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Posted: 08/01/2012 at 6:43pm
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN THE SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD
MEETS AN UNWILLING CHURCH?
“Inasmuch as these people refused the waters of Shiloah that flow softly ... Now therefore, behold the Lord brings up over them the waters of the River (Euphrates), strong and mighty ... He will go up over all his channels and go over all his banks. He will pass through Judah, He will overflow and pass over, He will reach up to the neck; And the stretching out of his wings will fill the breadth of Your land, O Immanuel.” Isaiah 8:6.
In recent years I have witnessed an intensifying of the Holy Spirit’s “signs and wonders” in radical manifestations. These evidences are sometimes phenomenal; many are absolutely impossible to do by human effort. I have seen men with broken-back injuries bend forward, knees straight, knuckles on the floor, then stand erect again totally healed. The spine of one scoliosis victim–with x-rays to prove her healing–twisted until her neck turned completely around. Others appeared to drop dead as if shot by a gun. Some vibrated as if they had been electrocuted. During hands-on ministry bodies sometimes bend into positions that under normal circumstances would be painful. Bizarre-looking as these “signs” are, the spiritual and physical effects are always positive. Illnesses are healed, minds are calmed, addictions are driven out, joy and hope are restored. This happened recently to a woman whose back was healed when I prayed for her in a restaurant.
People who are “under the power of the Spirit” frequently have visions of Glory. At the same time, there seems to be no more appropriate word to describe the physical manifestations than the word radical. Please understand, when these things happen they are no more under my control than they are in the people experiencing them. In a church where I worship the pastor recently called me forward to minister to the sick. When I laid hands on one woman she instantly shrieked and hit the floor as though she had been shot with a gun. What happened? A spirit of infirmity hiding in her was exposed and fled from the power of God. Jesus said, “These signs will follow those who believe; in My name they will cast out demons”.Mark 16:17. We must be believers–not “bluffers” for such signs to follow.
Once at a meeting in Birmingham, Alabama, a man fell to the floor under the power of God, stiff as an ironing board, feet together, hands at his side, and vibrated as if electrified. In that condition, straight as an arrow, he was propelled feet-first, bumping down the aisle and across the front of the building. Human beings cannot fake such experiences. But why such a pointless demonstration as that? I do not know. I only know that the early church was filled with unidentified signs and wonders. They happened then and they are happening now. Another elderly man shook so violently each time I approached him that he was repeatedly thrown from his chair. In that same meeting, a woman who had suffered from clinical depression for most of her life was filled with the Holy Spirit and riotously laughed her way back to normalcy. Admittedly, to all of us these manifestations are unconventional--and to the uninformed they are frightening. Nor am I speaking of hype and soulish emotion. I detest phoniness and human imitations of the Holy Spirit’s presence.
The effects of the Spirit’s work are twofold: To believers experiencing them, they are causes of great rejoicing. They build faith, establish elevated relationship with God, and open the heart to greater miracles. To unbelievers–and many Christians alike–they are objects of scorn, mockery, and denial. On the day of Pentecost it was the devout Jews (God’s best) who were “confused, amazed, perplexed” at the bizarre effects of the Holy Spirit. As it was then, so it is now. When God encountered this reaction by ancient Israel–which Isaiah described as the people’s rejecting “the waters of Shiloah that flow softly”–God responded by saying that He would flood them “up to the neck with the strong and mighty river.” Simply said, God warned that He would send more intense signs upon them. “The stretching out” of His wings would “fill the breadth” of Immanuel’s land. What is Immanuel’s land? Prophetically, it is the church! Immanuel is a specific reference to Jesus. In a parallel way, God is saying to those who reject the current works of His Spirit that they will soon be flooded with demonstrations so massive as to stagger their minds. And these manifestations--compared in size to the Euphrates–will go the full length of the church’s domain.
At the Word, Spirit, Power Conference in Toronto a few years ago with R.T. Kendall and Jack Taylor, literally hundreds of people crashed to the floor under the power of God. Some were piled on top of each other. Wonderfully, many of these later told me of incredible changes the Holy Spirit brought about. I have listened intently to such testimonies but still remained puzzled as to God’s motives. During a later WSP Conference in Houston, Texas, I had a word in which the Lord explained the reason behind these unique exhibitions. I understood Him to say:
The extent of the Holy Spirit’s radical manifestation is going to parallel the extent of the church’s radical unbelief.
