Friday, March 6, 2015
Do you know the name of the spirit...?
A Word of Hope - "For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.” Habakkuk 2:3
Our friend Francis Frangipane was once asked something like this: “Do you know the name of the spirit that is hindering revival in our area?” “Yes I do,” was his affirmative reply. Eagerly the answer was awaited. “Its name is Yahweh, for God opposes the proud.” He will not allow the mind of man to take credit: “That no flesh should glory in his presence.” 1 Corinthians 1:29 KJV There is only one true Revivalist - He who is the Author and the Finisher.
What begins as a sovereign move of God often quickly degenerates into “how did we get God to respond to us and how can we replicate the process?” The premise comes if we do this - repent, fast, pray, praise, tithe, etc. - then God will act accordingly. The Presence is exchanged for the process–the Person for the program - worshiping and serving created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. Tragedy enters in when we do not notice that this has happened.
God has no grandsons
One man’s revelation becomes another’s ritualistic routine. I remember reading a small book years ago on the life of the Pentecostal Ambassador David du Plessis one chapter of which was entitled, “God has no grandsons.” Yes, there are fathers in the ministry whose call it is to raise up children in the faith - but they are not to stand as substitutes for the Father, only to model His character: "Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” Matthew 23:9 Paul himself who was a father in the ministry said: “So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.” To usurp the place of the Heavenly Father is to impede the growth of the Body resulting in perpetual immaturity.
The methods of man takes the place of the mesmerism of the Majesty. Much is made of 2 Chronicles 7:14 when we enter into periods of supplication - “If my people...” Yet taken out of context the object becomes the healing of the land. It could be said that a text taken out of context becomes a pretext. Self-service subtlety becomes the focus whereas the aim of the whole passage is the Shekinah Glory of God: “now I have chosen and consecrated this house that My name may be there forever, and My eyes and My heart will be there perpetually.” 2 Chronicles 7:15
George Otis, Jr whom God has used to document instances of revival throughout the world via the Transformation videos has said that the fallacy comes in when others try to “do transformation.” The process vitally serves as encouragement, but it is not intended for rote replication.
Much discouragement comes into the ministry - albeit the intentions are honorable - when attempts at replication result in disappointment. Unfortunately this illusion is maintained by the plethora of publications lining the shelves of our bookstores that proclaim the way to make it happen.
There is no surer way to quench a genuine move of the Spirit of God than for man to take the credit - or to reap the benefits unto himself. Many city-reaching revivals lose their evangelist fervor when the pastoral leaders forsake their vision for the city and return to their individual congregations.
For the sake of My Holy Name
True revival is an irresistible response of the people of God to a sovereign move of God - not the response of the Sovereign God to a move initiated by the people of God. ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name,...” Ezekiel 36:22 NIV
As vital as obedience is, in our passion for revival we must not let it become the object - or we run the risk of it being about ourselves and not about an Eternal God. The Reformed author Ian Murray writes: “However, if we say that obedience causes revival, we’re going to sooner or later cause deep depression, because many godly Christians have lived on the missions fields, served Christ in many places, and made costly sacrifices who have never seen revival. They have been obedient, eminently so.”
When true revival breaks out those in whom God has placed the desire will be the most surprised. Murray continues, “So no, it’s never obedience that causes revival. It is Christ. Jesus said, ‘It’s not for you to know the times and the seasons which God has set by His own authority’, and that applies to revivals. Times and seasons belong to God.”
Surprised by the Spirit
On St. Valentine’s Day 1904 in a village in Wales a pastor opened the floor for testimonies. One after another young men got up to speak, but the pastor set each one of them down as they invariably began to wax after their own agendas. At last, Florrie Evans, a young woman of just 14 years stood to her feet and confessed: “I love Jesus Christ–with all my heart!” It is reported that as she spoke these words the Holy Spirit’s power and presence fell upon those gathered there. History records this as the beginning of the Welsh Revival which swept her nation and the nations - continuing on its course even today.
If God be looking for anything He will seek out those who are worshiping Him in Spirit and truth - and by His own grace He will open their hearts to receive the living and abiding Word of God: “A woman named Lydia, from the city of Thyatira, a seller of purple fabrics, a worshiper of God, was listening; and the Lord opened her heart to respond to the things spoken by Paul.” Acts 16:14
Jonathan Edwards, one of the most noted preacher/teachers in the history of our nation put it this way concerning revival: And ’tis revealed that when God is about to accomplish great things for his church, he will begin by remarkably pouring out ‘the spirit of grace and supplication,’ Zech. 12:10 and “When God is about to bestow some great blessing on his church, it is often his manner, in the first place, so to order things in his providence as to shew [sic] his church their great need of it, and to bring ‘em into distress for want of it, and so put ‘em upon crying earnestly to him for it.”
