Under the old covenant, the Israelites could only follow the written Word that God gave them through Moses and the prophets. No-one could say, “Follow me” – not even the greatest prophets like Moses or Elijah or John the Baptist. God’s Word alone was the light for their path (Psa.119:105).
But Jesus came and initiated a new covenant. And He gave us not only the Word of God, but an example to follow, by His own life. He was the first person in the Bible to say, “Follow Me” (Mt.4:19; Jn.21:19; Lk.9:23). So in the new covenant, we have both the written word and also the Word made flesh in Jesus – or in other words, the written word made visible in a human life – to guide us.
Jesus rebuked the Pharisees for merely studying the Word of God but not coming to Him: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life. But they testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me to have life.” (Jn.5:39,40).
The life of Jesus is now the Light for our path (John 1:4) – and not just the written Word. If we are unable to find clear guidance in God’s Word in some matter, we can look at the life of Jesus (as revealed by the Holy Spirit to our hearts) and we will always find an answer.
Further: In the new covenant, the Holy Spirit also inspired a godly man like Paul to say, “Follow me – as I follow Christ”. And the Holy Spirit made him say that three times – to emphasise the fact that we should also follow the example of truly godly men who follow in Christ’s footsteps. (1 Cor.4:16; 1 Cor.11:1; Phil.3:17).
A true new-covenant servant not only proclaims God’s standard in the written Word, but also says, as Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ”.
Some Christians say, “We must not follow any man. We must only follow Jesus”. That sounds like a spiritual statement. But it is totally contrary to the Word of God. Because, as we have just seen, Paul (inspired by the Holy Spirit) told us to follow him.
The reason why Paul told the Christians in Corinth to follow him and to imitate him, was because he was their spiritual father. He said, “If you were to have ten thousand teachers in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel. Therefore I exhort you, be followers of me.” (1 Cor. 4:15,16). One cannot follow a Bible-teacher – because even if his teaching is good and accurate, he may not be a good example by his life. According to the above verse, one spiritual father is better than 10,000 Bible-teachers. So it is good for all Christians to have a spiritual father like Paul, whose example they can follow. Following such a spiritual father can save us from sin and from false teaching.
Paul urged Christians to follow other godly men also, who were “following Christ’s example”, as he was doing. He said, “Pattern your lives after mine, and learn from others also who follow our example”(Phil. 3:17- NLT).
The Word of God also commands us to obey our leaders and to imitate their faith.
“Obey your leaders and submit to them” (Heb. 13:17).
“Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; consider the result of their conduct (their life), and imitate their faith” (Heb. 13:7).
We are NOT called to follow a person’s ministry, because God gives each of His children a unique ministry that others cannot have. Christ’s Body has members with different functions just like our human body has. When Jesus called people to follow Him, He did not expect them to do miracles or even preach as He did. That was His ministry. He called people to follow the example of His life – that is, to live by the principles by which He lived. Likewise, when Paul called believers to imitate him and follow him as he followed Christ, he was not asking them to be apostles or to heal the sick, but to live as he lived – by the principles by which Christ lived.
It is the Holy Spirit Who has commanded us in the above verses to follow the examples of godly men. Those who are too proud to follow the examples of godly men usually end up following carnal men, or the promptings of their own Self-life. Then the results can be disastrous.
Immediately after telling the Philippian Christians to follow his own example and the example of other godly men (Phil.3:17), Paul warned them not to follow the example of some others: “For many walk, of whom I often told you, and now tell you even weeping, that they are enemies of the cross of Christ (Phil. 3:18,19).
If however they followed Paul’s example, they would be saved from being deceived by those other ungodly men.
Here are seven tests by which you can evaluate whether a man is a truly godly man worthy of being followed:
1. Is he a humble man – easily approachable and easy to speak to? Jesus told us to learn humility from Him (Matt.11:29). A godly man is one who has learned humility from Jesus.
2. Is he free from the love of money and one who never asks anyone for money (as far as you know)? A godly man will follow Jesus’ example, Who never asked anyone for money even for His ministry. Jesus said that one who loves God cannot love money and that one who holds on to God will despise money (Luke 16:13).
3. Is he pure in his life – and especially in his dealings with women (as far as you know)? A godly man will not just avoid the temptation to sexual lust but will flee from it (2 Tim.2:20-22).
4. If he is married and has children, has he brought up his children in godly ways? A godly, married man will be one whose children are believers who have been brought up in a disciplined way (1 Tim.3:4,5; Tit.1:6).
5. Have his closest co-workers become godly men through their association with him? Godly men will produce other godly men. Timothy became a godly man through being with his spiritual father, Paul (Phil.2:19-22).
6. Has he built (or been active with others in building) a local new-covenant church? Jesus came to earth to build His church (Matt.16:18). He gave Himself up to death to build the church (Eph.5:25). Godly men will not only bring people to Christ but will then build them up as a local church.
7. Does he connect you to Christ and not to himself? A godly man will connect you to Christ, so that you in turn, can become a godly example for others? (Eph.4:15; 2 Cor.4:5).
We cannot follow most Christian leaders, because they fail in one or more of the above areas.
If however, you find a godly leader who has the above qualities, it will be good for you to follow him as a spiritual father, because he will help you to come closer to the Lord and thus be saved from sin and false teaching.
Is 'Trance Evangelism' Coming Back In Vogue? By Jennifer LeClaire
I've never fallen into a trance but I know people who have—and it's totally biblical. We only see people falling into trances a few times in the Bible, but there is enough evidence from the Word of God and from modern expressions to back up this scriptural supernatural experience.
