On Fire for Jesus Without the Fire
By Patricia Backora, author of the book
Tough Love in Christ's Millennium
Which you can order online from: http://www.publishamerica.com
One day a man hopped out of his car and stopped me at a corner as I was walking home from the store. He claimed Jesus had told him to turn his car around and talk to me.
He offered me a tract, but I said I was already a Christian. We got into a deep discussion and ended up disagreeing on some fundamental points. He debunked the Baptism of the Holy Spirit as a delusion. He said tongues was “of the devil”, and let me know he had repented of being in the Charismatic Movement.
I told him God promised to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh in the Last Days, and I had received this Blessing more than thirty years before. He said the last days were in the days of the Apostles. Well, if these aren’t the last of the last days of satan’s rule on earth, then where else could we be on God’s time line? If anything, we’re much further into the last days than the original Apostles were! We certainly aren’t in the Millennial Age of Christ’s earthly Reign yet!
That confused guy quoted this Scripture to try to persuade me to disown the greatest Blessing I’d ever received since my conversion. He said that “when that which is perfect is come”, then the spiritual gifts will pass away. He also cited this one: Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face. When that which is perfect is come, then that which is part shall be done away (I Corinthians 13:10). But his notion of “that which is perfect” was foggy. All he did was mumble: “Get out there and witness.”
Get out there and witness. That’s all they told me in church when I was a teenager. I felt no reality of God’s power or Presence, and God seemed to me to be only a far-away Being I paid lip service to on Sundays and Wednesday nights. It wasn’t long before I lost interest. God seemed dead and far away before I received the fullness of the Spirit. In spite of the fact desperate prayer on my part had recently saved my little brother from dying of a sudden meningitis attack. One Sunday School teacher did her best to keep me on fire for Jesus, but my life was a bummer and will-power and promises to get on fire for Jesus always fell through.
As a rule, whenever I’d try to pray, I’d feel like a brick wall was standing between me and a closer relationship with God. I wanted to break through this barrier of ignorance. I sensed that there must be more to the Christian life than making resolutions I couldn't keep, telling skeptical people about Jesus, attending services, and longing to go home to heaven so I could finally experience the supernatural Presence of God. My pastor probably didn't believe in the Baptism of the Holy Spirit because his denomination didn't endorse it. So he never mentioned it. Consequently, the deeper life in the Spirit was unattainable for his flock, who could go so far with God and no further.
Most of the church people remained in a state of spiritual infancy, depending only upon the milk of the Word (Heb. 5: 11:14). Most preaching centered around. basic doctrines like repentance, water baptism, personal evangelism and trying to live a clean life. Nothing about the miracle-working power of God, or even about the Rapture of the saints. I believe that when God restores His power to more segments of His Church, we will see even more of a hunger for Christ among lost sinners. People need to be healed both in body and in other areas of their lives where satan has oppressed them. When they see that we serve a miracle-working God, they will begin to see that we are not preaching an outdated, powerless, myth. I'd say the Church has done a magnificent job, taking the Gospel to the four corners of the earth, even without the signs and wonders of the early Church.
Preachers concentrate on finely honing their homiletics, or sermonizing skills. It is necessary to communicate effectively. But Paul says in I Corinthians 2: 4: And my speech and my preaching was not with enticing words of men's wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and power: that your faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God.
The book of Acts is full of the wonderful works (acts) of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 8:5-8 Philip goes down to the city of Samaria. Not only does he preach repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus, he preaches the miracle-working power of God. Disabled people were healed and demon-possessed people were delivered. Because of these miracles, the people paid attention to Philip's preaching, and there was great joy in that city. In the church of my youth, the only joy ever experienced was temporary, when someone got converted. They would feel happy (at least for the first day or two) and we would be happy for them too,. But otherwise, the feeling would fade and we would just go through the motions of having church. Almost no one at school ever showed much exuberance over their salvation, they just tried to conform and blend in. The Sunday School teacher I spoke of taught third grade at that school. Back then it wasn't illegal to share your faith with your students. She seemed to think much about Jesus during the week than most people (Sunday saints). I know He appreciated her devoted service, but He must feel sad for His people who aren't told the whole truth. All they can do is get their feet wet in the water of life, not knowing that their Christian lives could be so much more joyful and fulfilling if only they were totally immersed in the Flow of the River of His Spirit.
In Chapter 6 we read that we are to move on from the foundational doctrines and go on unto perfection (maturity). That's where the repeated trips to the altar come in. In a church which denies the Baptism of the Spirit, many keep going back up front to shake the pastor's hand and "rededicate their life" in hopes of recapturing that happy feeling of being close to God which they knew at conversion. In tradition-bound churches which limit the moviing of God's Spirit to what is "respectable" in polite society, God is limited in what He can do to liberate His people. Thus, a gloomy cloud of doubts and pessimism about life in general hung over my head. I was depressed. My prayers felt dry and devoid of life.
