The Lakeland Series:
A Case Study in Advanced Prophetic Listening
Letter to an Esteemed Repentance Prophet
[ Part 4 ] [ Part 5 ] [ Part 6 ] [ Part 7 ] [ Part 8 ]
The following was my response to a repentance prophetic teacher on the Circle who forwarded me anonymous comments from a friend about my Wilderness Series articles in context of the Lakeland controversy. The comments, from a minister who sees repentance as the sole proof of a move's origin in God, challenged both my statements about this and about the incompleteness of John the Baptist's ministry. Since Lakeland was the context for this entire discussion, I have included it in this series. The name of the prophetic teacher to whom I am responding has been withheld.
July 20, 2008
Thanks for writing, [name withheld]. Always nice to hear from you.
I'm happy to respond to your friend's comments (referenced in blue throughout this letter). He is--as he admits--disadvantaged because (as it appears) he hasn't read the previous messages in my series or seen my website to appreciate my call to mainstream prophetic repentance and discipleship. Still, I'd like to respond (for my own benefit as well as for yours--since I find writing things out helps me grow.) I apologize in advance for the length, but do hope you'll look it over.
My writing may differ from most, but it's not to make a name. It's because after so long in the mainstream and wilderness, I'm being shown new ways to see the Lord, which He has impressed me to impart to others. I think you'd agree no stream has yet seen the Lord perfectly, and He has more to reveal of Himself as His return gets closer. If so, then the wilderness prophetic can't be exempt a call to outgrow its own limitations. What I'm seeing now is challenging those limits as well.
Unvarnishing Anointed Bible Heroes
The Lord is teaching me to see differently in two ways. First is to strip away the veil of hindsight vision of Bible characters. What we believe about Bible saints and events (including revival) is based on our hindsight of what scripture says about them after the fact. We know now who was approved and who wasn't, and why. But in their times, the characters didn't know what they were facing any more than we know now what we are dealing with when confronted with spiritual reality.
Samson is a good example. We approve Samson because the Bible approves him. Hebrews says he was a hero of faith. Judges says the Lord was with him. But when Samson lived, there was no book of Judges or Hebrews to say this. Had we lived then and had a pure heart after God, we would have had good reasons to reject Samson, who not only married a Philistine outside God's will but committed fornication too. If we had no more to go on than that apparent "fruit," we would have concluded he had a false anointing.
The same is true of those surrounding Jesus--what they could and couldn't tell about Jesus and one another. Everyone today knows about Judas. The Bible makes it plain after the fact. But who knew Judas was false before the betrayal? He did the same miracles everyone else did. If we had believed in Jesus and his disciples at that time, we would have seen Judas as a remarkable man of God. We would have approved someone of whom God disapproved. (This is the common fault in mainstream charismatic vision as I wrote about in "Judas Under the Anointing.")
But if we had known Judas was a thief, we might oppositely have concluded his Leader obviously had no discernment ("If this Man were truly a Prophet, he would have known what manner of man Judas is...") And so, we could not trust Him to be the Messiah. As for the miracles? Well, then they must have been false. (Had I been a troubled mother bringing my child to Jesus for a blessing, and Judas had shooed me away, I might have been offended enough to say, "Some Messiah. If that's what his closest people think of children, I don't want any part of him.")
Whether we like it or not, the truth is most of us wilderness folk discern spiritual activity and vessels based on the same kind of evidence by which Jesus was rejected and past icons like Moses (or in our case, John the Baptist) were glorified. We reject the Spirit's work because of the same indisputable faults in the vessels, judging them against an imaginary iconic standard of "biblical revival" that doesn't reflect how it really was. This kind of "discernment" is not righteous judgment.
The Lord is stripping my hindsight biblical vision off the stories, to see biblical revival events through the eyes of those who encountered them, and use those perspectives to help us outgrow bad yardsticks for evaluating God's work today. So my writing about John is not really a "new" perspective on him. It's just a "reality" perspective. If you took a chair painted 70 years ago and stripped off all the paint to expose the wood, you wouldn't call it a new chair, even though you hadn't seen it before. All I've done is take some varnish off John and his followers.
Today's Corporate Streams Represent Characteristics of Bible Saints
The second way the Lord is changing my sight is to understand how the spirit of Bible saints and events in Christ's ministry is reproduced in corporate spiritual streams and larger scale moves of the Spirit today. Let's start with individuals:
- The Corporate "John" and "Mary" Streams
What God accomplished or emphasized in the life of a single Bible saint may be prophetically replicated at the level of a corporate stream. This is why there is a "John the Baptist wilderness stream" at all. There is a "corporate John," a "corporate Elijah" spirit out there of which we are cut. That corporate heart possesses part of the Lord's entire nature, but is also marked by all the limitations and imperfections John had.
The same is true of Mary Magdalene. There is a corporate "Mary" stream out there marked by all Mary's limited qualities of devotion, but which still has a legitimate portion of His nature. Mary is personified in the Passionist stream of Mike Bickle. The Passionists talk about Mary as much as wilderness prophetics lift up John and Elijah. There is also an "Anna" substream of intercessors. And you can find the same for Paul in the reformed /evangelical stream--etc.
My point is, as all these Bible players saw the Lord through different eyes, thus entire corporate streams view the Lord through the same limited eyes of the saint who fore-types their stream. As each Bible saint had a different kind of encounter with the Lord, so each stream has a varied vision depending on whose nature they are patterned after.