A trance is a state of one who is "out of himself," according to Easton's Bible Dictionary. The word trance comes from the Greek word "ekstasis," form which the word ecstasy is derived. Peter fell into a trance in Acts 10:10 that opened his eyes to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. Paul fell into a trance in Acts 22:17 in which the Lord gave Him a warning and a commission to preach the gospel to the Gentiles. I suppose it's hard to describe it if you've not experienced it, but Smith's Bible Dictionary goes a little deeper, saying a trance is:
"The state in which a man has passed out of the usual order of his life, beyond the usual limits of consciousness and volition, being rapt in causes of this state are to be traced commonly to strong religious impressions. Whatever explanation may be given of it, it is true of many, if not of most, of those who have left the stamp of their own character on the religious history of mankind, that they have been liable to pass at times into this abnormal state."
Since we're looking back at historical figures in the body of Christ during Charisma's 40th anniversary month, I though it fitting to offer a look at Maria Woodworth-Etter, a powerful voice from the late 1800s and early 1900s that was moving in the supernatural before Asuza Street or the charismatic movement made its mark on church history.
Indeed, Woodworth-Etter was a Pentecostal forerunner. She saw great outpourings of God's Spirit in the Midwest before entering the West Coast to win souls for God. In Oakland, California, she bought an 8,000-seat tent in 1889 and packed it out with people hungry to watch God move. He didn't disappoint. Healings, signs, wonders, miracles were commonplace in Woodworth-Etter's meetings.
Of course, miracles always draw crowds and critics and it was no different for this female pioneer. However, she didn't see the attacks from fellow healing evangelist John Alexander Dowie coming. Dowie, himself moving in miracles, at first praised Woodworth-Etter but soon accused her of propagating a great delusion because people were falling into trances left and right under her tent. He called it "trance evangelism."
Woodworth-Etter also drew attention from the media. The Salem report documents her falling into a trance on March 24, 1904, and she "had to be laid on the platform for over an hour." The Indianapolis Star also reported "Woodworth-Etter Goes into a Trance" in a 1904 edition. In 1913, The Boston Globe reported, "Took No Money for Healing; Mrs. Etter Gave God Credit for Cures." Those are just a few of the articles written about this pre-Pentecostal minister.
Standing Like Statues
There are accounts of Woodworth-Etter falling into a trance at a St. Louis meeting and standing like a statue for three whole days as attendees of the World Fair looked on in amazement. It's not clear if the trance actually lasted that long, but she was known to fall into trances that left her frozen for hours at a time—and so did many others who attended her meetings.
"People fell into trances, experienced visions of heaven and hell, collapsed on the floor as if they'd been shot or had died," reports Revival Library. "Thousands were healed of a wide variety of sicknesses and diseases and many believers, even ministers, received mighty baptisms of the Holy Spirit."
Often times, unbelievers who came in to disrupt the service were encountered by the power of God and themselves fell into a trance. Reporters ridiculed her, her husband lashed out at her in a public letter, she lost the support of well-known ministers in her day, but she continued preaching the gospel and people continued getting saved—and falling into trances. Woodworth-Etter pointed people to scriptural references of trances and believed it was the power of God.
Criticized in her day, she goes down in Pentecostal history as a pioneer, a forerunner who withstood strong persecution to steward the glory of God in her meetings. We need more like Woodworth-Etter in this hour.
In the Weekly Evangel, Robert J. Craig, an early Pentecostal leader and pastor of Glad Tidings Temple in San Francisco, honored her and encouraged ministers to study her life and ministry: "If the Pentecostal ministry would study her life and count on God, expecting the supernatural to be revealed in each meeting, what a mighty agency ours would be in the hands of God."
Amen. And think about it for a minute. What would happen if skeptics of the gospel entered a Holy Ghost meeting and fell into a trance and saw visions of hell? Maybe trance evangelism isn't such a bad idea.
Jennifer LeClaire is senior editor of Charisma. She is also director of Awakening House of Prayer in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, co-founder of AwakeningTV.com, on the leadership team of the New Breed Revival Network and author of several books, including The Next Great Move of God: An Appeal to Heaven for Spiritual Awakening; Mornings With the Holy Spirit, Listening Daily to the Still, Small Voice of God; The Making of a Prophet and Satan's Deadly Trio: Defeating the Deceptions of Jezebel, Religion and Witchcraft. You can visit her website here. You can also join Jennifer on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Jennifer's Periscope handle is @propheticbooks.
What's Next After You Have Been Slain in the Spirit?
By Kathy DeGraw
I've fallen in the Spirit – What do I do next?
What happens when we fall in the spirit and what should be our reaction?
Our first reaction when we have fallen in the spirit and aren't familiar with this can be, "Oh great I have fallen in the spirit and everyone is looking at me. What do I do next?" What happens when we fall in the spirit and what should be our reaction?
The best explanation I've heard of falling in the spirit is that when the supernatural (God) meets the natural (us) something has to give and it is us that gives. What should be our response? We should embrace it and discover what God has for us.
When we fall in the spirit there can be many reactions such as:
Why is this happening to me?
What just happened?
Why did I feel woozy and fall?
Did the person praying over me push me?
Everyone is looking at me.
I feel/look silly.
What do I do next?
These can be some of the realistic thoughts that go through your mind. The first thing you should do is just relax and rest in the presence of the Lord, after all you just fell under the power of God. If you fell under the power of God, obviously there is a reason. Relax and enjoy the state of rest you are in and most of all don't be in a hurry to get up. Stay on the floor and focus on the Lord. Try not to think about what to do next or what is happening and most of all don't worry and concern yourself with what people around you are thinking.
