Will The Church Receive Jesus When He Comes To Us?
Recently I went to a weekend retreat with a local church. There is a lot of good going on and there are signs of revival beginning, but there are also so many areas in which the people need understanding and need help. I often find myself weeping and praying for the church to come to maturity and to a greater knowledge of Jesus. I became involved with this church after having to, very sadly, leave a group I was involved with because they were becoming a cult. There had been a great move of the Holy Spirit but religion was leading the people into deception to the point where they were putting their pastor in the place of Christ as the mediator between God and man, and honoring the pastor’s word above scripture. The pastor, deluded by pride, had said “If you want to receive my anointing and be a part of this ministry, you must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” But we only eat the flesh and drink the blood of Jesus!
So I became involved in this other church because, in spite of many problems, I didn’t see the level of control I saw in other places. I saw signs of the beginning of revival, and I believed they might receive Jesus when he came to them.
Revelation 3:20 NRSV Listen! I am standing at the door, knocking; if you hear my voice and open the door, I will come in to you and eat with you, and you with me.
This verse is often used to speak of receiving Christ as our savior. I have no problem with applying it to salvation. However, it is written to the church. Jesus still comes to us through the work of the Holy Spirit manifesting the nature and works of Jesus, and through people who come to us with a manifestation of the Spirit of Christ. Jesus still comes to us humble and riding on a donkey. And sadly, many Christians, many leaders, many churches do no receive Christ when he comes to them. Our friend J.D. King experienced revival in the Smithton outpouring. There were more people at the church meeting than the population of the town! In an interview, J.D. explains that of course many churches say they want revival, but most don’t. This assessment is quite consistent with my experience! Revival comes with lots of problems and loss of human control. It requires us to humble ourselves, get over our carnal offenses, and yield to the Holy Spirit.
I’m not looking for a place that is relatively organized or has things all together. Everything can be a mess, but I’m looking for people who will receive Jesus when he comes to them. And in this church, I saw that there were at least many individuals who were willing to receive Jesus. I’m not speaking of being born-again, but of receiving the manifestation of the Spirit of Christ. And because they didn’t have the policy of control that other churches have, I believe they may receive Jesus corporately. They already are, to a certain extent, but there is a much greater manifestation of the Spirit of Christ coming to them and it will be a challenge for some to accept. It takes humility and letting go of control to receive the manifestation of the Spirit of Christ.
A Very Disturbing Message
One of the things I liked about this church was that the pastor had said they don’t keep track of how much you give or if you tithe or not. He also said that some of the people on the worship team do not tithe. My free book The Trojan Horse of Tithing details how tithing doctrines are leading to a large-scale departure from orthodox Christianity, including documentation of the fact that millions of Christians now believe that they approach the Father through their tithe and their eternal destiny, heaven or hell, hinges on their tithes. Although tithing is deeply rooted in the religious traditions of all the churches I am familiar with here in Goiania, I at least saw less control in this one. I wasn’t hearing the message come across that “You can’t come to God unless you bring a tithe.”
Well, during this retreat there was an “apostle” who spoke, a guest who the pastor considered his “spiritual father.” This man spoke on tithing. He taught that people who don’t tithe are robbing God. He threatened people harshly to make them give tithes and “first-fruits.”It was so bad that he even told the people that God hates them if they aren’t tithing!
As you can imagine, I was deeply disturbed. I was angry. I wanted to get up and rebuke him. This kind of teaching is evil, demonic, abusive, and completely in opposition to the gospel of Christ. I was just going to talk to the pastor on the break about having a healing school and teaching people to minister in their daily lives. But now I was thinking “How can I tell a person about Christ and send them to a place where they tolerate someone teaching that God hates them if they don’t bring a tithe. (But might love them if they do.) How can I share the gospel with an idolater who makes sacrifices to demons to avoid the wrath of their god or to obtain its blessing, and then bring them to a church where they tolerate someone teaching that people must bring their tithes to avoid God’s wrath or obtain his blessing, thus doing away with the gospel message of salvation by grace through faith in Christ?” I felt anguish in my soul. When I hear this kind of teaching, it isn’t just a doctrine I disagree on. To me, it’s another religion. I thought “If I can’t avoid this kind of abuse here, where can I go? The other places I know are worse! I want to be involved in the body of Christ. I want to help these people. But how can I hear this kind of abuse and not speak out about it? And thus be expelled from the group?”
But anyway, in the middle of the preaching, before it actually got really, really bad, people started to cry aloud to weep, to speak frantically in tongues. The “apostle” prayed for some people and they fell on the floor. In fact, I prayed for some people and saw the Holy Spirit move. There was an intensity in the atmosphere. But I wasn’t sure what was going on in the spiritual realm. Was this the Holy Spirit, or were Brazilians confusing emotionalism with the anointing as they sometimes do? There was something demonic in the message. I can sometimes physically feel the demonic oppression when someone gives a message like that. It doesn’t take over me, but I feel what the words are releasing on people. And I get angry. This is a good reason to get angry because it is anger springing from God’s love for people!
I was very disturbed and later I just left. We weren’t supposed to leave but my wife said “It’s better for you not to be here.” Then the pastor was unhappy that I wasn’t sitting there for the whole message.
Must You Muddy the Water For the Other Sheep?
I woke up at about three o’clock in the morning, still feeling disturbed in my spirit, and went outside to pray and sing to the Lord. I was still wondering about what was happening in the spiritual realm. And suddenly I had a very clear vision of a river. The water was being stirred at the edge of the river, it was lifting up the mud, muddying the water, and releasing the mud into the current.
