Listening to speakers at three meetings in two states over two consecutive days can be very demanding, especially when you test men’s words by Jesus’ testimony; “Out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matt 12:34). The first speaker was addressing a business breakfast and it is what he did not say that caused my heart great grief. When I spoke to him afterwards and asked; “Is there a reason why you mentioned ‘God’ repeatedly but not ‘Jesus’ once?” he was totally stuck for words. Everything he said could have been spoken by a God-fearing Jew, Moslem etc. No one else in the audience seemed to realise this was another sign of the abandonment of a Christ-centred faith that is leading trendy forms of Western Christianity down a slippery slope towards apostasy. The contrast with the next day’s speaker could not have been greater. Brother Yun, the so-called “heavenly man”, may be controversial but his repeated references to “resurrected Jesus” led me along a path of listening to the Spirit of the risen Lord about spiritual ignition.
Yun’s preaching and testimony to the resurrected Jesus’ works of power in his own life in China reminded me more of the apostolic ministry Acts than any other speaker I have ever heard. The dominant theme of the public preaching of the apostles recorded in this book is the resurrection of Jesus (2:24, 31; 3:15, 26; 13:20; 17:31 etc.). The miracles and healings in Acts serve to strongly confirm the apostle’s testimony of having personally seen the risen Christ (Acts 4:9-10, 30). For me, this conjunction of preaching the resurrected Lord and doing works of power was the seal that Yun is a contemporary apostle. The implications of this emphasis for the Western Church are major.
Conversing with a local Christian after Yun’s first meeting we agreed that the revival situation in China and amongst Muslims around the world has one great common denominator; the claim to have “seen” the risen Jesus in vision, dream or healing presence. Our observation is that anyone who has met with the resurrected Lord can no longer be engrossed in the affairs of this world in the way that plagues the lives of most Western believers (Col 3:1-3). Awareness of a need to meet Jesus as risen constitutes a call for the recasting of the gospel in our midst. This certainly applies to those who treated Yun as some sort of Christian celebrity to be cheered on and posed with for the photo album! It was however what happened in Yun’s second meeting that was most impactful.
Pillar of Fire
Being asked to pray over the man after his sermon I approached him with some thoughts in mind; but suddenly I saw a pillar of fire between him and me (Ex 13:21). The ascension of Elijah sprung into my mind, “And as they still went on and talked, behold, chariots of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them. And Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it and he cried, “My father, my father! The chariots of Israel and its horsemen!” And he saw him no more.” (2 Ki 2:11). Elisha’s unique utterance, “My father, my father!”, is the testimony of an inspired and mentored son who will become the double-portioned successor of the older prophet (2 Ki 2:9-10). Set afire by Elijah, Elisha becomes the prophet-father of the bands of “the sons of the prophets” (2 Ki 2:15; 4:38 etc.). This Old Testament type points us to Christ.
When the risen Jesus ascended in the cloud of glory he proceeded to pour out the fire of the Spirit upon the waiting disciples who became men and women aflame with the spirit of sonship and empowered to make disciples in his likeness (Acts 1:9-11; 2:3). When others see the fire of glory in a believer this sets them on fire to serve the Lord. This is what I proceeded to prophesy over Yun and it is the call of God on all our lives. The Spirit’s testimony to the risen Christ is a flame of fire burning in the heart that cannot be suppressed by the powers of evil (Rom 12:11). While Elijah’s fire could only destroy evil we testify that the fire of the risen Christ will in time not only annihilate wickedness but renew the whole creation (2 Pet 3:10-13). This is the hoped for power we need today and that which we so desperately lack. Yet the Church as we know it does not want such an all consuming fire (Heb 12:29).
Those participants at the Yun meetings seeking excitement wanted the fire to heat up their own uninspired lives rather than to set others aflame. They fitted the divine warning; “Behold, all you who kindle a fire, who equip yourselves with burning torches! Walk by the light of your fire, and by the torches that you have kindled!” (Isa 50:11) At the most basic level the majority Western Church wants to know nothing of the fire of the cross. “God-talk” is easy, but “When Christ calls a man he bids him come and die” (Bonhoeffer).
With Yun it was the first time I recall being in a meeting where the word “cross” was not used but the power of the cross was openly ministered. He repeatedly remarked that he was not a man of super-faith, but that Jesus appeared to him when he was in prison with two crushed legs complaining to God that he would never walk again; “I had lost all hope of survival”. Living out the death of the cross and experiencing the fiery pain of persecution he was in fact in that state of death and despair that always proceeds the manifestation of resurrection power (2 Cor 1:8-10; 4:7-12; 1 Pet 4:12). Only at such a low point could the Lord appear as the crucified and risen one and deliver him from his imprisonments; the first mental, the second physical. There is no other way than this way of Jesus (Luke 24:26).
Over the decades I have heard the Spirit speak most clearly through famous Christian men and women when they have shared of the victories of Christ in the midst of bearing witness to their many failures. These are apostolic brothers and sisters who have learned that life is not about our successes and failures but it is only the testimony of the risen Christ that counts (Rom 15:14-20). Who amongst us is at that point? Who has been so beaten down in the service of God as to learn the lesson that is being taught through the persecuted church, from China to the Middle East, that only an appearance of the risen Jesus can save us from the powers of this world that have so overwhelmed us. We are in desperate need of divine mercy. I must end on a personal note.
I am feeling at the end of myself; crushed I suppose. Donna and I agree that something radical has to change because the cycles of me coming to a point of exhaustion through ministering to so many are becoming progressively shorter. I certainly need to “work smarter” and “take care of myself”, but what I really need is an encounter with the risen Jesus and his fire for others. This is not simply a personal need; it is what WE need as a Church that has lost touch with the fiery presence of God.