WHAT’S MISSING IN THE CHURCHES?

By Eric C. Wheeler

Recently, a brother in the Lord named Jerry and I drove to Texas. What started out as a golfing trip, turned into an amazing week of spiritual assignments from the Lord.  Without question, the highlight of our trip was a visit we had with a pastor and his wife in Nevada, Texas. They had graciously invited us to their house for dinner. As we were eating and talking about the Lord and the Bible, suddenly the pastor, whose name is David, put his head down and humbly declared: “I don’t have that! Something is missing. I don’t have the Word of God written on my heart as Scripture says it should be. I have to study very hard to understand and to get anything out of this book [pointing to the Bible].” We had been discussing the following verses:

“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord’, for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord.” (Jer. 31:33-34; Heb. 8:10-11)

“The Anointing which you have received from Him abides in you, and you do not need that anyone teach you. But as the same Anointing teaches you concerning all things, and is true, and is not a lie, and just as It has taught you, you will abide in Him.” (I John 2:27)

For Jesus said: “It is written in the prophets, ‘They shall all be taught by God’” (John 6:45)

David realized he was falling short and felt he needed to confess this before all of us. Think about it: A senior pastor who has dedicated his whole life to following Christ, suddenly saw a serious spiritual void in his own walk. He looked at Jerry and me sitting across the table and asked, “Do I need to be re-baptized? How can I tell the people in my church to repent, when I first need it in my own life?! I don’t have that!”, he emphatically stated, pointing to I John 2:27 in the Bible. “I’ve read First John many times, but it’s not at work in my own life. I don’t have the Word of God written on my inward parts. I see you, Eric, with the ability to quote and cite Scriptures effortlessly, pulling them out from all over the Bible and putting them together, always in context; yet I have to work very hard at studying Scripture just to understand and quote a very few verses. I am missing something!”  Upon declaring this, David looked at Jerry and me and asked, “See, there is water behind you [pointing to his swimming pool]. What prevents me from being baptized!?” Jerry and I were completely speechless. David immediately stood up and said, “Baptize me!”

Stunned, we simply nodded, “Ok”. David straightway marched into his bedroom to put his bathing suit on. Jerry and I were sitting there dumbfounded, and then within seconds, David’s wife, Lisa, stood up and declared, “Me too!” She immediately followed her husband into their bedroom to put her bathing suit on as well! Needless to say, Jerry and I were blown away. After a few moments, I went into the bathroom to put my shorts on. Immediately, because the Lord was so pleased with their humility and obedience, the Holy Spirit within me began earnestly leaping for joy with loud groans that can’t be humanly articulated (see Rom. 8:22-23,26; Luke 1:44). When I came out of the bathroom, I saw David and Lisa standing in their bathing suits, eagerly waiting to be baptized. My legs literally gave out beneath me because I strongly felt the Holy Presence of God Almighty fill the room as the Lord drew near to them, just as it is written: “The Lord is near to those who have a broken heart, and saves such as have a contrite spirit” (Psalm 34:18). I could barely even lift my head out of sheer reverence and awe. Humanly, the only thing my mouth could utter was, “Lord, I’m not worthy [to be here]!” I honestly had no strength to get up. God’s Presence was so pervasive in that room at that moment, I couldn’t do anything but lay low before Him.

Finally, Jerry came over to me and said, “Get up, brother, we have work to do.” As Jerry grabbed me by my arm and lifted me up, my strength suddenly returned. At that moment, I was able to confidently stand up in the Spirit. I walked over to Lisa and asked, “Why are you doing this?” (The following is her actual written testimony and answer:)

After hearing Eric talk about the importance of coming to repentance and baptism, my husband asked to be baptized. As soon as he did, I sensed the Spirit quicken me to be baptized as well. After getting ready, Eric asked David and I, “Why?”. Before this point, I was not entirely sure. But in that moment, my heart ached with the answer: to surrender control. I have been a Christian for many years; baptized at 16, I grew up in a Christian home, went to seminary, but I still had not released control of my life. This manifested in many other struggles – anger, lack of spiritual discipline, and living on near empty all the time. At this point, my legs were trembling. I couldn’t keep them still. Eric was struggling to stand. God’s presence and blessing were so tangible.

