by David Legge
I want you to turn with me in your Bibles to Zechariah chapter 4 for our reading. This is a message I have very much felt the Lord bringing to me for tonight, it's Zechariah chapter 4, and we are beginning to read at verse 1: "Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep" - now I hope that's your experience tonight in the meeting! I'm not sure what that means, whether he was literally awakened out of sleep - but it seems to indicate that he was like a man wakened out of sleep, so there was an awakening took place here spiritually. That's often what happens when you - like John said, he was in the spirit on the Lord's Day, he went into a different dimension, as it were. Some commentators hint here that he was a bit drowsy on it, and sometimes that is what happens when the Holy Spirit comes over you, and you're about to receive something from God - but I'll leave you to ponder on that.
Verse 2: "And he said to me, 'What do you see?'". What a question! I wonder if God were to ask you that question now - I don't mean looking up here at me - but, you know, in your spirit, what do you see? What are you looking at? That's one way of hearing it, but how do you interpret what you see? "So I said, 'I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left'. So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, 'What are these, my lord?'. Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, 'Do you not know what these are?'. And I said, 'No, my lord'. So he answered and said to me: 'This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit', says the LORD of hosts. 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!''" - and we end our reading there at verse 7.
Let's pray, and do pray now with me, will you, that God will speak to your heart tonight and all of us together - and that we will definitely hear a word from the Lord? We need to hear from heaven, so let's come and attune our hearts to Him, and ask Him to speak to us now. Father, we want to thank You for the infallibility of Your holy word. We thank You for the power that is inherent within the Scriptures, we thank You that it is alive and it is powerful - it is more sharp than any two-edged sword, and it can divide things that are apparently indivisible. Lord, we know the power of the word of God is able to discern the thoughts and intents of the hearts of men and women. Lord, we just want to prostrate ourselves before You now, and say: 'Search us, Lord, search us'. We realise that Your book is the only book that reads a man. Lord, we pray that You will read us, and read our conditions, and indeed this group of Christians and our land - Lord, we need to hear Your voice, we need to hear from heaven, we need messages from God just like Zechariah the prophet received. So Lord, we are open to You now, and we say: 'Speak, Lord, for Your servant is here'. We pray, Lord, for that experience of being overcome and taken up in the Spirit, and that we might know that we are hearing not the words of a man, or the thoughts of men, but Lord that we are actually hearing the oracles of God in the Spirit - and that even things that will not be articulated from a human mouth tonight, will be spoken and heard in the spirits of the folk before us tonight. So, Lord, we cry: we need You, we covet Your presence, we long for that sense of the Divine dew falling upon us. So come, Lord, we pray - for Christ's sake, Amen.
Zechariah ministered as a post-exilic prophet - do you know what that is? The people of God were in Babylonian captivity for 70 years, as God told them they would be. It was a discipline, and they came out - and they came out gutted and completely demoralised - but God told them through the prophet Zechariah, and also He worked with his contemporary the prophet Haggai, God's message was: 'Right! Get up and start building the Temple again!'. They went through stops and starts, and there were discouragements from the opponents of God's work and so on. At one point they had built the foundation, and then downed tools and it was many years before they got back up and running again. But here in Zechariah we see - it's very interesting - Haggai has a number of sermons that he presents, or messages, whereas Zechariah is a man who receives visions from God. There are eight visions throughout this book, speaking to Jerusalem, the holy city, and to the Jews.
It's very interesting that, since the message God was giving to Zechariah and the people was 'Start rebuilding the Temple', that God should speak using images from the Temple. Here in the vision we're looking tonight in chapter 4, Zechariah sees a sevenfold golden lampstand. I forgot to bring one with me, I have one in my study, a Menorah - some of you have seen a Menorah and maybe gotten one in Israel. It's the same idea as that lampstand that was in the Tabernacle and the Temple. This sevenfold candlestick, if you like, is supplied by a reservoir of olive oil. This is where it differs from the Menorah that you may be familiar with - there was a reservoir, a container, that caught oil at the top of the lampstand, and that fed down each stem by a pipe; so that's how it was fuelled. On either side of this lampstand there was, we believe, a literal olive tree - that's what Zechariah saw.
