While I am greatly encouraged by the Body of Christ, who are my Brothers and Sisters seeking to understand their relationship with God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit at a greater, more intimate level, I am also discouraged by the lack of equipping offered to these Believers for their ministries -- which is the job of the institutional Church. Power and authority belong to both groups called "the Church", but it is used for very different purposes by each.
As Christians, we can no longer avoid the uncomfortable conversation ... there is a growing schism among the Western Church. People who, five or ten years ago, were comfortable "in the box" suddenly find themselves at odds with what they are coming to realize is a powerless Church. And they also find themselves in conflict with people [who are quite content with where they are]; people who they've worshipped beside for decades. So more and more Christians are becoming dissatisfied with the status quo of the Western Church. And I would suspect that there are more than a few who are caught between those two paradigms ... out of the box, but not yet comfortable to let go of their traditions.
But we have come to a point in history, where we can no longer remain apathetic -- or even sympathetic -- to a powerless Church. Both the Body and the Institution must step into their purpose to influence the culture of our country and resist the evil that threatens to engulf us. As simplistic as it sounds, it is time for both factions to Wake Up! We cannot hold on to our man-made [or worldly] identities and traditions and expect to be effective against a spiritual enemy. It's those identities that the devil laughs at, because he knows they are incapable of defeating him.
For each of us, there is a grid or a system that we relate to. And that's called Religion. Everybody says that by following their steps, you can know God better, you can be happier, you can...(insert claim here)". So, everyone's faith comes with attachments. And those attachments differ, depending on which religious traditions you embrace. But here is what we need to understand: Jesus wasn't promoting man's traditions. He came representing the Father, with a clear message to His Disciples of how His Father wanted the Gospel of the Kingdom advanced. The Disciples were to wait for the Holy Spirit to come upon them, and then baptize people in both water and the Spirit; healing the sick, casting out demons, raising the dead, and spreading the Good Word that all this is possible because our Father in Heaven wants to partner with us to bring Heaven to Earth. All that -- the works and the Gospel Message -- is all about POWER.
The problem is that a lot of our denominations haven't preached the Gospel with the Power component [which is the Holy Spirit] for so long, they are freaked out when they see it! The Western Church proclaims they have the correct knowledge of the Bible (in all their variations), but what we need is the obedience the Bible calls for. Therefore, the institutional, religious Church has become a system. We even take tests to see what "gift" we have, or what "office" we should occupy. But if we look for a model, or instructions, on how Jesus told the Disciples to "do Church", it is the Church that sprang up in the Book of Acts. It is the only Book of the Bible that clearly shows that the Disciples were doing all that Jesus taught them while He was on earth.
But how many of your fellow Christians do you see healing a sick person, then baptizing them in water, and then urging the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to come upon them as it did in the Book of Acts? Right now, some of you may be thinking, "But I'm not a Pastor. I don't have the authority in the Church to baptize someone". But we are called by Jesus to do it! Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Matthew 28:18-20).
Those disciples were not part of the religious system of their day! They were not rabbis and they were not recognized as having the authority to do those things -- neither by the public nor the religious leaders. Yet Jesus told them He had the authority to commission them to do far more than the religious establishment was accomplishing. Furthermore, He told His disciples to then teach others to do what He had taught and shown them! Remember: Jesus, God, and Holy Spirit are the same today as they were then, and will be forevermore. So, why aren't we being obedient to His teaching?
Notice the difference in how Power was used .... Jesus transferred His power from the Father and the Holy Spirit [to heal and baptize and make disciples] to His followers, [thereby defeating the Enemy in those lives]. The leaders in the religious system used their power to maintain their status and authority, and to control the masses. Furthermore, their power was man-driven, not bestowed upon them by Heaven.
Our religious traditions have reduced millions of Christians to sitting in a pew, or a class. They get taught and receive knowledge, but unless you go out to do "all that Jesus commanded us to do", you are not going to bear fruit or advance the Kingdom. So how much is that knowledge really worth in the Kingdom of God? Since we are not just supposed to be "hearers of the Word", how much does that model result in "doers of the Word"?
