Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Blessed are the Thirsty

Part 2, Why Is the Church Powerless? 

Part 1: Missing the Connection

“Ho, every one that thirsteth,
come ye to the waters...”

(Isaiah 55:1)

By Pastor Anton Bosch

In addition to the need for obedience and holiness, our attitude also affects whether or not the Lord will pour His Spirit on us. The only attitude the Lord blesses and anoints is that of humility, brokenness and utter dependency on Him.

Just as those who are well do not need the physician, so are those who are self-sufficient. They feel they can make God do what they want and have no need the Lord’s power. Yes, they ask for the Lord’s blessing, but they do not really want it since deep down they feel quite adequate to do things for themselves. To make their situation worse, not only does God not support them in their self-sufficiency, but He is actually opposed to them: “God resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble” (1 Peter 5:5). The problem is that if you feel you are humble then, by definition, you are not! Only those who recognize their pride have any chance of finding true humility, and thus receive the Lord’s blessing.

In the Beatitudes Jesus said: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3). The state of poverty of spirit is not only critical to receiving the Kingdom, but is vital to receiving anything from the Lord. Of course, all are poor, and there is no one who has anything to boast about (Romans 3:23). But the problem is that very few recognize their poverty and how much they need the Lord. This applies to every area of the Christian life, whether it is the sinner who recognizes his need for a Savior or the believer who understands that he has no strength in himself.

Sadly, the spirit of our age is that of the church of Laodicea which boasted, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” but of which the Lord said, “[You] do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked” (Revelation 3:17). It seems most believers and churches are quite content in their lukewarmness and, like Laodicea, “do not know” how spiritually bankrupt they really are. Like the blind person who compensates for his disability though attuned senses of hearing and feeling, so the church compensates for its spiritual poverty through programs and hype. Like the bankrupt businessman who distorts his accounts and spends lavishly to hide his poverty, the church changes the way it evaluates its spiritual state and embarks on propaganda campaigns to speak of the “great blessing”.

Living in a false state of security and comfort is an old scam of false prophets: “For they have healed the hurt of the daughter of My people slightly, Saying, ‘Peace, peace!’ When there is no peace” (Jeremiah 8:11). In like manner church leaders assure their congregations that they can see when they are blind, that they are rich when they are poor and that they are healthy when they are sick unto death!

Paul had learned that the real secret to power was not becoming more charismatic but realizing his great need and utter dependence on the Lord: “And He said to me… My strength is made perfect in weakness. Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Corinthians 12:9-10). May we, too, face our desperate need, and may it drive us to Him Who alone has any strength.

The first Beatitude (poor in spirit) inevitably leads to the second: “Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted” (Matthew 5:4). Once we see ourselves the way we really are (the way the Lord sees us) it must lead to a great sorrow over our emptiness and lack of power and blessing. But no church wants to be in mourning – we all want to be celebrating and speaking joyfully about the non-existent “move of God” amongst us. Yet there is nothing more inappropriate than being joyful when mourning is required, and I see no reason for cheerfulness amongst the vast majority of churches today.

The gross sin in the church of Corinth should have reduced them to tears and repentance but instead they felt quite good about themselves (1Corinthians 5:2). So, too, the powerlessness of modern Christians should bring them to a state of mourning over what has been lost, or never found. But rather there seems to be a general state of euphoria in spite of our utter poverty. 

Mourning of a godly kind leads to comfort (Matthew 5:4). There is no better way to be comforted than through the comfort (strengthening) of the Comforter. Just as knowledge of our poverty leads to mourning, so mourning will inevitably lead to hungering and thirsting: “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled” (Matthew 5:6). This beatitude speaks of thirsting for righteousness but the principle also applies to the Holy Spirit. Jesus also said: “‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ But this He spoke concerning the Spirit, whom those believing in Him would receive” (John 7:37-39).

It begins with thirsting. If there is no acknowledgement of our great thirst, no awareness of our poverty, no sorrow over our spiritual bankruptcy and sin, then there will be no drinking at the Living Fountain. Yet churches are kept artificially satisfied through endless programs, events, entertainment and feel-good pep talks. They are dying of thirst but don’t even know it. It seems that the leaders are in cahoots with the devil to keep people from being divinely dissatisfied, remaining unaware that they are spiritually hungry and thirsty, lest they turn to the Lord Jesus for satisfaction. In defense of leaders, many feel they must keep people happy to prevent them from going to the next church. Meanwhile the people don’t understand that the solutions are not in the church down the street, but in the Lord Jesus alone.