Now Zechariah was a priest, not just a prophet, but he was a priest - just like Ezekiel and Jeremiah were prophets but they were also priests. So what Zechariah was seeing now in the spirit was familiar to him, OK? These were the tools of his trade, if you like. One of the more laborious or painstaking tasks of Temple service as a priest was to care for the lampstands, the candlesticks. These lamps continually needed to be refilled with oil, they needed to be cleaned of soot, and the wicks had to be maintained and tended. But here Zechariah the priest is seeing a lampstand with lamps that are self-filling! They are directly fed by natural source of two olive trees that are pouring in oil to this upper reservoir container, pouring down the pipes and into the stems, and lighting the lamps.
In verses 4 and 5 Zechariah sees this sight, and he speaks to the angel - as you do - 'What are these, my lord? What is this?'. 'Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me', as angels do, ''Do you not know what these are?'. And I said, 'No, my lord''. Now, I want you to understand: here is a priest, and he's seeing something that is familiar. He knows what a lampstand is, but whilst it is familiar there is something very different about what he is seeing. He recognises the candlestick, but he has never seen a candlestick like this with a reservoir, and certainly not naturally supplied by two olive trees besides. Now I want you to note something here: he knew what a lampstand was, but he did not presume to know what God's new thing was that he was being shown. Now that is vital, and if you miss that you have missed an important point of what I believe God wants me to bring here tonight. He wasn't so full of himself, his own knowledge and experience, that he presumed to know immediately what God was showing him.
Now, if God ever does show you anything, it's often the case - more often than not - that you have to ponder it, pray about it, and wait upon the interpretation of it; because it's very obscure often. There might be familiar aspects to it, as there are often were in parabolic sayings in Scripture, or the parables of Jesus, the types and so on - they are all using familiar images and figures that we know in life. Look at Jesus in His ministry, the stories He told, He always utilised things that were contemporary and common to the people - and yet the disciples are completely bamboozled, and they're scratching their heads and saying to Him on the quiet: 'What on earth does that mean? What are You talking about?'.
I do want you to see that Zechariah did not judge God's voice by his learning. He had studied the scriptures, he knew what the Tabernacle meant, he knew what the lampstand in the Tabernacle signified, he knew all that - OK? But he didn't judge what he was seeing by his prior learning, and he certainly didn't judge it by his past experience of what the lampstand would have been used for. Here is a vital lesson for us all: experience and learning, whilst having their place, they never trump revelation. I fear that in the church today, particularly in evangelical conservatism - if you understand what that term means - but particularly among those who pride themselves in knowing the Bible, that they can often overrate their learning, their intellect, and their experience over God's fresh revelation today. That's why we need to hear Proverbs 3:5-6: 'Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths'. So here's a man who is very intelligent, he is well-instructed, he is a spiritual man, and he has reasonable experience of the things of God - but he sees something, and he knows enough, and he's humble enough to say: 'There is something different here!', and he says, 'I don't know what this means, Lord, would You show me?'.
I want you to see something else, because this obviously isn't the first vision that Zechariah saw. If you look at chapter 3, you may be more familiar with this vision. We will read it, verses 1 to 7 again: 'Then he showed me', this is the Lord through the angelic minister, he shows Zechariah Joshua the high priest. There were two leaders in the nation at this time, Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest; and Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, the governor. One was a civic leader, and one was the religious leader, if you like. So Zechariah is now seeing the religious leader of God's people here, Joshua, 'standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him'. That's Satan's job, by the way, that's what Satan means - the accuser - and here he is doing it well. 'And the LORD said to Satan' - oh, I love this, don't you? 'The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!'. There is a wonderful thing, do you see when the enemy comes to oppose you and accuse you? One of the first things you ought to invoke is the fact that you have been chosen by God, that the mark of God is upon you. I'm sure I've said here at some time that when Jesus was tempted in the wilderness of the devil, that the first grounds that he approached Jesus on was to cast doubt on the relationship He had with God: 'If You are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread'. That's always the way he comes to us, he wants to try and attack our relationship with God, our sonship. So he was chosen: 'Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?' - that's what we all are. 'Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel' - so the enemy often has got grounds to chuck stuff at us. Sometimes the mud sticks, because it's not always make-believe, sometimes we do slip up and we do sin. So the enemy comes and says to the Lord, 'Look at what Your man did, or Your woman!'. So he's covered in these filthy garments: 'Then He', that is, the Lord, 'answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, 'Take away the filthy garments from him'' - that's cleansing, isn't it? 'And to him He said, 'See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes''. He's chosen, he's cleansed, he is clothed, and then he's covered - his nakedness is covered with new robes. 'And I said, 'Let them put a clean turban on his head'' - he's also crowned in the presence of God. 'So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by. Then the Angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'If you will walk in My ways, and if you will keep My command, then you shall also judge My house, and likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk among these who stand here''. And if you go down to verse 9, at the very end of the verse the Lord says: 'I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day'.
