AN IMPORTANT DIFFERENCE IN RELIGION AND SPIRITUALITY
Like Peter’s failing attempt to walk on the water, many believers try to approach Jesus from the realm of intellect and knowledge. While we thank God for the mind and its amazing ability, human wisdom is not enough. Man is a spiritual as well as a mental-being. To be genuinely equipped for life-in-the-Spirit, our experience with Jesus absolutely must go beyond academic,
literary information about Him. Apart from miraculous encounters with Him, we have no more information than did the ancient Pharisees who heard Him speak, saw His miracles, but remained locked in their spiritual darkness. It is not enough for Jesus to enter our realm. Our experiencing Him must include miraculous, incorporeal visits into His realm as well. Many Christians spend a lifetime without this holy benefit.
Matthew explains: "Immediately, Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a ghost! And they cried out for fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid. And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it is You, *command me to come to You on the water. So He said, Come. And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, Lord, save me! And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, O you of little faith, why did you doubt? And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased" (Matthew 14:22-30).
Peter had approached Jesus many times in the past but never in the capacity for which he now had opportunity. The privilege was not merely to walk on the water; instead, it was the opportunity to step out of the natural, physical realm where he had always been and step into the immaterial, incorporeal realm of the Spirit. Nor could Peter go on his own volition; instead, he said to Jesus, "Lord, command me to come to you on the water," that is, "urge me to come--help me to get through my unbelief to where you are." Peter was aware that much, much more would be happening than his merely leaving the boat. In that moment, he would be stepping into a sphere where sense and reasoning, gravity and natural forces of the earth, would no longer be in control. Such a step from one dimension to another--from earth’s materialism into the non-physical Kingdom of God--could not be initiated from himself. Apart from Jesus’ specific "urging him on," he did not possess the ability to approach or enter that realm.
In the old sphere of sense and sight, waves and water, it was impossible to walk on the sea; in Jesus’ ethereal realm where earth’s influence of gravitational pull and nature’s energy were restrained, it was not impossible. Jesus said, "Come!" Peter obeyed and for a very brief moment--for the first time ever--approached Jesus as weightlessly as would a vapor. Gravity no longer touched him, the powers of nature were held back, and Peter, fully conscious and alive, was transported into the dimension of the Spirit. Though visible in the body he was none-the-less out of the body. The instant his feet touched the water Peter stood as securely on the sea as he had ever stood upon a rock. That was the most awesome step conceivable--but he did it. Wonderfully, he had opportunity to remain in that state, walking on water, provided he did not allow the realm of nature to re-possess him. Unfortunately, in a flash, both realms came visibly together, Peter was snatched back into the physical domain and immediately sank.
Peter’s experience involves us in this way: In every age, the Holy Spirit has invited believers to step into His own miraculous realm. Only a few have achieved it. As in Moses’ day when Israel was commanded to "follow the cloud," so God’s constant effort has been to lead us--not across the desert--but into the miraculous realm of the Spirit. This fact has been as difficult for contemporary Christians to accept as it was for ancient Jews. For that reason many modern congregations find themselves left behind, wondering what happened to their once thriving ministries. Miraculous power is gone; nothing is left but an empty shell where life once thrived.
Scotland is a primary example. Churches in Scotland were once jammed with worshipers seeking God. Sermons were powerful and dominated national thought. Buildings were huge, elegant, and crowded. Not so today. Less than 4 percent of the Scottish population attends church. Many church buildings have been converted into taverns, night clubs, pubs, and one empty Cathedral is used for "rock climbing." Worst of all, some church buildings have become Mosques. How did it happen? The "Cloud" moved and the Church of Scotland refused to follow. The holy fire with which John Knox ignited the nation and terrified his opponents is today a bed of ashes. And Scottish Presbyterianism is not alone. Numerous other denominations are going the same tragic route as Scotland. The Church of England has closed more than 600 houses of worship while Islam has opened nearly 1,000 new mosques inside Great Britain. Centuries ago, one of the hymn writers saw this decline and prophetically wrote:
Surely once thy garden flourished, Every part looked gay and green, Then thy Word our spirit’s nourished, Happy season we have seen. But a drought has since succeeded, And a sad decline we see, Lord thy help is greatly needed, Help can only come from Thee! Lord revive us! O, revive us, All our help must come from Thee!
Two conditions are expressed in the hymn: The Church’s spiritual drought and the cry, "Lord, revive us!" Thankfully, the prayer for revival is being answered. More than 500,000,000 Christians worldwide now believe in and are experiencing miraculous gifts of the Spirit. That is one-fourth of the world’s total Christian population. Even so, most of the traditional Church, as in the case of Scotland, refuses to accept miraculous manifestations and continues its death-march. The other part of the Church is returning to the spiritual climate of the first century and the "restoration of all things." Acts 3:21. But much more than a restoration to spiritual gifts is taking place. The present call of the Holy Spirit is for Christians to go far beyond "gifts" and to enter into miraculous living. Believers in the early centuries not only exercised powerful works of the Spirit but experienced visitations of angels, were "caught up into the heavenlies," were miraculously transported from place to place, and received the Spirit’s fullest manifestations. These same manifestations occurred in Indonesia during the ministry of Mel Tori some 40 years ago and are now appearing on the Church’s horizon. Let me illustrate from Scripture believers whose life-in-the-Spirit went beyond gifts:
1. Angelic appearances: John 1:49-51. Nathanael answered and said to Jesus, "Rabbi, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Jesus answered and said to him, "Because I said to you, 'I saw you under the fig tree,' do you believe? You will see greater things than these." And He said to him, "Most assuredly, I say to you, hereafter you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man."
2. Daylight visions: Acts 10:1-4. There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God always. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord?"
The type of angelic-encounter Jesus promised Nathanael and the incredible motivation which accompanies it, is fast-coming to believers in our day. Almost weekly I meet sensible, reliable Christians who have encountered angels. Cornelius’ experience may well be repeated before our eyes. Over 50 years ago I had a night-time visitation of angels in which my room was suddenly filled with an angelic host. When it first happened I was terrified and would have run from the room had they not spoken and put my mind at rest. At the time, I saw nothing but knew I was momentarily lifted into outer space and completely surrounded with them. The next day I shared the experience and then lapsed into years of silence for fear no one would believe me. That has changed. I am now committed to preaching about such encounters. Moslems in all parts of the world are having visions of Jesus and being saved because of it. Some of the most dynamic, out-spoken Christians I know are former Moslems to whom Jesus has sovereignly appeared. R.T. Kendall pressed this fact upon Yasser Arafat in their five private meetings as he attempted to bring the terrorist to Christ.
3. Out-of-body experiences: 2 Corinthians 12:1-5. "I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago--whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows--such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man--whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows--how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities."
My ministry began in 1948 with a daytime vision in which I saw myself preaching. Until that moment I had not the slightest hint that a pastoral life lay before me. That was not my choice. But the vision was so powerful, so totally overwhelming, that at the end of weeks of fighting it, I finally surrendered to the will of God. The vision was followed by another, again in the daytime, in which God assured me He had answers for all my fearful questions. Now, more than seven decades later, those two visions remain the greatest, most unchallengeable motivation in my commitment to Him. This year I will be 90 years old and say without hesitation I expect to receive more anointing and greater revelation through meetings with the Lord that are "out of my boat and into His realm." I want that! With God’s grace permitting, I will! Come go with me!