No, this is not the setup for a pithy religious joke, nor is it validation for outlandish supernatural experiences where people actually pursue interaction with deceased saints. This is an invitation for us to respond to the Holy Spirit’s movement and power correctly.
Hang in there with me for a moment, as I want to help us answer this question in its correct context.
God is moving powerfully in the world right now. I’d dare say that since the Day of Pentecost, the Spirit has been moving throughout the earth. Unfortunately, many have reduced the zenith of His movement to a salvation prayer.
Don’t misunderstand me, though. Salvation is the greatest miracle and greatest move-in of the Holy Spirit. I refuse to ever devalue God’s supernatural work of converting our dead spirits and bringing us into eternal life. At the same time, we are not simply converted to go to heaven one day, but this divine act of conversion involves God depositing the power of heaven into jars of clay—us. We are saved and Spirit-filled.
Thus, the Spirit has indeed moved! He moved from heaven to earth at Pentecost and has not changed addresses since. He enters into our hearts when we receive the saving work of the Lord Jesus Christ. He is powerfully present within us and among us. We have become His home, God’s New Testament temple on planet Earth. The problem is that so many Christians are crying out, “Lord, rend the heavens and come down,” when He already has.
God has sent Holy Spirit to live inside of His saints (saints meaning anyone who is a Christ follower) and be the Person of the Trinity who operates on earth. My question is simply, are we giving the Holy Spirit the appropriate space and opportunity to move in His fullness and power? He’s ready. In fact, He’s been ready for 2,000 years … are we?
What Does Revival Look Like?
For a while now, I have been asking the Lord what it looks like to live a “revival lifestyle.” However, I feel as though my language has been corrected in recent days. Dr. Michael Brown has reminded me that revival is not something that we as believers should constantly need.
Revival is like spiritual resuscitation. If we think we need revival all of the time, this means we are consistently falling into a place well beneath our identity and inheritance in Christ. If we think that we always need revival—constantly searching for some new supernatural jump-start to our faith—our pursuit is off. Mine has been off in the past, and in recent years, the Holy Spirit has been opening my eyes to what revived Christianity looks like. We simply need to get back to normal … and refuse to exchange the Biblical normal for what culture says should be normal.
Let’s not adapt our faith culture—both personally and corporately—to the world, but instead, ensure that our faith is in agreement with what is normative in Scripture. What is normal? The model of Jesus and the demonstration of the early church. Jesus modeled what the normal Christian life should look like, the early church demonstrated it, and now, the invitation is once again extended for every single believer to bring their personal experience up to the standard of what is revealed in Scripture.
When Jesus, Moses and Elijah Show Up
What we need to avoid at all costs is responding to God’s supernatural movement with a natural mind. This is not a call to throw our brains out the door; instead, it is a summons for us to live in a greater level of moment-by-moment dependency on the Spirit. Remember, He is already living in us and among us. The fact is that there are times when He wants to move in unusual, powerful ways. We must learn how to recognize this and flow with Him.
I want to look quickly at a New Testament picture of an unusual outpouring of God’s presence and glory … and examine how Jesus’ followers responded:
“About eight days after these sayings, He (Jesus) took Peter and John and James and went up onto a mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His countenance was altered, and His clothing was white and glistening. And suddenly two men were talking with Him, who were Moses and Elijah, who appeared in glory and spoke of His departure which He was to accomplish in Jerusalem. Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep. But waking thoroughly, they saw His glory and the two men who stood with Him. As they departed from Him, Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three sanctuaries: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijahm’ not knowing what he said” (Luke 9:28-33).
For the purpose of this article, “Moses and Elijah” are simply illustrations who represent an unusual manifestation of the supernatural. We are not looking for these two guys to show up in our church services or prayer closets today—we are simply running after Jesus and yearn to experience Him in His glory, presence and power!
When God’s manifest presence and glory shows up—and we sense the rumblings of revival—what do we often do? (By the way, these are things that we should NOT be doing).
- We speak … when we really should keep silent.
“Peter said to Jesus, ‘Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three sanctuaries: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah,’ not knowing what he said” (Luke 9:33).
Not knowing what he said, Peter spoke, trying to come up with some kind of natural human response to the glory that his mortal eyes just saw manifested. Sometimes, there aren’t words … and that’s OK. Sometimes, we don’t cry—we laugh. Sometimes, we don’t laugh, we cry. Sometimes we fall down. Sometimes we kneel. Sometimes we sing.
