator was in the room. But Mary sat listening to the Resurrection and the Life. We stop the process of growth when we disconnect from the vine, and we disconnect from the vine when we no longer come to Him and allow His Words to abide within us and ultimately rule us.
We become what we behold. It is as we behold (as in a mirror) the glory of the Lord that we are transformed into that same image, and from glory to glory (1 Cor. 3.18)!
God did not sow His Son to reap servants. He sowed His Son to reap sons.
Christ is the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8.29). God is bringing many sons to glory (Hebrews 2.10).
And the tragedy in the church today is that His bride is either disqualifying herself by her wasteful and selfish living, or by the fact that she has educated herself into unbelief. Both are blind, wretched, poor and naked in the eyes of Him with whom we have to give an account.
We must return to the Cross and Pentecost, everything else is humanism!
When a man is confronted by the cross, he is exposed and naked, because in front of Him lies The Perfect One. It is because of sin He remains unrecognizable, but when that man repents and receives The Savior, he receives the right to become a son of God (John 1:12). In turn, it is when this man looks deep upon the Resurrected and Victorious Lord that he meets Him, in His occupation, as the one who “will baptize in the Holy Spirit and Fire”.
And then that same man now receives the ability to act like a son (by the Holy Spirit).
Adam came and produced a race of sinners; Jesus came and produces a race of sons (Romans 8.11).
The separation between the first Adam and the last Adam is the dripping cross and a flame of fire.
The Question I ask you is this…where do you currently stand?
The answer to your question is exactly what your heart is staring at.
The Spirit of God in a human body is what makes you a Christian; and in your pilgrimage on earth you are to become like the Son, and to whatever degree that you become like Jesus, to that degree you are glorified and remain forever.
The eyes of the heart see best in prayer, fasting and the meditation of His Word, and still these things cannot become a substitute for obedience.
Jesus calls all His disciples to be fishers of men. He never called unto Himself a monastic movement but men who find their purpose in Luke 4:18-22.
Today we have perfect programs but pathetic people. God never asked for our towers of Babel, they impress only man. He said, “I am the light of the world” and then told His disciple that they were to be also.
“God did not call us to merely reflect the light, but to be light.” (Bill Johnson, Bethel Church, Redding CA)
The world is not in need of better or more educated preachers who have relevant messages, but men who have become the message.
God called Ezekiel to be a prophet, which by definition means “a borrowed mouth.” In Ezekiel 3:1-4, God feeds Ezekiel the scroll that was to define his life and calling, and after he eats it, it fills his inner man and then, he is commissioned to “go, stand and speak!”
Jesus, in the same way, tells the crowds that unless they eat His flesh and drink His blood they cannot be His disciples. A more offensive picture might not be possible to a religious Jew, especially since the Law clearly states that the life lies in the blood. But it is clear, that offending people was the least concern of Jesus, since He knew what mans greatest need was; the Life of God. He said I came to give you Life and Life in abundance, not mere human existence as they knew it, but (Zoë: Greek) the God-Life.
The Angel in Revelation gives John a scroll to eat which in turn becomes his calling and message to the church. Jeremiah could not hold in the word, which burned in him like a fire. So we know that Jesus calls all of His disciples to follow Him and it is He that makes them fishers of men. He makes us, fishers of men.
The command remains to GO, and to give Jesus to the world. But a man can never “go” until he has first “come” unto Jesus in fullness.
The Great Commission remains the stewardship of the Church of God. Christ likeness is utmost devotion to the Father and the laying of your life down for men.
The last thing this world needs is more professional preachers. The world needs living epistles written by the Spirit of God and read and known by all men. This is the divine outcry of our generation.
Christian extremism that is marked by radical and holy obedience to God, supernatural love and demonstrations of power, signs and wonders is the only product that God will stamp as “SPIRIT FILLED.”
Anything else is a joke and only provokes the world to more mockery. Let everything else burn, I want to know JESUS and become like JESUS!
It is easy to ask the question…
“Where is the God of Elijah?”
It is harder to answer…
“Where are the Elijah’s of God?”
Where are they? I am not talking about echoes that merely parrot doctrinal truths, but men who have been absorbed into Him and now are His message in the earth.
What separates us from every other faith in the world?
It is the living, tangible presence of God. If we lose that, we lose everything!
