Friday, 14 December 2018

O On the edge of revival

When the fire falls

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Pre-Revival Night – Dordrecht, The Netherlands - October 28th, 2016

In the previous studies, we have emphasized many times that the Christian life is all about the change. Real change that happens deep inside of us, in our hearts. If we testify about Jesus Christ and about how wonderful He is, then our lives must be the evidence of that. That is the only way people are able to see something of Jesus on this earth. I’m not talking about a change of deeds, although that is a part of it, but it all starts with a change of character. Of course, that cannot be done in our own strength. We need the Holy Spirit to help us to achieve that.

In the last century, many charismatic churches have rediscovered the importance of the Holy Spirit and have emphasized that in their teachings, which was and is a true blessing. But it goes further than that. Besides our precious Holy Spirit, there is something else Jesus wants to baptize us with. And that is with His fire.

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
Matthew 3:11

When we speak about the fire of God, people are often scared of that. Many associate the fire of God with the fire of hell, which is not a pleasant thought. But that is not the kind of fire John the Baptist spoke about. There is a fire of condemnation, but there is also a fire of purification and passion. That is the fire we’re talking about here. That fire is not a physical natural fire, it’s not a metaphor and it’s not something imaginary. It is an actual fire, but it is a spiritual fire. Sometimes we’re allowed to see it, sometimes we see nothing. In the case of the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit, during Pentecost, the people were allowed to see it. 

And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.
Acts 2:2-4

Here something remarkable took place. Imagine the position the apostles were in. They had seen how Jesus was tortured and murdered in the most terrible way. They had seen how He was raised from the dead. They had seen how He returned to heaven. And now they were all alone, without Him. They were fulfilling what they probably thought was their last assignment from Jesus. They were gathered in Jerusalem and they were waiting. They were no heroes. Most likely they were very afraid. But then this happened. The Holy Spirit took over where Jesus had to stop His earthly ministry. Suddenly they were filled with strength and boldness. It was as if God pushed the reset button, giving them a fresh start. The coming of the Holy Spirit changed everything. The fire of God had set them ablaze. In this case it resulted in their receiving the strength and boldness they needed to overcome their fear and human weaknesses. But the fire of God does more than that. 

For everyone will be seasoned with fire, and every sacrifice will be seasoned with salt. Salt is good, but if the salt loses its flavor, how will you season it? Have salt in yourselves, and have peace with one another.
Marc 9:49-50

The first seasoning is always with fire. It is the fire that goes deep. It is the fire that exposes everything that is unclean and sinful. It is the fire that can and will deal with the root of our sins, if we allow it. The blood of Jesus Christ has brought us atonement. The blood of Jesus Christ has made our lives an acceptable offering to God. But that doesn’t mean that we’re unable to sin. The real change happens when the fire of the Holy Spirit comes. If we allow it to go deep, the fire will purify. The fire will burn away all spiritual perishability. What is it that causes perishability in our lives? It is our carnal heart. So that is where the fire starts.

The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness has seized the hypocrites: “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?” He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, he who despises the gain of oppressions, who gestures with his hands, refusing bribes, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed, and shuts his eyes from seeing evil: he will dwell on high; his place of defense will be the fortress of rocks; bread will be given him, his water will be sure.
Isaiah 33:14-16

Here we see a clear example in the Scripture, where it shows that the fire of God does not destroy human beings. This is a different kind of fire than the fire of condemnation. Then what does it devour? I believe it is our self-righteousness that is devoured. The Bible teaches us that every human being is guilty of sin and in need of salvation (Read 1 John 1). Jesus Christ taught us that the cause of our problem is our carnal heart (Read Matthew 15:19). The fire of the Holy Spirit purifies us, but it also exposes each and every weakness, impurity and every sort of sin that lives in our hearts. When the fire of God comes near, it becomes painfully clear what our condition is, next to the holiness of God. This is not a great experience at first. So the fire of God accuses us of sin? Far from. It exposes each and every sin, hidden or not. To what aim? So that we can deal with it. God wants to remove every legal ground the enemy has in our lives. In the places where the enemy has legal ground, in the places where there is sin, God cannot bless us. Yet He wants to bless us. He wants us to be free. Why else did He pay such an incredibly high price? 

