Jeeping around the San Juan Mountains is an amazing experience. I don’t do it all that often but, it is a grand adventure. One has to get off the paved road, and beyond the gravel county maintained road to reap the benefits. The trip up and over the passes here in Hinsdale County follows narrow, windy bumpy, rock-filled jeep trail, it isn’t always easy and you can’t go very fast. Sometimes the ruts are deep and occasionally crossed with quick running freshets. The drop offs are steep and dramatic and occasionally you need to back up, skooch way over to let folks ease by single file. However, once attained- From these lofty heights in the thin air, you have a fine unobstructed views for miles on end. It gives you a totally different perspective on the surrounding terrain. From the town valley view, the immediate hillside looks massive. From way up top, however, those same hills look like little mosquito bites. Taking the long slow, bumpy road will give you a much finer perspective. The same idea holds true for Bible Study. The Clif Notes, once a week Sunday School, abbreviated version won’t give you the full story. It takes some dedicated time and study. You must take the slow road and enjoy the ride!
(This is part 2 of Flaming Arrows so you may need to back up and read that one first!)
Many Pastors, are reluctant to take that foundational slow road, or to explore or linger long in the murky waters and unfamiliar trails of Revelations or End- ime Prophecy. There is also ease and safe harbor that is delivered with the implication that Believers will be “raptured” prior to any discomfort or persecution. Little emphasis is placed on the reality of Satan, certainty of hell and eternal damnation without the Saving Grace of Jesus Christ and his bloody work at the cross. Perhaps due to generations of ” church traditions” there is reluctance to preach about the signs, wonders and miracles found in the Gospels or in the Book of Acts. This soon becomes an awkward balancing act and can reduce Sunday sermons to nothing more than carefully crafted social /moral inspirational happy talks. Don’t want to scare the folks on life’s treacherous jeep trail or make anyone squirm as they ponder the consequences of inaction or disobedience.
I believe that most of these shepherds who are locked in these “traditions of men” are absolutely sincere in these beliefs which are taught with authority in modern theological seminaries. And, this teaching is compounded by the fact that most have never seen a creative or healing miracle themselves so, they have no first-hand “Testimony” to strengthen their faith in this area. It becomes a self-fulfilling thing for them. If I don’t see it, haven’t seen it, then it doesn’t exist anymore. Therefore, the stuff they taught me in Seminary is true because those guys had a doctorate and they hadn’t seen it either! Further, never having had any complete faith-based teaching or firsthand experience on the Filling of the Holy Spirit as taught by Jesus and practiced in Early Christianity, there is a total disconnect as to what it really entails and why it is so critical to have this relationship. Fortified thusly, the shepherds feel comfortable believing that Holy Spirit no longer operates in an “Early Church” way today. These traditional proponents, to their credit, are adamant that the Biblical Record is correct. They concede that such power was necessary at that time for the spiritual equivalent of “jumpstarting” that new Messianic Church Battery. Though it was true in every detail, it is just no longer necessary for us today.
Somehow, this limp excuse began to be perpetuated that the completion of the New Testament or the death of the last Apostle saw the final hurrah of the Holy Spirit. While this thinking certainly MAY explain the absence of power in the pews today, I can find no Biblical record on which to build or to substantiate this theory. And, Biblical Doctrines must be based on at least two or three Scriptures.(Deut. 19:15,2 Cor. 13:1)
Let us think this through to it’s logical conclusion: Because I have never seen something operating in my particular neighborhood Body of Christ, I must now begin to justify why it is not happening as the Bible described it any longer. Justification based on lack of evidence is a faulty way to approach this problem. I totally understand the deep urge to do so because folks rarely enjoy an introspective heart search as to why something that was once a common, powerful calling-card has over the years faded straight away. Revelation 2:4 mentions that the Church in Ephesus had wandered away from it’s first love. Just as in a marriage or deep friendship when you grow too busy and lose your focus, quit listening, neglect the relationship, or let your eye wander to another, then that first-love relationship erodes,trouble and estrangement quickly ensues.
