A N D G R E A T W A S I T S F A L L
and the rain descended, the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house; and it fell. And great was its fall.
The prayer leader had reacted foolishly to my decision to leave the cc, bless his heart. His reproof had no Bible in it whatsoever. He was not the faithful ambassador of Christ, but rather a loyal deputy of the bishop. But his folly is the norm. Folly resides in most, awaiting opportunity to express itself. In his precarious position I would probably have likewise conceded to pressure applied by church, by charismatics, by outsiders. The unanimous decision to punish me is ample proof that not one in the core group had the temerity to insist on building People of Faith on the rock of Scripture.
And foolishness in the body of Christ extends far beyond the charismatic sector. There is an abundance of compromise, I was to discover, within evangelicalism. It is no more an offense to The Book to call a man Father than to call a man Pastor. I am convinced the predominate motive for tithing is no more noble than a need to be accepted; tithers are embraced, non-tithers are tolerated. The evangelical ecclesiastical structure has much in common with that of catholicism.
Building on sand is what most do, foolish is what we are. To fit in, to be approved, affirmed and endorsed are powerful motivators. I will build my house on sand if that’s the price of acceptance to those who build their lives on sand. Rejection injures and scars, to be avoided at all cost.
FACING THE CORE GROUP
My talk to the core group that wednesday evening so long ago lasted about twenty minutes. First I argued against the practice of depending on group discernment instead of the Bible whenever there was a decision to be made, expecting others to honor that discernment. Twentieth century pentecost proved the unreliability of group discernment. Many had been persecuted by their own church because they spoke in tongues and claimed to be baptized in the Holy Spirit. How many church councils and committees from all parts of North America and from every denomination have made collectively bad decisions in dealing with these ‘offenders’? Often the majority prove to be wrong and inadvertently oppose the work of God. And then I said….
“But” you may say, “These are hard sayings. How could satan deceive them and use them?” The answer is simple. Scripture says be doers of the Word.
James 1:22: But be ye doers of the Word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
No man has ever done the work of the devil by being a doer of the Word. The Lord has told us in His book to do many things – to pray for the sick, to give generously, to love the brethren, to pray unceasingly, to be open to the Spirit, to pray in the Spirit, to comfort the afflicted, to preach the holy gospel, etc., etc. But to my knowledge God does not say in His Word to prevent His Spirit from working where He will and through who He chooses.
1 Thess.5:19: Quench not the Spirit.
The people who quench the Spirit are not sons of the Father doing the Father’s business, but sons preoccupied with doing someone else’s business, serving another master…. saying things the Father did not tell them to say…. doing things the Father did not tell them to do…. saying and doing things contrary to His Word. As sons it is our business to do the Father’s business. Anything else, to put it bluntly, is none of our business. I suggest that the common denominator to every quenching of the Spirit is a disobedience to, or misunderstanding of, or a disregard for His Word.
“But”, it could be said, “The Father could speak through sources other than the Bible. He could speak through men, through visions, prophecies…. whatever.”
Yes, God could speak through other channels – He could speak through a mule. But one thing God cannot do (not will not do but cannot do) is speak a message contrary to His Word. Again I say He cannot speak a Word that is contrary to the Bible. If He were to say one thing through His Word and something contrary through another source, then at least one occasion He lied. And God cannot lie. And Jesus said that a house divided against itself will fall.
No, the Father cannot say anything contrary to His Word. But His sons and His daughters can. And His sons and daughters do. Some occasionally, unknowingly, some flagrantly and defiantly, some with religious fervor. It is pathetically common to hear christians say: “I believe this” or “I believe that”…. not standing on any authority but saying “I believe it because I believe it”…. giving no source except one’s own opinion. Not, “I believe Scripture teaches this or indicates that”…. but a flagrant disregard for the Word.
And after the gospel of Jesus Christ has been watered down, diluted with worldly sayings and opinions, altered, neglected, ridiculed and compromised…. the result is a gospel different from the gospel that Jesus, Paul and Peter taught. Paul makes great effort to convince the Galatians that the gospel he preached to them was given to him by a revelation, and fourteen years later he compared that gospel with the one that the apostles of Jerusalem were teaching and found it to be the same.
Gal. 1:6,8,9: I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting him who called you by the grace of Christ for a different gospel…. but even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.
As sons and daughters, we individually and collectively have to make sure that what comes forth out of our mouths is the same message that the Galatians received from Paul, that the gospel that we speak to our children and to our community and to our world is not a different gospel than that which the circumcised heard from Peter. Paul says that a man who preaches a different gospel should be accursed.
Are the people in our community hearing and speaking the same message that the Galatians received? Would Paul be able to compare the gospel revealed to him by Jesus Christ to our ‘catholic charismatic’ gospel and find them one and the same? I fear not. What they do hear and say are words such as these (or to this effect): “I am obedient to my church, even over the Bible.” I say…. devil’s lie! “I don’t care what the Bible says, this is the way I’m going to do it and God will bless me for it.” I say…. devil’s lie! “I don’t care what the Bible says, I am going to go on teaching this way because the fruit is good.” I say…. devil’s lie! “I don’t care what the Bible says, I’ve prayed this way all of my life and I don’t have to change now.” I say…. a lie of satan!
