How many sermons have you heard in your life? How many have you heard in the last year? How many were memorable? How many left an eternal mark inside of you adding to the very make up of your being? Leonard Ravenhill said to his son, “Be careful when you preach, because if you don’t have a word from God, you are not only wasting your hour but as many hours that are sitting in the pews.”
I have had the privilege to hear some of the greatest sermons ever preached. I also have been in meetings where I felt like life was being sucked out of me. I know that you know the feeling of the latter, hopefully you have had the experience of the former. Leonard Ravenhill said, “When was the last time you tip toed out of the sanctuary because you met God.” In Titus Paul said that the, “Word was made manifest through…preaching.” A living word from the throne has that much power, it brings men face to face with Jesus. A word from heaven can sweep one up by the wind of the Spirit into the reforming gaze of God.
I have noticed a few things about these messages. I have noticed that they all seem to have some undeniable and inescapable qualities. After I noticed these things, I made a mental note to weigh each word that I am hearing by this Spiritual scale. I submit to you that this is a very good way to test the spirits. A solid factor in hearing God. A distinguishing maker to determine the origin of a preached word. Maybe this falls short, maybe it is spot on. I have seen it to help me. So humbly I share it with you, to take a piece of paper and mark down how many times in a month that you hear these themes selected by your Pastor. If you find them lacking, I suggest to sensitively share it with him so that he might take it back to God in prayer. There are 5 points. I believe the first is most important but the following four are not in order of importance.
The first and foremost is CHRIST. Listen closely to note how much is Jesus the emphasis. Not just the historical Jesus, but the person. Notice how challenged you are to know Him more and how personally He is referred to. Note in your heart if you genuinely and undeniably see Jesus as the centerpiece.
The second is the CROSS. Are you challenged to take up your cross? Are you able to see the evidence of the cross in your life or lack there of? Note if the doorway into the resurrected life is proclaimed to your soul.
Have you a constant Spiritual remembrance of God’s suffering punctured into your heart? Does the preacher cause you to see the dripping blood of God?
Is there any encouragement to take up your cross in relation to one another? Is the cross the heart of all wisdom presented to you and the universal solution to the problem of man?
The third is how does the things being spoken to you relate to those in CHAINS? We in America often forget that Paul told us to, “Remember those in chains.” Not just to pray for them but that the constant meditation upon the fact that our brothers are suffering throughout the world will effect the very fabric of our thinking. It is not a just balance to weigh a prosperity message next the Father who has just been ripped away from his children for the gospel. I mean, how foolish would a man feel to stand before Richard Wurmbrand, who suffered 14 years in Romanian prisons for Jesus and tell him about his best life now? Or that there is a rich blessing of material things coming his way as he gazes from the floor with a bleeding back unable to walk from his last beating and shivering from eating only one slice of bread a week? We need to remember those in chains when we speak. I am all for being provided for, but if the preaching doesn’t ring true for those in chains, we have forgotten them. If we are giving a revelation of Jesus to the inner man, it will ring to to all men. Not just a select portion of the world.
The fourth is CONVICTION. Paul said that his words came with…”conviction.” Conviction is being convinced inwardly beyond intellectual reason. Conviction is the influence of the Holy Spirit on the soul. Conviction is the power to arrest a man not just about sin but about God. I am moved in the core of my being by words from another world entering into my soul. Prophets burn with this gift. Ravenhill said, “you want to meet a prophet? You probably want to see one but not hear one. Because he will leave blisters on your soul.” Though not all men will carry such a deepness of conviction there must be a sense that this man speaking to me has been with God. Some people describe honey and others dispense honey.
The last is INCENTIVES. What are the incentives that are being laid down in front of you? Is it eternal? Is it a vision of eternity? Has the essence of eternal significance been injected into you? Is there a negative incentive rooted in eternity? That to disobey will have consequences? We cannot preach an emasculated word. It must carry the essence of a positive eternal incentive and a negative incentive as well or it will create a loose generation no matter how great their gifting, their calling or their power – without the fear of God, we will create an emasculated Christianity that cannot overcome the devil.
