There is one question I am asked most often, one question that tops the list each and every time, and that question is, ‘what has the Lord been showing you lately?’ In recent years, I have made it a habit, to answer this question with the same exact question, and the response I get varies from a shrug of the shoulders, to a rolling of the eyes, to a look of indignation and the ever present, ‘what do you mean? You’re the one that the Lord shows things to.’
I believe one of the greatest setbacks in today’s Christian thinking, is that God speaks only to a select few, or works only through a select few. God speaks to all of us, in greater or lesser measure, and He works through all whose vessels are clean, and who are willing to submit themselves to His authority. We have been living in the land of spiritual surrogacy for so long, that we’ve assigned others to look after all of our spiritual needs. If we need prayer, we have prayer warriors we can go to and ask to pray for us. If we desire understanding of a certain Biblical passage, we have theologians who are eager to offer their interpretation. If we desire a word from the Lord, there’s someone for that too, and all it takes is a phone call or a short drive to see what the Lord is saying. When we practice spiritual surrogacy, when we outsource our spiritual needs to others, it cuts down on the need for an intimate and personal relationship, it cuts down on the hours we ought to have spent on our knees, in prayer, and in reading the Word, but even though it saves time, it is by no means beneficial for our spiritual man.
We read the Word of God, we read of the miracles, we read of the power, we read of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, then by simply juxtaposing the early church to today’s modern church, one question inevitably leaps out: ‘Why aren’t we seeing these things today? Why can’t we do what they did?’
Most believers choose to gloss over this all important question, because it takes a humble heart and a painful honesty to acknowledge that men and women two thousand years ago were closer to God, saw more of the power of God, and experienced more of the presence of God than we are in our modern age. The ‘can do’ attitude has ensconced itself upon the throne of many believers’ hearts, and if they can’t do something, well it’s because it can’t be done.
‘Nope, God doesn’t do that anymore. Because He’s not doing it through me, because I am not seeing miracles, because I do not know the power of the Holy Spirit, the logical conclusion is that they no longer exist. Surely if they existed, I would be the first in line, asking for a double portion. It can’t be me, it couldn’t be me. My self esteem is tip top, and my positive attitude has never been more positive. Ergo, scrap the book of Acts, blot out all the passages referring to healings, miracles, the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and the repeated assertion by none other than Christ Jesus that the Comforter would be with us until the end of time, because if I’m not experiencing it, than no one on the face of the earth is.’
It takes a certain kind of narcissistic pride, and a helping of shameless arrogance to conclude that if I am not experiencing something, than it is impossible for anyone else to.
‘We’re the American church dear sir! We are the fountainhead of newfangled doctrine, progressive theology, humanistic dogma, surely if anyone in the world were to know the fullness of the power of God, it would be us. Why would God choose some poverty stricken third world folks, who aren’t even allowed to practice their faith in their country, who are beaten and tortured, persecuted and despised? They don’t have the resources to get the message out; they don’t have the knowhow to run a successful publicity campaign, and don’t even get me started on interfaith relations and tolerance toward opposing views. We are the logical choice to experience the fullness of God’s power, to use it, abuse it, monetize it and profit from it, and since we are not, well then it just doesn’t exist anymore. That stuff about God choosing the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise, and the weak things of the world to put to shame the mighty, well that’s just hyperbole.’
The lack of power in the house of God is obvious to one and all, as is the lack of character in the lives of some who call themselves children of God. These two things are interconnected, and one of the reasons we are not seeing the power of God, is because we are lacking the requisite purity, the requisite righteousness that is demanded of those who would be used of Him.
Another reason the power of God is absent from many of today’s churches, another reason why we can’t do what the primary church did is because we are lacking that true, living and abiding faith that God requires of us. Living faith is not about what I can do, but about what He can do. Once we’ve bought into the notion that we can do it, we can manufacture it, and we can make it happen, we’ve already lost out on any chance of seeing the true power of God.
If all things are possible to those who believe, then the painful truth is that we are not seeing the power of God manifest in our churches because we do not believe. Saving faith brings salvation by way of the cross, but living by faith and in faith brings the power of God by way of the Holy Spirit.
As we go down the list of the reasons we are not seeing the power of God in today’s churches, I would be remiss if I did not include the lack of a prayer life. From individuals, to families to entire congregations we have tried to replace prayer with other activities, be they spiritual or otherwise, ignoring the fact that there can be no replacing prayer in the life of a believer. If Jesus couldn’t find something to replace prayer with, if the Son of God would go off on His own and pray for hours on end, what pray tell makes us more special, more spiritual, and more knowledgeable that we can so flippantly dismiss prayer as nothing more than a waste of time?
Jesus didn’t teach His disciples homiletics, He did not teach His disciples hermeneutics, He did not teach His disciples apologetics, inflection, cadence, or speech delivery. Jesus taught His disciples how to pray!
We do not see the power of God in the churches today, because the churches have actively and successfully abolished and done away with prayer. Add to the absence of prayer the absence of fasting as well, and the reasons we are not seeing the power of God manifesting itself in the churches are evident to all.
There are certain practices in our Christian walk that are indispensable. Having a prayer life and fasting are two of those indispensable things. When Jesus preached His sermon on the mount, He did not begin it by saying, ‘if you pray, or if you fast’ but rather, ‘when you pray, go into your room and when you have shut the door pray to your Father who is in the secret place, and when you fast do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance.’
It was not ‘if’ it was ‘when’!
The reason we are not seeing the power of God as the primary church did is not because it is no longer available to us, but rather because we are not doing what is required of us in order to experience it. The primary church was formed in an atmosphere of prayer and fasting, in an atmosphere of dependency upon God and righteousness. It was then than the fullness of the power of the Holy Spirit came upon them, it was then that they went everywhere preaching the Word and performing miracles.
Throughout the Word, whether it be individuals or churches, from the church of Antioch, to Paul, to Jesus Himself, we see the running themes of prayer, fasting, purity of heart and dependency upon God. We cannot hope to experience the power of God today, unless we return to the selfsame practices, the selfsame goal, and the selfsame hunger for God as the primary church.
God is not to blame for the impotence that is running rampant in today’s churches. God is not to blame for the powerlessness that is evident in today’s congregations. God is the same, yesterday, today and forevermore and if we must place blame on someone, if we must lay the burden of our impotence and powerlessness at someone’s feet, than we need look no further than the nearest mirror.
With love in Christ,
Michael Boldea Jr.