Note: This is Part 2 of a two-part series. For Part 1, click here.
Global traumas like the coronavirus very well may play a part in determining the wheat and the tares. Who will rise up in great, unmovable faith and who will shrink back in fear? Those who know God will respond very differently than those who are mere pretenders.
The question for pastors and every believer in the midst of a trial is: How can we prepare? Yes, there are natural precautions we should take. There are spiritual reactions that are necessary too. Many are suggesting adopting house church/small group models. That very well may come into play, but that's a functional shift. There are spiritual shifts that are much more important.
Deal Directly With Sin
The greatest debilitating factor in the church by far is unaddressed sin. A church that isn't pure, holy and consecrated is a liability, a breeding ground for demonic manifestation and a magnet for God's judgment.
Hellfire preaching must return to the church and a call to intense consecration is simply mandatory if we hope to endure to the end.
The Bible clearly instructs certain people to be removed from fellowship, but it's rare to find a leadership team that is willing to follow those orders. I propose it's either an attempt to extend more mercy than God Himself is, or the leadership are steeped in the same sins themselves.
But I have written to you not to keep company with any man who is called a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner. Do not even eat with such a person.
For what have I to do with judging those also who are outside? Do you not judge those who are inside? But God judges those who are outside. Therefore "put away from among yourselves that wicked person (1 Cor. 5:11-13).
Deliver him to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that the spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord Jesus (1 Cor. 5:5).
Teach On the End Times
I believe the church's greatest hour will be during the Great Tribulation. I understand that many others don't believe that at all. Eschatology is a volatile topic, but we can't afford to ignore it any longer.
It's laughable to think the church is ready to endure such a terrible tribulation period, even though God's wrath won't be expressed on His true church in that season. The measure of protection we'll have will be enough for us to have an opportunity to stay true to God and to proclaim His truth.
Yet today, with a comparatively very minor crisis in the world, the church is failing miserably. The church isn't ready. We need leaders who will emphasize the trials that are coming, whether they occur during the tribulation period or not. We are in the end times, and the end itself draws nearer every moment.
I believe a casual approach and the thought that we'll be raptured away is detrimental and will cost potentially millions of Christians their very salvation. The falling away will be very great as countless believers fail the test and don't endure to the end. Their blood will be on the hands of the pastors for failing to prepare them.
Equip in Signs, Wonders, Healings and Miracles
I've been sadly stunned at the number of professing Christians who have little to no confidence in God's supernatural ability, and have even less confidence in their authority to move in wonders themselves.
Training in signs, wonders, healings and miracles can't be delayed for another moment. We need a supernaturally charged people who are fiercely opposed to the illegal activity of the enemy. This includes fear, sickness, poverty and other assaults of the devil.
The church needs to learn the difference between God-ordained pestilence and devil-initiated attacks. From that place, the church can rise up and function in absolutely remarkable signs and wonders as a traumatized world looks on and witnesses God in action. Hope will flood in and countless desperate, lost people will be saved.
Now, Lord, look on their threats and grant that Your servants may speak Your word with great boldness, by stretching out Your hand to heal and that signs and wonders may be performed in the name of Your holy Son Jesus."
When they had prayed, the place where they were assembled together was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God with boldness (Acts 4:29-31).
Keep Eternity in Focus
The fact that Christians pay little attention to eternity and that their gaze is on the here and now has never been more evident in this generation than it is today. Instead of having peace and confidence about spending an eternity with Jesus, and being excited about that, so many are fearful and anxious about a virus that, in their minds, has the power to kill.
It's time for our preaching to be zeroed in on eternity and to prepare people for the place they will be living forever. I am personally gripped by forever, by the expectation of the glories of the age to come. Do I want to die before my time? Of course not. But I place myself in God's hands, and I battle the enemy's attempts to bring destruction to me and I trust that I will go not a second before or after my designated time.
O death, where is your sting? O grave, where is your victory? (1 Cor. 15:55).
Prepare to Go Underground
As easy as it was for our government to force everybody indoors, and to cancel everything from sporting events to church services, and to threaten imprisonment for those who defy the orders, we'd better be preparing the people to go underground.
We can't presume the internet will be available. We can't expect to be able to freely gather. There will come a time when we will have to choose to obey God rather than men and gather, illegally, to worship, pray and unite as believers.
Read this passage and be ready to expect a very similar scenario as the end draws near:
When they had brought them, they stood them before the Sanhedrin. And the high priest questioned them, saying, "Did we not strictly command you not to teach in this name? Yet now you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching, and you intend to bring on us this Man's blood."
Peter and the other apostles answered, "We must obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised Jesus, whom you killed by hanging on a tree. God exalted this Man to His right hand to be a Ruler and a Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. We are His witnesses to these words, as is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him."
When they heard this, they were cut to the heart and took counsel to kill them (Acts 5:27-33).
The call is for pastors to embrace a mighty shift in the church. Church as usual is no longer an option. We must see the people equipped as mighty men and women of great faith, fervent intercession, workers of miracles and prophetic instruments in the hands of God.
John Burton has been developing and leading ministries for over 25 years and is a sought out teacher, prophetic messenger and revivalist. John has authored ten books, is a regular contributor to Charisma Magazine, has appeared on Christian television and radio and directed one of the primary internships at the International House of Prayer (IHOP) in Kansas City. A large and growing library of audio and video teachings, articles, books and other resources can be found on his website at www.burton.tv. John, his wife Amy and their five children live in Branson, Missouri.
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