While we are in the presence of the Lord there can be many things that are happening:
We can be in a place of rest.
Receiving healing and deliverance.
Receiving instruction, revelation and knowledge
Receiving something, but we don't know what.
Having a vision or encounter with Jesus.
Receiving the answer to a prayer.
The most important thing is not to get up until you feel the presence lift off of you or until you feel released by the Spirit of the Lord. When we fall in the Spirit sometimes God just plain needs to get our attention, because we have been too busy to slow down and listen to him. This is a way he communicates with us. We may get up and feel as if we received nothing, it is in those times rest and impartations happens. We can't explain it at the moment, but we know we were in the presence of the Lord.
I remember a time I had prayer for a tooth that needed a root canal and crown. I went down in the spirit and laid there and didn't really feel anything. I didn't receive revelation, but as I stood up all of a sudden I felt the power of God on me so strong I had to be assisted walking to my vehicle. I went home and continued to be in the presence for hours. At my surgeon's appointment the dentist said, "What are you doing here, there is nothing wrong with your tooth, go home." The reaction wasn't at that moment, but subsequent, I basked in the presence of the Lord until I felt released to get up. You don't always know what you get at the moment, but you need to trust God that you are getting something and He knows best.
As you are prayed for and as the Spirit comes upon you, don't be scared or hesitant to be in the presence of the Lord it is wonderful. Focus on the Lord and remember for that moment of time it's just you and him and nothing else matters.
Kathy DeGraw is the founder of DeGraw Ministries a ministry releasing the love and power of God. She travels hosting conferences, teaching schools and evangelistic love tours. Kathy enjoys writing and is the author of several books that educate, empower and equip people, including A Worship Woven Life and Flesh, Satan or God. Connect with Kathy at www.degrawministries.org.
In an old town in Ireland they'll show you with reverence a place where four young men met night after night after night praying for revival. In Wales, there's a place in the hills where three or four young men only 18 or 19 years old met and prayed night after night. They wouldn't let God go; they would not take no for an answer. As far as humanly possible they prayed a revival into birth. If you're thinking of revival at your church without any inconvenience, forget it. Revival costs a lot.
I can give you one simple reason why we don't have revival in America. Because we're content to live without it. We're not seeking God - we're seeking miracles, we're seeking big crusades, we're seeking blessings. In Numbers 11, Moses said to God, "You're asking me to carry a burden I can't handle. Do something or kill me!" Do you love America enough to say, "God, send revival or kill me"? Do you think it's time we changed Patrick Henry's prayer from, "Give me liberty or give me death," to "Give me revival or let me die"?
In the 30th chapter of Genesis, Rachael goes to Jacob and throws herself down in despair. She says, "Give me children or else I die." Are you willing to throw yourself down before God to seek the spiritual birth of spiritual children in our country?
People say, "I'm filled with the Holy Spirit." If the coming of the Spirit didn't revolutionize your prayer life, you'd better check on it. I'm not so sure you got what God wanted you to get.
We've said that prayer changes things. No! Prayer doesn't change things. Prayer changes people and they change things. We all want Gabriel to do the job. God says do it yourself - with My sufficiency and My strength.
We need to get like this woman, Hannah. What did she do? She wept, she was grieved, she said she had a complaint, she fasted - and she prayed.
Jesus, the anointed of God, made prayer His custom. Paul, with his background and intellect, depended on prayer because he said he was weak. David, the king, called himself a poor man and cried to the Lord. Hannah prayed for a son and gave birth to a prophet. The prayers of a handful of young men sparked revival.
There's nothing more transfiguring than prayer.
Copyright (C)1995 by Leonard Ravenhill, Lindale, Texas.
A sermon given by David Wilkerson at an Assemblies of God headquarters chapel service. By David Wilkerson
I am not coming to you as a pastor but with a prophetic word. God so shook me recently with this message that I should bring it somewhere, sometime in Springfield. This morning the Lord, by His Spirit, spoke to my heart that this is the time. He has called me to be one of His watchmen, and I have wept over this and prayed that He will help me deliver the message in a spirit of love. This is not a chastisement but a warning for the Assemblies of God.
A New Gospel
Accommodate means to adapt, to make suitable and acceptable, to make convenient. A gospel of accommodation is creeping into the United States. It's an American cultural invention to appease the lifestyle of luxury and pleasure. Primarily a Caucasian, suburban gospel, it's also in our major cities and is sweeping the nation, influencing ministers of every denomination, and giving birth to megachurches with thousands who come to hear a nonconfronting message. It's an adaptable gospel that is spoon-fed through humorous skits, drama, and short, nonabrasive sermonettes on how to cope—called a seeker-friendly or sinner-friendly gospel.
To begin with, those terms are unscriptural. The gospel of Jesus Christ has always been confronting—there is no such thing as a friendly gospel but a friendly grace.
This new gospel is being propagated by bright, young, talented ministers. They have come upon a formula which states you can go into any town or city; and if you have the right formula, within a short time you can raise a megachurch.
If you are a young man and have certain skills, you find those skills and a part of the city that would best suit you. You move into that area, poll it, and find out what the nonchurchgoers want:
"You don't like choirs. Well, would you go to a church that didn't have a choir?" Yes.
"You don't like to wear suits. Would you go where it's informal?" Yes.
Then you go to your computer and design a gospel that will not confront but will shoot out the desires and the needs of the people. After you have gathered a handful of people, you keep interviewing them to find out what they want; then you design your message to help people cope with their needs. The program you design is intended to make the church comfortable and friendly for all sinners who wish to attend.
