I'm not saying that the entire Church falls in this category, but the general impression of this minister was that the American Church was working much by its own might and power and not by the Spirit of the Lord. (astrid westvang/Flickr/Creative Commons)
On a recent international ministry trip the word of the Lord came unto me saying: "The answer for the healing of this nation is in the pure rivers of living water that flow from man's heart." He then began to give me understanding as to why those rivers have been muddied and are no longer pure.
Of course, the river or rivers represent the flow of God's Spirit and power in the Earth. He referred me to the ever-enlarging river in Ezekiel 47 and the one in Revelation that was pure and clear as crystal (Rev. 22:1). God's will is for the river's waters to be pure with an ever-increasing width and depth to them. He showed me that the waters of that river were once pure in Jesus' ministry and in the early church, but then gradually men contaminated and defiled those waters. The Lord gave me two primary reasons those once pure waters have been muddied and polluted in much of the body of Christ:
1. The first reason is that men do not follow God's wisdom and plan for their lives and ministries. They follow the wisdom of men, which is often smart, creative and glittering in man's sight. They also follow their own plans, which usually appeal to the logic and natural goodness of man. In other words, man's plans seem good, but may not be God at all.
What happens is that men form their own plans and ask God to bless them instead of waiting on the Lord for His plans, which are already blessed. There's a big difference between the two.
"Except the Lord build the house, those who build labor in vain..." (Ps. 127:1).
"Then Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He sees the Father do. For whatever He does, likewise the Son does'" (John 5:19).
The greatest life and power is manifest in moving in God's wisdom and plan. The problem today is that men are doing all the moving. One foreign minister, after scoping the landscape of Christianity in America and visiting some of the great churches here, spoke these compelling words, when asked what impressed him the most.
"How much the church here has been able to do without God." Ouch!
I'm not saying that the entire church falls in this category, but the general impression of this minister was that the American church was working much by its own might and power and not by the Spirit of the Lord.
Do you understand that it was unthinkable to Jesus to attempt ministry without the direction of the Holy Spirit? Just as it is unthinkable for a man to produce a baby without a woman, so it was unthinkable for Jesus to minister without the co-laboring of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus understood that He was not on the earth to do His own will but the will of the Father. He also understood that He was not here to do His own will in the name of the Father, which is the common error of today.
Here's the bottom line: The number one problem we have in Christianity today and the reason for every failure among those who claim His Name is we don't know Him.
We are not talking about a general knowledge of Him. Of course, when we are born again we come into new life in Jesus and we know Him as our Savior. Thank God that we receive eternal life and an assurance of our salvation. But to intimately know Him will move us into another realm of the Spirit's operation in our lives. You know Him through His Word and His Spirit and an ever increasing intimate knowledge of His heart and ways.
The first step toward knowing God intimately is to surrender the life of Christ within you on the altar of the Father's will. The reverse is what most Christians do. They sacrifice the life of Christ within them on the altar of their own will. They have life in their spirits but the direction of their lives comes from their own will and carnal mind resulting in works of the flesh.
This same pattern is also true in ministry today. Thus the reason the works of man are plentiful while the true works of the Father are rare.
2. The second reason the Lord gave me for the muddying of those waters was that love for people has been replaced with lust for ministry. Religious activity has often been disconnected from the genuine love of God and meeting the real needs of people.
We have our programs, our projects, our forms, our feasts, our religious activities, and although these things can be useful and have their place, if we're not careful, our motivation for these things can be done for the wrong reasons. Our motives can become impure and defiled. What make the rivers of living water pure is also our motives.
Jesus taught us that when we pray, fast and give we should do it unto the Father and not to be seen by men—not for the recognition and honor of men but for the honor of God (Matt. 6).
Listen to this scathing rebuke of how disconnected Israel's religious activities had become from the heart of God:
"Hear the word of the Lord, you rulers of Sodom; listen to the law of our God, you people of Gomorrah: For what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me? says the Lord. I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed animals. I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of male goats. When you come to appear before Me, who has required this at your hand, to trample My courts? Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to Me.
"New Moons, Sabbaths, and convocations— I cannot bear with evil assemblies. My soul hates your New Moons and your appointed feasts; they are a burden to Me; I am weary of bearing them. When you reach out your hands, I will hide My eyes from you; even when you make many prayers, I will not hear. Your hands are full of blood.
"Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean; put away the evil from your deeds, from before My eyes. Cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, relieve the oppressed; judge the fatherless, plead for the widow" (Is. 1:10-17).
We have the same situation today in much of the church today. The entrapments in church work and ministry are many. We are often seduced by the production and pride of man, the professionalism and politics of the ministry, and all the hype and Hollywood-like appearance that is too often associated with ministry.
We must unplug ourselves from the entrapments of appearances that can fool us, and in fact, often act as a smokescreen to hide what is really going on. The above reproof by the Lord bears this out.
Secondly, we must plug ourselves in to meeting the real needs of people at a grassroots level. Every time we gather together in our church services, there are people that sit to our right and left that have very pressing issues in their lives, from single mothers trying to raise kids on their own to those who cannot pay their rent and struggle under heavy financial burdens. Then there are those who have deep relational issues in strife-filled homes, and marital situations that are on the brink of separation and divorce. The elderly among us have their own unique needs that are very difficult. These types of situations are void of the hype, excitement, and glamour that church services and Western Christianity often portray.
And although we have a responsibility to make sure the needs of the saints are met, the real work happens out in our communities. This is where our character is tested and where our sacrifice and self-denial is put to the fire. When we allow the love and compassion of Jesus to rule our hearts, we will find ourselves moving closer and closer to these types of needs and people that are often forgotten in our churches and in society. When we move in this kind of purity of heart, we will see the rivers of living water rise and the favor and power of God increase in our lives and churches.
What have you done with the eternal life of Christ that is in you? Once again, the majority of the Christian world has sacrificed that life on the altar of their carnal mind and their own will. Many have never yielded that life and love within them to the Lordship of Jesus, and the Spirit's direction.
The word of the hour for the body of Christ is that ministers and believers would learn to commune with the Holy Spirit and minister to the Lord until they hear and know the mind of Christ and plans of God for their lives, situations and ministry, and until they start moving in the love and compassion of His great heart.
Bert M. Farias, revivalist and founder of Holy Fire Ministries, has authored several books with an emphasis on helping to restore the true spirit of Christianity in the Church today, including the newly released, Passing on The Move of God to The Next Generation. An anointing of fire marks his ministry with frequent demonstrations of the Spirit and power of God. He ministers interdenominational and cross-culturally in nations, churches, conferences, on the streets and in homes. He and his wife Carolyn also host The Holy Ghost Forum – a school of the Spirit. Follow him at Bert Farias and Holy Fire Ministries on Facebook and @Bertfarias1on Twitter.