We went outside to be baptized in our pool. The water was cold when I stepped in, but was warm when I went under– Praise God! When I came up out of the water, I felt loosed from this oppression. Eric offered to pray for me inside [because it was so cold outside], but I requested to be prayed for there. One of my idols is comfort and I wanted to lay that down. We eventually went back inside where Eric and Jerry continued to pray over us. We were so deeply encouraged and moved by what the Lord did through them. The week that followed was the most joyful and freeing time. I was in the Word multiple times a day. I didn’t struggle with the anger that always seemed crouching at the door. He who the Son sets free is free indeed!

The following Saturday, God led David and I to trust Him by sacrificing our income [from the Church]. That night I woke up with my hands in fists. I sense the Lord’s request so heavily that even in my sleep I struggled. That Sunday morning, I was praying and praying. I was so convinced that this is what the Lord wanted. I sensed in my spirit the Lord say, “Lisa, you will never know the goodness of what I have to provide for you until you give this up.”  I realized that today is the day to trust God fully, not tomorrow. Has God not taken care of me? What more would I need Him to prove to me? I agreed, and we made the sacrifice. That day I again experienced true joy in the Lord! But the next day, all the reasons I idolize and depend on money for overwhelmed me. I prayed and struggled so much with that decision for over a week. That kind of obedience was so hard. It reminded me of the story of Rachel when she went to Jacob’s land with him. She brought the household idols of her father with her (Gen. 31:30-35). In this new season of surrender and trusting in God, He has been showing me idols in my life and that it’s time to lay them down and repent. God is convicting me of my lifestyle that shows, “I trust God AND ‘X’.” God has blessed us and shown to us He is a good Father who will take care of us. After wrestling and repenting, God gave such a good gift of trust and peace – I have never experienced a gift of faith like this. Sacrificing financially has been such a powerful reminder throughout the day that He is the One who takes care of us, I’m not in control.  I think I struggled praying and being in the Word because I wasn’t aware of just how much I needed Him. God is SO good. I’m humbled, amazed, and excited for what He is doing and what He desires to do in us and through us.

After I asked Lisa why she wanted to be re-baptized, I asked David the same question. Here is his testimony:

My Second Baptism – by David Brown

From my childhood I have known and walked faithfully with God. I genuinely believe I had true faith in the Lord from the time I was three years old. I was raised by parents who were totally devoted to serving the Lord. My entire life they have been dependent on the Lord as missionaries. Scripture was the absolute authority on all things, not only in practice, but in truth for how I viewed everything; and as such, I disciplined myself to know God through His Word, and read the entire council of God from Genesis to Revelation many times (15-20 times) over the course of my life. I fell in love with every page of God’s Word, becoming completely fascinated with all the richness of what it reveals to us about God. Scripture was always the guiding light for my life; and I found with deeper devotion to reading and studying Scripture, I continuously found myself falling more and more in love with, and in awe of, God. Of course, I have had many other factors in life that God has used along the way, including a steady experience of gathering with fellow Christians all the years of my life, and finding the richness of the joy that comes from being in communion with fellow saints who are also filled by the Spirit of God. I had many wonderful mentors and friends, whom the Lord used to sharpen me in truth and soften me in love, and I watched year after year as the Lord never ceased to amaze me with how much He had shaped me. The Bible was always enough to prove God to me, but if it had not been enough, then my life and the reality of His power in my heart would have served to be just as convincing. In all my years of knowing and serving the Lord, I never once doubted Him or turned against Him. Even in the hardest trials of my life, I have been able to thank God for His goodness.

The point of this background information is for the reader to understand this baptism that I received was not a public proclamation of my belief in Jesus Christ. I did that many years ago and never departed from it. This was something different. I also cannot say this was something that every Christian should do, only that it was something I believe the Lord wanted me to do.

As my wife and I spoke with Eric and Jerry that night; Eric was prophesying to me about the things that the Lord wanted me to tell the people of my Church. There was a phrase he kept saying over and over again. Eric meant these words for me to execute this for the congregation, but he kept saying, “Repent and be baptized!” and “You need to be baptized!” over and over again. I initially heard it, and like Moses or Jonah or Gideon, etc. I felt my heart sink, saying to myself, something along the lines of, ‘I don’t want to say these things or do these things.’ I even worked on convincing myself that I had already said and done these things and it didn’t work, so why would God want me to do it again? As the conversation went on, we started talking about Jeremiah 31:31-35, and I was explaining how excited I am to one day have all of God’s Word written on my heart when Eric brought up 1 John 2:27. I was shocked. I had probably read all of 1 John at least 30 times through and never noticed what that verse was saying. I knew something was missing. I couldn’t say what it was, but I looked at Eric and asked, “Do I need to be baptized?”