This gospel is fast becoming the most prosperous and flourishing of all religious movements. Thousands attend these churches. The pastor is the CEO, and it becomes a business. They make no bones about it: They are following Madison Avenue tactics and can make a success of it. Their formula for quick church growth is cleverly packaged and is being sold especially to young ministers—those who want to be a part of the big boys and what's happening on a fast track. They want it to happen quickly.
Paul warned of the coming of another gospel and another Jesus (2 Corinthians 11:4). He warned the church that it's really not another gospel but a perversion of the true gospel of Jesus Christ. If you hear any other gospel, he said, let that preacher be accursed. In other words, no matter how pleasant, how pious, or how sincere, if the message is not the death of sin through the cross of Jesus Christ, let it be accursed.
I tremble when I read in the Scriptures that in the last days Satan is going to come right into the church posing as an angel of light. He's going to take ministers who, at one time, had the touch of God, and he's going to transform them into angels of light to become his tool of deception. That's frightening. It causes me to fall on my face before God for such false, deceitful workers transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. No marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it's no great thing if ministers also are transformed as the ministers of righteousness whose end shall be according to their works.
Paul said they are going to glory in the flesh, in their bigness, their numbers, their influence, and their contemporariness. They will boast they are contemporary, that there is a gospel that is out of style that doesn't reach human need anymore. They will glory in the world's acceptance. Jesus warned, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matthew 7:15). The context of that warning was: "Straight is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth to life, and few there be that find it" (verse 14).
His warning was to beware of the wolves who are going to say it's really not that narrow and straight—they are going to come posing as submissive sheep. Jesus put His finger on the cause: ambition—ambitious ravening wolves. In the Greek it means "starved for recognition and quick gratification, quick growth."
Jesus left no doubt about His meaning. For example, He was addressing a struggling pastor who has worked for years and hasn't seen the kind of growth he wants to see. A young man with an accommodating gospel moves into town and and within a very short time has a megachurch. People are flocking there because there is entertainment; it's a gospel of fun. I've been in some of them. It's the gospel of entertainment that has no conviction whatsoever. There is very little in their gospel that speaks to sinners of repentance, brokenness, and cross-bearing. A Christ is preached, Jesus' name is mentioned, but Paul said their's is another gospel, another Jesus.
Paul warned that if you are caught in this trap, if you want that hook of entertainment, that hook of sudden growth, this is the hook: The enemy will put in your path a teaching.
I have two preacher sons. One of them confessed to me, "Dad, I was that close to being sucked in because I fasted and prayed and didn't see the growth I wanted to see, and I saw these others grow. That hook was there, and I almost bought it."
That is something this Movement and every movement is going to have to look at and deal with: It is possible, through unholy ambition, to be transformed from a man of God, who has been seeking God and getting a word from heaven, to an unholy ambition and a tool of Satan. Let every pastor heed this warning: The moment you begin to consider the "competition," seeds of accommodation will be planted in your heart. Suddenly, Satan will put in your path a wolf in sheep's clothing—a man who will try to seduce you into ungodly ambition and achieving church growth at any cost. Yet the truth is, it could cost you your soul.
The Right Formula
If you find the right formula, according to the accommodation gospel, you can succeed in any field of endeavor.
An editorial in the New York Times (March 1, 1998) was entitled, How To Manufacture a Best-Seller. It told the story of John Baldwin, a 53-year-old carpenter and a would-be writer, who had struggled for years to make a living from writing. He determined to become famous and rich overnight by writing a best-selling medical thriller. He studied five or six best thrillers. After 7 years' research he found 10 steps to producing a best-selling medical novel. He honed it with some Hollywood writers and agents, and here is the 10-step formula he used:
The hero is an expert.
The villain is an expert.
You must watch all the villain's activities over his shoulder.
The hero has a team of experts behind him, working in various fields.
Two or more on the team must fall in love.
Two or more on the team must die.
The villain must turn his attention from his initial goal to the team.
The villain and the hero must live to do battle again in the sequel.
All deaths must proceed from the individual to the group.
If the story bogs down, just kill somebody.
John Baldwin had the formula but no story, so he read of research by John Marr who was studying the epidemiological causes of the 10 plagues, hoping to explain their causes scientifically. The two men formed a partnership, and using Baldwin's 10-step formula, together wrote a 640 page manuscript called The Eleventh Plague. Harper Collins bought it for almost $2 million.
Baldwin, who has no passion for writing, said, "If I get the formula, I'm going to be a multimillionaire and famous." Well, he's going to make another $3 million on the movie rights, and he's laughing all the way to the bank. His philosophy: "If you have the right formula, you can be a success at anything."
You see, this is the gospel of accommodation—the formula. You get the formula, you get what people want, and you can be a success. I am here to tell you that a formula-based, accommodating gospel is contrary to everything in the Scriptures.
Certain men of God met at Antioch to send out men to preach the gospel and establish churches (Acts 13). Here is God's method:
1. They ministered to the Lord and fasted. This was their planning session—worshiping, fasting, waiting on the Lord, and calling for direction from the Holy Ghost. They did not move until the Holy Ghost spoke. There were no formulas, no surveys, no door-to-door asking people what they wanted and then serving it to them.
2. They prayed—no strategizing, no network, and not one step until the Holy Ghost spoke His mind. Then and only then did they lay hands upon them, anoint them, and send them out in the power and demonstration of the Holy Ghost.
