I feel I owe my readers some “nuggets” of wisdom for 2012. I must confess that I am involved in an intimidating endeavor at this time. I am engrossed in research for a book. I am no theologian, I am no philosopher, I am no historian, and I am no expert on anything. But in order to wrap my mind around the seed that God has planted in my heart, I must for now dive deep into all of the above areas.
As most of you already know, I am burdened with a fiery task of bringing to light a true message of hope for the Church. I can assure you, I have not chosen this myself. But in order to put things into perspective and in order to simplify the message, I have to dive deep. Deep into ancient texts, like Irenaeus, Polycarp, Clement, Antony, St. Augustine of Hippo, Origen, and Gregory of Nyssa just to name a few in a very long list. I am studying the history of the early church, the undeniable power of its explosion on the planet, the persecutions and why, the Edict of Milan and why, the Great Schism and why…you get the picture! What I am seeing is really quite unbelievable. I am out of necessity required to understand, as much as a modern Westerner can, how people thought back then: the philosophy, the worldview, the language that tells of time and place, the political and religious systems and their struggle for power, and I have to leave reality in a sense to put myself into the setting with as little impeding my understanding as possible.
One thing that comes to mind as a word of encouragement to all who seek: the internet is awesome for a Christian, and the local library is the bastion of hope for all financially challenged! The internet can be a tool for perversion or a tool for good. Anything I can’t put my hands on in a library, I can find on the internet. For some reason all that a man could want or desire as a resource for Christian writings, thought, and the like are free for the clicking! Providing you have the time, one could search the deep wells of wisdom without spending a dime. Praise God!
The premise for what I am working on is this…it is actually a question that has been haunting me: Are we called today to be the church that Christ envisioned? Have the “glory days” of the church come and gone? Will we ever see a church that is filled with the Holy Spirit and united in love? Is it even possible or is it even necessary?
I know these questions have been asked before, and recently we have seen a rise in literature that calls us back to being radical Christians as taught in Scripture. Radical by David Platt (a noble, well intended book that identifies a problem but falls a little short on execution and understanding of WHY), The Love Revolution by Joyce Meyer (gets the language of the Spirit right but presents no HOW), and Forgotten God by Francis Chan (a beautiful work that lacks nothing but the WHEN) are a few that come to mind that I have read recently. I am not criticizing these books or persons of God; they each are shedding necessary light in their own way. But each of the above authors is limited because of their station in the church. To really get to the point would probably temporarily leave their churches in disarray! That is why I am writing a book: I am a nobody with no position to lose; I am fearless because I have already come to the end of myself, and I can go where they cannot…The whole of it rests in the moving of the Holy Spirit. And each time the church needs to be purified and sanctified, there is a process. Some people call it revival, others call it reformation, some call it protestation (hence the name “Protestant”), God calls it necessary! Where are we in the history of the church?
Personally, I feel it deep in my bones that we are on the cusp of a great movement of the Holy Spirit. I want to put the ball in our court, so to speak. Will anyone want to read a book by a nobody like me or do I need a doctorate degree or be a pastor in a church to be heard? Maybe no one will read my book, but maybe someone who can sell a book will be prompted to do so by my inspiration…Who knows. What can we do, what can you do personally and how do the “we” and the “me” work together?
Most Christians, if they read Scripture, know the formula for edification intrinsically…because it is plainly given in the Bible. How to make this “hidden in plain sight” Truth apparent to the “average Joe” is the challenge. I am going into the complex to present my findings in simplicity. In the West here, we are obsessed with ourselves…we have never been so connected and yet so disconnected from each other. So I have to go in through the front door of “self”. There was a time, believe it or not, that people identified themselves not as individuals but as functioning communities. You were only as “valuable” as your community. The individual lived for the whole, not the self. We derived our sense of value as it pertained to the greater whole. I know it is hard to believe! And if you sit there and think, “Well, I know better than that…I give and I am involved in my church, and I put my God and my church before all of my personal needs”, then kudos to you. If you are in this category, then praise the Lord! Unfortunately, most of us “Christians” have a hard time putting God first in our lives…let alone the church! And some actually put the church first, before God…I don’t think they mean to or have any ill intent…but it is a perversion nonetheless. The order of sanctification is on purpose, and many of us stop at the forgiveness and grace and never progress to truly understand what living in the power of love actually means. We stop short sometimes when “our house is in order” and forget the Great Commission. We accept God’s grace and then never progress to living an empowered life through Christ in the power of His Holy Spirit. We shouldn’t beat ourselves up about it though; we should just recognize that the status quo is failing us. Christ Himself appropriated through prayer to the Father a source of power for living a Christ-like life: His Holy Spirit. It is Christ’s spilt blood that beckons us to a powerful and victorious life through His Holy Spirit. Yes, it is most important that our names are written in the Book of Life, but what about walking “in the spirit”? Aren’t we selfish if we don’t share?