My early concept of God was shaped by denominational church ministers who left me with this impression because they knew no better: We are saved by grace (unmerited favor) solely to work for God, and that’s the Christian existence in a nutshell. We enjoy a momentary spiritual honeymoon with Christ at the time of our conversion. But after that we are demoted to being mere slaves who are banished from the mountain top down to the harvest fields so we can toil to show ourselves worthy of our free salvation. This little poem sums it up:
Brother, are you saved from sin?
Thank the Lord you made it in
Now you’ve made your choice for Him
Your honeymoon is at an end
Now there’s other souls to win
Lest you slip back into sin again.
What on earth are you waiting for?
Jesus sure can’t do no more.
He’s waiting on that Blissful Shore
Go get busy, serve the Lord
Get out there and bring in more
God is up there keeping score.
You gotta earn the grace God gave
Go and tell the lost today
Miracles are done away
Be realistic when you pray
God no longer heals today
Except through medicines you take.
So spread the glorious great glad news
Once you’re saved it’s up to you
To replenish all them empty pews
When people leave and there are few.
Christ can surely save your soul
But after that you’re on your own.
Fellow believers, we need God’s spiritual power as never before. The man I met in the street was wrong to say that a perfect state of affairs has already come, and so God no longer needs to Baptize people in His Spirit. Only a person ignorant of the awful shape Planet Earth is in could ever truly think that “that which is perfect” has already come! Demons STILL infest the air all around us, inciting sinners to blaspheme and commit all sorts of abominable sins. Little children and women are STILL afraid to walk city streets. People are STILL subject to sickness and premature death. Crime STILL goes unpunished. Wars STILL rage. Wicked men STILL suck off the misery of the poor. Crooks STILL infiltrate all society, even religious organizations. Satan STILL deceives millions with a convenient, politically correct “gospel”, which is nothing more than a whimsical doctrine of “love” dispensing with Scriptural standards of morality. Satan STILL calls the shots in societal trends. Untold millions have confessed Christ as Lord and Savior, but two thousand years of the Church Age has failed to stamp out sin and immorality in this world.
We do NOT YET see Christ face-to-face, but rather, see Him through a glass darkly (I Cor. 13: 12). Our understanding of Him and our service for Him is STILL imperfect, because we STILL dwell in perishable vessels of clay. We have NOT YET been perfected into the glorious image of Christ, nor attained to perfection of wisdom and power. Though heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, we have NOT YET received our ultimate reward. Christ does NOT YET reign as King over this earth. He does NOT YET sit upon His father David’s Throne on Mount Zion, enforcing His righteous decrees. Rather, most of mankind STILL holds His Word in the basest contempt. This is a world at enmity with its Creator.
I beg to differ, but if this present rotten state of affairs is the perfection God’s children are promised, and, as a result, God must divest me of weapons I badly need to fight the devil, then I’m in BIG trouble!
Satan battles to keep sinners in darkness and fights to keep God’s own children ignorant of their heavenly heritage. Christ never promised the Church would convert the whole world to holiness. Instead, Paul the Apostle warned that sinners would grow worse and worse (II Tim. 3:13); a prophecy which has indeed proven true.
That zealous salvation salesman said: “In order to get more of God’s Spirit you just keep on witnessing. Did Jesus ever say that? The Holy Spirit is a Gift, not wages for busywork done in puny human strength! That young guy hadn’t even known me for five minutes. He had no idea of all the fierce battles I had waged with satan over so many long years, all the many victories God had given me. Yet I could tell by things he said and the patronizing look on his face he even doubted I was even saved. After all, my views on the Baptism of the Holy Spirit differed from those held by his denomination. It was just like trying to get a happily married person to dismiss as delusion many years of wedded bliss already experienced. As if I hadn’t even met my beloved Savior for the first time. After all God and I have been through together, who was that guy to tell me I don’t even know Him? I pointed out that only the power of the Holy Spirit had saved me from a lot of desperate situations.
Jesus said in Mark 16: 17-18, just before ascending up to heaven: And these signs shall follow THEM THAT BELIEVE; In My Name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands upon the sick, and they shall recover.
Notice. These signs shall follow “THEM THAT BELIEVE”. If this offer was to expire after the death of the last of the Twelve Apostles, surely Christ would have included that crucial clause in His will before His Ascension. But it’s a good thing for me He didn’t!
Saints, it makes no sense for a general to strip his army of their most effective weapons just when the enemy has brought out his deadliest nukes. This is an age of gross darkness, and I need every spiritual weapon I can get from God to win the victory.
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Brilliant. This is powerful and full of truth. A verse comes to mind which fits your article: Jesus said "making the word of God of no effect through your tradition which you have handed down. And many such things you do." Mark 7:13.