Paul lived his whole religious life on religious formulas, and he said they didn't work. He gave up on formulas and said, "I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified" (1 Corinthians 2:2). Paul boasted unashamedly, "We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness" (1 Corinthians 1:23). He was saying, "Gentlemen (he was talking to his peers), they want us to accommodate. The Jews are looking for signs in our gospel. The Greeks want the wisdom. They want to know how to cope, but I'm not compromising. There's only one message. Our gospel has been and will be the Cross and its demands as well as its victories. As for me, I'm determined to preach nothing among you but Christ and Him crucified."
What the Gospel of Accommodation Does (1)
I see three things in the gospel of accommodation:
1. It is the accommodation of man's love for pleasure.
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers...of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:1–4). The Greek for pleasure is "sensuous, lustful, voluptuous, exciting, gratifying, sensual pleasure." If you move toward this gospel of accommodation, you are going to have to accommodate the people's lust because they are not going to give up their love for excitement. They've made gods of sports, pleasure, and lust. Unless that is confronted by the gospel of Jesus Christ, unless there is a truth that comes forth, you have to accommodate this lust that is in the American lifestyle.
I was shocked by an article in the New York Times.1 Philip Wogaman, President Clinton's pastor, said, "Sexual misconduct does not automatically render a leader immoral. Morality should also be judged by indicators like courage, concern for the poor, fostering world peace, running the economy responsibly, and furthering racial equality. Heterosexuality and homosexuality are merely cultural expressions." In other words, Mr. Clinton has been told that he has enough good indicators to overrule another that would be immoral in his life.
God said that men who preach doctrines like these resist the truth; they are men of corrupt minds counterfeiting the faith.
In disbelief I watched a televised Sunday night service of a seeker-friendly church—seeker-friendly by its own admission. To a packed church where thousands attend, the pastor said, "This is fun night, a David Letterman night." The youth pastor came out and did his monologue as David Letterman. Then they showed 10 of the most boring things teenagers do during preaching. Three of the 10 were throwing spitballs, yawning, and picking their noses. The crowd went crazy. After the service, the pastor brazenly announced, "We're not here to offend people, but to make church comfortable for everyone." I wept.
I ask you, how long do you think that audience would stay in church if the pastor was gripped by the Holy Ghost, convicted for "entertaining" people toward hell, and suddenly preached a message entitled, "Be sure your sins will find you out"? How long would people keep coming back if a gospel of holy living and separation from the world was preached? Two things would happen: (1) Those who are misguided, hungry, and didn't know any better would weep and run to the altar. (2) Those who are judiciously blinded by their pleasures in madness would flee from the church and never come again. The church doors would close.
I keep this foremost in my mind and before my eyes, because every minister of the gospel one day has to face it when he stands before the Lord. He will say, "Son of man, I made thee a watchman. You were to hear the words of My mouth and give them warnings from Me. You were to tell the wicked, 'Thou shalt surely die.' And you gave them no warning nor spoke to warn the wicked to turn from their wicked ways to save their lives. These same wicked men died in their sins, but their blood I'll require at your hands."
What the Gospel of Accommodation Does (2)
2. This gospel of accommodation accommodates all man's aversion to self-denial.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of self-denial. Jesus said, "If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me" (Matthew 16:24). Self-denial is not something you give. It's someone you give up—the giving up of yourself, giving up everything you are. It's a living sacrifice to the Lord Jesus Christ to present your body a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. God has every right to say to His church, "If you expect to give Me your body, your resurrected body, all through eternity, I have every right—it's only reasonable of Me and your reasonable service—to ask your body why you're here on earth. I want every part of you. I want you to be spiritually minded. I want to possess you."
The gospel we preach must bring people under the total possession of the Lord Jesus Christ. Otherwise, it's a gospel of accommodation.
The seeker-friendly gospel accommodates the body. The human body belongs to Him. What we see in America is a neognosticism where you take your physical body on one side and do as you please as long as your spirit is right with God. This is coming even out of the White House, this dividing of personality. No, we are one personality, and it all belongs to Jesus Christ. This neognosticism is destroying the faith of many throughout the nation.
What the Gospel of Accommodation Does (3)
3. There is an accommodation of man's offense to the gospel.
The Scriptures state, "Behold, I lay in Zion a stumblingstone and rock of offense." Paul spoke of the offense of the Cross. This is the heart of God's anger. We're not called to the Cross but to go through the Cross—to experience the same thing Jesus did, not only coming to the Cross but dying and going into the grave with Jesus Christ and then being raised from the dead to a newness of life.
It's cruel, pastor, to lead sinners to the Cross, tell them they are forgiven by faith, and then allow them to go back to their habits and lusts of the flesh, unchanged and still in the devil's shackles. If the preaching of grace doesn't have as its goal the producing of a walk of righteousness, then it's another gospel, another Jesus.
I listened in horror to a man, who attended one of the largest seeker-friendly churches, being interviewed by CBS. He said, "I come to this church because I'm comfortable. I'm never made to feel uneasy. I bring my Jewish friends and my business friends, and I know nothing will ever be said that will offend them. The best part of it is, the whole thing only lasts an hour."
Take it from me: You can get your big church and be one of the big boys, but it's going to cost you your soul if you preach with a focus only on earthly things, rather than on the things of God.