People are misinformed, under-utilizing, scared of, and confused about the Holy Spirit. I have spent almost a year putting out some articles on the Holy Spirit and probing the internet by reading and commenting on others’ writings. I have come to the comfortable place of stating a fact: the Holy Spirit is conspicuously missing from today’s church. Don’t get me wrong: the Spirit is alive and well in pockets of congregations, but as a whole I wouldn’t even want to guess what percentage of Christendom actually knows what the heck is going on with the Spirit of God, where He fits into their life, may have never experienced His Presence, how He works and why He is necessary in our lives. Here is a slap of reality: if you read your Bible then you would have to know that any Christian not empowered by the Holy Spirit is doomed to failure! Peter denied Christ in the flesh, but when empowered with the Holy Spirit was as bold as a lion! Peter sank while Jesus was standing right there when he tried to walk on water, but when he was empowered by the Holy Spirit, his shadow could heal the sick! Do we look back to see what the church is supposed to look like, or do we look forward? The answer is paradoxically both! Every revival, reformation, and strengthening of the “body of Christ” has come as a direct result of the Holy Spirit! This is fact, and as my research is proving to me over and over again…there are earthly progressions of the church, then tell-tale signs of sickness in the church, a great returning to the basics (The Holy Spirit as a clear and present power as a gift), then a painful process of purification by fire (again, the work of the Holy Spirit), and finally a great time of power and God-ordained growth (you guessed it, empowered by the same Spirit). This is sobering truth, my friends. The church as we know it, I’m afraid, is about to be pruned so that it can produce great fruit. We want the fruit, but have we considered the cost? Or have we counted the cost and decided it just isn’t worth the price of admission? The times we live in testify to just how weak the body is right now. But never fear; He is poised to move. Just make sure you are ready for it!
Every committed disciple of Christ, including pastors and preachers, has told me personally that they believe that we will have one more Great Revival before the final countdown. And why not?! This will be, in my humble opinion, the last push for mankind. God wants as many resting in His Son as possible, and He needs you and me to be ready for the final great outpouring of His Spirit on the earth. Some want Jesus to come take us out of the earth…like now! But the love of God tells me there is still much work to do and that we are a bride that has not reached her potential or her destiny. We reach our potential for one reason and one reason only: to spread the gospel of love to the world. That is the Holy Spirit’s primary function if you will: to declare the Name above all names and draw all people to Him! But what changes the world is POWER…not just words, sermons, church attendance, a kick-butt worship service, or even participation in service. Power and power alone is the ultimate testimony of God’s grace. That power reaches out to all people in tangible love…not in arguing about doctrines or world-views. To approach ministry in the attitude of: “Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life…And, if you don’t believe me, you will go to hell!” is the wrong approach. The new Christian attitude should sound something like: “Come to Jesus all you who are burdened, lost, crushed and broken…For He loves you and I am here to show you His love…He loves you, and WE love you”…that is what speaks to a blind world. Don’t tell me you love me…show me you love me. Can you handle the fact that I’m an addict, a prostitute, a porn addict, a criminal, a homosexual, a Muslim, an atheist…show me you love me by not judging me is the refrain of a world looking for hope. We don’t even “love ourselves” as a body; we quibble and cast stones at our own. How can we love others if we can’t embrace each other as differing denominations? This calling to love others (especially our enemies) is unattainable without the Holy Spirit. Just open your eyes, and the testimony is true: despite our best efforts, we cannot do it without some supernatural assistance; and “a divided house cannot stand” echoes in our guilty consciences.
So bear with me as I go deeper still. I will share some “nuggets” soon. I actually have too many right now even to list, but over the next period of time I will share some of the interesting and enlightening truths that emerge from my research. This post is getting too long as it is, but I will share one quote with you just to get you salivating for more:
“This preaching and faith which the church has received, it carefully guards as if it lived in but one house. The church likewise believes these things as with one soul and one heart. It preaches, teaches, and hands them down harmoniously, as if with one mouth…Where the church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is, there is the church and every form of grace, for the Spirit is truth.” From Against the Heresies by Irenaeus (C. 130-C. 200, a contemporary of the original apostles) Please compare this to Jesus’ statements in John 16, Peter’s statements in I Peter 1:22-25 & 2:1-5, and Paul’s statements in I Corinthians 12.
Question: Are we as a church “harmonious” and speak “as if with one mouth”? If not, then what is necessary to achieve this? What on earth happened to this fundamental, Biblical principle? That is what I am getting to the bottom of…wish me luck and many prayers. With the Holy Spirit as my guide, with Christ as my King and Savior, and with the Father’s love I humbly move forward.
God bless you all,