Do We Know Him?
As a new believer, I became part of the Conservative Mennonite church which had recently been formed. I remember hearing the teaching that the Bible experience of men and women hearing from God was only for the time before the canon of Scripture was complete. Now, we were taught, God exclusively speaks through the Bible.
Interestingly, an exception was made to this. Using Matt. 16:19, which speaks of binding and loosing, we were taught that if the church made a rule, it was as binding as the Bible itself. We were also told that the Holy Spirit only communicated to individuals through the collective voice of the church. The “unity of the Spirit” was when everybody unquestioningly submitted to these group decisions. A frequent term used was “group conscience”.
The New Testament miracles were portrayed as temporary in the church’s history, given with the purpose of confirming the New Covenant. Such miracles were seldom to be expected to happen today.
It was an eye-opener for me to hear of miracles taking place among believers in persecuted countries. In addition to this, I read of historic revivals in which God manifested Himself in supernatural ways.
However, what God was doing in my life was the greatest motivation for me to question what I had been taught. He began to reveal Himself as a God Who cared personally for me. I discovered that I could expect explicit direction from Him as I sought His will in prayer. Nothing was too small for Him to give His enabling help to me as I communed with Him. Soon the division between the secular and the sacred vanished in my mind and I realized that the most mundane things of life were sacred for a child of God.
I also discovered that I had the gift of discerning of spirits. This had nothing to do with natural talent. Rather, I would sense in my spirit when something was “off”. As I prayerfully investigated these cues, God would reveal to me in detail what my spirit was feeling. This gave me a great sense of security in His goodness to protect me from evil.
While some of my fellow believers have heard God speak audibly to them, this has never been my experience. Yet I have received impressions which were almost as distinct as an audible voice. These varied in their purpose. Sometimes they were meant to give me direction, other times to guide me in intercessory prayer, sometimes as correction or rebuke. Twice another brother and I were given a revelation that we were to pray regarding specific situations. All these experiences and many others showed me that God desires to commune with His creatures today just as He did in ancient times. This does not invalidate the importance of following the Bible. It simply shows that being “Biblical” is to both speak to God and to hear from Him as did the Bible saints. It means, too, that instead of leaping into action to “do as the Bible says”, we ought to wait on God to be directed just as to when and how to follow the Biblical direction. The Spirit and the Word work in harmony.
Along with this aforementioned experience came a consciousness of the enablement of the Holy Spirit to do God’s work. Most of my life I have written poetry. Yet, I can only write when I feel His touch. Sometimes God reminds me of this.
When I started this last series of blog posts, I found my first installment draft to be woefully dry. My dear wife agreed. She laid hands on me and prayed. A window opened in my mind. Out of it flew the whole manuscript I had painstakingly prepared and a new one emerged! We are meant to be co-workers with Christ!
Prophecy also became something current and real. Recently our household has gone through some very unexpected and difficult times. However, over the past five years all of us have had vivid, cryptic dreams with partial interpretations following them. Now we have realized much of the fulfillment of their prophetic imagery. This has given us powerful assurance of God’s sovereign Hand in all that is now happening. We can rest in calm confidence of His continued care and direction through events that were no surprise to Him.
Some of you who read this may react in alarm and say that I am introducing a new belief. Read your Bible. Find out about what God is doing presently in different parts of the world, especially, where there is persecution of believers. Read in the Martyr’s Mirror about how God communicated to the Anabaptist forefathers. Communion with God is the ancient way of His children throughout the ages.
Sadly, the church has become an institution of man from which God has been pushed out. The Bible is perceived as a manual giving us instructions about how to live and “do church”. The distinct direction which the Holy Spirit gave collectively and individually to the early Christians is regarded as a thing of the past. Faith is reduced to an intellectual acceptance of theological facts rather than confidence in the Living God Whose reality has been experienced. As the church at Laodicea, we are blind to our state of spiritual destitution and believe ourselves to be rich and in need of nothing! My cries to my people to seek to know the Living God fall on deaf ears! I am pushed aside as a false prophet.
No wonder the church is floundering and young people are becoming disillusioned! We are no longer drawing life from the Vine! We are trying to operate within the realm of our own understanding. Instead of seeing redemption as a restoration of fellowship with God, it is viewed as simply having our sins forgiven and living by the rules of the Bible (or more accurately the rules and expectations of the church). We are allowing the norms and expectations of “religion” to rob us of the greatest treasure man can possess – to communicate with his Creator! We have robbed Christ of the reward of His suffering – to place the tabernacle of God within the hearts of men through the indwelling Spirit! We live in spiritual poverty when unlimited wealth is available!
We were not made to be blind adherents to a religious organization. We are meant to be the dear sons and daughters of God. When that is the case, we will have true unity among ourselves because the same Spirit indwells us.
We have replaced Christ with “the church”. Yet “the church” severed from its Head no longer is the church, but rather a social club, a dead institution of rituals and traditions which have lost their meaning or worse yet, an oppressive cult which prevents people from experiencing a relationship with God.
Generations have come and gone in the Anabaptist community with only a few small pockets of true spiritual awakening in its history. Even those awakenings normally experienced strong opposition from the established churches. What we have come to expect as the “norm” in church life is a far cry from what the kingdom of God was meant to be. “Norm” for us is a continuation of the tradition with which we have been familiar. We fail to realize that we have fallen and need to discover what it is to experience the Presence of the Spirit in our lives and churches.
For many years my prayer and dream was to see a spiritual revival within the Mennonite church. With great sadness I have come to realize that this will likely not happen. In lieu of the chaos, confusion, scandals, etc. which are afflicting our churches and our inability to handle them, I suspect that the old structure must crumble in order for God to build something new after His design. This may well mean persecution. The dead branches must be thrown into the fire and the plant pruned so that the branch may produce fruit.
May God soon raise up a church that brings Him the glory due to His Name! May He be sanctified in the hearts and lives of His people! May the truth of the Gospel be presented in the power of the Spirit! To God be the honour, the power and the glory forever!
Feb. 18 2021