Sometimes a verse in the Bible will get inside of you in a way that it becomes impossible to shake. Not that we would ever want to shake off something in the Word of God, but there are seasons where the Holy Spirit will tattoo your heart and mind with a verse that just stays at the forefront of your awareness. At the beginning of last year, Ecclesiastes 9:8 became such a verse for me.
Solomon wrote in that verse, “Let your garments be always white. Let not oil be lacking on your head” (ESV).
For close to a year now, there has not been more than a couple of days in a row where God does not bring me to think upon those words. After two months of this happening last year, I knew He was being intentional with me so that I might robustly take in the verse for my own life. I also knew that I would eventually share it with others. Thus far, I have not sensed any release to preach a message on it, but today I feel compelled to unpack the second half of that verse in this blog.
“Let no oil be lacking on your head.”
We have many substitutes for anointing in the modern Church. Take “performance polish, for example. We have countless polished programs that facilitate ceaseless streams of activity, which produce impressive amounts of visible results in ministry. We have shiny wealth in the modern Church in America. We have beautiful buildings and immaculate stages with impressive lighting and gigantic screens. Our audio and video equipment can make Homer Simpson come off like Josh Groban if the right technician is running the Sunday show.
We have polished pastors with helpful talks, charismatic evangelists with cadence and tweetable one-liners that cause us to say WOW. Never in the history of American Christianity has there been available more or better resources to elevate the quality of our worship songs to industry standard excellence that even the secular world must take note of.
The American Church is often run by “veterans of the veneer.” And then there is our marketing ability, which can harness the most shallow, hollow, or incompetent of ministries and make them appear on social media to be epic in scope and substance.
Let me insert that I am not against these specific things like staging, buildings, lights and marketing in and of themselves, but when these types of polished things are embraced in the absence of Holy Spirit oil, then I would classify them as damnable and an affront to the worth of King Jesus. It was from His eternal heart that flowed the call for us never to let oil be lacking on our heads, and I will say unapologetically that we need an unalloyed anointing.
The modern trends I mentioned above certainly should be examined to see whether or not they have become a crutch upon which any ministry is leaning. There is also another side of the coin that serves in the place of oil from God.
Unexamined religious traditions compromise anointing. Mindless, non-biblical, preserved-at-all-costs traditions have rusted out many Christians and ministries. A formula, once handed down to a group of believers and then promoted and perpetuated over the years, then becomes regarded as a biblically legitimate fixture of the faith. Denominational standards become entrenched, and anything that questioned or presumably threatened those fixed beliefs is later viewed as an enemy combatant. Proponents of these empty traditions boldly declare themselves to be guardians of the old paths. Everyone else is to be viewed as a likely compromiser of all that is good and holy. What these people and churches do not notice is the rust-dust coming off their hearts and ministries.
Where there is no oil, rust will eventually appear on the gears, and when those gears continue to be forced into ministry-motion, they kick off clouds of traditional irrelevance that others are forced to breathe as if it was Kingdom air. Holy Spirit presence and activity actually become a threat to ministries like these. The well-worn, rusty crutches of unexamined tradition are protected at all costs and those ministries ignorantly limp along decade after decade.
I have said it for years: trends deceive us while traditions enslave us. Only God’s truth transforms us.
I need oil today. I am hungry for the oiliest experience that I can experience from God. If I am being honest, I live with a constant sense of low-level bewilderment as to why I (and the Church in general) continue to be content to live with such a woeful display of Holy Spirit faith and power. We should be inwardly offended at sicknesses and afflictions that do not disappear under the oil of healing. Instead, we lean on the unexamined crutch of our misapplied view of God’s sovereignty, and end up assuming that He must not want to heal most of us. We have laid aside that spiritual vial of the oil of deliverance and end up tolerating the presence of addiction, sinful strongholds, depression, powerlessness, and bitterness in the Church. We need an anointing that reintroduces us to the omnipotent God of Heaven who destroys these menacing goliaths from our hearts and minds.
My observation is that we have actually set a place at the table of our faith for unbelief, doubt, and bondage to dine with us. We have provided a room for things that do not have any authority to stay in our presence. In the absence of oil, we have opened the door to thieves that rob us of so much. Can we agree that this is not the heart of the Father for His people? Can we rediscover a holy disgust at this type of Christianity? Can we peel off the veneer of polished, professional Christianity and cry out to God for fresh oil? Can we take the wire-brush of repentance and scrub hard at the rusty dust of mindless tradition that is caking the heart of the Church?
Can we get desperate for His oil again?
Simply put, Ecclesiastes 9:8 actually lays the responsibility for this at our own feet. The command is for us to never allow oil to be lacking on our own heads. The application of this verse is that the Holy Spirit has an available anointing for each individual believer and the shared churches and ministries entrusted to us. There is no lack of availability of anointing for us. Heaven is not out of oil. There is also no lack of substitutes if we remain content to rely on them. This is our season to go ahead and make up our minds:
Polish, Rust, or Oil – which holds your confidence?
Written by Jeff Lyle
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on transformingtruth.org.
Featured Image by Jay Heike