So these things are very important to me. You may add some or disagree with some, but I feel that it is a crucial layout for weighing a word that is claiming to be from God. If we have failed in these areas, God will have mercy on us. And He will move in spite of us, but to have these qualities is a great indication that you are standing before a man that you can be assured has come forth from the counsel of the Most High.
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
“The end time demands upon the church will require a community situation.”
The cultivation of a community situation is crucial for the growth of an individual. The safety net of deeply spiritual relationships and honest love for one another is essential. Ephesians tell us that “Speaking the truth in love” is the way to maturity. “Love is the perfect bond of unity (Colossians 3.14)” and our unity is to be “of the Spirit in the bond of peace (Ephesians 4.3).” The Holy Spirit wants us connected to others in selfless love, speaking the truth to one another and bound in peace together by Him.
One person said, “you don’t gossip about the people you pray for.” I would go further and say, when you really pray for someone you are melting into them. We melt together in the presence of God. “God Himself is a sweet company (Bonheoffer)” so He reproduces the same. Jesus taught us to “love one another (John 13.34).”
It is my experience that when two individuals, that are flowing with God’s love, come together-they automatically love one another. The Church should be longing to be together. “The fruit of the Spirit is love (Galatians 5).” In the Revival in Pensacola I got right with God and was immediately connected with others who were right with God and we gravitated toward each other, burning for Jesus and one another. This is the product of Revival. Which is to say, the product of the Holy Ghost.
There was a brotherhood deeper than blood. Jesus said, “my…brother is He who does the will of God (Marl 3.35).” Those born of God are now the children of God, born of His Spirit and washed in His blood. We have an eternal connection with each other. Because of this we are in one another, needing one another so we should never neglect getting together (Hebrews 10.25). Actually, something is wrong if we do neglect Spiritual fellowship. Proverbs tells us that the man who “isolates himself seeks his own desire and quarrels against all sound wisdom (Proverbs 18.1).”
We should desire each other and what each one brings to the puzzle. We should never get so earthly with each other that we encourage each others flesh, but seeing one another after the Spirit, lift one another up to God encouraging each others gifts, even if they are not like our own.
The Church is not a building or place of worship. It is the new race (1 Cor. 10.32). They are the only other people in the world who share your mind. The church is a race and not a place; a people and not a steeple. Church isn’t somewhere we go but what we are.
The fullness of the expression of Christ will not come into the world any other way. It is to come through a community of born again individuals who love God and each other. We are a family with the most wonderful Father. Community is a people of common union, sharing spiritual communion keeping a common unity. Pastor Andrew Lamb from Acts 2 Church in Altamonte Springs, Florida always says, “the word of God never tells us to make unity but to keep it.” It other words, Jesus made us one at the cross. The rejection of the cross will cause a rejection of each other. Ephesians 3.10 show us that all things were created in order that the Church would have a platform through which to communicate a wisdom to the principalities of the air. That wisdom is namely, love. “The church is to perfect our wisdom and knowledge on how to live with each other (Art Katz, “True Fellowship”).”
Prayer with each other is the heat of the presence of God that melts us together in purpose, focus, heart and burden. We must pray together. We must tackle issue of life together. We must break things open together in prayer. Fasting together is such a powerful thing, we need to live this way. We should be so connected together in prayer, fasting and strengthening each other with Spiritual gifts, that the only other thing we have time to do together is preach the gospel in the world. Besides seasons of rest to regain physical strength there is no time for foolishness.
The problem that I am seeing is that the church is playing video games together instead of praying together. They play sports or watch sports together instead of preaching the gospel together. They would much rather call a poker night than a season of extended prayer and fasting.
This is not community. This is a bunch of friends that profess Christ. There is no spiritual union or divine melting through hours of movie nights or football. Community is spiritual union as we deliver Christ to each other and to the world together. A pizza night with two movies and a prayer will lead to the disaster of an apathetic complacency that eventually spiral into sin and death to the unity.
