The Next Great Move Of God
In 1992 our team held the first Word and Spirit Conference at the Wembley Conference Centre in London. During my messages, I made two statements that I believe are significant for the present time:
(1) there has been a silent divorce in the church, speaking generally, between the Word and the Spirit; and
(2) the next great move of God will be like Isaac following Ishmael. In this article I will elaborate on these two propositions.
THE SILENT DIVORCE
We have two groups, speaking generally, in the protestant churches today: those on the Word side, those on the Spirit side. But what is the difference?
For those on the Word side, the message is something like this: We must earnestly contend for the faith once delivered unto the saints. We must know our doctrine, our Bibles. We must return to the God of the Reformation, the God of Jonathan Edwards, the God of Spurgeon, to expository preaching. Until this happens the honor of God’s name will not be restored.
What is wrong with that emphasis? Nothing. In my opinion, it is exactly right.
For those on the Spirit side, the message is something like this: We must get back to the book of Acts where there were signs, wonders, miracles; where the gifts of the Spirit operate and where there is such power in prayer that the building shakes. We need to return to the time when as you step into Peter’s shadow you are healed and where if you lie to the Holy Spirit, you are struck dead. Until this happens, the honor of God’s name will not be restored.
What is wrong with this emphasis? Nothing. In my opinion, it is exactly right.
I believe that what we need more than anything at the present time is not one or the other but both! And when this happens, the honor of God’s name will be restored. The simultaneous combination will result in spontaneous combustion.
I had hoped that by now we might see the re-marriage between the Word and the Spirit. But it seems to me that both sides have dug in their heels and that we are no closer to the re-marriage or the great move of God I long for.
Since retiring from Westminster chapel in London, I have teamed up with Jack Taylor and Charles Carrin to hold ‘Word, Spirit, Power’ conferences. Our beloved John and Carol Arnott have invited us a number of times to the great Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship.
In fact, I preached the first sermon there after the church emerged from its previous denomination. In this trio, I am the ‘Word’ man, Jack the ‘Spirit’ man and Charles the ‘power’ man. When Charles lays hands on people, it is common to see rows of people begin to fall under the power of the Holy Spirit. When Jack speaks about the power of the Holy Spirit, people are filled. I enjoy opening the Word of God and sharing insight the Holy Spirit reveals to me. I had hoped that our conferences would make a difference. Perhaps they have.
"...churches don't really want the combination"
But in most places where we come and go, we seem to be appreciated but see no great difference in those churches. Why? I am not sure. Perhaps we don’t get our message over or maybe God’s timing is delayed for some reason. But in some cases, it is because churches don’t really want the combination. They say they do, but they really don’t. Word people are afraid of the Holy Spirit in many places. Their Trinity is (as Jack Taylor puts it), “God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Bible.”
We were in one ‘Spirit’ church, and I thought I discerned immediately that they were afraid of the Word. They only wanted manifestations such as gold and feathers. When I suggested that they were more interested in the manifestations than they were the Word, the pastor was angry. While the emphasis on manifestations is more exciting, it is not necessarily a sign of spiritual maturity or hunger. Non-spiritual people are curious and interested to see signs, and often when they see them, like the Israelites in the wilderness, they do not respond to God.
THE NEXT GREAT MOVE OF GOD
I have taken the view that since the previous revivals in the ‘90’s, what we have seen so far is Ishmael at work. Ishmael was Abraham’s son by natural means.
For 13 years after Hagar gave birth to him, Abraham thought that Ishmael was the fulfilment of God’s promise. After all, he fulfilled the requirements: a male child from his loins. He was happy, content and not looking for more. Until one day God said, “Sorry, Abraham, but Ishmael isn’t the promised child. Sarah will conceive. Isaac is coming.”
You would have thought this would thrill Abraham. It is exactly what he used to want! And now that the promised son is coming, he is sad!
“Please let it be Ishmael,” he pleaded. “Sorry," said God. “Isaac is coming.”
It is funny how we get used to what is in our comfort zone. Ishmael was Abraham’s comfort zone.
I predict that the next move of God will be characterized by the centrality of the preaching of the Gospel, unusual miracles that defy a natural explanation, healings that are scientifically provable and an emphasis on the cross of Jesus Christ resulting not only in unspeakable joy but also awesome fear and conviction of sin. If you ask me, those movements that have come along recently, though all a part of God’s strategy, have only brought a minimal touch of joy to the church and little fear of God.
It is my opinion that “Isaac” will be the combination between the Word and the Spirit – in equal measure.
When I was the pastor at Westminster chapel in London, people would leave the meeting saying, “Thank you for your word.” That’s what they came for, that’s what they got. They didn’t really expect to see anything. They came to hear. There were probably also churches in London (I am guessing) where those who attended came to see. They didn’t really expect to hear anything.
When I preached that day at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, you may recall that this church had been disenfranchised from another group. That very day it became the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship. I was up to preach that evening.
I took my text from Hebrews 4:16 – a text I have used a thousand times before. But I couldn’t preach. I couldn’t even utter an intelligible sentence! (Get the video – have a laugh.) I felt an impression to turn to Hebrews 13:13, not knowing what it said. “Let us, then, go to him outside the camp, bearing the disgrace he bore.”
Suddenly I could speak. I soared. I think I am right in saying that hundreds came forward at the altar call. It was a seal of God on the new church having to go “outside the camp.”
Isaac will be outside the camp. Count on it. It is coming, and this will be a sign to you, it will be the day when the Word and Spirit are re-married, when those to come to see will hear, and those who come to hear will see.