What changed? What did this baptism accomplish? Here’s what I know: I’ve never been more convicted by the message of repentance and the need for repentance by those who claim Christ. I’ve likewise never been more convicted by the system of God for His people to depend on Him. So much so that my wife Lisa and I agreed we should not be paid anymore to continue the work of the ministry. And so, I now do a full-time job working directly for the Lord. I don’t know how the Lord will provide, but I know I can depend on Him, and I also know that He is pleased by our desire to depend on Him more than ever before. I have never felt more blessed or had more joy in life and in ministry.

I felt like something was missing a month ago, and I spent hours upon hours before the Lord asking Him to show up and provide what was missing. By the power of the Spirit, it’s not missing anymore.

If I had to explain what happened by my faulty human understanding, it would be something like God’s test for Abraham. Abraham proved his faith by being willing to sacrifice his son. The Lord gave me an opportunity to humble myself before Him, and as a “Lead Pastor”, go through the same ritual that we carry out with brand new Christians or ‘babies in the faith.’ I could have said, “No Lord, that’s for new Christians. I would be breaking the rules, Lord.” Instead, I humbled myself and I would do it again!

As you can tell from their testimonies, both David and Lisa have been faithful servants of the Lord for their entire lives. They both graduated from seminary and he is a senior pastor. They are leaders and not babes in the Lord by any means. Their house seems like the last place you would expect to find things lacking, spiritually speaking. Yet they both humbly recognized and admitted, not only to themselves, but more importantly to God, that they didn’t have what they had always been led to believe they did have pertaining to the Holy Spirit – His Anointing! Recognizing their spiritual poverty, they saw the need to be re-baptized and receive the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 19:2-6). Certainly, an element of pain and humiliation came with this spiritual realization, but already in the brief time since their baptism the manifestation of the fruits of the Holy Spirit in them has been profound. In the power of their newfound faith and complete trust in God, they have sacrificially forsaken their salary even though they have four young children to provide for. Who does that?! It seems like a crazy, radical and completely unnecessary move when you look at it from a human perspective. But this act of faith and obedience has truly enriched them! For Jesus said, “You cannot serve two masters!” And God is pleased to now be called their sole Provider and Master!

I realize that not all believers in the Body are called to the same thing. Not all members are necessarily called to quit their jobs. But it is time for ALL members of the Body of Christ to fully surrender to God, and to completely and trustingly follow Him, and not man or man’s organizations! God wants to anoint and appoint every one of us to the jobs that He has specially called us to and created us for. As Scripture says, we are all members of the same Body, yet we don’t all have the same function (I Cor. 12:11-31). Humbly and earnestly seek Him and find out what He specifically wants from you! Perhaps you won’t be called to quit your job. Perhaps you will. Maybe He will direct you to move.  Maybe He won’t. Don’t get bogged down in the specifics or in the details. That’s not what’s important. Receiving His Anointing and His directive for your life and for your service to God and to others (your ministry) is what is important (Eph. 4:12-16)! Be filled with the Spirit of God, so that you know what He wants from you! For it is written: “As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons [and daughters] of God” (Rom. 8:14).  You don’t have to figure anything out on your own because the Anointing itself – the Spirit of God in you and upon you – will direct you for what you must do! For with God there are more possibilities than you can imagine! Just humble yourself before God, surrender to Him, and let go and let God!