I've lived in New York City 35 years. We have 103 nationalities from all walks of life—from the poorest to the richest. Probably 300 or more from the United Nations live there. But I look over a congregation (so does my dear friend, Jim Cymbala, in Brooklyn) and see men who have just walked in from the porno shops and are wild animals. I see a businessman friend who was CEO of a multimillion–dollar company, but he started snorting coke, lost everything, and is now a bum on the street. He sits in the congregation. A little 14-year-old girl with AIDS is up on 8th Avenue performing lewd acts before dirty old men. She comes to church and keeps saying, "Pastor Dave, I've got to get out. I've got to get help."
I'm not about to put up a silly skit and preach a 15-minute message on how to cope to a multitude of people who are dying and going to hell. I tremble at the thought.
People don't like to hear this, but we're headed for perilous times—just a few years away from a collapse like the world has never known. When that happens, all who preached prosperity are going to disappear because the people will say, "Your gospel has failed me." When that time comes, I want to grasp onto Jesus, and I want everyone I've preached to to have faith in the keeping power of Jesus Christ. I want them to know Him in His fullness. I want to know that I've done it in love, in grace, that they would know the difference between the holy and the profane.
May God, in Jesus' name, spare the Assemblies of God forever. If I have ever given a prophetic message in my lifetime that God intended for a purpose, it is now.
Many are being deceived. If they are not awakened, what I warn you about will happen.
I pray that God will keep the Assemblies of God in its original purposes. In New York City, He has proved that the people come to hear a straight gospel, and thousands will come where the Word of God is being preached without compromise and yet with grace. May the young men who are discouraged in the Movement not try for a shortcut but be broken and on their faces before the Lord.
May we get our eyes off growth and onto a new revelation of who Jesus is.
The current effort of so many religious leaders to harmonize Christianity with science, philosophy and every natural and reasonable thing is, I believe, the result of failure to understand Christianity and, judging from what I have heard and read, failure to understand science and philosophy as well.
At the heart of the Christian system lies the cross of Christ with its divine paradox. The power of Christianity appears in its antipathy toward, never in its agreement with, the ways of fallen men. The truth of the cross is revealed in its contradictions. The witness of the church is most effective when she declares rather than explains, for the gospel is addressed not to reason but to faith. What can be proved requires no faith to accept. Faith rests upon the character of God, not upon the demonstrations of laboratory or logic.
The cross stands in bold opposition to the natural man. Its philosophy runs contrary to the processes of the unregenerate mind, so that Paul could say bluntly that the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness. To try to find a common ground between the message of the cross and man's fallen reason is to try the impossible, and if persisted in must result in an impaired reason, a meaningless cross and a powerless Christianity.
But let us bring the whole matter down from the uplands of theory and simply observe the true Christian as he puts into practice the teachings of Christ and His apostles. Note the contradictions: The Christian believes that in Christ he has died, yet he is more alive than before and he fully expects to live forever. He walks on earth while seated in heaven and though born on earth he finds that after his conversion he is not at home here. Like the nighthawk, which in the air is the essence of grace and beauty but on the ground is awkward and ugly, so the Christian appears at his best in the heavenly places but does not fit well into the ways of the very society into which he was born.
The Christian soon learns that if he would be victorious as a son of heaven among men on earth he must not follow the common pattern of mankind, but rather the contrary. That he may be safe he puts himself in jeopardy; he loses his life to save it and is in danger of losing it if he attempts to preserve it. He goes down to get up. If he refuses to go down he is already down, but when he starts down he is on his way up.
He is strongest when he is weakest and weakest when he is strong. Though poor he has the power to make others rich, but when he becomes rich his ability to enrich others vanishes. He has most after he has given most away and has least when he possesses most.
He may be and often is highest when he feels lowest and most sinless when he is most conscious of sin. He is wisest when he knows that he knows not and knows least when he has acquired the greatest amount of knowledge. He sometimes does most by doing nothing and goes furthest when standing still. In heaviness he manages to rejoice and keeps his heart glad even in sorrow.
The paradoxical character of the Christian is revealed constantly. For instance, he believes that he is saved now, nevertheless he expects to be saved later and looks forward joyfully to future salvation. He fears God but is not afraid of Him. In God's presence he feels overwhelmed and undone, yet there is nowhere he would rather be than in that presence. He knows that he has been cleansed from his sin, yet he is painfully conscious that in his flesh dwells no good thing.
He loves supremely One whom he has never seen, and though himself poor and lowly he talks familiarly with One who is King of all kings and Lord of all lords, and is aware of no incongruity in so doing. He feels that he is in his own right altogether less than nothing, yet he believes without question that he is the apple of God's eye and that for him the Eternal Son became flesh and died on the cross of shame.
The Christian is a citizen of heaven and to that sacred citizenship he acknowledges first allegiance; yet he may love his earthly country with that intensity of devotion that caused John Knox to pray "O God, give me Scotland or I die."
He cheerfully expects before long to enter that bright world above, but he is in no hurry to leave this world and is quite willing to await the summons of his Heavenly Father. And he is unable to understand why the critical unbeliever should condemn him for this; it all seems so natural and right in the circumstances that he sees nothing inconsistent about it.
The cross-carrying Christian, furthermore, is both a confirmed pessimist and an optimist the like of which is to be found nowhere else on earth.
When he looks at the cross he is a pessimist, for he knows that the same judgment that fell on the Lord of glory condemns in that one act all nature and all the world of men. He rejects every human hope out of Christ because he knows that man's noblest effort is only dust building on dust.
Yet he is calmly, restfully optimistic. If the cross condemns the world the resurrection of Christ guarantees the ultimate triumph of good throughout the universe. Through Christ all will be well at last and the Christian waits the consummation. Incredible Christian!
