I recently finished reading the biography of Smith Wigglesworth; one of the noted Evangelist of the early 20th century. His life is a testament of the divine power of God manifested through the life of a devoted servant. While reading the various accounts of authentic miracles done by the hand of God through Wigglesworth and contemplating the numerous manifestations of healings as well as deliverances that God performed through many other servants of the 19th &20th century, I began to ask myself "why don't we see this kind of power in the church today?"
Now I know this will be unpopular, but check the facts. The church in the early 20th century is littered with great men and women such as Billy Sunday, John G. Lake, William Seymour, Charles H. Mason, Aimee Sample McPherson, A.A. Allen and Smith Wigglesworth whose lives affected millions and changed the landscape of Christendom as well as society. Their life stories read like the Acts of the Apostles; with scores of authentic healings, miracles, deliverances and salvation experiences. Without the aides of televised infomercials disguised as "outreach ministry" and slick marketing campaigns or celebrity driven conferences (which are mostly hype and pep rallies for Christians) that promise everything but deliver nothing of substance, these servants beat back the forces of darkness by bringing the light of God's glory to a dying world.
Lost are the days when people were confronted with their sinfulness and drawn by the power of His word to repent! The message of today is not "repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand;" it has become "apologize because God understands!" Mention the word "deliverance" and most Christians think of being free from debt, poverty or some trouble they have gotten themselves in. People populate the pews and chairs of churches and arenas to catch a glimpse of the latest Christian "flavor of the month" only to go home in the same spiritual shape they were in when they came. The only noticeable change is they are hyped up and a little light in the wallet.
I am reminded of the man who brings his demon possessed son to be delivered. Jesus comes down from the mount of transfiguration to find the disciples (the church) surrounded by on lookers, a boy being torn by demons and his father. When Christ inquires concerning the situation the boy's father speaks up. He tells Jesus about the torment of his son and the hopelessness he feels. Then he makes a telling confession; he says "I brought him to your disciples but they could not help him." What an indictment of the church! How many people have come to the church for deliverance or healing, only to leave disappointed because they were given pretext and/or justifications but could not get the help they desperately needed? How often have desperate seekers come to the Disciples of Christ and found them weak and powerless to effect a change in their circumstances? They enjoyed the performance of the praise team; the decor of the architectural structure and the profound perfunctory of a well orchestrated lecture labeled a sermon, only to depart empty having concluded an exercise in futility.
In the Acts of the Apostles 2:1-13, the birth of the New Testament church is chronicled. In verse two Luke records "And suddenly there came a sound from heaven.... and it filled all the house where they were sitting." After the sound filled the house then there appeared tongues of fire that sat on everyone and the Holy Ghost filled them all. So the manifestations were preceded by a sound announcing its arrival. That word sound is literally translated as noise or voice in the original Greek. So there was a sound/ voice from heaven announcing the arrival of the promise of Holy Ghost. As you search the Bible you will find that God always announces His next move with a sound! In Amos 3:7 He said He would not do anything except He first reveal it to His prophets; John the Baptist calls himself a "voice crying in the wilderness," and God tells David in 2 Samuel 5:24 "'...when thou hearest the sound of going in the tops of the mulberry trees...then shall the Lord go out before thee..." The Bible instructs us to acknowledge God in all our ways and He will direct our path. So the church and its leader are not to be lead by the changing tides of society but by the sound/voice from heaven which fills the house. As I studied these chapters the Holy Ghost said "before each wave and outpouring there will be a sound from heaven; listen for the sound of His voice..." After hearing this I was reminded of Elijah's experience with God after he defeated the prophets of Baal on Mt Carmel then ran to the wilderness because of the threats of Jezebel. As he stood on a mount 1Kings 19:11-12 says "God passed by" and as a result the wind blew, the earth quaked and fire fell but the Lord was not in any of them. His passing caused them but they were merely a sign that He had been there. Then after the fire "A STILL SMALL VOICE" spoke from heaven and that was God with direction for the prophet. The tragedy of the church today is we have become fascinated with the wind, enamored with the earthquake and fixated of the fire while ignoring the voice! As a result the church is void of the power and manifested glory of God. Jesus said signs would follow them that believe; so its clear that signs and wonders are suppose to be a fundamental part of the church, but the signs follow the believer who follow the sound/voice. We cannot as a body become so consumed with keeping pace with the trends of society that we lose steps with God and find ourselves camped out where God has been instead of dwelling where he is. We can't afford to continue to go through the motions; to experience the hype and call it a move of God because our ear has become deaf to the Sound from heaven. We must regain our relevance in the world by returning to the altar and seeking the face of God for His direction and instruction. Further, we can no longer remain happy with the hype but began to pursue the presence of God in His glory. When we do so, God will confirm His word with signs and wonders and the world will come running asking "what meaneth this?"
Finally, as we are bombarded with hordes of catchy phrases about what 2009 is suppose to bring and/or are told about the blessings, cars, houses, mates, elevations etc... that God is going to do for us, allow me to interject that this year it is not about what God can and will do for us but what we should and will do for God! Let 2009 be the year the church returns to its roots and once again goes after God. Let’s resolve that we will not settle for pep rallies or bless me services and demand that the priests go into the Holy place and come out so covered in the glory; they can no longer minister but God Himself fills the house with His glory as we lay prostrate before Him. Let 2009 be the season our hunger is rekindled and our passion is only surpassed by His power. Finally, let this be the year we shine the light of God so brightly that men will see our good works and give glory to God! We are the light of the world; a city set on a hill CANNOT BE HID!