When I heard that I was shocked. If I am correct, God was saying that His demonstrations are going to get more extreme than anything we have yet seen. In effect, the church’s radical unbelief merely challenges Him to become more drastic. The more that modern Christians fight and deny the Spirit’s visible demonstration, the more determined He becomes to do them.
Had someone told me 50 years ago that I would live to see the extreme manifestations presently being done by the Holy Spirit I would not have believed him. At that early period, there was no room in my theology or my expectation for the “signs, wonders, mighty deeds” currently taking place. To me, events in the Book of Acts were pages from a closed history. Under no circumstance would the church experience a repeat of such phenomenal events. For the first twenty-seven years of ministry I would have told you point-blank that all such miraculous manifestations were ended. I remember boasting that “I would not believe a miracle even if I saw one.” God alone knows the rivers of deep repentance I have since swam through because of that ugly attitude. I clearly denied what was written in Scripture. Today, I personally believe the church worldwide is entering the time spoken of in Acts 3:21 when God sovereignly brings about the “restoration of all things.” Before the Second Coming the church will experience renewal of the powers it possessed at the time of the First Coming. That will not happen however until the present system of religious legalism and parochialism that divides the Body of Christ has been dismantled and cast away. When Jesus returns will He find faith on the earth? Yes. Will He find a Bride without spot and blemish? Yes!. He will find a church functioning in the full power of the first century.
The theological school in which I grew up was correct in many ways. But like most other denominations, we preached the sovereignty of God as a doctrine while we denied its reality in the life of the church. Under no circumstances did our understanding of sovereignty allow God to actually do something to which we were not already accustomed. Such an idea bordered on heresy. Sovereignty, as a “doctrine?” Yes! Sovereignty as a demonstration? No! Absolutely not. Let me repeat that point: In our case, as with many other Christians, the proof of something being a work of God was whether or not we had already seen it in the past. Anything new was obviously wrong and could not be God. That attitude in the late 1700's and early 1800's paralyzed my denomination’s growth and sealed its fate. Today, that historic body of churches which I loved and served devotedly has been reduced to being the guardian of lonely pioneer cemeteries. I say that with genuine grief, not rancor. Some will object to that statement but it is true. During my half-century of preaching I saw some 3,000 of these churches perish. Fifty years ago I desperately tried to warn them. One of my final denominational sermons was preached in a beautiful, 300 year-old historic church building whose cemetery contained the grave of a signer of the Declaration of Independence. George Washington’s chaplain, John Gano, preached there. Numerous Revolutionary War soldiers are buried in the yard. Today, the building is a museum.
A century ago, Charles Spurgeon shouted his warning, “Death and condemnation to a church that is not yearning after the Spirit, crying and groaning until the Spirit has wrought mightily in her midst. He is here! He has never gone back since He descended at Pentecost ... Brethren, if we do not have the Spirit of God, it were better to shut the churches, nail up the doors, put on a black cross and say, ‘God have mercy on us!’ If you ministers have not the Spirit of God, you better not preach and you people had better stay at home. I think I speak not too strong when I say that a church without the Spirit of God is rather a curse than a blessing. This is the solemn word: ‘The Holy Spirit or nothing ... and worse than nothing!’”
Healings occurred in Spurgeon’s ministry but in some cases church historians deleted those facts to avoid having their own theology and inadequacy challenged. That type of “editing” church history is commonplace. For example, in my youth I knew only the doctrine of Jonathan Edwards’ preaching in Colonial America but nothing about the Spirit’s visible manifestations in the people. I was equally uninformed about physical evidences in the Cane Ridge, Kentucky, revival, Evan Roberts and the Welsh Revival, Azusa Street in California, Tommy Hicks crusades in Argentina, Duncan Campbell in Scotland, and others. To me, such truths were alien, unknown territory. Nor would I have been alone in that ignorance. Had you polled numerous other preachers in that era, you would have met the same response. We might have disagreed on many points of theology but we would have been in near-unanimous consent in rejecting the visible “demonstration of the Holy Spirit.” I Corinthians 2:4,5.