Men with no fish are not fishermen; you can call them something else, but don’t call them fishermen. Whatever office you might be called to or gifted in, it is to set the captives free. Freely you have received; freely give.
“Beloved for the sake of a lost and dying world, pay any price get God’s power and set the prisoners free.” ~John G. Lake
Man must swallow the message. It is not until it goes through your insides, that it can take effect on you. Only then will you start to look and sound like that which you ate. Ministry is no longer a burden; but the outflow of the inflow of God into your life.
God’s will remains the same; His union with you is His goal. When He comes and increases in you, then you decrease and die. And it is only then that He can be lifted up in you so that He might draw all men unto Himself.
“One of these days we will get sick and tired of the spiritual bankruptcy that we live in and the joke that our lives often are and we will get serious with God.” ~John G. Lake
I promise you, that if you listen to this whole clip and follow along reading the words with an open and prayerful heart, you will literally never be the same again. This is Dr. Michael L. Brown at his best. There are some subjects that Dr. Brown really burns with heavenly unction beyond the normal quality of his teachings. Spiritual Hunger is one of those subjects. I have wept nearly every time I have listened to this clip. I can tell you that, many times in the midst of life, the Holy Spirit has called to remembrance these very words. Let this short audio clip stir your heart to pursue God with everything you are! Whether it is our first time, or a fresh start, let us pursue God like never before.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God…”
As it is commonly known, the word gospel means “good news.” What “good news” was given to you? Was it the power of God? The Scriptures tell us that the gospel isn’t a matter of clever speech but of “demonstration of the Spirit and power” (1 Cor. 2.4).
There is a reason for this. “So that, your faith would not rest upon the wisdom of men but on the power of God (1 Cor. 2.5).”
This shows us, that some people’s faith can rest and does rest upon the wisdom of men. What does this mean? Some people believe because it was cleverly explained to them. And after they weighed out the religious options and benefits, they chose Christianity. People search for a religion and when they find whatever one seems right in their eyes, they “sign up” and change their lives accordingly. They live somewhat happy having satisfied their religious itch. But they fail to realize that Christianity is not a change of life, but an exchange of life.
This does not and will not lead to a life that actually possesses power. It is the mere following of religious teachings, systems of forgiveness and rules, while professing hope in an afterlife. All of which, most religions emphasize.
When you have received the gospel as the power of God in your life, then you really have life in Him. “He who has the Son has life (1 John 5.12).” It is undeniable. Your devotion is not to a change of life catering to Christian teachings. Your devotion is that a higher quality of existence has entered into you and you now have a hatred for sin and a real love for Jesus inside of you. Colossians 2.6 tells us that, “as we have received Him, so walk in Him.” Our relationship with God is based upon our receiving of Him through the power of the Gospel. We walk in the same continuous power.
The gospel is the “power of God”. It is not “like” the power of God. It is not “the way to” the power of God. “It is the power of God.”
How can a message be the “power of God”? The message is power simply because the message is a Man. Jesus Christ is the gospel of God. The gospel is not merely about Christ, it is Christ (Hebrews 1.1). He is the Word of God. He is the message of God to the world. The good news of Jesus Christ is that deliverance and power, forgiveness and peace, hope and love are found in a Man, not a thinking pattern. Jesus said, “I am the truth.”
Notice that the Apostles didn’t preach about Christ. They preached Christ Himself (Acts 5.42;17.3;2Cor. 4.5). As T. Austin Sparks noted, “God speaks Himself.” This is how men are born again. They couldn’t possibly be born from above by a nominal belief system or by adherence to correct thinking patterns. Doctrine has never saved a person. Salvation only comes by the power of God, who is Christ, God’s speaking, coming into you by faith or your surrender to Him. Paul told Titus that God, “manifested His Word (Jesus) through preaching…” (Titus 1.3). The gospel is the manifestation of Christ. For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness, made His light shine in our hearts to give us the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ (2 Cor. 4.6).”
Christ is the light (John 8.12), giving us a relationship with God by divine enlightenment.
Christ is the life (John 14.6), giving us an eternal quality of existence.
Christ is the way (John 14.6), revealing not only the route to the Father, but also the way of life for those born of the Spirit.
Christ is the truth (John 14.6), the perfect wholeness of life and existence.