So the Lord, receiving accusation from Satan the accuser, stands at the defence and advocacy of His anointed, His chosen, and He cleanses him afresh. He clothes him and covers his nakedness, and crowns him - isn't that wonderful? Isn't it? God is speaking here in chapter 3, through this vision, of cleansing impurity. I'm going to make a statement here that might make some Christian evangelicals fall off the pew: cleansing and purity is not enough. Cleansing and purity is not enough! Certainly it is not enough to accomplish the work of God. One of the problems we have as evangelical Christians is that we beat the drum so much of the Gospel, the evangel, that people would be forgiven for thinking that's all there is. Now don't misunderstand me: I preach the Gospel on a regular basis, I do the work of an evangelist. I believe in it, and I believe there should be more of it within the churches. But you've got to understand that that is not enough to build the Kingdom, it's not enough. Even on an individual capacity, a lot of us have a concept of: we get saved, washed in the blood, and all that really needs to happen thereafter is that we consecrate ourselves to the Lord and surrender. A lot of good, well-meaning Christians have done that, and they have floundered - because that is only your side! Consecration and surrender is only your side of the matter. What God is showing Zechariah here in chapter 4, after chapter 3 - cleansing and purity - He's saying: 'That's not enough, Zechariah! You need power!'. Verse 6: 'It's not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit', says the Lord, 'If you're going to rebuild My Temple, you need resources. The resources that you require are not human, but they are supernatural'.
You may know that lampstands in the Bible signify testimony, or the witness of God on the earth. So here it represents Judah, but of course it also represents the church in the New Testament - if you go to Revelation chapter 1 through 3, you will see the candlesticks mentioned several times, and of course Jesus is walking through seven candlesticks representing the seven churches of Asia Minor as the High Priest King of the church, the Priest-Judge, and He's going through His church to comment upon their state. Of course olive oil, that's obvious, isn't it, what it represents in Scripture? It's the Holy Spirit. So what we're seeing here is the prophet Zechariah instructing Zerubbabel and Joshua: 'This is the way My temple has to be built'. There are many parallels we probably could make between the building of the Old Testament Temple - whichever one you want, Solomon, or Zerubbabel, or whatever - and the building of God's New Testament Temple, which is the church of Jesus Christ, the church of the Living God. But the main point that I'm bringing to you, I believe, from God this evening is: everything must be done 'By My Spirit', says the Lord.
Now there is a very obvious correlation between the original Temple that was built by Solomon - 1 Kings 6:7 tells us that the Temple was to be built without the sound of a hammer, an axe, or any other tool. The stones were to be quarried out at the quarry, and then carried to the building site, and then built in silence. That is a typological picture that this building is meant to be the Spirit's work - 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit', says the Lord. The noise of man's labour is not meant to be heard in earshot. This parallels with the church, listen to Ephesians 2:19-20, you can turn to it if you wish: 'Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built', there's the imagery there, the Temple imagery, 'having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner stone' - that's verse 7 from Zechariah 4, that 'he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!''. Jesus is the chief cornerstone, 'in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit'. Peter says we are living stones, being placed in this edifice of God's house, the New Testament church, the Temple of the Living God. But I want you to notice that the dwelling is put together by God the Spirit. 'Everything', God says through Zechariah, 'everything must be by My Spirit'.
