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Friday, June 17, 2011

From the Archives - A Series; Part XI

The following message was given at the Prayer Mission Fellowship Foursquare Church, pastored by Rev. Gwen Williams, in Lakeland, FL, on October 23, 1994.  This little congregation, which shared a building with Bishop Cordell Allen's Pure Love United Faith Ministries over on Combee Road at the time, was pastored by a very dear friend of ours, an African-American lady minister who had a real heart for her people.   Gwen's little congregation was an interracial fellowship, and among her parishioners were a number of elderly and handicapped folks that she reached out to at local retirement centers and convalescent homes.  

Preaching at tiny churches like this were some of my best experiences doing itinerant ministry, and something I really miss today.  Hopefully the following message will edify your spirit.

Why No Revival?

Intorduction

Today we have seen a lot of interesting things happening in the church world.   People are experiencing revival in the most unexpected places:  Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican churches, etc.   As of now, a close 75% of all Southern Baptist foreign missionaries stationed overseas profess the gift of speaking in tongues, and even the head of the SBC Foreign Mission Board is a charismatic!  Not only this, but hte Archbishop of Canterbury, George Carey, is a charismatic.   A very anointed Roman Catholic priest by the name of Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa is now the official preacher to the Pope's house.   The Pope himself has issued a decree called The Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity which calls for each individual Catholic to exercise his or her spiritual gifts, and to partake in biblical evangelism.  More?  A Greek lady from Switzerland, Vassoula Ryden, has recently published volumes of written prophecies she has received from the Lord Himself calling the Church to repentance and holiness (editor note:   Since giving this message many years ago, I have since then discovered that Vassoula was NOT operating in the Spirit of God, as much of what she wrote contradicted Scripture and the Tradition of the Church.  I apologize for my lack of knowledge of the fact at the time).  85% of Mennonite missionaries overseas are also professing Charismatics as well.   Finally nondenominational charismatic megachurches are exploding.  What is going on?

As this is what I feel are the last days, God is pouring out a mighty anointing of His Spirit upon all flesh, as Joel 2:28 states.   However, it is missing in one area, and that is where it started in the first place - the classical Pentecostal denominations.   As other dead churches stir to life, it seems like Pentecostals are withering on the vine.   I am concerned about this, for we as Pentecostals should be encouraging the outpouring.   Instead, we suppress and persecute it.   There are reasons behind all of this.   The Bible mentions beforehand both of them, and though for the sake of time I will not get into all of it, I do want to capitalize on a major point here.   Please open your Bibles and follow along.   May the most blessed Holy Spirit use this message to prick your hearts, and may the fires of renewal be kindled in you through it.

I.   A Great Falling Away

Let us turn to II Thessalonians 2:36:

For that day shall not come except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin may be revealed, the son of perdition.

Now let us turn to Romans 1:22:

Professing to be wise, they became fools

Finally, let us look at Exodus 33:3b:

For I will not go up in the midst of thee, for thou art a stiff-necked people.

The modern Pentecostal Church is in deep trouble, for it has abandoned its first love:  the Lord Jesus Christ.   I know this is a serious indictment but it is true.   I heard recently for instance that almost 40%
of Assemblies of God pastors do not even believe in tongues, and the same number have never been baptized with the Holy Spirit.   Instead, they have compromised their identity in order to seek prestige and respectability.   Granted, the unfortunate thing is that this seed of death has been reflected in the early legalistic attitudes about dress, TV, etc.:  therefore, the revival was bound to die sooner or later.   Today, it is with great boldness that I say the Baptists are probably more on fire than Pentecostals are, and are probably living more by the Spirit.   Says something!

Paul warned in Galatians about what legalism leads to, and he also talks about that in Romans 7.  Those that set up a rigid, ascetical spirituality devoid of the Holy Spirit end up falling on their faces.   In other words, they become spiritually dead, cold, and self-righteous.  II Thessalonians 2:36 talks of this as a "falling away," and collectively as a movement denominational Pentecostalism has done this.  Instead of proclaiming a full Gospel, many of our churches are full of gossip.   Fads sweep the Church like tides on a beach, and true revival is dead.   Many of the Pentecostal leadership, achieving respectability withing the Evangelical Protestant plethora, have died spiritually.   There are even some in Pentecostal colleges who deny teaching on the Second Coming.   In other words, as Romans 1:22 states, they profess wisdom but have become fools.