Oh, that we would just recognize that the void within cannot be filled with more meetings, mindless entertainment, or anything else the world, or a worldly church, has to offer, but that God through His Spirit alone can satisfy the deep longing within. “As the deer pants for the water brooks, So pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God” (Psalms 42:1-2). “O GOD, You are my God; Early will I seek You; My soul thirsts for You; My flesh longs for You In a dry and thirsty land where there is no water” (Psalms 63:1).

Thirsting must drive us to Christ. Jesus said, “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink” (John 7:37). Jesus, and not the pastor, conference or Internet, is the source. How often when we thirst do we inevitably run to the counselors so they can affirm us, assure us that everything is okay, and tell us that there is no need to be stressed. When young Samuel first heard the Lord’s call he ran to Eli who assured him that he was not being called and told him to return to sleep. Every day pastors just as spiritually blind as Eli shush believers to sleep, assuring them that there is indeed no voice from heaven.

Pastors, prophets and visiting evangelists are not dispensers of the Spirit. Jesus alone is, and it is to Him alone we must turn and cry to be filled to overflowing. “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. I will give of the fountain of the water of life freely to him who thirsts” (Revelation 21:6).

In coming to the Lord Jesus there is a need to wait (tarry) until we receive what we need. In Luke 11 Jesus teaches on the need for persistence in prayer (the man asking bread from his neighbor). He then tells us to ask and keep on asking, to seek and keep on seeking, and to knock and keep on knocking, which He then relates to the Holy Spirit (Luke 11:13). The message is clear; we need to ask until we receive. The problem is that most believers ask a few times, and maybe for a few minutes, and when they do not receive, they move onto the next thing on their agenda. Yet, it is clear from Luke 11 that we need to be persistent.

Jacob understood this principle when he wrestled with the Angel at the brook and said, “I will not let You go unless You bless me!” (Genesis 32:26). I do not see that kind of persistent wrestling with God anymore. Our instant religion has made us believe that if we don’t get what we want immediately and easily then we just need to move on to the next fast-food place or item on the menu. But God is not into fast food nor is He into instant gratification. It is not because He does not want to bless us, but because He knows we are fickle and often not really serious about our need for His blessing. When He does not respond immediately, and we simply stop wrestling with Him, he says: “See, I did not give it to you because I knew you were not desperate and by giving up after five minutes of prayer you have proven that you are not serious about this.”

Just before Jesus ascended, “He commanded them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the Promise of the Father…” (Acts 1:4). Previously, he had commanded them to go into the entire world, but now He told them not to move until they had received the Promise. They would wait for ten days and then, at the appointed time (when the day had fully come – Acts 2:1), the Promise was fulfilled. I have often wondered what would have happened had they given up after a week or nine days. Ten days is a long time to wait, and others have waited even longer. Yet most believers cannot wait ten minutes, let alone ten hours, ten days or ten years. Unfortunately many Christians are like King Saul, who could not wait for Samuel to offer the sacrifice and so resorted to taking matters into his own hands, thus incurring the wrath of the Lord (1Samuel 13). 

As we persist in prayer, as we wait on the Lord, He in due time, will hear us and will pour out His blessing. Even if He does not, the time waiting on Him is not wasted but is precious, refreshing and empowering:

“He gives power to the weak,
And to those who have no might He increases strength.
Even the youths shall faint and be weary,
And the young men shall utterly fall,
But those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint. ” 
(Isaiah 40:29-31)  

To be continued… 

Pastor Anton Bosch (www.antonbosch.com) just published Building Blocks of Encouragement – A Devotional, a selection of 60 of his most popular articles written over the past 11 years. To order the book, contact the Discernment Ministries Book Center (903) 567-6423. The book is also available as a printed book as well as a Kindle book from Amazon.com.

For a video on “Bankrupt Before God” see https://youtu.be/7vYrsHxaccI