Now right at the very beginning of the Gospel of John we see that, that the new birth is by His Spirit. Turn with me to John chapter 1, you probably could recite these verses but I'll just get you to look at them anyway. John 1 verse 12, it's almost echoing in a similar sense the sentiment of Zechariah 4:6: 'But as many as received Him', Christ, 'to them He gave the right', or the authority, 'to become children of God', the household of God, 'to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God'. The new birth, being born again, the conversion experience, personal salvation, is to be born from above - it is to be begotten of God by the Living Word. It is a work of the Spirit. Yes, we have to repent and believe, but it is a work of God Almighty in the heart.
Jonathan Goforth, the missionary to China in the 1900s, in his book 'By My Spirit', goes on to say: 'Normal Christianity, as planned by our Lord, was not supposed to begin in the Spirit and continue in the flesh. In the building of His Temple it never was by might nor by power, but always by His Spirit'. So not just new birth, but progress in the Christian experience is meant to be by the Spirit of God. This was the great dilemma that the Galatians had when the Judaisers were coming in, and saying: 'You need to be circumcised, you need to keep the rituals, the food laws, the rites of Judaism'. Those who, Gentile of course, believed simply by grace through faith, were now being polluted in their understanding of a legalistic gospel. They were born again, no doubt they were, but Paul says to them in chapter 3 verse 3 of Galatians: 'Who has put a spell over you? Who has bewitched you? Are you so foolish, having begun in the Spirit are you now being made perfect by the flesh?'. That's not the way it works! You're born-again, brought into the family 'by My Spirit', but you've got to continue now in the Christian pilgrimage by the power of the Spirit. It's all by the Spirit!
The promise of God in the Gospel, the promise of the Father and of His Son, is limitless supply both to the individual Christian's life and to the church corporate - all we need through the Holy Spirit. This is this picture, this reservoir of oil feeding the lamp. Is that the way you live your Christian life? Is it? Early in the 20th Century there was a young lad who emigrated from Europe to the United States. Being of limited means he scraped and saved for the ticket for the steamship across the Atlantic. He eventually got his ticket, packed a few belongings in a bag - including enough bread and cheese to sustain him in the week-long voyage. During the journey he hadn't much to do, he just wandered about the deck; and now and again he would pass by the ship's dining hall and savour the aromas of the rich and various dishes that were served there. Of course, he couldn't get in himself, but sometimes he would stand at the window and watch and look at the other passengers enjoying their meals - then he would hurry way to his cabin and open up a parcel of some bread and cheese and munch on it. On his final day of the trip he stood on the deck in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty, and he was nibbling again on some of his last portion of bread and cheese as the ship approached New York harbour. The ship's Purser - that's the guy who's in charge of the finances on board - he passed him by, and he asked him a question: 'Have you enjoyed your trip, sir?'. He said: 'Yes, very much!'. 'I've noticed that you're eating some old bread and cheese, were the meals on board not to your liking, sir?'. 'I don't understand', the young lad said. 'Did you not find the dining room satisfactory? Was it objectionable?'. 'Oh no! I've been eating this bread and cheese all week because I couldn't afford to eat in the dining room, I had only enough money to buy my ticket'. With a surprised look on his face, the Purser said: 'I'm so sorry, sir, didn't you realise that the price of your ticket paid for everything? Not only your berth, but all your meals as well!'. Here was this young immigrant, and he had all the resources of the ship available to him - absolutely everything - but he didn't know it. He felt that he was actually content with the meagre food of bread and cheese that he had brought with him, and his bread and his cheese nourished him - no doubt about that - it got him through the week; but he could have enjoyed so much more if he had realised what had been purchased for him by that ticket!
