Revival! Reformation! Revolution! Everyone knows there is something wrong with modern Christianity. A wise person once said, “It doesn’t take a spiritual person to see the problems.” Many of those who have been able to recognize and define the problems have presumed that God endowed them with the needed faith and grace to lead the people out of confusion and into the true light. But if it is not truly a movement of God’s Spirit, then it ultimately adds to the confusion and continues to devastate the souls of the sincere who truly want to know Him and do His will.
What does a movement of the Spirit look like? Is it something tangible, or just something that you know in your heart? Many have been deceived into thinking that they had the needed discernment to judge what is truly of the Spirit of God. If you trust your feelings you will surely be led astray. But Jesus said you will know the tree by its fruit.1 So what kind of fruit should we be looking for?
Jesus did not lead a movement to reform or revive the lifeless religious system of Judaism that He was born into. John the Baptist was out in the wilderness calling the sincere in Israel to repent and be washed of any connection with that defunct religion.2 Jesus went out to him and insisted that he baptize Him also. He was going outside the camp3 of the established religion of His day to begin His ministry. John watched the Dove (Spirit) come upon Jesus and heard the voice of God confirm, “This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.”4 With this confirmation from His Father, Jesus was able to go forward with confidence and determination. He knew that His Father was sending Him to accomplish His will.
The life that Jesus shared with His disciples was very real and wonderful. They were together continually, sharing all that they had.5 Jesus diligently passed on the things He heard from His Father to the thirsty disciples. He constantly encouraged them. And He corrected them when they needed it. He was very sensitive to their physical, spiritual, and emotional needs. Jesus was a good shepherd to those who were with Him. He was laying a foundation for what God wanted to build on the Earth.
Jesus said that new wine (the Holy Spirit) could never be contained in an old wineskin (Judaism). The Jews had long ago become set in their ways, losing their elasticity — their humility and willingness to hear. You can see that this was true by how the religious leaders hated the sparkling new wine of love and revelation that came forth from Jesus’ life. Instead of recognizing their Messiah, they saw Him as a dangerous cult leader and ultimately found a way to use the government to eliminate Him.
If Jesus were on the earth today, do you think that He would receive any better reception from the well-established Christian institutions of our day? Have they retained the elasticity and freshness of the new wineskin, or have they become old and rigid — resistant to change? Where would God pour out the new wine of His Spirit today and how would you recognize it?
In John 17:20-23 Jesus prayed His famous prayer for the unity of His believers. He began by saying, “I do not pray on behalf of these (the apostles) alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word.” Faith has a Source (Author) and a channel (authority). In the same way that your body needs to maintain clear pathways for the signals coming from your head, so it is within the one Body of Christ. This is the ministry of the apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds, and teachers. There is no life in the Body of Christ apart from these gifts being present and functioning according to God’s Spirit.
Few realize that Jesus’ so-called Great Commission of Matthew 28:19-20 was addressed specifically to the apostles. Jesus said that He had received all authority (from His Father) and He was delegating that authority to the apostles. He told them to make disciples, teaching them to obey all that He commanded them. In other words, “You do with others, what I did with you.” Love them, teach them, care for them, encourage them — be a shepherd to them.
Before He ascended to heaven, Jesus instructed the apostles to wait in Jerusalem until the Holy Spirit would come upon them.6 He would empower them to carry out what He was sending them to do. The word “apostle” actually means “one sent forth; a messenger.” These are the ones who have been given authority from God7 and are able to pass it on to others.8 This is how the Spirit is communicated from one who has faith to one who is willing to do God’s will.9 Paul (the apostle) made it clear in Romans 10:15 that one is not qualified to communicate this faith unless he is sent by someone whose authority had ultimately been given by God.10
It is very important for those who are looking for the movement of God’s Spirit to understand that God works through delegated authority.11 He finds a man who has the right heart to love Him and walk in His ways.12 Then He causes His authority to rest upon that man in order that he could lead others in the same way.13 His ultimate purpose is that He would have a Holy Nation of people who love Him with all of their hearts and walk in His ways and that they would work with Him to bring healing and restoration to all of creation.14
At the appointed time, the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the apostles who were obediently waiting in Jerusalem.15 They began to communicate passionately about what they had seen and heard when they were with Jesus. They proclaimed His victory over death and the great mercy and forgiveness that was now available through His death and resurrection. They called people to repent — to abandon and forsake their old life and their sin and come with them to follow Jesus.16
In Acts 2:41-45 you see the amazing result of what the Holy Spirit communicated through Peter and the other apostles:
“So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and there were added that day about three thousand souls. And they were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. And everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles. And all those who had believed were together, and had all things in common; and they began selling their property and possessions, and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.”
That was a very electrifying time! Everyone was so encouraged and thankful to be a part of this new life that was emerging. It was alive and growing with the effervescence of the new wine that had been poured out in their hearts. They were learning more each day about God’s ways and how to love each other and live together in peace. Abundant grace was upon them all, and day by day others were being added to them.17 This was to be the pattern, the blueprint of the life that would come forth in many places.18
What happened in Jerusalem 2000 years ago was a great movement of the Spirit of God. You can use the blueprint in Acts 2 and 4 as a standard to compare with other activity that people claim to be the moving of God’s Spirit, and see whether it has produced the same results — the same good fruit. Does it bring people to the end of their own selfish lives and into a life of constant devotion to Jesus and to the apostles’ teaching, sharing all things in common, and all the other things that made up the life of the early believers? Does it mirror the life that Jesus lived with His disciples, just as the life of the early believers did?