Are they willing to change?   No, but they try to ride on the coattails of past revivals, and seek to "whoop up" a rerun performance every Sunday.   They cannot be changed, and are as Exodus 3:33 states, a stiff-necked people.   As a result, the anointing of God's presence in the typical Pentecostal church is absent:   I think such places nauseate Him, to be personally frank about it.   Something needs to happen.

Is there true revival anticipated, or are we all fooling ourselves?   What if we miss it and die?   I believe the Holy Spirit wants to answer that for us, and here is what He says:   "Revival has come, but you have sought it in the wrong places.  Go to where the hunger is."   May we be so sensitive to the Holy Spirit.

II.  Renewal and Resurrection

Finally, we get to our passage in Ezekiel 37.  I am certain you all know the story here.   Ezekiel has a vision of a valley of dry bones, and is commanded by God to prophesy life into them.   He obeys, and the bones whip together, all the organs, muscles, skin fly into place, and as a result they live.   Though the context here is for national Israel, is there a lesson for the Church?   Absolutely, and here it is.

In recent years God has been restoring His apostles and prophets to the Churches, and in those that have been dead, people are being raised up, and a lot of dry bones in those places are now alive.   People are getting right with God, being baptized with the Holy Spirit, and I have even heard of some reports of people barking like dogs, laughing hysterically, while some others weep, crow like roosters, etc.  (editor note:   This is in reference to the so-called "Holy Laughter" phenomenon of the time, which I have long since disavowed as it has had a lot of unScriptural excesses and has produced bad fruit.   Many views of the past have matured in my personal convictions, and I ask you again to please excuse some of this from the time period)  "Where has this been going on?" you may be asking now.   In Lutheran, Episcopal, Catholic, and Orthodox churches!  How about the Assemblies of God and Foursquare?   To answer that, God moves where He is wanted, and where people sincerely cry out for Him, He is there.   What have we as Pentecostals done about this?  Rejoice and join with them, offering our encouragement and support?  HA, HA, HA!!  Are you kidding??   Instead, it is more like ridicule and sarcasm we hand them instead of support, because we in our infinite wisdom know how to REALLY be, and of course the Holy Spirit will not move any other way unless we dictate, and then of course He only moves within the four walls of the local Assembly of God church.   Since when does the Assemblies of God, Foursquare,  Church of God, or any other Pentecostal group have a monopoly on defining what the Holy Spirit moves like:  even the Apostles couldn't do that!   And, the Apostles wrote Holy Scripture as God's hands!  God help us in our vain self-righteousness.

Maybe our prophets need to be bold enough to prophesy to dead Assembly of God bones to live, eh?   Oooh, I am preaching now!!

Conclusion:  A Challenge

Please read vv. 12-14 of Ezekiel 37.

In verse 12, there is a word that comes forth that says we will come up out of our graves and live, and the implication here implies obedience.   We must desire renewal in order to get it.   We must seek after a restoration and a renewal.   As verse 13 says, we can only know God when we come alive to Him.   Then, as it says in verse 14, He will indeed indwell us with His Spirit, and place us in our own land.   Where is that?   "Our land" is the status spiritually where God originally created us for:   total restoration.   Do not let Pentecost die in you, for it is too wonderful.

I want to challenge you today.   First, I know that there is the possibility that some who are receiving this message are spiritually dead.   Maybe you have never received salvation, or at one time you knew God, but your Christian witness died and rotted.   If you desire to have new life in Christ today, and are willing to respond, the Holy Spirit through me as He did through Ezekiel, prophesies life to you, and I say, by the authority of the Lord Jesus Christ, receive life!!   Now, also for those that desire it, there is a living person that can empower you, and He is God the Holy Spirit.   You need the Holy Spirit in thes last days in order to stand against the traps of the enemy, and I challenge you to receive it.   This will be something you will not forget once it happens to you.   If you wish to receive the Holy Spirit, and are willing, do it now.   Unexpected things may happen to you, but just let them, because they are Scriptural manifestations.   God loves you, and wants you to have the joy of a Spirit-filled life in Him.  It is much better than anything you may presently be involved in, and it will not only be the most important choice of your life, but will be the best.  God be with you as you seek Him today.  Amen.