To preach Christ is to bring men into contact with Him who is power! It is the reconciliation of God and man. It is impossible to meet Him without fatal damage to your old life. He is power! Freedom is in a man, not a belief system, religion or an attempt to make a life change. The gospel is the power of God, for it is the meeting of man and God, in Jesus Christ, to all who will cast themselves upon Him in absolute (which is to say genuine) faith.
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism.
“…. according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.” -Rom. 2.16b
Is it remarkable to us that Paul conveys the reality of God’s judgment as a crucial component of his “gospel”? Do we see it as “good news” that “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?
Paul is addressing the issues of Law and conscience in Romans 2, and he swings his subject back around to the inward reality, as apostles always do. He declares that even if all seems to be intact externally with the saint, the real issue of judgment has to do with “the secrets of men,” for the Lord is ever and always concerned with reality, and not with the mere appearance of things.
Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment. -Jn. 7.24
Have I been refined a thousand times over in the inner-man, or have I upheld an image of spirituality in public that conflicts with the secret thoughts and motives of my heart? Have I been willing for the work of the cross in my soul, or have I sought to circumvent the word of truth, and clung to a foundation-less reputation that has been applauded by men, but will be found wanting on the day when “God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus”?
If there is duplicity and hypocrisy in my life, if I am still laboring for approval from men, if I am gripped inwardly with greed, pride, lust, envy and fear, the apostle has a word for me, and it is part and parcel with his Gospel. A Day of judgment is coming, when the light of God’s countenance will shine so penetratingly upon my life that every despicable thought, motive, and deed will be exposed. If I have held forth an impressive religious image before men, but have harbored ungodly “secrets” until that Day, they will be revealed in shocking transparency and with exacting clarity.
We may squirm to hear such a thing, but it is Paul’s Gospel. If we have an inadequate consciousness of the Day of judgment, we have not been apprehended by the Gospel of Paul. The gospel of some other man or angel has intruded, and we have been hooked into a lie.
The fact of this coming Day of exposure is Gospel (good news), for we are hearing it now, before that Day dawns. We have the privilege- painful as it may be- of bringing our duplicity and mixtures to Him today, while it is yet day. We have opportunity to repent and believe the Gospel afresh, and when at once we are sprinkled with the blood of the Lamb, everything is made new. When He purges our secret lives, which have harbored all kinds of dark ambitions and shameful musings, and makes us carriers of His own thoughts and desires, only glory remains. We have the remarkable privilege of moving away from a life of bondage and into the joy of becoming stewards of heavenly mysteries.
That is why there is no condemnation for those who are in the Man, Christ Jesus. He cleanses, refines, and heals us from all the corruption and disease that our souls have carried, and grafts us into His own purpose and way. It is no wonder that the Day of judgment was for Paul a necessary element of the Gospel. That Day will once and for all expose and destroy the sins of the world and the hypocrisies of men, and the mysteries of God will become the Government of the entire cosmos. Why should the Church live in hypocrisy and hidden sin when the Gospel has come to deliver us from darkness, both now and in the age to come?
Are you living a double-life, dear saint? Have you some underlying bitterness, anger, lust, rage, or fear still dominating your thoughts? In Light of the Day to come, allow the Father to bring judgment against your duplicity today, and when He burns out your soul-illnesses and makes you true, the exposure of your “secrets” will be Gospel to you, indeed. You will walk in the liberty of the Gospel, which is “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
The secret of the Lord is for those who fear Him. -Ps. 25.14
The Gospel is not an alterable message that can be shifted and redefined by men in their particular customs, preferences, and societies. The Gospel of Paul, which is the Gospel of God, raises a question mark against all that man has been, all that man is, and all that man ever will be within himself. It calls to task the kings of the earth, all who boast against God, and even all those who purport to be spiritual. Only His very mercy can cleanse, only His truth is true, and only His Light illumines our souls to the degree that our secrets are judged, and that judgment is itself a mercy. The Gospel judges not only our external acts of sin, but the secrets of our hearts, and it is a great mercy that He is touching our secret lives now, instead of being exposed when it is too late.
Oh, how jealous He is for His glory, and how jealous He is over our lives. The jealousy of the Lamb is the expression of His great love, in that He will not let us go until we have come into an unhindered union with God Himself.