Ask yourself, ‘Is everything going as well as it can be in my relationship with Christ? Is there anything spiritually lacking in my walk with God? Am I excited because the Presence of His Spirit is both palpable and tangible within me on a daily basis? Am I truly walking in the power and in the anointing of the Holy Spirit? Am I daily exercising the supernatural gifts and the fruits of the Spirit?’ Perhaps the Anointing of God is missing in your life. Both David and Lisa bared their souls before God. They were honest with themselves and with Him. As a result of their honesty and humility, coupled with their faith and obedience, they were subsequently baptized with His Spirit! Their example is not only inspiring, but it should also be sobering to us all. Be honest with yourself and with God. Examine your walk while earnestly seeking His guidance. If you perceive that something is missing, consider it a good thing and be encouraged. You cannot grow unless you first realize that growth is necessary! The literal indwelling and anointing of the Holy Spirit on a personal level is rarely stressed in modern pews, and most folks don’t even know that it is available to them. Sadly, many pastors themselves don’t even know this Anointing exists. They’ve been mistaught in their seminaries, and in their religious training, that such anointings of the Holy Spirit died in the first century along with the original Apostles. Institutional churches, for the most part, are not Spirit-led.  Instead, they follow a business model. Their goal, too often, is not to empower and free the people by individually receiving the anointing of the Holy Spirit, but rather, to keep the “tithe payers” continually coming to the Sunday church meetings in order to drop money into the offering plates. This is the only way to keep the “Institutionalized Church system” going, by perpetuating this business model. If preachers risk offending the “lay people”, they risk negatively impacting their economic bottom line. Pressure to satisfy a board or to achieve financial goals, or anything else that influences messaging, far too frequently leads to the preaching of a false and watered-down gospel. As the Lord once said to me regarding this enslaving and spiritually-debilitating situation: “Whoever a man looks to, Eric, to put food on his table, owns him; whether that be man or whether that be God.” If we fear man, and care what he thinks, because he puts food on our table and provides our sustenance, then we are not truly free to speak the hard and offending truths of God’s Word. Unfortunately, most people have been raised in congregations following this Godless and Spirit-suppressing business model. But it’s time for that to stop! This is why upon receiving the Anointing of the Holy Spirit, God immediately had both David and Lisa quit receiving a church salary. The “Institutional Church” doesn’t own them anymore. Now they are answerable directly to God – and to Him only!

When Lisa humbly realized that she hadn’t truly relinquished full control of her life by “being buried with Christ in baptism” (Col. 2:12), she suddenly also became acutely aware of the fact that she therefore hadn’t been “risen with Christ in resurrection of newness of life” either! That is, up to this point in her life, she hadn’t been living a new, and powerfully-resurrected, and anointed life in and by the Spirit of God! It’s in this “newness of life” in and by the Spirit which imparts the supernatural ability and power to overcome anger, resentment, self-reliance, and the constant need to be in control of her circumstances and surroundings. The Holy Spirit that’s now in Lisa, and with her, and daily upon her, has since relieved her of these burdens that had previously kept her in a constant state of distress. Our struggles and difficulties may be similar to Lisa’s or completely different. It doesn’t matter, because whatever the issue and/or sin is, the Holy Spirit is able to produce and impart in us a lasting love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23). The Anointing of the Holy Spirit gives believers, who surrender their control to Christ, a supernatural ability to learn how to become content in any and all circumstances (Phil. 4:11-13). The same Spirit also gives different supernatural gifts and abilities to different believers. If you desire a more complete understanding of the spiritual gifts read 1 Corinthians chapters 12 through 14. Or if you want to know what the anointing of the Holy Spirit will produce in you (also known as the fruits of the Spirit), read Galatians chapter 5.

Pastor David saw, and then humbly admitted, he didn’t have the Word of God inscribed upon his heart by the Spirit of the Living God (II Cor. 3:3-18). This is that same Anointing of the Spirit which now gives him the ability to speak without notes; to preach without error; and to lay hands upon others with God-given authority and in supernatural power. The Living God and the Spirit of Truth now reside in David and Lisa. This Anointing is now, and will continue to be, a constant well-spring of life which will impart conviction, repentance, forgiveness, healing, love, salvation, and eternal life to others. As Jesus said: “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’” (John 7:38). This same Spirit gives David what he personally needs, and also gives Lisa what she personally needs. The Anointing of God is filling and supplying what had been lacking in their lives and in their ministries. If you are reading this, and have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches, earnestly seek God, and understand that you too need to humbly repent (turn to God with your whole heart), get re-baptized if need be, and you too can receive the true Spirit of the Living God in you. Remember that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Prov. 9:10). Revere Him, seek Him, obey Him, and you too will be heard and received by Him. For NOW is the time for His people to turn to Him and to repent, and to prepare themselves to receive Him. For it is written:

“Because you say, ‘I am rich, have become wealthy [spiritually speaking], and have need of nothing’– and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked – I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore, be zealous and repent!    (Rev. 3:17-19).