When we are taught something it is our responsibility as sons and daughters to check to see if it lines up with the Father’s Word. As His children, we should make a conscious effort to say only words that line up with His words. That’s what a loyal son does. A loyal, committed son does not say words that are contrary to the Father, does he? Again, James 1:22: But prove yourselves doers of the Word and not merely hearers who delude themselves.
It doesn’t say be doers of your conscience. It doesn’t say be doers of your good intentions. It doesn’t say be doers of what someone else says to do. It doesn’t say be doers of what seems to be right for the occasion. It says be doers of the Word. God calls us to obedience.
1 Peter 1:2: That you may obey Jesus Christ and be sprinkled with His blood.
Romans 16:19: For the report of your obedience has reached to all; therefore I am rejoicing over you.
1 Samuel 15:22: Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice.
Yes, God’s call is a call to obedience. He doesn’t need a compromiser, someone to water down His holy Word, or to add to it, or to take away from it, to make it more acceptable. He is not looking for good p.r. men. He doesn’t need someone to prepare the way for His Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit prepares the way for us. It’s the Holy Spirit who is, at this very year, breaking through the Iron Curtain. It’s a foregone conclusion that the Bamboo Curtain is next. If the Iron and Bamboo Curtains are no challenge to Him, the religious curtains that the churches have made to fortify themselves against Him are nothing.
He doesn’t need you or I to break down the walls…. to negotiate…. to appease…. to compromise and to compromise and to compromise again…. in the name of order…. in the name of submission…. in the name of love. It is not our place to be in fear and trembling, like a mouse that is sleeping with an elephant, fearful and cautious that someone will offend the beast and we, the powerless charismatic mice, will get crushed should he decide to roll over.
God is not looking for faithful catholics in which to work through in the catholic church. He searches for faithful sons to work through in the catholic church. We are to keep our eyes off the giants, off the elephant, off the problems and focus on the Lord. What is happening in our community is not a ‘catholic charismatic’ movement, but God moving charismatically in the cc. What is happening in the anglican church is not an ‘anglican charismatic’ movement, but God working charismatically in that church. If the Holy Spirit were to move charismatically in my union, Local 213, I.B.E.W., immediately the title would go up – The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 213 Charismatic Prayer Movement. And many would conclude that God is wanting to do something to the union.
The point is that God does not want to do something to the churches – the institutional churches; He wants to do something to the people who happen to be there – He wants to save them! That’s the burden on the Father’s heart when He asked Jesus to die for mankind. That’s the burden of His heart today. That’s the burden of Jesus’ heart.
John 3:16: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but should have eternal life.
2 Peter 3:9: The Lord is…. not wishing that any should perish but for all to come to repentance.
That’s supposed to be accomplished through us. That’s supposed to be the burden of our hearts, as sons of the Father, as brothers of Jesus. satan has ten thousand ways of distracting us from that purpose because he too is battling for those souls. And how does he do it? By getting us off of the Word – the two-edged sword. Not so much our defensive weapons – not our helmets, our breastplates, our shields, our footgear, but our offensive weapon – the two-edged sword. That’s what satan fears the most.
Scripture says that Scripture is the ‘power of God unto salvation.’ (Romans 1:16) Take away the gospel and not one more soul will ever be saved. Not one. Watering it down is dulling its edges. Swearing allegiance to something else or someone else is not only a sin against God, but it takes the power out of the sword, the “power of God unto salvation”.
I am not suggesting that we forget to be obedient to the emperor or submissive to each other, but Scripture teaches that those things are to be done only to the degree that it doesn’t blemish our individual consecration to God – only as far as it doesn’t cause us to be disobedient to God, our first love. We are not to limit our obedience to God by what another individual says or by what any church says. But we are to limit our obedience to man when it is conflicting with the Word of God.
1 John 5:3: For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments.
Luke 16:13: No servant can love two masters.
Acts 5:29: But Peter and the apostles said “We must obey God rather than men.”
Jeremiah 7:23: Obey my voice, and I will be your God.
Zechariah 6:15: Amend your ways, and obey the voice of the Lord.
Romans 6:16: Do you not know that when you present yourselves to someone as slaves to obedience, you are slaves to the one who you obey?
2 Thess. 1:7,8: When the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire, dealing out retribution to those who do not know God and to those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
Again, 1 Samuel 15:22: To obey is better than sacrifice.
Again, James 1:22: Be doers of the Word.
Genesis 22:2,9,10,18: Take now thy son, thine only Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah, and offer him there for a burnt offering…. and they came to the place which God had told them of; and Abraham built an altar there upon the wood and Abraham stretched forth his hand, and took the knife to slay his son…. and in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice.
Yes, our call is a call of obedience. And we have no right to interfere with each other, or apply any pressure upon each other in our quest to be obedient to the Lord.
