A Prophetic Witness to the Church Today
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WAKE UP! O Sleeper!
Ritualism, formalism, traditionalism. These
are all linked by a common thread. They are the outcome of quenching the Spirit. It is not
hard to see that most Christians in mainstream denominations are doing this, but it
may surprise you to know that even the Spirit-led sector of the Church is not exempt from
God's condemnation in this respect. Read on and find out why.
When I awake in the morning I
don't usually have anything on my mind, unless I have received a dream.
However, one morning I awoke thinking about ritualism.
It was a strange way to wake
up. But I believe the Spirit of God was planting specific thoughts in my
mind. I was thinking about how it is that many people find ritualism
attractive. They like it. They like the predictable nature of their
'worship'. (It's not true worship. Jesus said that true worshippers worship
in the spirit – Jn 4:23.) Ritualists feel comfortable following their
ritualistic lifestyle. They 'enjoy' it.
Sadly, however, their
perfunctoriness is symptomatic that they have fallen asleep spiritually.
While they think they are worshipping God and pleasing Him, their lives are
spiritually lacking. They are devoid of the power of God, like some of whom
Paul wrote (2 Tim 3:5).
The answer is simple. Their
lives are not motivated by the love of God. If you keep the flames of love
burning in your spirit, you won't be an ineffective Christian (2 Pet 1:5-8).
Of course, if you are
trapped by such formality, you won't know it. True to the parable of the
virgins (Matt 25), you will be asleep and won't realise it. Sleeping people
don't know they are asleep... until they wake up. Then they know they
have been unconscious.
Spiritual slumber is no
different from its physical counterpart in several respects.
If you are like me, you won't
like being awoken until you are fully rested. To have someone wake you in
the middle of the night is a gross intrusion!
In the first flat (apartment)
I rented before I was married, I remember once being woken up at some
unearthly hour of the morning by the telephone. I picked up the receiver,
but I was in no fit mental state to help anyone. On the other end of the
line a man was trying to locate a midwife who had lived in the same flat
previously. His wife was giving birth and they needed to locate this midwife
urgently. At three in the morning, I was so non compos mentis, that I
was unaware I had this lady's contact number. I said "Good-bye"
before I realised I could have helped him.
Fortunately, he was able to
obtain her phone number from another source without much delay, so he found
the help he needed.
Spiritually, we are all like
I was that night. We don't like it when another 'calls', disturbing our
slumber. We prefer to tune it out.
That is easier to do
spiritually, than physically. When the phone rings, it is not easy to ignore
it. (Humanly, I wished I could have done so!) But when someone knocks on
your door, or rings you up in the middle of the night – spiritually
speaking – you can conveniently shut out the interference. You can ignore
And people do! People sleep!
Jesus prophesied that the
whole Church prior to the end would be in this state – asleep spiritually
That is shocking! What did He
mean by this?
- Did He mean that the
various sectors of the Church (represented by the ten virgins in the
parable) would be unaware of the fact that they are ignoring something
important? Yes. I think so.
- Did He mean that there are
some spiritual things of which they should be aware? Yes. I think so.
- Did He mean that they
would be shutting their eyes to these things, when others try to bring
them to their attention? Yes. I think so. (I will explain my reasons for
these conclusions later.)
I don't believe the parable
was just meant to convey that immediately prior to Jesus' physical return
people would be unaware of how close His coming is. More significant is His
spiritual coming in our lives. Hence the use of the metaphors of the lamps
and the oil, symbolic of how we act on the Word of God (Ps 119:105) and how
we use His Holy Spirit.
Christians the world over
have been deceived by the deceiver. He has deluded them in some spiritual
way. The main purpose of his delusions is to prevent you having a close
relationship with Jesus in the spirit. That's what Satan wants to prevent
most of all. He wants to cause you to become unaware of God. To the extent
you are oblivious to His closeness is the extent to which the devil has
managed to deceive you.
Ritualists are among the most
Ritualism is one of the
devil's most successful traps. Like the parable conveys, the foolish virgins
go along through life without drawing on the power of God's Spirit (the
oil). They have the Word (the lamp), but its value to them is diminished
because they are not listening to the Spirit and so are not heeding all God
wants them to heed.
A couple of years ago, God
instructed us via a word of knowledge to attend a meeting of Seventh Day
Adventists nearby. I had never been to one of their meetings before and I
have not attended since.
