River of God | Day 8
Hebrews 12:1-11, 2 Chronicles 7:14, Hebrews 12:2, Psalm 126
We've already discussed three weaknesses of the charismatic and Jesus movements. Now we will now consider two more. All five of these weaknesses still exist within much of the Body of Christ - by examining them, we can avoid repeating past mistakes. Again, the purpose is not to criticize, but to learn from past missteps so we can allow the river to flow.
Why are we exploring this topic in depth? As the river of God continues to rise, we want to make sure that it flows unabated. We desire to obey Hebrews 12:1. “Lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us” (NASB).
We use this knowledge to better equip ourselves for the journey ahead. “All discipline for the moment seems not to be joyful, but sorrowful; yet to those who have been trained by it, afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness” (Hebrews 12:11, NASB). The word “trained” here is the Greek word gumnazo, which is where we get the word “gymnasium”. God is taking us to a training ground to equip us for the race. He wants us to win. He’s a great trainer and a loving Father, one we can trust.
Before we dive into these final two weaknesses, let’s review the first three. We talked about haste without heart, and how it addresses our motives. Second, we talked about speed without seasoned skill, and how it tests our maturity. And finally, we discussed sensationalism without substance, a study in our methods. The next failure we must examine is rejoicing without reflecting. This is a direct address to our perspective.
Our example for this challenge is Ezra 3:10-13. In this passage, the Israelites have been in captivity in Babylon for decades. It's finally time for them to build the foundation of the temple of the Lord in Jerusalem again.
“Now when the builders had laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests stood in their apparel with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, to praise the Lord according to the directions of King David of Israel. They sang, praising and giving thanks to the Lord, saying, "For He is good, for His lovingkindness is upon Israel forever."
And all the people shouted with a great shout when they praised the Lord because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. Yet many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers' households, the old men who had seen the first temple, wept with a loud voice when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, while many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the shout of joy from the sound of the weeping of the people, for the people shouted with a loud shout, and the sound was heard far away.”
We must balance joy and mourning, fun and work, tears and laughter. When we see something from only one perspective, we may think it’s the only perspective. But as the scripture we read points out, there are many perspectives to one event or situation. There were people who shouted, but there were some who wept.
Too little rejoicing makes us dull and religious. It results in oppression, legalism, the destruction of zeal and vision. It takes away our strength and vigor, which is in direct contradiction to God’s word. The joy of the Lord is our strength, as Nehemiah 8:10 states.
However, too much rejoicing causes us to lose sight of the essentials, such as our cause and the condition of the world. The love of pleasure and ease can rob us of our willingness to work, sacrifice, and “endure hardship as a good soldier” (2 Timothy 2:3, NKJV).
It’s vital for us to learn to rejoice in the good things of life without allowing it to blind us. We must find a way to enjoy the goodness of God without numbing ourselves to the pain around us. We must find a way to marry the two.
Finally, let's take a look at the failure to produce spiritual offspring (Elishas without Elijahs). Of course, this concept isn’t limited by gender - it is simply an explanation of function. Women certainly can and do fulfill the biblical criteria for sonship and fathering, in the same way men are part of the Bride of Christ. We are speaking of the relational aspect and the need it fulfills, not the particular gender.
It’s difficult to imagine a significant movement in church history that placed so many novices in ministry positions. Why did it become so “normal”? Because of our emphasis on speed, size, and gifting. With our churches struggling, our members disillusioned and the world laughing, we began to cry out for fathers.
Independence in the charismatic movement produced leaders who produce action without accountability. It created works-oriented ministries that have abandoned, or are ignorant to, the ways of God. We’ve seen lording leaders who haven’t learned to lead by serving, and the prostituting of gifts for gain. We’ve built leaders who know how to birth children, but not how to train and nurture sons and daughters.
But if we allowed spiritual fathers to teach and disciple us, what would it produce? We would recognize the subtleties of pride and selfish ambition. We would embrace humility. We would no longer fall prey to the dangers of isolation and one-person shows. We could learn patience, accountability, and would be able to teach the next generation as well. Spiritual fathering prevents haste without heart, speed without seasoned skill, sensationalism without substance, and rejoicing without reflecting. This preserves the flow of the river.
It is no accident that the Scriptures say the young men see visions, the old men dream dreams (see Joel 2:28). One possible interpretation is that vision points ahead, while literal dreams are born of things we have experienced in the past. One causes us to run aggressively (vision), the other with perspective (dreams). When the foundation for the Temple was poured, the visionaries partied, the dreamers wept. Both are essential!
The good news is that God has begun a work of cleansing to correct these and other weaknesses in the Church. He’s presented us with opportunities for revelation, repentance, and turning. In Scripture, this cleansing was often typified by the wilderness. Israel wandered in the desert for 40 years before entering the Promised Land. Christ endured 40 days of testing in the wilderness before He began His ministry.
There are three parallel pairs in the Scriptures that reveal this pattern: Moses and Joshua, Elijah and Elisha, and John the Baptist and Jesus. The first in each of these pairs had a wilderness ministry. Their job was to prepare the way, to clear the brush and pave the way for a new season of blessing. The second in each of these pairs were living symbols of the Promised Land.
Moses is a picture of repentance, and Joshua symbolizes revival. Elijah was taken by a whirlwind to heaven from the wilderness. Elisha received the greater anointing and went into the Promised Land. John the Baptist was the one sent to prepare the way for Jesus - and Jesus' ministry revolutionized the world.
It is no secret that the Church has been in a wilderness season. We have lowered the standard, and God is calling us to repentance. But it isn’t too late - there are still signs of hope. If we hear what God is saying, repent and turn to Him, He will bring the river of His Spirit to us. It will affect us in such a way that others will be swept in. We have to return to Him. Our repentance will begin the process of revival.
It’s time for us to step up. We, the Church, can either stumble our way through this wilderness and hope we eventually make it into the promised land, or we can embrace repentance and move forward with purpose. The wilderness is NOT our destiny. We can do this! Let’s make purposeful moves toward the promise. It’s time for the river to flow through you.