Now, I have to say to you that many, many evangelical Christians are on a meagre existence, and they have stopped around chapter 3 of Zechariah where they have received pardon for sins and a hope of heaven, but they are eking out an existence because they're not living in the power and dynamic of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. I would go as far as to say that many of us know nothing more of ourselves or in our churches than John's baptism, a baptism of repentance and not a baptism of the Holy Ghost. You've got to understand: purity and cleansing are not enough, are not enough - there needs to be power! 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit', says the Lord. Let's consider that for a moment, look at verse 6. 'Not by might', now what does that mean? Well, the word actually I think emphasises collective strength, that's the sense here - it's not by might. What may be envisaged is a group of people, or an army. God's work is not accomplished by numbers, if you like. So this blows out of the water completely the mega-church concept. Now I'm not saying every mega-church is wrong, and certainly I have to say that we ought not ever to have some inverted pride in small numbers - you know, there are people who really think they're wonderful because they're small, and they will tell you the truth was always held by minorities, and all this sort of stuff: 'It's us four and no more, but God is with us and everybody else is wrong!'. We're not talking about that. In fact, God can and God will do things on a large scale, there's going to be a number that no man can number washed in the blood of Jesus - but the point here is that we ought never to think that it is in the strength of numbers that blessing comes. This type of might does not usher in the blessing of God, it's not through numerics. Second Chronicles 14 verse 11: 'Asa cried out to the LORD his God, and said, 'LORD, it is nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power; help us, O LORD our God, for we rest on You, and in Your name we go against this multitude. O LORD, You are our God; do not let man prevail against You!''. 'It's nothing for You to help, whether with many or with those who have no power'.
Of course, God is at great pains at times to demonstrate this. You remember Gideon, and he has 32,000 soldiers - you might think that's a lot, but when you compare it to the 135,000 Midianites it's not much. Then God comes along and says: 'Well, I'm going to gift you with another hundred thousand soldiers so that you'll have more than them' - is that what He does? No! He says: 'Get rid of your soldiers down to 10,000 men', and he sends all the ones who are fearful home. Then through another strange exercise - which there are whole lot of different interpretations of, and I don't know what it means - God whittles down his numbers to 300: 300 versus 135,000! But Gideon routs the enemies of the Lord, 'The Sword of the Lord and of Gideon!', why? Because God was with him, and God wanted to demonstrate that 'Your victory today, Gideon, would not be through might, it would not be through numbers'; for nothing restrains the Lord from saving by many or by few. What a lesson to us! We are very numbers-orientated. I was never good at maths, I have to say that. People ask me: 'How many were at the meeting tonight?', and I haven't a clue! It's maybe a good thing at some of the meetings I go to! But what does it matter? What does it matter, if God is in the midst?
'Not by might nor by power' - what is this power? Well, I think the emphasis probably is individual strength. That might is corporate, a group; but this is individual strength. We could apply that, probably, to personality, couldn't we? There are some wonderful personalities within Christendom and in Christian history, and the great danger is - and I think we can all fall foul of this - that when we study Christian church history, particularly history of revival, often there are one or two individuals that become the hero of the story - and usually it's not the people at all that paid the price, it's usually the front man or woman, the public face. That's unhealthy, it really is, because we can get this concept that we need 'God's man' - and we don't, we need God! So we've got to be delivered from the cult of personality, and of course that is rife within entertainment industry today - but of course it definitely has infiltrated into the church. I thank God for Christian television, and Christian radio, and the media that is there; but there is a great danger that with that comes this concept: 'Oh, we need so-and-so'. We can also fall into the trap of thinking of gifting as being the secret, an individual's gift, or their intelligence - but God is no respecter of persons! Don't you know that? God has no favourites. Now He does have favour on some, which I suppose is a favourite in a way; but when I say God is no respecter of persons, it means that He is not a respecter of types of persons. You know, it's not the intelligent, or the good looking, or those with clout, those with influence in society - it's not those people that He uses only, but He takes the weak things to confound the mighty. Why? That no flesh should glory in His sight! Isn't that good? It's just as well for me!
The truth of the matter is, if we're honest: the church, corporate, has often relied on fleshly strength to do its work - do you believe this? Business acumen, you know, you're making a bit of a good living at your business, whatever it is, and you've a name in the town; and all of a sudden they put you on the eldership or whatever you call it, the session or whatever it is in your church, and then you start running the church like a business. Now I'm not against businessmen, I believe God prospers businessmen for His kingdom - but businessmen must never run the church as a business, and it's hard sometimes for businessmen not to do that. Sometimes when we have a dispute we go to the law - I'm not saying it's always wrong to go to the law, but sometimes we use legalities. Even when it comes to moral issues - and I am a great supporter of The Christian Institute, I don't mean financially but in principle I agree with what they're doing - but that must not be our main attack on the kingdom of darkness, it must never be. Need I say: politics, political persuasion, is not the way the church is to be built! It's not by power, it's not by academia, it's not by winning the argument philosophically or intellectually. This is what God was trying to show these leaders - the religious leader Joshua; the civic leader, the politician, the governor Zerubabbel - 'My work must be by My Spirit. This is how I build My Temple, no other way. Every other way will fail! Oh, how we have found that.