Galatians 5:1: It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.
I think Paul recognized that within the human make-up there is a tendency to go back to where we came from…. to go back to the country we came from…. to go back to the habits that we came from…. to go back to the religion that we came from…. to go back to the prison from which Jesus set us free.
1 Cor. 1:12,13: Each one of you is saying “I am of Paul” and “I of Apollos” and “I of Cephas” and “I of Christ”.
I’ll bet there wasn’t one Corinthian who said, at the time of his rebirth – his conversion – “I am of Paul”, “I of Apollos”, “I of Cephas”. But there is a mysterious and awful pulling to go back.
2 Peter 2:22: It has happened to them according to the true proverb, “A dog returns to his own vomit” and “a sow, after washing, returns to wallowing in the mire”.
Jesus comes to our prison and unlocks the prison door and sets us free. We rejoice for a while. But then a strange thing happens. Many…. most…. turn around and go back to the same prison.
1 Cor. 7:23: You have been bought for a price, do not become the slaves of men.
Paul said to the Galatians (1:10): If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Again, Galatians 5:1: Do not be subject again to the yoke of slavery.
My brothers and sisters, I challenge you in the name of Jesus. Can you stand before Him and say, “Jesus, I honestly believe that I have not returned to the yoke of slavery from which I came.”? Can you say like Paul, “I am free from all men.”? Can you say, “I am a doer of the Word of God.”? “I am a bond-servant of Christ.”?
Many in the charismatic movement have not only gone back to the religion from which they came, but insist that everybody else do the same. My spirit hears the Lord crying, “Look what they’ve done to My song!” You take people by the hand and lead them to Jesus, and Jesus, true to His word, sets them free and makes them sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. Then you tap them on the shoulder and say, “Remember us?” “O yes, you’re the ones who led us to Jesus.” You then take them by the hand and lead them right back to the prison from where they came…. at one time under the pretense of them being a light (in the cc). But I think that this episode shows that what you really mean is, “Try to leave and you will have us to contend with.” So there they sit, not only with your endorsement but upon your insistence.
This is part, not all, of my message to the core group of People of Faith about thirty years ago. I think it hit my friends very hard. Until that day they had never been confronted with such rationale. No one had gotten to them with a Bible perspective. Probably no one tried. But this evening they were forced to hear, to listen to an opposing logic. I think my talk saddened them severely, their confidence in their direction weakened. Perhaps there is a comparative to the rich young ruler who walked away from Jesus sadly because he was unwilling to surrender his wealth, though the wealth of this group was not monetary. No, they were not about to surrender to my admonition to repent of disloyalty to the Bible, yet I knew the Lord’s words would not return void, but find good ground in those unselfish hearts and some day bear fruit.
As I departed they embraced me once more, though I felt it was much more difficult this time. As they did so, an awareness came over me that I was no longer a part of People of Faith. It was over. “The Spirit bade me go.” Almost five years of fellowship had come to an end. It was the cost of freedom.
This is a good time to say that this kind of tearing of fellowship, this awful breaking of relationship, is what one instinctively avoids, and there is a strong inclination to compromise in order to maintain social communion. Everyone connected to the one refusing to compromise pays a price – wife, children, relatives, spiritual associates. The one refusing to compromise to keep the unity becomes a marked man. Everything that goes wrong will be blamed on him, and forgiveness to such does not come easily. You think following Christ is painless? Undemanding? Serene? Think again. If our precious Jesus was a compromiser He would not have been crucified. Had Paul been a compromiser he would not have been martyred. John would not have been banished. Luther would not have been hounded. Martyrs would not have been burned at the stake.
Soon after a series of unfavorable happenings battered People of Faith. Serious differences of opinion within the core led to equally serious resentments. One confrontation prompted the expelling of an influential and respected husband-wife couple. The bishop forbid people from praying in groups in their homes. Confusion and, much worse, unforgiveness blanketed the community. The prayer leader resigned, the expelled couple left the church, some left People of Faith in protest, many simply stayed home thursday evening, the numbers dwindled considerably. The Spirit had been quenched, and the mighty wind was now a breeze.
Then, months later, revival! The core group, under new leadership, bowed in repentance before God and asked forgiveness from the discharged couple. God honored their repentance and soon the wind (the Wind) was blowing again. And then, suddenly, another tempest. The bishop intervened, insisting all teachings conform to the cc which meant the gospel of Christ was to be totally replaced by a “different gospel”, a foreign gospel, the Roman gospel, the gospel of salvation through the sacraments.
The core group refused this dictum, and informed the bishop and the prayer group that such a condition was intolerable. Before the core group had opportunity to resign from their position, the bishop dismissed them and threatened some the right to receive the sacraments, this considered a harsh penalty and public disgrace to any catholic. A priest took over leadership of People of Faith and moved the group to his own parish. As far as St. Theresa parish is concerned, the charismatic cycle is complete.
What happened to that parish happened in many locations. Prayer groups in traditional churches – those spiritual communities within spiritual communities – fell like dominoes. Sad.