The life in the early communities flourished for a time, but then things began to break down. At the roots of it was the very issue of authority. The apostle John wrote to the communities that were going astray:
...we have seen and bear witness and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us — what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, that you may have fellowship with us (the apostles); and indeed our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ. (1 Jn 1:2-3)
To the later disciples who had never seen the Master, John felt that he had to make it clear that their fellowship with Jesus was only as real as their fellowship with the ones whom He had sent. They would never have even known the Master were it not for the message they heard from the ones who knew Him first! John would not have had to say these things unless this connection was breaking down in the communities. Consequently, the breakdown of authority led to a breakdown of love, which John went on to address in his letter.
Where there is authority, there is order. Where there is order, care can be expressed. Where there is an environment of order and care, love can make a home. This is the atmosphere that God’s authority creates for His children to live in together. But the early disciples began to question the apostles’ teachings and their authority.19 Just as Paul prophesied, they turned their attention to others who tickled their ears with teachings that appealed to their own selfish desires.20
In Paul’s letters he often warned them that they were in danger of losing their first love:
I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy; for I [Paul] betrothed you to one husband, that to Christ I might present you as a pure virgin. But I am afraid that just as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, your minds should be led astray from pure and simple devotion to Christ. For if one comes and preaches another Jesus whom we (the apostles) have not preached, or you receive a different spirit which you have not received (from us), or a different gospel which you have not accepted (from us), you bear this beautifully. (2 Cor 11:2-4)
The Corinthian community was straying from the foundation that had been laid by Paul.21 In this you can see what ultimately led to the fall of the early church. Once they had stopped devoting themselves to obeying the apostles’ teachings, everything else fell by the wayside, and they all began to do what was right in their own eyes. This is the essence of apostasy — to reject the former loyalty and devotion to the apostles and their teaching.
So here we are some 1900 years later, and it is obvious to most people that there is a lack of life and vitality in the modern church. It looks a lot more like the old wineskin of Judaism than it does the new wineskin of the vibrant community in Jerusalem. If you can understand these things, as Jesus did, you will know that you cannot expect God to pour out the new wine of His Spirit into the old wineskin of the fallen away church. It is going to take apostolic authority to call the sincere out so they can be washed and truly come into a community where God’s love is expressed.
Though God continually speaks to the hearts of men through His creation, the prophetic voice of His Spirit has not been heard for a very long time. Many have claimed and continue to claim that they speak for Him. Over the last 1900 years there have been many supposed “movements of the Spirit.” But the world has not seen the same fruit that came forth in Jerusalem so long ago, which would prove the goodness and genuineness of the tree.
The Jesus Movement of the early ‘70s started out with a bang of enthusiasm and even sincerity in the hearts of many. But, what those who led the young people lacked was the authority from God to actually call people out of the old wineskin. They themselves were still trapped in that system. So all they could do was give the old wine a different flavor. They made Jesus a little more palatable to the hippies with folk music, casual worship, and free speech, along with the standard promises of forgiveness and happiness. It was really nothing new. It was just the same old wine in the same old wineskin.
Actually the Jesus Movement was an excellent example of the necessity of authority to bring about God’s will on the Earth. If it had truly been from God, if the leaders had truly been under His authority, then they would have been submitted to one another.22 They would have led all the believers into a life of love and unity where no one claimed that anything was his own, but all things would have become common property among them. On the contrary, the movement just made more Christians and more denominations within the divided house of Christianity.
In the midst of the Jesus Movement of the early ‘70s, God was able to find one man who had the right heart. All he wanted to do was love people and serve God with all of his strength, not seeking any glory for himself. Somehow a little seed of the life of those early communities was planted in his heart.23 He hardly realized what had happened. He just set himself to tell everyone who would listen about the good news of Jesus’ sacrifice, and more than anything he wanted to express it in his life by actually loving people.
Since that time this pure seed has been passed on to others. As we went along we began to understand that God had given us something new, and fresh, and alive. The old wineskin just couldn’t seem to deal with the fact that we love each other so much that we want to live together and share what we have. We began to realize that what we had was a lot more like the early communities than the old religious institutions of Christianity. The new wine that is being poured forth is causing us to continually grow in our revelation and our love for Jesus Christ and His people. This movement of the Holy Spirit is preparing the bride that Jesus is going to come back and claim as his own.24
Jesus’ first miracle was turning water into wine. The steward at the wedding banquet was amazed at how much better the new wine was. He actually thought it was old wine, because everyone thinks that old wine is better.25 The best wine will be poured into the new wineskins in the last days.26 Like the steward at the wedding, you will have to taste the new wine to know that it is better.27 Otherwise, you might just go on thinking the old is better, like everyone else. We warmly invite you to come and see what God is doing in these last days.