Lastly, we tend to gravitate only toward those who are as fleshly as we are or as gifted as we are. May God destroy partiality and bring in a flood of divine love for one another, connecting us as brothers who do the will of God, reaching to this world in prayer, fasting, true spiritual fellowship and preaching the gospel.
“There is no other way, for the way, to be the way, than the way, the way was, when it was the way.”
The first Church was not perfect but they shared their lives together. The first fruits of the Holy Spirit outpouring show us the heart of God for His people. I am convinced that the Holy Spirit upon our lives will create the same today.
We must allow the Spirit of God to move us in love for one another beyond our natural tendency. We need a close life. Many men of God have fallen because there was no brother doing the will of God next to him who could look into his eyes on a regular basis and see if his heart was compromising.
Most church systems in America today are an environment where men can satisfy a religious itch, get an ounce of God and hide from any real dealing with issues. This was never the oneness that Jesus wanted amongst His own (John 17).
Practically we should have at least one strong (preferably stronger than you) brother to talk to everyday if not see every day. We need a core group of people to look at face to face and share Jesus with and receive Jesus from. The fullest picture of Christ is released in the assembly when every member brings from his heart that which the Holy Spirit is impressing upon him.
We love the open participatory place of house to house, but must never substitute it for the devotion to the Apostles teaching in Solomon’s temple.
System churches in America are important to have; the structure, the leadership, the service. It is all good and to a degree necessary. But it cannot be a substitute from authentic Christian love or community as I have above defined it.
The Scriptures tell us that there is one body but many members; the hand and the eye, the foot and the knee. We are fitly joined together and have a part of the whole. We must not look down on the gifts or emphasis of others. We must respect them and let them grow in their area. When a person who is evangelistic meets with him who is pastoral, they need the love of Jesus to see each other’s sides.
It is like two blind men on either side of an elephant. One is holding the trunk and describing it to the one holding the elephants small tale. They must trust each other and hear each other to be able to put together what animal it is. If they insist on their side of feeling alone, they will divide. They must simply feel their side and listen to the other.
Robert Gladstone told me that when two men pray for bread, God may give one man two loaves and the other none. The man with two says, “God why didn’t you give him one of these loaves?” And God says, “I did, when I gave it to you.”
Eric Gilmour is an Associate Editor for Voice of Revolution, overseeing Revival & Evangelism. Visit his website at agonypress.podbean.com
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.” -Acts 8.4
A man’s adherence to a doctrine or Christian theme in an ideal religious atmosphere can be a very dubious thing. When we are in our preferred sanctuaries, listening to our preferred worship songs, and standing alongside our preferred co-members, there is little to test the reality of the faith that we profess.
Western Christianity, which usually functions along utilitarian, humanistic, and convenient lines, is radically removed from the kind of gritty and authentic faith that was the experience of the early Church. If all the glitter and all the facades were removed, we would find in the Church a corporate character quite different than what we may have appreciated and even boasted of when we could only see on a surface level.
The line of inward consecration has been deviated from, the experience of raw faith in the realm of actual life has not been a chief emphasis, and the overall condition of truth and reality has been too infrequently realized by the best of our Church going members.
The depth and profundity of our life in God is not revealed amidst the choruses and events as much as it is revealed when the press of everyday experience is bearing down upon us.
When Saul of Tarsus spearheaded the movement of persecution against Jewish believers in the first century, a great scattering took place. But what was the response of these saints who had been displaced, losing their homes and their possessions while simultaneously being disowned by their own relatives?
“Therefore, those who had been scattered went about preaching the word.”
What would our response have been?
When the real press of life bears down upon us, when conflict increases and opposition arises against us, it is in that moment that we see the degree to which our hearts have been given to Jesus Christ. It may not be in a city-wide persecution against the saints, though I’m convinced that those kinds of realities are likely to increase in the Western world.
It may be in the press of financial challenge, or being misunderstood by a family member, or being falsely accused at work, or being touched with depression or confusion about life or calling. It may be in some other pressing issue; something minor like a bad look from a brother in the Church, or something heavier like some type of life tragedy. Whatever the press may be, the manner of our response is itself the revelation of our true character. Our mouths and minds will reveal the real state of our hearts.