Such soul- searching could lead to exposing sin, a systematic edging away from the need for heartfelt prayer and real fasting. It could reveal “false doctrine” or “doctrines of demons”(1 Tim. 4:1) that have wormed their way into the Body of Christ. Just think, who really profits when the Word of God is altered. Who could benefit the most if the body of Christ is not operating at Full Authority and Power? Isn’t that the very thing that tripped Eve up in the Garden? The operational motives of the Enemy are,at least, consistent! Immersive Bible study may also expose deficits of faith, or the subtle anti-Semitism that led the church away from it’s sturdy Jewish Roots.
No one–absolutely no one– especially in the Church- likes to admit that perhaps they or their parents or grandparents or venerated pastors were led into error in certain areas of Biblical Teaching and that NOW repentance and some new fact-checking revelation and obedience is in order. No one ( persons, pastors, teachers, students or congregations) likes to think that they have Pride or Rebellion or have Controlling or Religious Spirit in their midst that need to be fixed, lickity- split, before forgiveness, real growth and anointing can occur!
Would it not be a better option or THE best question to first state the premise: God never changes! He cannot change His ways , His names nor His nature! He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Therefore, if I am not seeing Him operate in my life or congregation the way He did , consistently throughout the Old Testament, the Gospels , Acts of the Apostles and in fact all through the New Testament it is not because He changed but, that I/We…the body of Christ have changed! Shouldn’t my response be- if I am really honest and searching for truth about this issue- be hitting my knees and imploring God,” WHY ARE YOU NOT VISITING MY ALTAR, MY CONGREGATION, MY FAMILY , MY HEART– THE WAY YOU WERE BACK IN THE BIBLE DAYS?
Ask Him to reveal your Spiritual Gifts and to train you to use them as we minister to others. We definitely need to get back to the pattern given us in the First Church source. I know that many truly believe that the only bit of Holy Spirit that you ever needed brought you to a saving knowledge of Jesus. That’s it and there is no more. Why then are we seeing this separate step of asking for the Holy Spirit repeatedly in the book of Acts? (Acts 19:2-6)
I was raised in this Traditional “church” belief so feel that I can play the “devil’s advocate” here. ( I write at length about this in Holy Spirit 101 and Holy Spirit 102: permanent pages on this website for “anytime reference” on the subject) This is hugely important topic and you must address it. Paul asks groups and individuals many times in Acts: Have you received the Holy Spirit since you have been saved? Well, have you? He is waiting for you to ask Him in. You own the Salvation: NOW, you desperately need His teaching, His comfort, His Power.
A natural outgrowth of this, “no longer needed”, sticky-wicket is that the Church as a whole is less and less connected to the Supernatural aspect of our short lives. If you don’t believe in miracles, signs and wonders anymore, and have only a rudimentary “historical” understanding of the Holy Spirit, Spiritual Gifts and the fruitful evidence of his Presence then it rationally follows, does it not, that there will be no viable teaching on the real and active work of the Enemy nor demonic deliverance or the awareness of any continuing need of it.
Another sad, weed-like outgrowth of these spiritual supernatural deficits then, is that most are not preaching or teaching about Spiritual Warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20) and how to be successful and ready for it. How can they be? They don’t have the tools handy because they don’t know what they don’t know! It has become an intellectual exercise. Subtly, you are suggesting that if the Holy Spirit isn’t necessary” in that way” anymore then it is, no doubt, because Satan doesn’t work that way either. It’s all just a sophisticated, Philosophy 101 debate. Life will rock along as it always has and Jesus will show up some fine day and whisk us all off to heaven to “live happily ever-after”. Is it any wonder that our children don’t see any power or relevance in the church and come home from college as indoctrinated little atheists?
***We will finish this Flaming Arrows trilogy next time! I am going to leave you with this really cool little video…I hope that you enjoy!