You see, blessing cannot be worked up, it must be sent down. Lewis Hastings was a British explorer in the late 19th century. He noted in his explorations of Africa that his guide shared unusual insights into the behaviour of chimpanzees. I don't know whether anybody is an expert in chimpanzees here or not, but in the jungles of Angola there were often clearings where sticks had been carefully piled up as if to make a good fire. When Hastings asked his guide how these things came to be there, and why the sticks were so neatly arranged, he was astounded by the answer. The guide said: 'Chimpanzees have gathered them'. In Angolan the word 'chimpanzee' actually means 'mock man'. Hasting's guide continued to tell him that even though the chimps had piled the sticks and done it well, that was all they could do because they were missing the fire. So the chimps had seen men build a fire for cooking or for protection from wild animals, and they were able to copy man's actions in the building of a fire - how he put up the fuel. They would even gather around the sticks waiting for something to happen, but they would wait in vain because they didn't have the fire. They would sit for hours, but couldn't start a real fire because the spark was absent.
I don't know if any of you go to Chimpanzee Memorial Church, but there's a lot of them about! There's a lot of us aping around, 'doing everything right', but the fire is not there. Paul the apostle said in 1 Corinthians 2:4-5: 'My speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom', and boy could he have used persuasive words of human wisdom, 'but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God'. You see, people need more than arguments, they need more than intellect, they need more than persuasion. I'm not rubbishing the ability to reason, but that is not enough! There needs to be more! There needs to be that spiritual dimension, the power of God that only can be supplied by the Holy Spirit - and it's missing, even among those who claim to have it!
Now, I know I'm often thought of now - I don't know how I'm thought of, but some people think I'm a modernist, or this is a new-fangled thing - but F.B. Meyer said at the beginning of the 1900s, listen: 'This is the dying need of the Christian Church in this country', the United Kingdom. 'We have learning, rhetoric, fashion, wealth, splendid buildings, and superb machinery; but we are powerless, for lack of the power which can only be obtained through the fullness of the Spirit. Of what use is a train of sumptuous Pullman cars', that was a beautiful car in those days, 'without an engine throbbing with the power of steam? We have too largely forgotten the exhortation: 'Be filled with the Spirit'. We have thought that the fullness of the Spirit was a speciality for the apostolic age instead of being for all time. And thus the majority of Christians are living on the other side of Pentecost. We can never be what we might be until we have got back to apostolic theory and practice in respect to this all-essential matter. Oh that God, in these last days, would raise up some fire-touched tongue to do for this neglected doctrine what Luther did for justification by faith!'. Well, that has happened, that has happened. Particularly from the beginning of the 1900s, where he was, this began to happen. Not just through his preaching and other organisations like Keswick and then into the early outpouring of the Spirit in the 1900s, the Welsh 1904-1905 revival, and various Pentecostal groups - there was an outpouring of the Holy Spirit. But the problem was not that there wasn't a mouthpiece, the problem was it was rejected!
Isaiah said in his day, Isaiah 30:1-2: ''Woe to the rebellious children'', that's His children, God's children, 'says the LORD, 'Who take counsel, but not of Me, and who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, that they may add sin to sin; who walk to go down to Egypt'' - that's man, that's power, that's might, Egypt - who get help from Egypt, ''And have not asked My advice, to strengthen themselves in the strength of Pharaoh, and to trust in the shadow of Egypt!''. Not long after significant outpourings of the Holy Spirit in revival in the early 1900s, revival broke out in a number of German towns. One city was the city of Kassel, but it died very quickly because of opposition of the German Evangelical churches - the leaders in particular. The theologians critically analysed the phenomenon of the Holy Spirit, and the unusual manifestations in those revivals, and found them wanting. By the way, Dr A.T. Schofield - that's not the Schofield Bible man, but he was a great scholar nevertheless - relating revival in India, this is what he said: 'As well expect a hurricane, an earthquake, or a flood, to leave nothing abnormal in its course, as to expect a true revival that is not accompanied by events quite out of our ordinary experience'. That's what happens in revival! If you want ordinary, don't pray for revival!