I immediately understood that the Lord was showing me what had happened in the spiritual realm. What I saw wasn’t just emotionalism. The Holy Spirit really was moving. Jesus Christ is the Living Water!
John 7:37-39 (NRSV) On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’”Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive; for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified.
The water is the manifestation of the Spirit of Christ. The Holy Spirit was moving, but there was mud being mixed into the manifestation of the Spirit of Christ. And then what I sensed the Lord was speaking to me next broke my heart! I felt that the Lord was saying “People are searching for water, but some have a hard time finding streams with pure water. They are so thirsty that some end up drinking muddy water and then getting sick. There is a manifestation of the Spirit of Christ, but mud is mixed in with it. Many vomit, meaning they reject Christ and Christianity, not because of who Jesus is, but because of the mud mixed into the water. Others keep drinking because it is the only water they know.”
Then I remembered. I hadn’t thought of this at first when I had the vision. There is a passage in the book of Ezekiel about muddy water. I looked it up and read it again. The whole chapter is about self-serving shepherds.
Ezekiel 34 (NIV) The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the SovereignLordsays: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool, and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
“‘Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: As surely as I live, declares the SovereignLord, because my flock lacks a shepherd and so has been plundered and has become food for all the wild animals, and because my shepherds did not search for my flock but cared for themselves rather than for my flock, therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: This is what the SovereignLordsays: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.
“‘For this is what the SovereignLordsays: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines, and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.
“‘As for you, my flock, this is what the SovereignLordsays: I will judge between one sheep and another, and between rams and goats. Is it not enough for you to feed on the good pasture? Must you also trample the rest of your pasture with your feet? Is it not enough for you to drink clear water? Must you also muddy the rest with your feet? Must my flock feed on what you have trampled and drink what you have muddied with your feet?
“‘Therefore this is what the SovereignLordsays to them: See, I myself will judge between the fat sheep and the lean sheep. Because you shove with flank and shoulder, butting all the weak sheep with your horns until you have driven them away, I will save my flock, and they will no longer be plundered. I will judge between one sheep and another. I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the Lord will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the Lord have spoken.
“‘I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the land of savage beasts so that they may live in the wilderness and sleep in the forests in safety. I will make them and the places surrounding my hill a blessing. I will send down showers in season; there will be showers of blessing. The trees will yield their fruit and the ground will yield its crops; the people will be secure in their land. They will know that I am the Lord when I break the bars of their yoke and rescue them from the hands of those who enslaved them. They will no longer be plundered by the nations, nor will wild animals devour them. They will live in safety, and no one will make them afraid. I will provide for them a land renowned for its crops, and they will no longer be victims of famine in the land or bear the scorn of the nations. Then they will know that I, the Lord their God, am with them and that they, the Israelites, are my people, declares the sovereign lord. You are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the SovereignLord.’”
Notice that this passage is a prophecy of Christ. The shepherds (pastors) of Isreal abused the sheep, so Jesus came as our good shepherd. As I noted in the book I Am Persuaded, the Greek New Testament uses the word “pastor” at least 11 times referring directly to Jesus Christ, and only one time, and in the plural, referring to the limited role of human leader’s as pastors. I recognize that some people take a limited role as “pastors” in the body of Christ, but that role in the New Covenant is limited and is secondary to the role of Jesus Christ himself as our pastor. Therefore, I never use the singular term “my pastor” in reference to anybody but Jesus Christ.
In the prophecy of Ezekiel, that part about God himself pastoring his sheep has been fulfilled with the New Covenant. Yet many people are still looking to other people to fill the primary role of being their pastor instead of understanding that role is secondary to the role of Jesus Christ himself in our lives. In Ezekiel, it is not the pastors but is other sheep who God rebukes for muddying the water. These people today think they are pastors but God just sees them as fat sheep who are spoiling the pastors and the water for the other sheep.
Then I also better understood Psalm 23.
Psalm 23:1-3 (NIV) TheLordis my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake.
I had never thought of this before, but I realized that “quiet waters” is referring to water that isn’t muddied so that it’s clean for the sheep to drink.
Learn How To Drink Directly From The Rock!
The next night, I was continuing to think about the vision and I saw another vision. It was a pure waterfall of clean water pouring down. And I thought of “water from the rock” as a reference to Christ in scripture.
1 Corinthians 10:4 (NIV) They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.
We can all drink clean, pure water directly from the Rock! But many people don’t know how to drink directly from the Rock yet! If they are babes in Christ and are not yet holding firmly to a pure gospel message, they only know how to drink from the river. And some can’t find a clean river. I found a small Baptist church in Rio de Janeiro that was a clean river, full of sincere love, pointing people to Jesus Christ and to their own relationship with Him. I’m not talking about a perfect church, but about a church that truly loves and serves people rather than using them. And sometimes such places are hard to find.
I hope this post helps you to understand God’s perspective and heart of love for the church. Sometimes Jesus weeps through us in prayer. Maybe the Holy Spirit will move you to weep as I do for the church and to pray for the body of Christ and for those who have become sick from drinking muddy water. And I want to ask you to pray for me and for the church here to bring clean, pure water to the people who are thirsty. I really need to walk in God’s wisdom and grace in this time. The day after the “apostle” muddying the water, the pastor did reiterate that they don’t look at how much people give and they don’t want to know. That is a healthy attitude and he also has much more healthy attitudes in some other areas than many other churches do. I just want to have the wisdom and vision to see what God is doing and partner with Him in the midst of everything going on!
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Go to Heaven Now