These saints, when displaced and disowned, hated and rejected, went into the uttermost parts of the earth proclaiming that Jesus Christ was crucified and raised up, for their view of life was not earthbound, but preeminently God-centered. We need to be delivered from the power of self-centric living, and lifted into the heights of true worship, where the line of consecration is drawn in truth and reality, and where God gets the glory out of the nit and grit of our everyday lives.
The apostles knew no other brand of the faith than that which was lived upon the lines of total inward consecration to Jesus Christ, and that is why “great glory” attended their lives. Do we wish for some cheaper brand of Christianity?
Ministry today is often viewed as a profession, a career and an occupation. We have been reminded quite often that “the laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7) and that we should not muzzle the ox when he is working (Deut 25:4). When I preach about the call of God into the ministry, the first thing that most people think of is a paid position and the first question that they have is about financial support. It seems that most people automatically connect ministry with a paying full-time job and I wonder sometimes how much interest there would be if there were no possibility of financial reward.
When Malachi was sent by God to Jerusalem shortly after the temple had been rebuilt, he was appalled by the apathy of the people and especially of the “clergy”. He made the observation that the priest seemed to be motivated by what they could get out of their service rather than by sincere love for God and a desire to build His Kingdom. “Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nothing?” he asks. “Neither do you kindle fire on my altar for nothing. I have no pleasure in you, saith the Lord of hosts; neither will I accept an offering at your hand.” (Mal 1:10)
I have no problem with ministers who make a living from their work in the ministry…I am one of them in fact. But if financial remuneration is the incentive and motivation for ministry, there is a real problem.
I started preaching when I was 14-years-old and ever since then, in many different capacities I have always worked in “the ministry”. Most of the time I have been in ministry it has been totally volunteer and has even cost me dearly. I have had to work secular jobs to support my family. Even as a senior pastor I took no salary and never felt entitled to anything. If there were no money in ministry I would still be doing it today and for the rest of my life. Why? Because I love Jesus and because it is what He has called me to do. I cannot imagine not ministering. Ministry is not my job…it is my life. I AM a minister…it’s not just what I do. I am amazed sometimes to think that today I am able to make a living doing something that I love so much.
Jesus told his disciples, “My food is to do the will of Him who sent Me” (John 4:34). He was saying, this is my reward…this is my remuneration; to do the will of God” And then he gave this exhortation, “Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life.” (John 6:27) As ministers we work not for money or for food, but we work for Jesus. Money will follow ministry and as you seek first the Kingdom of God all these things will be added to you.
Unless there’s more to the story than meets the eye, two Jesus-followers were shot for preaching the gospel on the streets in Florida. According to BosNewsLife:
Tite Sufra, 24, … and Stephen Ocean, 23, were shot and killed in Boynton Beach in the U.S. State of Florida where they evangelized last Saturday, January 30, after meeting Jeriah Woody, 18, local police said.
“They witnessed to Woody for fifteen minutes when he got a phone call and told the preachers he ‘had to go’, added the Commission, which closely monitored the case.
“As they walked away, Woody suddenly started walking back toward them. Sufra walked up to greet him and was killed with a shot gun blast at point blank range. When Ocean ran, he was shot in the back. After he fell, Woody shot him in the head execution style.”
As of February 6th, the mainstream media has not run with the story.
The Angel in Acts 11 told Cornelius to send for Peter “Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved.”There is an incredible power in words.James says that “Life and death are in the power of the tongue…” and in no context is this more explicit then in the preaching of the Gospel. On Peter’s words hung the eternal destinies of Cornelius and his entire family.What a solemn and most severe responsibility we have to communicate the Gospel with clarity and irresistible persuasion.