But in 1909, back to Germany, in 1909 there were 56 Conservative evangelical German church leaders who issued a joint statement, a declaration, and it was called 'The Berlin Declaration'. In that they condemned the Pentecostal movement in its entirety, this is what they said: 'This so-called Pentecostal movement is not from above but from below; many of its phenomena can also be found in spiritism. Demons are at work here who, led by Satan's cunning, mix truth and lies in order to entice the children of God. The personal faith and dedication of some leading brothers and sisters cannot deceive us, not even the healings, tongues, prophecies, etc. The movement brings forth powerful spiritual and physical manifestations, like falling, face twitching, trembling and shaking, screaming, ugly and loud laughing. Such phenomena are not worked by God'. Now one commentator, and you don't have to agree with this, and I don't know how it could be proved but it's a very interesting observation - he says: 'With these, and many more references, the German church refused her only weapon against the spirit of antichrist, the weapon of the anointing'. Five years later Germany was plunged, and indeed plunged most of the world, into a fiery cauldron called World War I - a conflict that consumed the cream of an entire generation of European manhood. This commentator says, listen: 'The spiritual vacuum created by Germany's rejection of the Holy Spirit intensified in the economic and social devastation that followed the war, creating an opportunity for the spirit of antichrist to fill the gap. With the rise of the power of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi party, that evil spirit engulfed the globe in the horror and unbelievable brutality of the Second World War - and as a result 55 million people around the world died'.
Now I don't think we can prove that, but it's worth pondering, isn't it? I did hear Derek Prince on a recording say that the Higher Criticism Movement in theology, that's the boys that cut the Bible to shreds and don't believe any of the miracles, and believe it is fables and so on - very prevalent in the late 1800s, early 1900s - it rose out of Germany. Remember Germany was the land of Reformation, Germany was the land that got us the Bible back, Germany was the land that rediscovered justification by faith - but when she rejected the truth that was given to her, Derek Prince said, two of the greatest monsters that humanity has ever known rose out of Germany - Adolf Hitler and Karl Marx. I believe it is true, even if we can't prove it regarding this particular anecdote, that any church that refuses the only weapon that God has given us to build the church, the Holy Spirit, the anointing, they will create a vacuum, a spiritual vacuum. You can have all the might, and you can have all the power, and all the theology, and all the scams and tricks that you like, all the programs and organisation and institutions - but into that vacuum will step the spirit of antichrist.
The spirit of antichrist is at work in our land this very evening, and the church is impotent to halt its advance - if we're honest. That's why we feel so frustrated, at times so angry. But listen: the only answer is power from on high, that is the only thing that will stem the tide. Do you know what we need in our land? A baptism of the Holy Spirit. I was asked this week at another meeting - I mentioned how few people are getting saved today in our nation, and I was just making the point that: does that mean that God is different today, He's not the same? Of course it doesn't. What is the explanation for that? Well, there is a spiritual atmosphere change, there are problems and blockages. In the same regard, that's why we don't see God's power manifest the way we ought to. Is it because God isn't the same? No, of course it's not; it's because there is a change here, there is a change in the atmosphere, there are blockages and so on. Afterwards a gentleman came up to me, and he said: 'Do you think that one of those hindrances to blessing revival and outpouring might be 300 years of bitterness and unforgiveness?'. I said very quickly to him: 'Yes'. In fact, one of the biggest hindrances - this is what I said to him - is institutionalised offence. We have made an art form out of offence, and it's an offence to God.
Now don't misunderstand me, I know there is deep hurt in our community, deep hurt; and we ought not to steamroll over that with any religious poppycock or sentiment and not be real. But I will tell you this: our land needs healing, but healing will only come through forgiveness. I heard a politician on the radio this week, some of you may have heard him, and he mentioned around Remembrance Commemorations, he mentioned an atrocity that was committed in our land. He said these words, and it shocked me as I was driving the car and listening to the radio, he said: 'It ought never to be forgotten or forgiven'. Herein lies our problem. He is right, half right: it ought never to be forgotten - but forgiveness is not forgetting, that's a lie of the devil. Forgiveness is not forgetting the past, forgiveness is healing the past. I believe that this is correct: do you see any society or community where you see division, sectarianism, racial hatred of any kind, do you know what the answer is? A baptism of the Holy Spirit, because the baptism of the Holy Spirit is a baptism of love. Do you know what Ulster needs? A baptism of the Holy Spirit. The four provinces of Ireland need a baptism of the Holy Spirit. If we're going to see revival in our day and generation it's 'By My Spirit', says the Lord.
