Recovering Biblical Spirituality, Part 4

Chapter Two (continued)

Who would claim that newcomers to the Pentecostal stream receive the quality and depth of experience that Parham, Bartleman, or Seymour enjoyed when the Azusa revival was at its zenith? When I became a pastor in the early 80s, I sought out a stream to identify the flock with. The Charismatic move was washed out by that time, the Faith emphasis had lost its steam, and the Worship emphasis had yet to make any impact. We gained sound doctrine from all these groups but did not experience the titanic spiritual resonance we were hungering for. As those around the pool, they could partake of the water, but without the angel, no miracle was present. 

Studying these verses, the Lord put it to me this way: “the first one in gets healed, everybody else just gets wet.” The water represents the doctrine articulated by the movement leadership. The doctrine itself is illuminating but is not a satisfactory consolation any more than a recipe book is a substitute for a gourmet meal. 

Verse five gives details concerning the man Jesus came to meet at Bethesda. He had been witness to many healings and goings-on at the pool, having been there thirty-eight years, without a deliverance. A friend of mine tells me that the number thirty-eight denotes that which is “conformed to what is rejected.”  The significance here is that of a church that has received the vision for the fivefold ministry and submitted itself, yet its leadership has consistently fallen short of its advertised benefit to the flock. This is a result of leaders attributing to themselves benefits that can only come in relationship to Jesus. What the infirm man waited thirty-eight years to get from an angel, he received from a man, Jesus in one afternoon visit. 

You may cry out against the excesses of Swaggart or Gorman or Jim Bakker but realize that these men’s frailties resulted in devastation to the church only because people exalted them beyond their measure. The ancient Israelites cried out for a king to rule over them, and God gave them a man “head and shoulders above the rest.” This spiritual superstar led the nation headlong into disaster. Those who are continually looking for a charismatic leader to go before them, to walk where they fear to tread. This is a subtle form of idolatry. God hates idolatry because it proposes the glory of God to rest somewhere other than the human heart. It suggests the miraculous as being a part of someone else’s experience rather than your own. This results in a continual looking outward to man rather than looking inward to Jesus. As the prophets cried out against the Jewish religious system to put away their idols, so the Spirit cries out to the Christian religious system, “Put away your Swaggart’s! Put away your Hagins, your Gormans, your Dobsons, your John Pauls whom you worship under every stained glass pane! Any perception of Christ more greatly resident outside the human heart than in your own life is a perception that fosters idolatry.

Jesus came to the pool of Bethesda and sought out this man with this life- long infirmity. Likewise today, the Lord Jesus is come to His temple to seek out and heal the infirm Christians who have been waiting on the angel, waiting on the “Move of God…” Will you take your eyes off of the surface of the water to consider the miracle offered by Jesus living in your own heart? 

Then as now, Jesus is come into an imperfect situation, to bring healing and restoration. There was no recorded mention of any angelic visits or healings at Bethesda after Jesus visits. The pool had served its purpose. It was to be a similitude of the purpose of God among His people in the last days. For you to be a part of the answer to the ills of the Christian religious system rather than a part of the problem, you must stop looking outward to find Jesus and look inward, where He died to dwell. You must get your eyes off the glint of the pool and look to Jesus who is readily available to you at this very hour. 

Like Anna and Simeon, you must be involved in the system, though not of it, till God himself makes the separation. That separation will come through His perfecting and purifying His remnant to express His grace as simple men and women filled and flooded with the awesome presence of His Spirit. This is an aspect of the coming of Christ that has received little attention. He will come IN HIS PEOPLE before He COMES FOR HIS PEOPLE. The Lord is coming in a great visitation IN HIS CHURCH BEFORE HE COMES FOR HIS CHURCH.

His purpose is to judge and cleanse, to purge and purify his children. You see, if the Great Tribulation comes just after the church is taken out of the earth, then of necessity, the church that is taken out will have just been through her own great tribulation. The conventional view is that the tribulation period consummates God’s judgment on the world. Yet will God not judge His people before He judges the world? Therefore the church will tribulate before, during, or after the world, depending on your eschatology, but God will purify His church. The exposure of sin in the media ministries and across the board in the church is only the beginning of that judgment of His house. It will be visited upon the people of God, as He lovingly, yet firmly purges and purifies His bride in preparation for His return.

There is then, an error in thinking among those who are relieved that the Lord is cleansing the temple and exposing corruption in the leadership. The point is that the Christian religious system is as much at fault as the personalities involved. It is the clergy-laity model of the church that has produced the idol known as the Big Preacher. The perspective of the church on leadership in general is inherently flawed. Crowds flock to “sit under a ministry,” never considering that this ministry was designed to uphold and empower them to go out and do likewise. In effect, the church has been trained to crawl under a rock and quiver in helpless paralysis, unable to make any move other than activity that satisfies her addiction for kings and superstars. The ministries that have fallen in recent years have done so for the same reason Dagon fell in the pagan temple of the Philistines. The presence of God was in the house. When Jesus comes to purge His church, how will he find it? He will be reminded of that day in Bethesda, seeing a multitude waiting on something OUTWARD, and OTHERLY to take place while the Son Himself stood in their midst to heal and deliver. 

The “wave of the Spirit,” or the “wind of the Spirit,” or the “next Move of the Spirit” model no longer adequately describes what God is ushering his people into at this time. The practice of looking backward at the greatness of God or looking forward to the predicted and great end-time outpouring, (but never believing for the here and now) must end. The Jews did this in Jesus day, looking back to Solomon’s time, or forward to the coming Messiah, never accepting that He was in the midst of them at that moment.

There will come a time in the church that the future and distant day will be the here and now opportunity that must be taken advantage of. There is some truth to the “move” model, just as the angel at Bethesda WAS sent by God to heal one out of hundreds. But like the angel, this process is a very ineffective means of delivering the masses. Yet it serves a purpose similar to that of the law, to bring man in desperation to Christ.

Click to purchase the book, or downloadable pdf, in it’s entirety
Add feedback

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes:

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.