The meeting was all orderly
and predictable, but that was the problem. It was too predictable. The
people were asleep. They were not expecting God to show up. It was their
service, their preaching, their teaching. There was no
anticipation of the moving of the Holy Spirit. They have not accepted that
God is that alive or that real!
They were nice people. I felt
an affinity with them up to a point. I wanted to find a meeting of minds
with them. I desired to accept them as brothers and sisters in Christ. But,
the friendship was merely superficial, perfunctory. Why? Because their
worship was ritual. It was empty. There was no awareness of the presence of
the Spirit of God.
That night, my wife had a
vision. She saw a vase full of nice flowers, but they were all dead! It
didn't take much to realise what God was saying.
In our experience, we have
perceived that many in the body ignore the lead of the Spirit in various
ways. As a prophetic ministry, we have been called upon at various times to
take certain 'messages' to other Christians elsewhere. We have found that
99% of the time, those to whom we go, do not receive 'our' witness. They
prefer not to have their eyes opened! They ignore the words we are
given for them. They choose to sleep.
In the 'legalistic sector' of
the Church, people resent the suggestion that they need to open up to the
Spirit. In the so-called 'Spirit-led' sector of the Church, there is an
equal resistance to receiving new understanding. On both 'sides', there is
And in the individual lives
of Christians there is a curious ambivalence to the things of God.
Christians want God, but too often they want Him at arms' length. They don't
want Him to rock their boat, or disturb their routine. Ritualism or
formalism is more comfortable.
You certainly don't want Him
to wake you when you are comfortably asleep!
Analysing the Problem
What can God do in such a
situation? The parable of the ten virgins reveals.
At a most unexpected time, He
sends out a 'crier' to cry out (Matt 25:6) – a prophet. God has
customarily used prophets to speak out at times when His people have been
'missing it' (Is 58:1). He reveals to His prophets what He is going to do
(Amos 3:7). If you reject the prophet, you reject words God wants you to
heed (Matt 10:40,41).
The Midnight Cry mentioned in
the parable of the ten virgins is an unwelcome call to awake. If you
disagree with that, tell me a time when you have relished being woken up
when you did not ask to be awoken. So it is when a prophet is moved to
invade your comfort zone and upset your convenient little dream world.
For three reasons, people
find a prophet's words undesirable. Firstly, human nature resents
inconvenient intrusions. Secondly, we don't want another telling us where we
are wrong. Thirdly, we prefer the comfortable path of ritualism or
Ritual is not just limited to
High Church liturgy. Formality has its Spirit-led 'homes' too. I have been
in ostensibly Spirit-led groups to discover their worship has become equally
dry. They have reverted to form, habit, routine. And, even where this has
not occurred, they have continued to observe the same perverse traditions in
Church observance that God condemns in His Word as of Babylon. [These will
be explained in more depth in further articles on this web page.]
Whenever we get used to a
form of worship, and do it out of habit, it soon becomes stale and lifeless.
We can do a lot that way, unconsciously, without thinking.
When I picked up the
telephone receiver that night, even in my stupor I was still able to talk to
the man who telephoned. But my brain was not in gear. I was not really
thinking about what I was saying. I was 'going through the motions'. You can
do quite a lot, even while asleep! Some people even sleep-walk. They get up
in their sleep and do various things without even realising it.
The same is true spiritually.
Your behaviour can be the result of habit. You can do many things without
spiritual awareness. They have become natural to you. Good habits are not
wrong, but when your response to God lacks spiritual awareness, they become
Just as you may operate while
asleep, unaware, so too you can operate without thinking spiritually. Who is
the Head of the body who does the thinking for the Church? Jesus. Is His
Spirit living in you? Are you thinking what He is thinking? Or are
you living alone?
Herein lies the chief problem
in the Church. In various ways, depending upon their background, children of
God are excluding the Spirit. The messages to the seven churches in
Revelation reveal more if we have the ears to hear. Jesus forewarns us:
1. We must not forsake the
first love for Truth. We must love Jesus more than everything else in
our lives. Spiritual things must take absolute precedence (2:4).
2. We must be prepared to
accept rejection and persecution by society and friends for the sake of
acceptance of uncompromised Truth (2:9,10).
3. We must not entertain
false teachings (2:14), nor false teachers who bring people into bondage
4. We must not compromise
and accommodate heresy for the sake of expedience (2:20).
5. We must wake up and be
strengthened by acting on the Word (3:2). Hearers are not justified. Doers
are (Rom 2:13).
6. We must keep all His
Word and not deny His Spirit living in us (3:8), enduring patiently
7. We must be zealous,
spiritually hot. Apathy must not take root (3:16-20).
