I would love to see God move in the Church in the UK, any church in the UK, in the powerful way we see in Acts. But would I? You see, when a move of God happens it has little to do with structure and what we might expect and everything to do with power and transformation. The truth is, when God moves it is uncomfortable and confrontational. We do not make God move or choreograph God’s move… we let it happen. Further, it happens because it becomes more important to His followers for God to be present than for them to be comfortable.
- Like in Acts 2, when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost. The disciples are praying and suddenly God’s Spirit takes over the meeting with a rushing wind, tongues of fire and strange languages. The disciples had not planned for it to happen and they did not know that, when it happened, it would happen in the way it did. All they could do was step into the rushing stream of God’s presence and be swept along with it. Peter simply commentated on what God did, he did not shape what God did.
- In Acts 8 when, following the diaspora after Stephen’s stoning, Philip preached and amazing miracles happened to the great joy of all who saw them. Philip could only tell those who were present that it was all about Jesus and simply let the Spirit do what the Spirit wanted. He had not planned what would happen or have any imagined structure for those meetings. All he could do was follow the Spirit in a new thing and boy was it powerful.
- Acts 10:44-38, where Peter preaches to Cornelius and his household. There was such a hunger and desire for God’s presence that Peter did not even get to finish his sermon points before the people were swept away in the presence of the Spirit, praising in the presence of the Spirit. Peter did not expect it to happen in that way. He did not even want to be with the Gentiles, if he was honest about it. These people were not even followers of Jesus when the Spirit touched them with such an overwhelming presence that their praise overflowed and overwhelmed. But when Peter saw the move of God’s presence, all he could do was accept it and follow in another new thing. Faith followed presence.
- In Acts 19, “God did extraordinary miracles through Paul” (verse 11). Paul simple preached about Jesus, but the presence of God was so strong that healings were happening through shadows and hankies. People who were not even believers were doing miracles in Jesus name because the power of the presence of God was so palpable as the Spirit burst into the midst of the city of Ephesus and changes the lives of thousands of men and women. Paul did not plan the outpouring of the Spirit, he simply let God’s Spirit have His way and responded to it.
In all of these incidents, and I could look at others, there are some significant unifying factors.
- There is a yearning for the REAL presence of God. Not for some religious structure, but for God Himself to turn up. The disciples in the upper room were seeking God. The people of Samaria were desperate to know the person of Christ that Philip proclaimed. Cornelius and his household were desperate to be with the real an true God. The people of Ephesus were desperate for a real touch from the real God… even via a sweaty hanky.
- It was the REAL presence of the Holy Spirit of God that made things happen. It was not the doctrine of the disciples that dictated the move of God’s power. Peter wouldn’t have been seen dead in the house of a Gentile before his dream and the offer of Cornelius and Paul’s sweaty hanky has no precedent in the Old Testament. It was the REAL presence of God that makes things happen and brings about real change in real people.
- When the people were exposed to the REAL presence of God’s Spirit they were confronted by the reality of God. That is not to say that all who saw believed. Simon the Sorcerer saw only power in Philip’s actions and the Seven Sons of Skeva refused to believe for themselves and tried to do miracles in Paul’s name. When the presence of God touched people, things could not remain the same and choices had to be made. Do I follow or not? Those who submitted to the presence of God were transformed forever by what happened and the presence of God was heavy and real.
I have come to the conclusion that it is not the theology or the practical work of the church that will bring people to know Jesus. These things do not dictate the move of God, rather they are shaped by the move of God. Knowing it right and doing it right will not change the world, it will only create a situation where those that know it and do it in the same way as us gather together. God calls ALL people into His presence… not just the people who are like me.
IT IS THE PRESENCE OF GOD THAT WILL BRING PEOPLE TO JESUS.
How do we get into the presence of God? I cannot make the presence of God’s Spirit happen. I can only let it happen. I can humble myself and pray and seek His face and turn from my wicked ways… Then there is space for God to move (2 Chronicles 7:14).
I apologise if some of the writing above is not clear and the thinking is unfinished. The truth is, I don’t really care if my theological cogitations are professional or academically acceptable. All I care about is that I know Jesus. I find that I am increasingly coming to the conclusion that I just want to be close to Jesus. I yearn to know Him and be known by Him.
It is a dangerous place to be, because it is the place where I cannot plan for what might happen because it all about Jesus, not about me. But it is the only place I want to be.
It is all about the presence of God… I want to be in the presence of God!