Two weeks ago, The Lord instructed me to begin reading the sermons of John Wesley, so I pulled out the two double volumes and started with volume one, sermon one. Since that time, two high profile leaders have renounced their faith, and an international revivalist is accused of some very dark stuff. I believe these events, and as much as I hate to say it, others like them that will continue in the coming months, are part of the reason I am reading Wesley right now.
I have no desire to discuss these three situations. The truth is, I didn’t follow their ministries or anyone around them. There has always been lots of talk about a great end-time revival in the charismatic/pentecostal part of the body I have grown up in. What we are seeing now is the beginning of a great end-time apostasy. My heart grieves for the church right now, for victims and those questioning their faith, and I am praying for those involved. I am praying for people to have the grace to repent and for leaders to have the courage to speak up and enact discipline.
HOW DID ALL THIS START
Granted, I don’t, and most of us don’t know specifics on things, but speaking to the charismatic body of Christ, I honestly believe these types of things have begun to take hold because we don’t have a robust theology. Pentecostal and charismatic believers are known for emphasizing revival, miracles, and signs and wonders, and that is our problem. Those things are supposed to be the result, not the focus.
Hebrews 12:1-4 NIV” Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, 2 fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. “
We all say that Jesus is the focus, but if we are honest, much of the pentecostal/charismatic church quit focusing on Jesus a long time ago and started focusing on revival, crowd size, and signs and wonders.
THE RESULT OF A SHIFTED FOCUS
Because there has been such an over-emphasis on signs and wonders, we have valued gifting over character and the spectacular over the steady. Do I believe in healing and miracles? Yes. Do I believe in restoration? Yes. Restoration to God, first and foremost.
My heart breaks right now because many members and leaders are taking the restore passage in Galatians six while dismissing the qualifications set for ministry in Timothy. This out-of-balance emphasis makes it seem like as long as you’re flowing in the gifts, God winks at your sin. We have mistaken the mercy of God to give time to repent for his approval because signs and wonders are happening.
Hebrews 12:4-13 “4 In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. 5 And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says, “My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline and do not lose heart when he rebukes you, 6 because the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and he chastens everyone he accepts as his son.” 7 Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? 8 If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. 9 Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! 10 They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in his holiness. 11 No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.12 Therefore, strengthen your feeble arms and weak knees. 13 “Make level paths for your feet,” so that the lame may not be disabled, but rather healed.”
WHAT DOES GOD VALUE
First and foremost, God values sons and daughters over their ministry. This is why Paul said I have turned such a one over to Satan for the destruction of their flesh that they may be saved on the day of judgment. There are gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is more important. A tree is known for its fruit. Many have mistaken that to mean the fruit of ministry is signs and wonders. How can that be when Jesus said, many will come to me saying I prophesied in your name, cast demons out in your name, yet I will say, depart from me I never knew you. Hebrews says without holiness; no man shall see the Lord. Considering none of the qualifications of ministry list anything spectacular, I think if we are honest, we would say as a whole the charismatic emphasis has missed the boat.
WHAT DO WE DO
The most important thing we can do is guard and examine our hearts. Ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas in our own lives that are not pleasing to Him. In holding to standards of righteousness, we must remember to do so in love and pray for those who have walked away or fallen to be restored to their relationship with Jesus.
As I have been praying for several days and reading different things, one thing seems clear concerning exposure of unrepented sin; this is just the beginning. Judgment begins in the house of God, and we need to be ready for that. As believers, we need to focus on Jesus and not our favorite preacher, author, or singer.
As I said at the beginning, I have been reading John Wesley. He preached holiness and taught something called the middle road, Meaning, stay out of ditches. Unfortunately, the pentecostal/charismatic world has fallen into a revival ditch full of signs and wonders. We need to quit looking for revival and look to the reviver. Our theological roots of holiness need to be revived. We need to put character over gifting and emphasize sanctification over supernatural manifestation.
I am praying for the church as things continue to unfold. I am praying for our faith to be rooted and grounded in the Word of God. I am praying that each individual’s faith will stand the test that is coming as the idolatry of celebrity preachers, unbalanced teachings, and more are exposed in the coming months.
As things continue to be exposed in leadership and your own life, determine now that Scripture is your standard. Unfortunately, we have already begun to see people walk away from the faith, and this will continue. If ministries you support or your church puts someone’s gifting over their character, make the decision now that you will walk away. Choose holiness if you have to choose between holiness or healing at your church or in a ministry. I believe there are some emotional days ahead for many; keep your eyes on Jesus, meditate on the Scriptures, pray, walk in love and worship Jesus, and you will make it through the house cleaning that has begun.