At the beginning of the First Great Awakening Edwards published a tract partially entitled: “A Faithful Narrative of the Surprising Work of God in the Conversion of Many Hundred Souls...” Let us note the use of the term Surprising Work. In retrospect several methodologies could be observed - yet their genesis of which was a complete and unwarranted surprise. God will put the longing, the desire, in the hearts of His people - but they will be the most surprised when their object is made manifest in their midst. Thus no grounds are created either for fatalism or fanaticism.
The Providence of God
This cannot be orchestrated, manufactured or scheduled - it is the providence of God and God alone. “Who has directed the Spirit of the LORD, Or as His counselor has informed Him?” Isaiah 40:13
We were in a prophetic conference probably around 1990 when a word was given to our friends and fellow Vineyard pastors John and Carol Arnott. Essentially they were instructed to move from Stratford, Ontario to Toronto - and there God would orchestra an outpouring of His Spirit. We looked at them as this word came and we could see the astonished surprise on their faces. In 1994 another Vineyard pastor - Randy Clark - came to the Toronto Airport Vineyard to conduct a series of meetings. We once heard Randy say concerning his wife, “I have the brains, but she has the power.” Those meetings resulted in the beginning of the revival which came to be known as the “Toronto Blessing.” Thousands upon thousands were subsequently renewed and energized by this sovereign move of the Spirit of our Faithful Father.
John Piper on addressing the desperate need of revival in our nation defined it like this: "the one-sided, supernatural arrival of God to do something extraordinary, to awaken people to their sinful condition and to awaken them to the reality of God and then the reality of Christ, the reality of sin, and the necessity of repentance in faith.”
He continues: "It moves like an inexplicable wave across the culture. We haven't seen that for a long time in America, but I doubt that short of that we will come out of a God-ignoring, God-belittling frame of mind, which pretty much grips the whole nation."
Pray for America!
Our Ugandan friends who have experienced a sweeping national revival which they say came as a result of desolation leading to desperation pray for our nation that we would come to the point of desperate petition without desolation. In my first visit to Uganda in 2003 I had the privilege to speak before a congregation of 12,000. At the conclusion of my message I said, “Uganda! We do not have what you have in America - and our money cannot buy it. Uganda! Pray for America.” I and the friend that was with me stepped down from the platform as the congregation surged forward to pray for America!
On subsequent visits I have continued that appeal - whether in a large congregation, a small bush gathering or on national TV and radio. God has set a nation to praying for us. May we hope, that despite ourselves, we may yet be surprised by the suddenly of another Great Awakening.
Dr. Martin Lloyd-Jones1 describes such a move this way: “We can define it as a period of unusual blessing and activity in the life of the Christian Church. Revival means awakening, stimulating the life, bringing it to the surface again. It happens primarily in the Church of God, and amongst believing people,...”
And continuing: “What the people are conscious of is that it is as if something has suddenly come down upon them. The Spirit of God has descended into their midst, God has come down and is amongst them. A baptism, an outpouring, a visitation. And the effect of that is that they immediately become aware of His presence and of His power in a manner that they have never known before. Suddenly they are aware of His presence, they are aware of the majesty and the awe of God. The Holy Spirit literally seems to be presiding over the meeting and taking charge of it, and manifesting His power and guiding them, and leading them, and directing them. That is the essence of revival. This is what God can do. This is what God has done. Let us together decide to beseech Him, to plead with Him to do this again. Not that we may have the experience or the excitement, but that His mighty hand may be known and His great name may be glorified and magnified among the people.”
The original Pentecostal outpouring can be attributed to one thing and one thing alone - "Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” Acts 2:33 No agency of man is capable of exalting Him to this position. Thus this springing forth cannot be laid at the feet of any virtue of those gathered in that upper room. If so it would have failed them for John says “the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews.” The day that was upon them was nothing less than “an administration suitable to the fullness of the times.” The only instruction they had received was to wait or tarry until they received power from on high. Yes they praised, yes they prayed, yes they were with one accord - but their motivations were a mixed bag: “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” Christ trumps all of their confused expectations: “It is not for you to know times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority;...” This is the hope that sustained them until “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit was giving them utterance.” Acts 2:4 Later Peter would say concerning these events: “They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen.” Acts 4:28 NIV
What was true then is no less true today - the timing is His prerogative and His alone. “The LORD Almighty has sworn, ‘Surely, as I have planned, so it will be, and as I have purposed, so it will happen.’” Isaiah 14:24 NIV
It is such a hope - and such a hope alone - that can set His people to Pentecostal praying.
Soli Deo Gloria! To the Glory of God Alone!
1 Dr. Lloyd-Jones was a Welsh Protestant minister, preacher and medical doctor who was influential in the Reformed wing of the British evangelical movement in the 20th century. He also influenced the Charismatic Movement - teaching a subsequent experience of the Spirit and opposing cessationism.