The truth that alarms me most is the possibility of grieving or quenching the Holy Spirit without knowing it — the painless way in which the anointing can be lifted from me. When this occurs, because I know nothing whatever at first, I carry on as though nothing has happened. As seen in the life of Samson, it is possible for one who has experienced the precious anointing of the Holy Spirit to swiftly, painlessly, lose that anointing. I can displease the Lord and feel nothing. It is very possible that I could spend years doing God’s will — preaching, teaching, witnessing, and being involved in church work — when God was hardly present in my efforts at all. I may even have the applause and respect of people the whole time, and they not have a clue that I moved ahead of Jesus.
This truth is why we desperately need continuous revival, both personally and in the Church. Revival is the renewing of our spirit through repentance and forgiveness, allowing God to remove every area of our hearts that has not yet fully submitted to His authority, every seed of rebellion against Him. Even the slightest twinge of hate or sin cannot escape the light of His glory in us. These things, once removed, become replaced with the glory of God as we bear the fruit of repentance (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control). For too long Christians have been taught not to be so inwardly focused, but to keep doing the work of the ministry and their inner turmoil will somehow work itself out. They are taught that somehow service in the Kingdom leads to purity of spirit. But it does not.
Ministers who live and teach this way cut the hair off the Samsons sitting in their churches. The ministry gets hard, more and more work (and workers) are required to replace the ones who have burned out. The anointed Samsons in the crowd: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers are relegated to waiting on tables because the vision of the house doesn’t require their Jesus-gifted anointing. It requires their physical work and their money. When the anointing leaves, leaders distract themselves with the next big thing while distancing themselves from the underlying malady in their midst. Accomplishments are celebrated, Look what we’ve done!, while true repentance is falsely portrayed as harsh legalism and humility as weakness. Pride and it’s twin, low self-esteem, rule the day and call the shots. We need more! We need bigger! Everyone must see what we have done! Towers of Babel spring up everywhere leaving exhausted believers stranded in spiritual deserts, forced to feed themselves but without even spiritual milk available, much less real meat.
But with this unraveling comes unrest. A stirring, a shaking, an unsettling. A sense that there must be more. The unsettling begins deep. It starts with the still, small voice that says “THERE IS MORE”. In John 10, Jesus explains how the sheep will know the voice of the Shepherd. I am the Good Shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me. (John 10:14). This voice that many are hearing is the voice of the Good Shepherd. He is calling His sheep unto Himself. But the call causes unsettling when it contradicts what has been taught and believed — that service for God is the same as walking with God. They are not. Even the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:27 said that he could spend his life preaching to others but be personally disqualified for the prize. Wow. If that doesn’t wake you up, I don’t know what will. Imagine spending your whole life thinking you were building the Kingdom of God only to see that it was just another Tower of Babel. Imagine presenting all of your accomplishments to God that you had done only to realize He was a stranger to you.
The realization of this is unsettling. It should be. But Jesus is the one causing the unsettling, the unrest, the dissatisfaction. You may be feeling this unsettling and thinking what most do in your situation— the problem is me. That thought is very natural — and that’s the problem. The thought is natural but the stirring is spiritual! There’s nothing wrong with you. You might just be the lost coin, the lost sheep, or even the lost son from Luke 15 that Jesus has been looking for. But aren’t those unbelievers Jesus is talking about? Some are. But remember, the lost coin was lost IN the house. It didn’t lose itself. They were still in the house but lost. It is these coins that are feeling the light of Jesus’ lamp, they are being swept for by the Spirit of God hovering over the waters of the Church, they are hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd. They are still in the Church but lost. They have been very active in doing things for God but are strangers to the fire of God. They are looking to the “man or woman of God” for guidance without realizing their man or woman of God is as lost as they are but just better at faking it. These sons and daughters are waking up. They are hearing the voice of the Good Shepherd and they are bold stepping into freedom.
My sincere prayer is that this unsettling would lead to revival in pastors and leaders everywhere. As a pastor myself, I know that as much as I will listen, God will continually speak to me as a loving Father, pointing to areas of my heart left unsurrendered to Him and revealing areas of unforgiveness that have created blockages to the anointing in me. What flows in me will flow to our church. What gets blocked in me gets blocked from the church. If I live free, the church receives an anointing of freedom and blessing.
I know of 2 mega-church pastors this has happened to already, one in Florida and another in California. God interrupted them in the middle of their hugely successful ministries (successful as measured by their former scoreboards) to tell them to change. A deep personal revival led to major changes for their churches. This came at great cost. Both were labeled as crazy by many of their former colleagues who were deep into the way of ministry these two pastors were called to leave behind. These guys were crushing it! How could they just leave it all behind? They’ve worked so hard to get here!
On the scoreboard of pharisaical Judaism, Saul was crushing it too. That is, until a trip to Damascus changed everything. Saul had to be blinded to the way of ministry he knew. God simply wouldn’t let him do it that way anymore. It took a word from God and another disciple who knew the voice of the One Saul had met on the road, a man who was no stranger to the fire of God or radical encounters like Saul had, to pray and remove the scales from his eyes and be filled with the Holy Spirit.
There are Sauls in our pulpits today. Men zealous for God but strangers to the fire. I am praying for Damascus road encounters. I have had them, too, because I have done ministry looking at the wrong scoreboard. My own Damascus road encounter and subsequent obedience to the voice of the Good Shepherd has come at great cost to me and my family. Nothing like what Paul endured, but a cost nonetheless. But the reward far outweighs the cost. We are in revival. There is anointing like I have never experienced before. Our church is free and powerful. There is spiritual fruit everywhere and others are finding freedom at an alarming rate. The hair of the Samson Church is growing back!
The quote from R.T. Kendall I began with speaks of the dangers of losing the anointing without realizing it. Damascus road encounters provide the catalyst to cure this and a commitment to continuous revival keeps the anointing flowing. The Holy Spirit makes us immediately aware of areas where the flow has decreased or stopped altogether. He reveals areas where we have replaced the fire of God with the fake restaurant table candles of our works for God. You know the ones. They flicker and look real from afar but on close inspection require a battery to operate and offer no warmth. That’s ministry without the anointing. God wants to replace our batteries with real fire that never sleeps. Revival is here.