My rebelliousness ended abruptly in 1977. That year, without warning, God sovereignly thrust me into a totally new ministry. Sovereignty ceased being a principle I preached and became a power I experienced. And with that power came “signs, wonders, and mighty deeds” that still shock me to this day. When I see a sophisticated, elegantly dressed matron slammed to the floor by the power of God in a suddenness that literally tosses her wig into the air, I know something bigger than female pride has come on the scene. When that same woman later stands to her feet with the glory of God on her face, praising Him with excited joy and no thought of embarrassment or shame, I know God’s sovereignty has been displayed beyond all our man-made doctrines about it.
Sometimes uncontrollable laughter breaks out when the Holy Spirit moves upon a congregation. Occasionally, the people experiencing this burst of rapture have lived much of their lives under oppression and persecution. Such laughter is both physically and emotionally healing. Someone may argue, “God does not make people laugh in church!” My response is, “Don’t dare Him! If He is sovereign He can do whatever He likes.” For centuries, every Christian denomination expected you to cry in church. Grief and sadness were the emotions God approved. But laughter? Never! If you got happy God got angry. How blind can we Christians get?! Jesus said to one man, “Enter the joy of your Lord!” When Philip preached in Samaria there was “great joy in that city.” Acts 8:8. The Greek text says it was mega joy. Identically, the lame man experienced this joy when he rushed into the Temple “walking, leaping, and praising God.” Acts 3:8. In most modern congregations such rejoicing would be unwelcome and the man would be quickly removed. Religion stifles. Spirituality stimulates.
I have encountered that ugly attitude. People became seriously offended when laughter broke out in the service. In some cases, those angered refused to attend further meetings. But I also knew this: The same critic had sat in church and laughed at the preacher’s jokes. What is that double-standard telling us? It says that laughter in church is acceptable if it is in response to human comedy. Laughter in church is not acceptable if it comes as a gift from God. Heaven help us!
In the early 1900's G. Campbell Morgan became pastor of Westminster Chapel in London and witnessed the historic Welsh Revival. While he was a strong doctrinal advocate for the sovereignty of God, Dr. Morgan also hungered for the power of God. Read prayerfully--and carefully--what he said:
“I want God’s next new thing. If a man is praying for an old-fashioned revival, in all probability when God’s visitation comes he will not be conscious of it. Men remembering the marvelous movement under Charles Finney might have prayed for an old-fashioned revival such as that which accompanied his preaching. It is more likely that when God raised up Dwight C. Moody such men would be out of sympathy with all his methods for a long while, for the two movements were quite different. God fulfills Himself in many ways. We ought to be so living that when God begins His great triumphant march we shall fall in with the first battalion and have part in the first victories.”
Dr. Morgan is saying that he wants to accept the “softly flowing waters of Shiloah” so that God will not have to prove Himself by the violence of a Euphrates flood. To that, I add a thundering amen! But I am also convinced that the “Euphrates flood” is coming upon the modern church. God is going to be as radical in His signs and wonders as the church is radical in its unbelief. When that happens, and it will, congregations from the smallest county church to the mega-TV Cathedrals will be suddenly invaded by the unstoppable, sweeping, steeple-shaking, river-surge of the Holy Spirit. We have seen nothing yet of the Spirit’s frightening power. Will it be embarrassing? Yes! Sovereign? Yes! Humbling to church pride? Yes! But it is coming! It may no longer be just a man in the congregation thrown from his chair but a preacher hurled from his pulpit. As in Elijah’s day, people will fall on their faces shouting, “the Lord He is God! The Lord He is God!” After this, and the repentance that follows, I am persuaded that churches world-wide will again be flooded. This time, with open arms they will eagerly be filled with the glorious joy and presence of God. The modern, sophisticated church will have returned to the beauty and miraculous power of her New Testament pattern. “Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!” Bring on your restoration of all things! We want it!
YOUR BODY: GOD’S “INTELLIGENT DESIGN”
David exclaimed: "For you have formed my inward parts;
You have covered me in my mother's womb.
I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made ...
Your eyes saw my substance, being yet unformed.
And in Your book they all were written." Psalm 139:13-16.