Do you see what I’m saying here? In revivals past, particularly during the 1990s, the Spirit was moving in extraordinary and unusual ways. His presence would incite certain manifestations from the people. Problems would come, however, when people started to assume that every time God showed up, He would cause a certain manifestation to take place.
What does this look like? Simply put, when God shows up, we speak, act, sing, plan, dance, shout, kneel, laugh, shake, cry and do what we assume should be done in these moments. But what if our assumptions are wrong? Right off the bat, I am not saying that any of these responses or manifestations are incorrect.
I am of the opinion that all manifestational responses to the move of the Holy Spirit should not only be tolerated, but celebrated and welcomed! My stance on manifestations such as shaking, weeping, laughing or anything else is that when God Almighty—who touches mountains and causes them to tremble—touches frail human flesh, something is going to happen.
And yet, just because the Holy Spirit is moving in our midst, this does not mean we have the right to be like Peter and just speak … or manifest … or respond impulsively. So wherever you find yourself, from pastoring a church to leading a small group, from praying for someone to leading praise and worship, always be on the lookout for what God is doing.
Do what you know to do, yes. At the same time, when you reach those moments when there is literally nothing you can do or say—and God is undeniably moving in a most unusual way—just let God be God. Step back, listen and embrace the Spirit’s movement.
- We try to build tabernacles.
Peter said to Jesus, “Master, it is good for us to be here. Let us make three sanctuaries: one for You, and one for Moses, and one for Elijah … .”
First, Peter responded to the Transfiguration somewhat impulsively, not knowing what to say. When he actually does speak, the idea he presents certainly reflects the lack of thought invested in his words. Peter proposes a building project to house Jesus, Elijah and Moses.
Whether we know it or not, we commonly respond to the Spirit’s outpouring with building projects. This does not mean constructing church buildings, per se. It means that when the Holy Spirit moves unusually, our natural response is to try and build something around what He is doing. We assume that more meetings and more services are heaven’s guaranteed solutions to all unusual visitations of the Holy Spirit.
There is definitely a need for meetings, where as a community, we can all experience the wonderful outpouring of divine presence and power. Community is key, actually. We encounter God together. We pray together. We praise together. Here’s the thing, though. Even though there are numerous meetings, gatherings, services and conferences happening constantly, the most important Person who will ever be hosted at any event, in any place, is Holy Spirit. Sadly, He is not welcome at many of our so-called get-togethers, when in fact, He is the One we most desperately need. So, having meetings where the Holy Spirit is actually hosted and accommodated are wonderful!
At the same time, history reveals that the Spirit’s movement cannot be confined to meetings. He doesn’t want to remain trapped in a church building; He wants you to take your place as His portable temple and carry His presence into your everyday life. What takes place in a “revival” service or Holy Spirit encounter meeting is essential, as it awakens you to the Presence of the One who lives inside of you.
When you encounter Him, experiencing the nearness and power of His presence, you are reminded of Who lives inside of you … and you are emboldened to carry Him into your sphere of influence. You become awakened to the reality that Almighty God has placed His Spirit within you. As you live in the light of this truth, everything changes!
Point of Breakthrough: Be OK With Not Knowing What to Do
When God shows up, the most important thing we can do is be OK with not knowing what to do. In fact, it’s perfectly legal not to know what to do when God reveals Himself in a powerful way.
The Western church has a huge issue with not knowing what to do, or doing nothing. We feel the need to fill in the gaps with something, be it music, noise, preaching, an altar call, an offertory—just something to fill in the silence so things don’t get awkward.
But what if God is drawing us into new depths of encounter with Him? There is a time for us to respond, yes. There is also a time for us to respond by not responding. To not respond is to simply bask in awe of One who is so great and glorious that our lack of response is actually the most fitting response!
Larry Sparks is author of the book Breakthrough Faith: Living a Life Where Anything Is Possible, and co-author of the upcoming book The Fire That Never Sleeps, with Dr. Michael Brown and John Kilpatrick (June 16). Larry is a columnist for Charisma, teacher and revivalist who is committed to training the body of Christ through three key seminars: 1) Sustaining a Lifestyle of Revival, 2) Revival in Media, and 3) Breakthrough Faith. Featured on CBN, TBN, and Sid Roth’s It’s Supernatural, Larry is passionate about raising up communities who usher in regional revival and awakening. You can visit his website at lawrencesparks.com. Also, you can “like” Larry on Facebook (LarryVSparks) and Twitter @LarryVSparks to receive empowerment keys to experience and sustain a revival lifestyle.