In the opening scene of the film of The Fellowship of the Ring, the first instalment of Tolkien’s classic, Lord of the Rings, we hear the voice of Galadriel, Queen of Elves, offering her immortal wisdom on the state of things present. She wisely looks to the past to determine the things of the present. Here’s part of what she says:
“The world is changed. I feel it in the water. I feel it in the earth. I smell it in the air. Much that once was is lost, for none now live who remember it.”
I think Galadriel has a point.
For a while I have found myself concerned at the way the modern church carries itself. I’m not speaking about those who are a part of the Anglican Communion; for they haven’t changed in any true sense of the word for hundreds of years. And I’m not talking about the Catholics, nor the Orthodox churches either, for much the same reasons. But I am talking about the general swagger that is seen in the walk of the much of the modern church.
As I type these words it is Sunday morning. Across the country, in the next few hours, bands will be warming up; big screens will be turned on; dry ice will be readied; prayer rooms will be full of people shouting at the devil, declaring this and binding that; auditoriums will hum with anticipation as the routine, the ritual, begins. And, when it’s over, most will return to their homes with a slight warm, fuzzy feeling. They may even discuss the sermon over lunch, but, by the time they wake tomorrow morning all will be lost. Nothing what has been taught will be put into practice. All will be lost.
What little substance the modern church has is clearly superficial when you begin to scratch at the surface. Beneath the shiny top coat of the Sunday evangelism show, there is the rusty old body of a man-made religion. But, it has learned how to carry itself so that it appears super-spiritual to the believers and accessible to those who don’t yet believe. And, to the believers, those who lead are always right, almost infallible in some cases. Dissent is not tolerated, but is, instead, rejected and the guns turned upon any who raise their hands to question the practices being taught.
If you are brave enough to question the practices of modern churches in the light of Y’shua (Jesus) you will, at best, be secretly branded as a trouble-maker with authority issues, and, at worst, be run out of the church completely. Excommunication. Congregations see such practices all the time but fear the leadership and so say nothing. This is common. We turn blind eyes to it. At the root of this presumption to being right, unquestionable right, is something far darker than most would care to look at. There exists an arrogance that declares ‘we have it right’. They believe they’re right because growing numbers and fattening bank accounts confirm that God is with them. Increasing membership (and therefore money) is not a sign of divine favour. It is a sign that we have forgotten, or never knew, what following the Son of the Living God really entails.
The lack of genuine signs and wonders proves that we don’t have it right. Some of the manifestations that many claim are the Holy Spirit are simply cheap knock-offs. Look at the following verses from the Bible – and not from some slick American’s book on how to plant churches.
“And these signs will follow those who believe: In My name they will cast out demons; they will speak with new tongues; they will take up serpents; and if they drink anything deadly, it will by no means hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.
So then, after the Lord had spoke to them, He was received up into heaven, and sat down at the right hand of God. And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” [Mark 16:17-20 NKJV]
This tells me, and should tell every else too, that for those who believe certain signs will follow them. Could it be that if we are not seeing these certain signs, then there is no one who truly believes? It also tells me that when they preached the Word of God, the Lord Himself worked with them by confirming His words through miraculous signs. Could it be that we are not preaching the Word of God, or acknowledging that the work is to be done by our Lord?
We know from the book of Acts that this certainly used to happen. And I can find nothing in scripture to say that it was only going to be for a season. In fact, the Great Commission itself, from which the text above comes from, precedes with the notion of preaching to all men. That clearly hasn’t happened yet. So, what’s the problem? Perhaps we don’t know what it is to believe? Perhaps we have lost the focus upon Y’shua doing the work? Perhaps, we stopped preaching the gospel? Perhaps, there are none alive who remember what once was? All except one.
I think we have built up this farcical institution of church simply because we don’t know what else to do. We have tried everything in order to kick start an outpouring of God’s Holy Spirit, but nothing has worked. At least, nothing of lasting significance.
Over recent months and weeks I have been convinced that we are overlooking the simple and making what should been understood by children, impossible for adults to conceive. Y’shua came with a message of good news that people simply understood and they believed. Today, we have made it so complicated. People have written volumes on why there are no signs and wonders, bringing every excuse imaginable. But surely, it is more simple than we can even grasp. A child-like faith.
People always pick on Peter. Well, I do, I should say. I say things in my head like ‘well, if Peter got it, I should be able to get it’. This simple fisherman got it. I don’t mean that he was simple intellectually. I mean he was uncomplicated in his approach. It took a while for him to get certain things, but hey, it has taken me nearly thirty years and I now understand that everything I did know is worthless because none of it has changed the world. Whatever Peter knew and understood did, however, change the world.
This week God taught me something from the past – a simple lesson that is forever printed on the pages of all Bibles. I have been thinking a great deal about provision in particular, and how God works and what He actually wants us to be like when it comes to Him providing for us. We have a number of examples that even the slickest preachers will call to mind, even if they don’t know what it means to actually put the examples into practice. That, by the way, is why they are there. The examples of others is so we can learn from their mistakes instead of our own. Anyway, these preachers might invoke the example of Eliyahu (Elijah) from the first book of Kings and chapter 17, when God told the prophet to go and hide in a valley and God Himself would send ravens to provide for him. Or perhaps the account of Avraham (Abraham) and Yitz’chak (Isaac) from Genesis 22. To be honest the list is endless, and so are the lengths that they modern church will go to in order for you to believe that all this is only metaphorical anecdotes. It’s not.
Ask yourself this: What was in the Ark of the Covenant? Most people will be able to tell you that the stone tablets of the Ten Commandments. They may even be able to tell you that Aaron’s staff was there too. But what about the third item? The pot of manna? Why was that there?
The pot of manna was there to remind the Hebrews, for all generations, that they rejected God’s provision in the desert. It was there to remind them that although they were rich in gold and silver, they couldn’t buy food and were forced to rely upon God’s provision. However, even though He sent them manna, they rejected it. The pot of manna remained in the Ark as a reminder that, because they refused to trust in God and rejected His divine provision, they wandered aimlessly in the wilderness until that entire generation had died off. He didn’t want the Hebrews to take that attitude with them into the Promised Land.
And so it is today. God doesn’t want the arrogance of the modern church to infect new believers. That is why we don’t see the revival we somehow think we deserve. In truth, it will never happen until the church presents itself to Y’shua as holy and without blemish – cleansed. This means that God’s ways are completely juxtaposition to today’s church attitudes. It means acknowledging that we have it wrong; that we are not owed anything from God; that we should repent of our ways, our man made rules and rituals; it means we should get back to what Y’shua taught His disciples; that means fighting our way to the Narrow Path; and, above all, it means we should be letting the Holy Spirit lead us in all things, especially provision. For it is in provision that we learn to trust Him first. But, as I am currently learning, we have to let Him provide. This is different from us providing for ourselves and calling it God’s work.
I think that like Galadriel suggests in The Fellowship of the Ring, that much that once was has been lost because there are none alive who remember it. What we have is years upon years of conventional wisdom about what this verse or that verse means. We have tried and tried to bring about revival and it hasn’t worked – accept in those cases where individuals have humbled themselves before God and let Him provide and let Him do the work.
We need to get back to The Way.
Over the next few weeks I am going to take you on a journey back to what the gospel really means. Y’shua was God’s final revelation to mankind. Our last chance. We are currently rejecting that provision, that Bread of Life, just as the Hebrews did in the wilderness. We need to seek one who is alive and does remember what it means – Y’shua and His Holy Spirit.
The hour is later than you think.