In Matthew 13:19, Jesus is telling the parable of the sower.He says, “When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.This is the one on whom the seed was sown by the way side.”This is what I call, “Way-Side Evangelism”.Some preachers preach to hear themselves talk.Paul said that the time would come when people would want their ears tickled, but I think some preachers only care about tickling their own ears.These “Way-Side” preachers are infatuated with their own brilliance and charmed by their own eloquence.They love to impress people with their deep insight and advanced theological understanding.Meanwhile those listening to their message are as confused as a rabbit at an Easter egg hunt.What good is a message like that!?Preacher – save your cacophony of hermeneutical mendacity for the elephant-waxing tournament!We want to understand The Message!
Jesus said that when a person hears our message, but cannot understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what has been sown in his heart.The Gospel is salvation articulated.If the world could only understand it, I am sure that they would find it utterly irresistible.But if we don’t make it plain someone listening to our message might walk right past the narrow gate to eternal life and never know that they missed it!It happens everyday…what a crime. We must not give the Devil an opportunity to snatch the seed away by preaching a Gospel that is confusing or hard to understand.When we preach with clarity, with poignancy and with precision, we stomp on the Devil’s grubby, pilfering fingers, the sown Word takes root and produces fruit that will remain in the lives of those to whom we minister.
Arriving on the Battlefield
I would be remiss, if I failed to address the other, equally significant side of this coin.It is not only the message that is important, but also the medium.For much of the world’s history the major medium for communicating thoughts and ideas was verbal transmission; anecdotes and parables passed down from one generation to another.This began to change however around time of the Protestant Reformation.Neil Postman points out that, 1“Beginning In the sixteenth century, a great epistemological shift had taken place in which knowledge of every kind was transferred to, and made manifest through the printed page.‘More than any other device,’ Lewis Mumford wrote of this shift, ‘the printed book released people from the domination of the immediate and the local;…print made a greater impression than actual events…To exist was to exist in print…’ 2” The Church was on the cutting edge of this shift with the very first printed book being the Gutenberg Bible.The following generations would see the Bible translated into more than 1,000 different languages and become the best selling book of all time.
In our generation there is another shift occurring.Today, electronic forms of communication are the dominant voice in the world.In the U.S. nearly 100% of households have a television and on average each dwelling has more than 2.More than a trillion Internet URLs are in indexed with Google alone, which performs over 2 billion searches daily.Consider that if Facebook were a nation, it would be the 8th largest in the world with over 150 million members.Everyday over 100 million videos are viewed on You Tube and the list goes on.In America we have seen a striking example of the power of electronic media in our recent presidential election.It has been said that President Obama won the election, 3“because he understood new media.”
A couple of years ago the Lord spoke to me and said, “Every generation has a battlefield.If the Church fails to arrive on that battlefield, she will loose that generation.Your generation’s battlefield is the world of media.”President Obama showed up in that battlefield and won because his opponent didn’t even know what the battlefield was. Francis Schaeffer said, “Each generation of the church in each setting has the responsibility of communicating the gospel in understandable terms, considering the language and thought-forms of that setting.”Our responsibility of making the Gospel understandable goes beyond simply saying the right words…it demands that we show up in the right forum.As a street preacher I used to look for the most populated place in town to go preach…a park or a street corner, anywhere the people were.I would have been an idiot to set my soap-box up in an deserted parking lot.
Not only must we communicate in a way that the people can understand. We must also take the Gospel to where the people are!Can I tell you where they are?They are in front of the Television and the radio and the computer. But for too long we have downplayed and even demonized these electronic communication mediums.And even those who have taken advantage of them, for the most part, have done so poorly (don’t get me started on Christian television).How can we win the battle, if we are not on the battlefield?How can we reap a harvest if we are not on the harvest field? Reinhard Bonnke says, “If you want to catch fish, don’t throw your net into the bathtub.” The seed of the Gospel is too consequential to be cast by the way side.
In the days of oral tradition, many generations faithfully communicated, with solemn commitment, the scriptures that we still cherish today.In fact it is evident that Biblical oral tradition has been among the most enduring in history. In the sixteenth century, the new world of printed literature was dominated by Christians who seized this medium for God’s glory.Now it’s our turn and I fear that we are not doing as well as our predecessors.We must trouble ourselves to communicate the Gospel with clarity to our generation where they are that we “…may by all means win some.”