TAKE TIME TO READ THIS AND YOU WILL NEVER BE THE SAME. IT HAS THE POTENTIAL TO CHANGE YOUR WHOLE OUTLOOK ON CHRISTIANITY.
Have you ever wondered why the Christian church is so divided? Have you ever wondered why man-made traditions are rampant in most churches; whether it's old denominational traditions or newer Charismatic traditions?
What do I mean by traditions? It's really following the ways of how it's being done in our lifetime. Some churches follow after what was done during the Reformation. Others follow the Wesleyan period. Others follow the Roman Catholic traditions or the Anglo Catholic traditions. Some follow the Presbyterian traditions and others like to modernize to go with the times. Whether it's a Mega Church or a small country church, they all follow similar patterns. Church buildings are structured to accommodate these traditions. Older building (places of worship) usually have older style church services where newer buildings are usually more contemporary.
Of course we have Missionaries and Evangelists that hold crusades and street preachers who win sinners, but many of their converts are left to themselves and fall away or end up becoming Sunday morning pew warmers in a church.
Whenever a new church is established, or a larger facility to accommodate growth, the people involved hardly ever go back to the source to see what a church really is. They make comparisons to see what others have done. They go to a reputable church architect to have a building built that will attract people. Then they are taken up with building structures, furniture, pews, or comfortable chairs, lighting, sound, altar or platform, pulpit or podium; organ, piano, or worship team. Less wealthy congregations will either rent a building, a shop front, or buy an old empty denominational building before it's turned into a Mosque.
Why all this emphasis about buildings or (houses of worship) anyway. What is the source that I'm talking about? The answer is the New Testament. In a moment you will read an article that could change or even revolutionize your whole approach to what church really is in God's eyes.
We had something very much like this back in England in the early seventies,but it never grew to the size depicted in the following article, although it did developed into a large network of house churches all over the country,where God opened the door in many schools and colleges in different towns and large numbers of students were saved and filled with the spirit and joined the movement. Our book, "Living in Revival," by David and Kathie Walters (Author) tells this story. Here is the article. Twenty one steps to revolutionize our churches.
Mega Church To Meta (Beyond) Church
By Victor Choudhrie
21 Steps to transit from being a barren church to a millionaire of souls.
1. Rewrite the job description of the professional clergy from that of a pulpit orator, sacrament dispenser and tithe gatherer, to that of a shepherd who feeds his flock to be healthy and reproducing, by encouraging them to practice the priesthood of all believers with authority to baptize, break bread and equip fishers of men. He must model a flat church structure wherein brothers and sisters submit to one another, pray one for another, serve one another, exhort, forgive and love each other. John 13:34-35; Matt.18:21-22; Eph. 5:21
2. Move from meeting in temples to gathering in 'houses of peace'. 'God does not dwell in temples made by human hands'; rather He dwells in human hearts. For we are the mobile walking and talking temples of the living God, with a maximum of organism and a minimum of organization. Luke 10:5-9; Matt. 10:11-13; Acts 7:48-49; 2 Cor. 6:16
3. Phase out programmed Sunday 'services' while implementing informal, small gatherings. The Bride of Christ must have intimacy with her Lord every day,not only for a couple of hours a week, lest she become unfaithful. However,discourage cross-gender disciple-making, lest chemistry foul things up. Acts2:46-47; Heb. 3:13
4. Replace Mosaic tithing with Christian sharing, thereby harnessing the enormous, financial resources, hospitality and goodwill available in Christian homes. Believe that God is going to work a work among the nations through you, which will leave you utterly amazed, and also provide resources for it. Deut. 8:17-18; Acts 5:32-34; Hab. 1:5
5. Dispense with wafer-and-sip Holy Communion and promote breaking of bread with simple Agape meals (love feasts) from house to house, that believers take with glad hearts, 'and the Lord added to His numbers daily'. The Lord served roast lamb, bitter herbs, bread and wine 'in a house' for the Last Supper. Father God had lunch with Abraham under a tree and discussed Sarah's pregnancy, Sodom's ruin and Lot's rescue plan. Acts 2:46-47; 1 Cor.11:20-23;Gen Chap 18.
6. Replace professional music with believers speaking to each other in psalms and spiritual songs, making melody in their hearts to the Lord. OT worship required the sacrifice of four-footed beasts; the NT celebrates by offering two-legged Gentiles as a living sacrifice. The meta-church is a discipling hub and not a singing club. Eph 5:19; Col 3:16; Rom. 15:16
7. Shift from being a spectator-oriented church to a 'metastasizing',interactive, participatory, prophetic church. Empower men, women and youth, to get the dragon off the driver's seat. We, the seed of Abraham are blessed; "with multiplying I will multiply you and your seed will possess the gates of the enemy". It is time Abraham's seed got on the driver's seat.1 Cor.14:26-31; Acts 13:13; 18:4; Gen. 22:17-18; Gal. 3:27-29
8. For a powerful synergy, metamorphose mega-churches into city, regional and national networks of 'meta' (beyond) churches. Instead of gathering under one roof, have them gather under a thousand roofs, just like the mega church at Jerusalem planted meta-churches across Judea, Samaria, Antioch, Corinth, Rome and beyond (Gk. meta) that grew in faith and in numbers (both quality and quantity), daily. Rom. 16:3-15; Acts 1:8; 16:5.