David and Lisa clearly demonstrate that the above verse is for EVERY member of the Body of Christ. In fact, how can “the laity” (the people in the pews) ever learn from “the clergy” (the people in the pulpits) when many of the clergy themselves don’t understand these things? Herein lies the problem. The people of God don’t think they need to repent! This has always been the situation. Scripture says so (see II Chron. 36:14-16; John 1:11; Luke 7:29-30; Matt. 21:32; Acts 7:51-52)!  If you believe that you possess the Holy Spirit but don’t exercise and exhibit the supernatural fruits and gifts of the Spirit, can you seriously claim that you indeed do have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22 and I Cor. 12:4-11)? Why aren’t we seeing the same miraculous works of Jesus, and more, being performed by believers, as Jesus said in John 14:12? If we are being honest, we must acknowledge that there is a lack of any real supernatural authority and power exercised in the churches today that Jesus said He gave us as His followers (Luke 10:19; John 20:21-23). Instead, churches of today try to convince their congregants that serving coffee and doughnuts and vacuuming the sanctuary are legitimate giftings of the Holy Spirit; or that the true supernatural giftings of the Holy Spirit as described in the Bible no longer exist, but were only a first century phenomenon and indulgence. Unfortunately, to many Christians today, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are more real to them as past figures of history than as present life-changing realities. Many congregations suppress or outright deny the active involvement of the Holy Spirit in this day and age which clearly contradicts Scripture.

Lisa and David were honest enough with God and with themselves to admit that they didn’t have or demonstrate the gifts and the fruits of the Spirit. In their humility and spiritual poverty, they cried out to God from deep within their hearts and souls, seeking His approval and acceptance. By doing this they demonstrated an understanding of the profound truth that it isn’t we who accept God, but rather it is God who accepts us. The Lord rejoices in our sincere deep repentance and He then brings us to His Son for forgiveness and justification. This is clearly demonstrated by water baptism as a type of death, burial, and resurrection. He gives us His Holy Spirit so we can now live a new resurrected empowered life by way of His Son, having received His Spirit in us (Gal. 4:6); so that we now live by Him, and in Him, and for Him. As it is written: “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20). For Christ Jesus has “become a life-giving Spirit” within us (I Cor. 15:45). “For He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Therefore, from now on, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he [or she] is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.” (II Cor. 5:15-17). These verses are not empty, syrupy feelings or metaphysical sentiments; they are literal statements of fact. The Spirit of God comes to live inside of us; thereby granting each of us, as believers, all the rights, privileges, authority, and power of Sonship – as a Son and/or Daughter of the Most High God!

The word “anointing” literally means Christ. Receiving the “Anointing of the Holy Spirit” means receiving Christ Himself in you! As it is written: “Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, ‘Abba, Father!” (Gal. 4:6). Without this baptism of the Spirit (“Anointing”), it is impossible to enter the Kingdom of God (John 3:5). And this baptism of the Spirit only comes through repentance, water baptism, and by the laying on of hands of someone specifically sent by God to give you His Holy Spirit (see Acts 2:38; 8:14-18; 19:2-6). It only comes to those who are willing to humble themselves (repent) before God and who are obedient to His will (Acts 5:32). This is why Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit [those who recognize their own spiritual poverty, realizing they don’t have the Holy Spirit]; for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven.” (Matt. 5:3). David and Lisa Brown are being blessed by God for their humility and faith, and subsequent repentance and obedience. We can all learn from their example, and benefit by understanding and appreciating what they did and why they did it! They both knew something was missing in their lives, and understood that radical change and absolute surrender and repentance were needed in order to gain what was spiritually absent. Therefore, they humbled themselves before God, acknowledged they needed the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit – His Anointing – and were consequently re-baptized in order to receive it. God then immediately gave them His Spirit, just as we so often read in the New Testament. If you recognize that you lack the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, rejoice, don’t despair. Admit it to God, confess your sins and shortcomings before Him, and get re-baptized. If your heart is right and God is pleased with you, He will send someone to lay hands on you to receive the Holy Spirit (see Acts 8:14-18; 9:10-17; 19:2-6). It wasn’t too late for David and Lisa, and it’s not too late for you. It’s time to go “all in” and “to be filled with the Holy Spirit,” by humbly following David and Lisa Brown’s example!

 

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