I came to send fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how distressed I am till it is accomplished! Do you suppose that I came to give peace on earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. Then He also said to the multitudes, “Whenever you see a cloud rising out of the west, immediately you say, ‘A shower is coming’; and so it is. And when you see the south wind blow, you say, ‘There will be hot weather’; and there is. Hypocrites! You can discern the face of the sky and of the earth, but how is it you do not discern this time?
Luke 12:49-56

One of the aims of Jesus Christ was and still is, is to send fire on the earth. Yet the fire wasn’t kindled when Jesus said this. This is one of the many exchanges Jesus did for us on the cross. The baptism He was talking about was the baptism in all of our sins, yet without ever committing sin Himself. He was literally dipped in our sin until He was completely soaked in it. By doing this, He enabled us to be dipped in the fire of God, until we are completely soaked in it. When that happens, the real change starts. That real change is the only testimony of worth. Realness is the only thing that matters. Even if that means that we have to admit we’re far from where we’re supposed to be. That is a start already. At least it’s honest. I believe we should constantly test ourselves and ask ourselves if we are still doing the right thing in our lives, churches or ministries. Testing ourselves is not a bad thing. By doing so, we can discover if we are on the right road or not. If not, we can discover it in an early stage, maybe even before it becomes painful. Then we can do something about it. The last thing we should do is start pretending, like so many people do in today’s churches. It is not helpful, it brings more damage than you can imagine and it chases people away. What people need is an example they can relate to. By showing how we deal with our sins and shortcomings, we can set an example for others to follow. But by hiding it, we’re just showing a lot of hypocrisy. When the fire comes, everything shall be exposed. We may have gotten away with many things in the past, but in the days ahead everything shall be shaken. And it shall be tested by fire. Including your life, church or ministry. 

For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become clear; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.
1 Corinthians 3:11-15

See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, “Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.” Now this, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire.
Hebrews 12:25-29

Yes, that’s the New Testament, so there’s no excuse to ignore it. God will do exactly what He said He would do. When we live in an environment where the power and fire of God has lacked for a long time, many assume they can just continue their lives as before. Others long for real change, but wait for years without seeing anything. In these cases, it may seem like nothing will ever change. But suddenly it will change. It will come unexpected. And it will expose everything, bringing a clear distinction between those who really want to live for Jesus, and those who don’t. If your faith and your deeds can stand the test of fire, you’re on the right road. The fire is not meant for our entertainment, nor is it pleasant for those who stubbornly live in sin. Right now, many sins may be hidden, but everything shall be exposed. God will shake everything that can be shaken. He truly is a consuming fire.

I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see.
Revelation 3:18

The fire of God is a topic that you can see through the whole Bible, including in the New Testament. In fact, in the New Testament it becomes clearer than before. Jesus wants our lives to go through His fire. He wants to refine our hearts and lives. But it comes at a price. It’s not free. You won’t automatically receive it. Then how can we ‘buy’ it? One of the biggest fruits of the fire is that it brings the fear of the Lord, which is one of the anointing’s of the Sevenfold Anointing. The book of Proverbs gives us a clear description of how and when that happens.

My son, if you receive my words, and treasure my commands within you, so that you incline your ear to wisdom, and apply your heart to understanding; Yes, if you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, if you seek her as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; Then you will understand the fear of the Lord, and find the knowledge of God.
Proverbs 2:1-5

That’s deep. And honestly, as you can see, God is not asking the impossible of us. He will never ask things from us that we cannot do. He just asks us to go as far as we can go, without trusting on our own strength, wisdom and insight. He requires an attitude of dependence from us. So we can voluntarily submit to His will and do what He requires us to do, even if we don’t understand why, what our condition is and/or how much we need Him. When we start moving in this direction, He will help us to understand. He will grant us His wisdom, His knowledge and His understanding. Basically, He allows us to view our situation through His eyes and from His perspective. As long as that doesn’t happen, we know nothing. We need Him to do that for us. But these are the things we can and must do:

  • Read the Word of God
  • Be attentive
  • Meditate on the Word
  • Ask for discernment, wisdom and understand
  • Search for it, with all your heart

There was season in my life, several years ago, where the Holy Spirit told me the very same thing, over and over again. Every day, several times a day, for months. This is what He said: “Only the Word of God has the power to change you from the inside out. It is only the Word of God that has the power to do that.” He wanted me to ask. He wanted me to search. And He wanted me to be persistent in it. These keys have helped me so much. He really does open up our understanding, when we do what He asks us to do. 

