I emerged from my prayer time and Scripture reading this morning with a burden on my heart for our ranks. I see and hear of truly astonishing works of God in our day. The ink in my pen flows warm with affection this morning and free of pessimism and hopelessness. I don’t have the luxury today of writing an overly-involved article. I will jump straight to what’s on my heart.
We are warned in the Scriptures that darkness will increasingly rage as time hastens toward Christ’s return. We are not date-setters but this we know. His return is closer today than it was yesterday. And the enemy is angrier today than he was yesterday. (Rev.12:12) And he wants us. He wants our testimonies. He wants to render us ineffective and make us a laughingstock. He wants to come between us and distract us with ridiculous things, showy things, boastful things, petty things, divisive things so that we’ll miss the tidal wave of temptation and seduction begging to engulf us. Jesus told us to be prepared. And we’re not. If we were, we’d be poring over our Bibles and flat on our faces in prayer. We’d come to our feet in the power of the Holy Spirit and preach and teach the Gospel with love and holy fire.
Instead, many believers – leaders and followers alike – will fall. Even servants who have had sincere and pure devotion to Jesus. 2 Corinthians 11:2-3 warns us this can happen.
And those many believers – leaders and followers alike – must be helped back to their feet. Biblically, compassionately, gently, diligently and completely. Churches must train mature men and women in the faith who walk in the Spirit to actively minister Galatians 6:1. You’ve got to know I’m not casting stones here. I well know what it’s like to be in the grips of bondage and in heaps of defeat and sin. I also know for a fact that, by the grace and mercy of Jesus, we can be transformed and old tendencies and repetitive cycles utterly broken.
We must hang on for dear life to the word repentance. Watch carefully as that word becomes less and less popular in our churches and on our Christian platforms. Do not think for a second there is no scheme of the darkness to see to it. I will not waste words here. I just ask you to go to the Scriptures and see all that hinges on repentance and start picturing the terrifying ramifications of its absence. In a Christian climate where we call less and less sin, we will call fewer and fewer to repentance. That’s not rocket science. Repentance is one of the most glorious rights hailed by the cry of Christ’s finished work on the cross. We get to repent. This is not our self-condemnation. This is not our self-loathing. This is our liberty. Our restoration. Our cleansing, whiter than snow. God delights to show us mercy and cast our sins into the depths of the sea. (Micah 7)
No one wants to fall grievously and no one has to. Sin is not our master. We all sin and grieve and quench the Holy Spirit. We all long for the day when faith will become sight and that which is incomplete will be made perfect. But we do not have to fall headlong into a ditch and, if we do, not one of us has to remain there. Each person has the right to get up by the grace of Jesus. The one who refuses the fallen the right to get up – and on the same level ground – is in far graver sin than he or she. God forbid that we would be a stumbling block to someone’s restoration.
We are not victims of the darkness. We are children of light, children of the Day, 1 Thessalonians 5:5 says. The difference between stumbling and falling is often the simple timing of our repentance. We don’t jump into a deep pit of sin. We take steps there. But, if we were to realize with that first or second step that we were already in trouble, we could repent right then. And we will have stumbled. But we will not have fallen.
Still, many will. And, by the power of Christ’s Cross and resurrection, each gets to grab hold of the hand of God and stand back up.
“The steps of a man are established by the Lord, when He delights in his way; though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong, for the Lord upholds his hand.” Psalm 37:23-24
I’ll end this with a cry to my sisters and brothers in Christ who are full of faith, believing voraciously in the power of the Word of God and for great works and wonders of the Holy Spirit in our day. Let’s tighten up our sanctification. Not our legalism, for the love of God. Our sanctification. Sanctification is a work of the Spirit and Truth, not of the law and the flesh. Let’s do some courageous self-examination and ask God to show us where we’re vulnerable to attack and where our feet are on the path toward a deep hole. Let’s shut illicit relationships down or they’ll shut us down. Let’s repent of our pride because it is the one guarantee of a pending fall. Let’s repent of our pretense. Let’s have the courage to face the brokenness in our lives and bring it without shame to Jesus. We can either deal with our stuff or I promise you our stuff will deal with us.
The enemy knows where we’re vulnerable. After thousands of years, he’s perfected his aim. He will not bother shooting many fiery darts where we are covered. He’s going for the bull’s eye, that glaring bald-spot where we refuse to come under the authority of Christ. We keep calling it a blind spot. Oh, we have blind spots alright but I don’t think they’re the biggest problem. We’re not blind to most of our disobedience and sin. We hope others are but we’re usually wide-eyed and well aware. It’s not a blind spot. It’s a bald-spot, uncovered because we so badly don’t want to give Jesus authority over it.
Here’s the thing. We who believe so much in the work of the Spirit in our day will be the biggest targets because the enemy knows the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church. He can’t make it go away. He can only scheme to make it ineffective. And all that takes is to ridicule us into quenching the Spirit. Without the Spirit, the body of Christ is a corpse.
There is refinement and revival on the horizon according to the Scriptures. I want to see it with my own eyes. I want to be part of it. I know you do, too. And we can. The burgeoning unpopularity of Christianity will prove over time to be purifying for us but God help us in the meantime. My plea this morning is that we open our eyes to the darkness coming for us. A tidal wave of seduction looms over us. We are being taken down behind the scenes by the thousands, feeling alone and isolated and having no idea how many are enduring the same kinds of suffering and defeat. Let’s come back together and get brushed off, cleaned up and educated in the Scriptures and fortified by the Spirit. Let’s own our brokenness, our enormous temptations and weaknesses and go back to the practice of true repentance and commit ourselves to the pursuit of sanctification. Let’s learn how to restore. Let’s learn how to recognize fruit of repentance. Let’s help each other back to our feet and learn how to stay on our feet.
Let’s be the Church, bruised but beautiful. Innocent as a dove. Wise as a serpent. Smart and humble.