1 Postman, Neil.Amusing Ourselves to Death.New York: Penguin Group 1986
2 Mumford, Lewis.Technics and Civilization.New York: Harcourt, Brace and World 1934
3 Lewin, James. http://www.podcastingnews.com/2009/04/16/
Police officers told an open-air preacher in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, it is a criminal offence to identify homosexuality as a sin. They said this to Andy Robertson, even though he had not mentioned homosexuality in his preaching.
He was recording his preaching because the local council had been making allegations about the content of his message. The conversation with police officers was caught on tape.
“It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.” -Jn. 6.63
In comparison with the nature of preaching in centuries past, I would say that truly anointed proclamation is at an all-time low. Many fellowships have little value for true preaching and teaching, and the saints as a whole have mostly lost touch with the preciousness of speech to one another. New movements arise, encouraging more entertaining modes of proclamation, and the Church is inundated with programs, pre-packaged sermon illustrations, and a host of mere opinions. Scarcely do we hear a true voice which quickens the heart of the Church, creating and effecting, through grace-charged proclamation, a fuller vision of Jesus Christ.
Consider this story from David Ravenhill:
“Some of you are familiar with one of the great revivals: the revival in the Hebrides. Back in the late 1940s-early 1950s, this little group of islands experienced a powerful move of the Spirit of God, one of the purest revivals that we have seen, at least in my generation. Seventy-five percent of the people who were saved were converted outside the walls of the church.
In other words, God came down and saturated the community with His presence. People were up all night getting right with God. People would walk on the road and come under conviction of sin and fall down at the side of the road, repenting of their sin. They weren’t exposed to any preaching, just the Spirit of God that suddenly invaded the area. The revival was preceded by the earnest praying of several young men as well as two elderly women. Their cry was that God ‘would rend the heavens and come down.’
The people reported that five years after that revival you could count on one hand the number of people who had drifted away from God. Bars closed down; saloons closed down; dance halls closed down. The entire community was changed as a result of that revival.
One man whom God greatly used was a Presbyterian minister by the name of Duncan Campbell. Duncan Campbell was the key figure really. One night he had a dream, and in this dream he was walking into one of the small towns on the islands. As he approached the town, he noticed that there was a large crowd of people listening to somebody preaching the Word of God. As he got closer, he could hear the Word of God being proclaimed, but he didn’t recognize the preacher. After a while it dawned on him that this was no ordinary preacher; this was the devil.
Finally the crowd dispersed, and in his dream he went up to the devil and said, ‘You’re the devil, aren’t you?’
‘Yes I am,’ he replied.
Duncan Campbell then asked, ‘Why are you preaching the gospel? Why are you preaching the Word of God?’
And the devil responded, saying, ‘Duncan Campbell, don’t you know that the greatest weapon I have is the preaching of the Word of God without the anointing of the Spirit? You see, the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.’ (Surviving the Anointing, pp.70-71; Destiny Image, 2007)
In the first months of the Hebrides Revival there was little preaching, but the Lord eventually raised Campbell up (among others) to proclaim the Word with a true anointing, and many communities were transformed by the power of the Gospel.
The gift of proclamation has been given to every saint on one level or another, for we all have the capacity to speak. Some will preach in larger settings, some will not. But we all have a calling to bear witness to the lost, and to speak the truth to one another in love. The question is not, “Where shall I speak,” or “What shall I speak,” but “How shall I speak?” We need a recovery of a true value for the gift of speech. Jesus’ words were spirit and life, which is something far beyond soulish talk or religious opinion. Dear saint, what is the substance of your speaking? I’m not asking if all of your conversation is religious or biblical. I’m asking what your source is. Is it you? your spiritual opinions? your personal paradigms?
Or is it “spirit and life?” The future of those listening to you may well depend on the answer to these questions.
“Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God…” -1 Pet. 4.11a