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “And like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”
Jeremiah 23:29

The Word of God is the ultimate tool to measure our lives with in order to see if we really live according to His will. The fire of God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, will expose every weakness and sin. The Word of God offers us the solution. We need both. When we start to move in God’s direction, He moves towards us. He draws us near. The more our heart is aimed at doing His will and at searching Him, the more His fire starts to burn in us. God can also choose to release a greater amount of His fire over people, with the aim to open their eyes for what is going on in their lives, churches and ministries. So we can go after the fire, but the fire can also go after us to help us see where we’re going wrong and to test everything we do. God can be extremely patient and He is merciful, but His patience has limits. Is that Biblical? Yes. Even the New Testament makes mention of that. But some people only read what they want to read. However, the message, the Word of God, is always extremely balanced. He is a merciful God, yet His patience has limits. He longs to save all people, yet there will be many who will go to hell. Not because God wants them to go, but because they ignored what He said in His Word or through His Spirit. Now that’s an uncomfortable topic, isn’t it? You barely hear about it anymore in Church. But hell is real. Hell is also the reason why God does so much to get our attention. Even if that means that He has to pour out His judgments over us. 

Most Christians grew up in a church where they taught that God’s mercies are endless and without limit. Isn’t that true? Yes and no. It all depends on the attitude of our hearts. God will go to extreme lengths in order to get our attention, in order to move us and in order to show us that we need Him. For without Him, the destination is always hell. A faith that doesn’t change you is not a real faith at all. That doesn’t mean that you have to be perfect, but it does mean that something happens. Even if it is only small steps. If you spend decades in church, and if you’re still exactly the same as you were before you gave your life to Jesus, then you’re in danger. Real faith will always bring real change. Like I said, maybe not in every area at first, but at least your way of thinking and speaking changes. God doesn’t look at what you do in the first place. His highest priority is what lives inside your heart. If you still entertain sinful thoughts, without any desire to change that, you have an unchanged heart. God will expose what lives inside your heart. He will show it to you. Then you have to choose. If we continue in sin, even if it is just in our hearts and not by deeds, and if we’re stubbornly continue to do that, then His mercies have limits. Then they have an exact measure. But if you’re willing to change and fail, even if you fail time after time, His mercies are endless. It is the desire to change that matters to Him. The desire in your heart shows the love you have for Him. The love for His Word shows your love for Him. That is all of His Word. The complete balanced Word of God.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:3-7

That’s not something you hear often in the Church. But it’s in the Bible. The apostle Peter said this, one of the apostles who was very familiar with this type of fire and with trials. An untested faith has no value. The value comes through testing. The testing will show if something is real or not. That’s one of the things that the fire of God does. One of the things I always do is search for examples in real life. The life of the apostles was real, of course, but I want to have examples in the here and now as well. It needs to be practical. We need to know what the fire is and what to expect. I don’t want it to pass us by and if we receive it, I don’t want to waste it. 

In the history books we can read about what happened during genuine revivals and what happened when the fire fell over the people. I have discussed these testimonies with several friends. Two of these friends have witnessed what happened when the fire fell in meetings they attended in Africa and Asia. The remarkable thing of all these testimonies from the past and the testimonies from the present, that my friends gave me, is that they are all identical. When I hear that, you have my attention. When the fire fell, all the people became instantly convicted of sin. But not just like knowing, I mean knowing that you know that you know. Until it becomes painfully clear. In all of the testimonies, all the people became so convinced and aware of their sins, that they all started to cry out loud. They started to shout, to weep, to pray and to grieve. Under the fire of God, that burden of sin becomes almost unbearable. Suddenly you see everything. Every sin. Every weakness. Every detail that you never thought of as a sin, but which God considers as unrighteousness. You see everything. And it hurts. A lot. Not physically, but emotionally and spiritually. When you live your entire life as Christian, believing that you’re doing everything right, and find out that there still is an awful lot that needs to change in your life, it hurts. That’s exactly what happens when the fire falls. Again, it is never meant to condemn  us, but to help us to overcome the mountain of sin. Once we’ve passed that mountain, the fire of God is no longer painful, but becomes pure joy. But we first have to get past that mountain. Blessing can only come in those areas where sin is no longer an obstacle. Under the fire of God, most people are more than willing to repent. And God is more than willing to help them overcome. Because that is the aim of His fire. It is the desire of a God Who has send His Son to this world, in order to save all.

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