Each square inch of your skin contains approximately 35 miles of nerves. An adult body contains 75,000 miles of blood vessels, serving more than 60 billion body cells. Some vessels are so microscopically small that only one blood cell at the time can squeeze through. If all of your blood vessels could be cut open and laid side by side they would cover an area the size of a football field. During its 120 day life-span, each blood cell makes about 75,000 non-stop round trips from the heart to other parts of the body. That is a total distance of approximately 5 billion, 635 million miles traveled in its lifetime. In the work of God–whether inward--into the human body or outward into the Universe, there is a point at which all concepts of time and space become meaningless. In a quiet room, cup your hands tightly over your ears like you have done with a sea shell at the beach. The roar you hear is blood racing through your body. Friction would instantly burn through your veins and arteries were it not for the protective coating of cholesterol lining their inner walls. Each cell simultaneously brings nutrients and oxygen to the body while removing toxins. At the moment of conception, the invisible male sperm invades the almost invisible female ovum and development of the billions of components listed above are perfectly–and explosively--initiated. We have nothing else in Creation with which to compare such massive and flawless organization of functioning parts. For example, in that miraculous event, millions of optic nerves connecting eyes to brain and brain to eyes begin their journey to each other. If for a split-second’s time you could peak in on the cell-formation and organizing of body parts in a human baby in the womb, you would see lightening-speed explosions blasting simultaneously inwardly and outwardly in the development of bones, brain, blood, organs, skin, personality, intellect, talents, voice tone, etc., and all other components. Ecclesiastes 11:5. I Corinthians 12:18. The speed of organization is incredible. Imagine a dynamite fuze reaching all the way from Maine to California--exploding every building in its non-stop path.
What occurs in the development of a single human being involves a thousand times more separate parts than there are buildings between the Atlantic and Pacific. If that baby is male, within four weeks after conception, all the quadrillions of sperm his body will ever produce are formed in his tiny body.
Think of it!
From a single ovum and a single sperm 280 days later emerges a functioning human being possessing a brain capable of sending men and rocket ships into outer space. Significantly, the 280-day period is the same number of days in the Jewish calendar between Hanukkah and Yom Kippur. These events celebrate the dedication of the ancient Temple and the “High Holy Day”. The first corresponds to conception, the second to birth. This 280 day period is a multiple of 7 and 40. Both are significant numbers in Scripture with the “40" appearing exactly 40 times in the combined Old and New Testaments.
Each of those minuscule sperm--containing that embryonic baby boy’s DNA--holds more than 3 billion genetic codes. If you were to spend 8 hours a day looking at each code for one second, it would take two years. If the DNA in one of that baby’s human cells could be unraveled and strung end to end, it would reach from earth to the sun, round trip, 400 times. Accidental evolution? Hardly. Yet, his entire body could be reconstructed from information stored in just one of his brain-stem cells; these are part of sixty billion more cells that compose his total being. The sound of his laughter, the curve of his eyelash, attitudes he inherited from his grandparents are all perfectly recorded. At conception, the genetic code from mother and father merged into an ideal arrangement for the creation of his totally new, unique being. Billions and billions of components perfectly joined without mix-up.
Look at yourself: Your brain contains as many synapsis as there are stars in existence. The synapse is the point of contact between neurons, by which nerve impulses are successfully transmitted through the brain. Inside your head, you have a composite of total creation. If all five and one-half billion people on earth were talking on eighteen telephone at the same time, it would almost correspond to the electrical traffic handled by the brain. The corpus callosum tissue separating the two hemispheres of the brain contain as many connections as every telephone line in America. To cut through the corpus callosum of one human being would be equivalent to cutting every telephone line in the U.S.. Next time you are outside looking at the stars realize that Creation's vastness goes just that far inside of you. And be aware that there are more than 100 million different animal and plant specie on planet earth with billions of individuals of each having its own distinctive genetic code. Like snowflakes, no two are exactly alike. In the presence of such overwhelming evidence of our miraculous design, the claim of non-intelligent evolution becomes absurd.
There is more to tell about God’s “intelligent design”: The Spiritual Realm. The miraculous works of the Spirit, I Corinthians 12,13,14, become more amazing when we see them as “intelligent design” for the Christian’s spiritual life. Unlike the limited mental capacities of our bodies, the regenerate human spirit is neither confined nor limited. It has potentials greater than all the combined animal abilities I mentioned.
Our spirit has access to the gifts of “wisdom and revelation” which equip it to receive and use knowledge directly from the Holy Spirit. This special equipping is the precise function of the "word of knowledge," "word of wisdom," "discerning of spirits," and other gifts of the Holy Spirit. I Corinthians 12:8-10.
Edited by Ron McGatlin on 08/03/2012 at 11:58am