The reality is that more and more Christians are awakening to the fact that Church, as we know, it is no longer satisfying to their soul and spirit. They can no longer deny that the world doesn't look or feel any better because of the Church. In fact, the Church is looking more like the world. They are recognizing the Truth about what the Great Commission really is -- that it's more than sharing the Message of Salvation; more than Jesus dying to cover our sins. He died to remove our sins and to create in us a new man or woman -- one that bears fruit for the Kingdom by doing what Jesus did and doing the things the Church in the Book of Acts modeled for us. And so they are leaving the traditional Church model and seeking ways to observe all that Jesus commanded those Twelve Disciples.
As we see Evil increasing in our lives, and as we get closer to Jesus's return, I believe we are going to see a split in the Western Church. One side thinks we have evolved beyond the actions of the Disciples in that First Century. They think that laying on of hands to heal the sick, delivering a Christian from demonic torment, or baptizing in the Spirit is not for today. They believe we are to submit to the authority of the Pastor and the Church system. The other side has been awakened to the power of the Holy Spirit in the Believer [to bear much fruit for the Kingdom], and they believe they are to submit to Jesus's authority and see the Body of Christ become the Church Jesus intended it to be.
The bottom line is this .... I don't care if a Christian goes to a 5,000 member mega-Church, or is part of 20 devoted Believers who meet in a home. If there is no fruit being produced by either group, then the Holy Spirit is not present. And when the Holy Spirit is absent, there is no power to fight the spiritual battle against the sinful nature of this world. And that is not what Jesus had in mind for His Church. Yes, we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. But I want the Fire of the Holy Spirit to be recognizable in my life! Remember that John the Baptist said He baptized with water, but "He [Jesus] will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire". It was that fire and Power that changed the world; and it is that same fire and Power that will change the world today.
God poured out His Holy Spirit with fire and signs, healings, and spiritual gifts on the Church of the Book of Acts. He knew if the Early Church was going to survive the horrific attacks that would come against it, Believers would need the spiritual power of the Holy Spirit to counter those attacks and advance His Kingdom on earth. He has awakened us in the 21st Century Body of Christ to the same truth. We need the joy of being filled with the power of the Holy Spirit to counter the ambivalent, compromising, and weak institutionalized Church. As we begin to walk out the power that Jesus and the Book of Acts Church modeled for us, we will see God renewing us; restoring us; and equipping us to do what must be done if mankind is going to resist and defeat the system that Satan is bringing.
The question is, can the institutional Church join hands with the Body of Christ who are walking in that heavenly Power? I am in total agreement with Gabe Lyons, a Christian media/culture expert, who recently wrote "A Letter to Christian Leaders", in which he said, "Together, we can be smarter, more informed and creative than if we try and go this alone. I write with a desire for unity, clarity and sharpening as we consider how Christian leadership ought to be exercised during our time of confusion. To be blunt, I believe we are in a spiritual, psychological, biological and informational war accelerating into a crisis of isolation, distrust, polarization, censorship and physical harm. Discernment and wisdom from Christian leaders will be critical, but the time to be convicted, clear-minded, and courageous is now. The enemy wants us divided, but the strength of the Church has always been in her unity in the essentials, and charity in the non-essentials".
Spiritual leaders -- both in the Body of Christ, and in the Church building -- have an opportunity to stand in their God-given authority, resisting the temptations to follow what the world systems are mandating. It is time to keep our lamps filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, so that we might constantly be supplied with His wisdom, understanding, counsel, might, knowledge, and fear [awe and reverence] of the Lord. There is no time or room for fear and compromise. We are at a pivotal moment. We must be faithful to all of God's commands, while standing firm in our resistance to Evil, and we must prepare our Brothers and Sisters in Christ for the season ahead. God bless you as we boldly advance the Kingdom of God in all its Truth.
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Jeremiah 6:16 Thus says the Lord: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’