9. Infect the barren Bride with the multiplication virus. A healthy mature female (Bride) implies that she is ready to have babies. Rebecca, the Bride of Isaac, was blessed by her family to have millions of children. The time has come for the Bride of Christ to stretch her tent to the left and to the right, to the north and to the south, to produce millions of meta-churches,and fill the earth. Gen. 24:60; Isa. 54:1-5; Acts 1:8
10. Know your identity in Christ: You are a royal-priest, made so by the blood of the Lamb. Dismantle the 'Reverend' culture that divides clergy from layman. Like Melchizedek, the royal-priest of Salem (City of Peace), who served bread and wine, took a tithe and blessed Abraham, bring godly governance to your city. Catch the vision of cloning royal-priests for every city, and run with it. 1 Pet.2:9; Rev.5:10; Hab.2:1-3; Isa. 9:6-7; Gen. 14:18
11. Challenge purposeless churches to enunciate a clear vision and to lay out a road map to translate that vision into action plans to 'do greater things than these'. Armed with maps, stats and the Great Commission go two by two and teach the divine arithmetic of planting just one multiplying church every month. In ten short months, even the least shall plant a thousand meta-churches. John 14:12; Acts 16:5; Luke 10:1-2; Isa. 60:22
12. Unglue from their pews all those Christians who sit, soak and stagnate,and send them to heal the sick, raise the dead, tread on snakes and scorpions (expel demons), bind the 'strongman', plunder his possessions, and demolish the gates of Hell. Doggedly pursue demon demolition drive until 'the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and His Christ.' Matt.11:12; 12:29; 16:18-19; Mark 16:17-18; Luke 10:19; Rev.11:15.
13. Resurrect from being a dead organization to a living organism. Replace all extra-biblical, cosmetic titles like Director, Chairman, CEO, and Secretary by appointing fivefold ministry- gifted Elders, like apostles,prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers, as equippers. Healthy feeding and leading will keep the flock thriving and fertile and build bridges with the 'other sheep which are not of this fold'. Eph.4:11; Tit. 1:5-9; John 10:16.
14. Empower every Sunday school, Bible school, prayer cell, women's fellowship, and cottage meeting, by calling them full-fledged, authentic churches. They must make disciples who baptize, break bread, equip laborers and send missionaries, and, like the school of Tyrannus, change the spiritual demography. 1 Cor. 16:19; Col. 4:15; Acts 19:8-12
15. Filter out non-performing goats who come only for hatching (baby baptisms), matching (weddings) and dispatching (funerals), and replace them with sheep who take care of the hungry, thirsty, naked, strangers, sick and prisoners. Culling the non-productive sheep is an integral part of the 'best practices' of sheep rearing. God chose David to shepherd Israel because he took care of "the ewes great with young". Matt. 25:31-46; Ps. 78:70-72
16. Simplify disciple making. Get a Bible and invite a couple of truth-seekers for a meal where the main dish is - The Lamb. Redefine authentic church as wherever two or three friends meet to eat, to gossip the gospel, and to multiply. Meta-church is the most cost effective strategy for city penetration and reaching the ends of the earth. Acts 2:46-47.
17. Replace seminary training with sharing the whole wisdom of God from house to house. Sound doctrine is the ability to convince those who oppose. The lost of this world do not need scholars as much as they need spiritual fathers and mothers who bring many spiritual sons and daughters to glory. Acts 20:20, 27; Tit. 1:9; 1 Cor. 4:15; 2 Tim. 2:2; Heb 2:10.
18. Reorient your personal paradigm. Your business, workplace or home,wherever you spend most of your time, is your 'primary nuclear church'. It matters little whether you are the CEO, or the janitor or the kitchen queen; you are a full-time minister there and accountable. Adam and Eve were accountable for the Garden of Eden, and they failed.
19. Recognize 'Hi, there,' 'Hello,' handshaking, Sunday church as your 'secondary, optional church'. A church that does not send you out to 'raise your holy hands to pray everywhere ' and equip you to make Christ 'high and lifted up' in your home, workplace and neighborhood is not worth going to. 1Tim. 2:8; Isa. 6:1
20. Re-set your priorities to preach Christ where He has not been named. For this you do not have to go to church from Sunday to Sunday nor work from paycheck to paycheck. You are "ordained" to be fruitful, to multiply, and to fill your home, workplace, neighborhood and the city with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea. Matt. 6:33; Rom. 15:20;John 15:16; Gen. 1:28; Hab. 2:14
21. Adopt a 'completion mindset'. Evaluate your ministry by the Great Commission as its mandate, and for benchmarks the numbers of disciples made, baptized, equipped and sent out. Aim to become a millionaire of souls. Why not? After all, you believe in a great, awesome God for whom nothing is impossible. At the very least, like Peter, shoot for 3000 baptisms by every Pentecost. Or like Paul, plant a multiplying church every day, till you can claim that there are no more places left here for you to 'fully preach the gospel', not just with words, 'but with signs and mighty deeds'. Acts 2:41; 16:5; Rom.15:19, 23.
Shalom and Shalom again.
*Victor Choudhrie is a cancer surgeon by profession. He is a Senior Fellow of the American and British Colleges of Surgeons. He left his position as Director and CEO of the Christian Medical college, Ludhiana, Punjab, India, in 1992, to take up a full-time Church planting ministry in central India. His wife, Bindu, is also in a full-time church planting ministry, equipping women to be house-church leaders and trainers. They now have disciples making disciples in some forty countries. Theirs is presently amongst the fastest growing movements deploying volunteers with no paid workers in the field. God has blessed this ministry abundantly. In the year from Pentecost 2009 to Pentecost 2010, over one million underwent a ‘holy dip’ through their ministry partners. Large numbers of grassroots level leaders have been trained, who, subsequently, have planted tens of thousands of house churches across India and abroad.
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