Sadly, apathy is the number
one problem in the Church today. Most have got all they want. They don't
want you or anyone else showing them where they may be wrong. They don't
want anyone challenging them to move on. They choose to slumber.
If God offers you something
and you turn Him away you are closing the door on Him (Rev 3:20). You are
not listening to His voice. That hurts Him deeply. It grieves Him when you
quench His Spirit.
I know many in the body who
have shut the door on Him. They refuse His spiritual gifts. They spurn His
prophets. They deny His Truth. They take what they want, but reject
what He wants for them. It is very sad.
I know others who impugn pure
doctrine – the faith once delivered (Jude 3). They reject the purity of
His Word for a vile anti-Semitic counterfeit that relegates keeping God's
commandments and festivals to the level of antiquated legalism. They label
them derisively as Moses' laws.
Moses was merely the mediator
whom Israel had accepted. God – not Moses – gave His laws
to Israel. They are God's gift to His people (Mal 4:4), and are
binding upon the Church until heaven and earth are dissolved (Matt 5:17-20).
If you want to be part of God's spiritual nation (spiritual Israel today is
the Church), you should accept all that He has given you, not just
the parts it is convenient for you to accept. It is for your good. Jesus was
sent to be Israel's Deliverer – your Deliverer.
You accept Jesus as your
- Do you accept His law?
- Do you accept His Spirit?
- Do you accept His gifts?
- Do you accept His
Or are you shutting the
door on Him in one of these ways?
What motivates you each day?
What is foremost on your mind? If it is not God and the things of God, then
you are allowing something to hinder your spiritual development. You will be
asleep in some way. You are not allowing the Spirit of God to govern your
Israel's king David wanted
God's Spirit to dominate his mind. Spiritually, he learned to be 'hot'.
David's heart was attuned to God's. Spiritual things were paramount in his
mind. He wrote:
precious to me are your thoughts, O God! How vast is the sum of them! Were
I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand. When I awake, I
am still with you (Ps 138:17,18).
The first thing on David's
mind when he awoke in the morning was God! He was a man after God's own
heart (Acts 13:22). No wonder he dared to pray:
Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts.
See if there is any offensive way in me...
He wanted to learn, to move
on. He willingly accepted correction.
When God sent Nathan to David
in his time of apathy to wake him up, David did not reject the stern
correction he received. He had the power to put Nathan to death for 'daring'
to correct the king. Instead, David humbled himself, zealously repented, and
sought God (2 Sam 12; Ps 51).
David was willing to admit
his own guilt. Too many Christians and church leaders today are not! It is
too painful, too humiliating, or too inconvenient!
Lord while He may be found, call on Him while He is near (Is 55:6).
David sought God while He was
near. When the prophet was conveying God's will, it was as if God was
standing before David. That was the time to seek Him. Deferring the
prompting of God is dangerous. God may be patient, but when He calls we must
You must seek Him while He is
near. If you reject His correction (invariably through the voice or writing
of a prophet) when it is given, don't expect to find God near. He will leave
you to let you sleep.
If you had
responded to My rebuke, I would have poured out My heart to you and made
My thoughts known to you. But since you rejected Me when I called and
no-one gave heed when I stretched out my hand, since you ignored all My
advice and would not accept My rebuke, I in turn will laugh at your
disaster; I will mock when calamity overtakes you... when distress and
troubles overwhelm you. Then they will call to Me but I will not answer...
since they hated knowledge and would not choose to fear the Lord..."
Do you think God finds it
when we dismiss the words of His prophets? Do you think it grieves Him when
we want to sleep? Do you think He is hurt when we exclude His Spirit from
our lives, spurning His gifts, rejecting His prophets, or criticising His
law, to justify our customary habits or traditions?
David asked God to remove
any offensive way in him (Ps 138:24). Are you prepared to do
People have all sorts of
hang-ups and difficulties – Christians, I mean. I am not condemning any
because of their difficulties. We all have them. They are part and parcel of
But there is only one
solution to those problems – accept the full light of the gospel of
Wake up, O
rise from the dead, and Christ will shine upon you (Eph 5:14).
Pathetically, too many prefer
their own darkness. They don't really want the penetrating light of Christ
shining on them. Do you? Are you as open as David? Or do you hide from the
voice of God, fearful of what He might say?
We must let His
light shine on us, not pull the bedcovers over our heads.
Heap, August 1996
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(This article first appeared in Awake! Awake! of Sept/Oct 1996.)