Do you know if you look across every civilisation in the world, and most major civilisations throughout history began around river basins - did you know that? Where there was water! In the natural, wherever rivers are, there life is - life blossoms, commerce expands, agriculture grows! This is what happens when God's Spirit is outpoured: there is life. That's what Isaiah said in Isaiah 32 and verse 15: 'Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest'. 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit', says the Lord. Let us pray.
Now I want to just take a moment in the presence of God for you to search your own heart. I'm sure that most of us would say: 'Well, I want to realise the fullest measure of the Spirit possible for me. I want to make sure I'm filled with the Holy Spirit, totally submerged and immersed in His power'. Maybe you're not, and that's not God's doing I can assure you. Maybe there are areas that you haven't surrendered to the Lord. What is true in a community level can be true for the individual, and maybe there is unforgiveness and bitterness in your heart towards a brother or sister, or a family member. Maybe there is sectarianism and hatred in your heart. You need to bring that to the foot of the cross, and confess and repent of it. Maybe there are other sins that you need to be honest with God about. Maybe the consecration and surrender isn't there for you. Well, do your part, do your part. Bow your knee to the Lordship of Jesus, and renounce those sins and repent of them. He will give you the help if you repent and you be honest.
But maybe you're a person that is, as far as you're aware, consecrated and surrendered, and you have been for years? But there is that lack of power and dynamism. Well, it's by faith that you receive everything from God: salvation, but the Spirit's filling. You come, believing the word, that He promised it; and you come and you ask Him upon the promise, and believe you have the things that you have asked of Him. You believe that you have received them, the Lord says, and you will have them - that's faith.
Maybe as well, God has spoken to you about the responsibilities that each of us have in the collective whole, as to how we have contributed to a vacuum in the Spirit's power. It may be an aberrant theology, or it may be just going with the flow, or it may be inertia, apathy, it may be fear of losing reputation, it may be fear of being misconstrued, misrepresented - that's part of the cost. Listen: the time is short, folks, the time is short. The devil has more than got his grubby fingernails into our people, and our Parliament, and our pulpits, and our pews. We have got the answer if we would only take it. Maybe you need to renounce your intellect, maybe you need to renounce reliance on wisdom or experience, or theology, or denominationalism; and say: 'Lord, without You I have nothing. I bring my empty vessel to You and I ask You to fill me, that the excellency may be of God and not of men, that You might be glorified'.
Lord, we thank You for Your presence with us tonight. Thank You for the power of Your word. We thank You that You are the answer, You don't just have the answer, You are the answer: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We do have this treasure within earthen vessels, but Lord I pray for some in this gathering tonight that that treasure that might be hidden deep within their spirit will break forth tonight, will flood their being; that out of the cracks that are in the clay pot - and we've all got those cracks, brokenness, frailty, and weakness - that out of those cracks may shine forth Your excellent glory, that others may see our good works and glorify our Father who is in heaven. Lord, would You come to us. We renounce and relinquish all our might and power, and all our puny efforts. Oh, God forgive us, for me thinking I am somebody, or I have something, or I know something. We repent in dust and ashes, and we ask You to forgive us and cleanse us. Forgive us for how we have contributed to the vacuum and the rise of the spirit of antichrist in our land; some of us because we have offended Your Holy Spirit. Lord, we say we're sorry, we're sorry. We hate the sins that made Thee mourn, and drove Thee from our breast. Oh Holy Dove, return, sweet Messenger of Rest, come to Your people again, Lord. Come and revive us again that all people - not just Your people, but all people - may rejoice in You. Lord, continue with those that You are striving with now. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at the Oasis Bible Study in Loughbrickland Mission Hall, N. Ireland, by David Legge. It was transcribed from the recording titled "By My Spirit" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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