This has made for two problems in the body: 1) streams are stuck on judging the deficiency and questioning the authenticity of the vision of Jesus held by other streams, and 2) streams fail to outgrow their limited vision of Christ by submitting to visions of the Lord imparted to other streams. The result is that "streambound" saints fail to grow up into a whole vision /image /stature of the Lord and eventually yield to heresies that feed on their heart's limitations of vision.
The wilderness vision of Jesus is as limited and to be outgrown as all other streams. Even though it is my "adopted home stream," it isn't exempt from the Lord's call through my pen. My writing normally challenges the deficiencies of the larger visible "Mary" stream, calling them to "repent" and "grow up." Now, my writing has turned to apply the same challenge to the "John" stream. The stream most noted by its call to repentance needs to repent of devotion to its own limited vision of the Lord. (The Lord catalyzed this change in my direction by the
event and it was totally unexpected by me.) Lakeland
Corporate Moves Represent Singular Events in Christ's Ministry
What is true about Bible saints and corporate streams also applies to snapshot events in Christ's ministry relative to large scale corporate moves of the Holy Spirit. It is part of what the Lord has shown me. This has special application to understanding what we call "revival" and the place of the repentance message relative to it.
If you look at Christ's 3 year "revival ministry," you don't see one kind of ministry with one message based on the same outline all the time. You see a hodge-podge of different messages and types of ministry to different people under different circumstances--all according to the leading of the Father. In one scene, the Lord talks to the well woman using personal prophecy to gently speak to a deeper issue in her life. In another scene, He walks by a bier and raises a dead man, with no message at all. In another scene He blesses children. In another he heals ten men with no further message. One time He goes to a wedding and performs a prosperity miracle. No message. In oppositely natured scenes, He rebukes Pharisees, calls men to discipleship, exposes false motives in crowds, and uses a tragic event to exhort some to repentance. And of course, in a final snapshot, He invokes judgment on an entire generation.
The point is the Holy Spirit may replicate an entire outpouring or movement around just one snapshot of the Lord's varied "revival ministry." He can pour out in a move featuring personal prophecy; He can outpour featuring resurrection from the dead with no message; He can pour out in a bless-the-children move; He can outpour in a healing move with no other message; He can even outpour through a water-to-wine prosperity move (I know that's heresy in our circles.) The Spirit also corporately replicates snapshots of the Lord's calls to repentance, His calls to discipleship, His rebukes of Pharisees, and His invocations of judgment on peoples and nations. (We'll see more of this as the age closes.)
- Repentance Not the Focus of Christ's Every Move
My particular point here is: Not every snapshot of the Lord's revival ministry contains the message to repent. And this is why not every corporate move of the Spirit based on a snapshot may contain the message to repent. In some moves, the Holy Spirit may not even have a message.
- Judging Partial Moves by a Whole Composite
This understanding up-ends the normal view of "true revival" based on a composite view of Christ's entire ministry (formed through biblical hindsight) by which each singular outpouring of the Spirit is critiqued. The Lord is showing me we can't use composite views of Christ's entire ministry to judge a single move as "true revival." This is because all the elements from the snapshots making up our composite view of the "Jesus Revival" weren't all present all the time over the 3 years.
Another weakness of the composite view is that, despite our attempts to evaluate a Spirit movement by it, we will ultimately default to the snapshots favored by our native stream. Wilderness folk default to repentance and discipleship as the defining plumb line. Mary hearts default to the passionate love of the Lord as their proof. And so on. We're really not capable of using a whole view to evaluate spiritual outpourings because we have not already arrived to the fullness of the Lord's heart.
Now it remains that these various Spirit outpourings are incomplete. They are as incomplete as the events in Jesus' ministry they are patterned after. But, seeing as His work among streams is already incomplete and no stream represents all of Him (which we have no trouble accepting), should we be surprised that no outpouring does?
Ultimately, the entire composite of Christ must be worked into our lives and into the whole body of Christ if we are to become like Christ. And eventually the Spirit will bring this about to form a complete body. Streams will eventually coalesce, and so will outpourings.
But we can't use our favored snapshots of Christ's ministry or a composite of it (to which we ourselves have not attained) for certifying whether a replicated snapshot move of the Holy Spirit today is a "true revival." When we use favored snapshots as plumb lines, we become snapshot Pharisees, whether "repentance Pharisees," or "passion Pharisees" or "forgiveness Pharisees"--misjudging the Spirit Himself and growing heresies based on the snapshots...
Applying Repentance to Incomplete Moves of the Spirit
What does this mean for repentance and mature discipleship, seeing there is such an overall lack of them? Nothing I say should be construed to minimize their vital importance or deny the glaring overall immaturity and disobedience in Christendom (like
in Jesus' time). I'm not discounting the need for the wilderness prophetic to add its voice as the Spirit enables and opens for bringing completion and necessary correction to any of His other types of moves. Israel
Anybody who knows my ministry knows this. I'm personally as grieved as any desert follower that repentance and discipleship are not more in evidence. My constant prayer is for conviction of sin, righteousness and judgment to prevail--not to mention absolute surrender!--as the objective of all the Spirit otherwise accomplishes in His moves. And I believe it's our ordained part as wilderness "carriers of this word" to help bring completeness and necessary correction to whatever else He may be doing.
The Spirit wants repentance brought to bear on His other moves because He wants completeness and is always working toward completeness. But repentance by itself is not complete either--even though elemental. He doesn't want just a repentance message. We are not saved by repentance even though we can't be saved without it.
- Strategizing with the Spirit for Application
If the Spirit has ordained us to apply repentance to His other moves, but repentance itself is not the complete message, it means He must have a strategy as to when and how to speak repentance into where it is missing. The fact repentance is so missing in general cannot mean (as we think) that it is therefore "the Spirit's message of every moment in every place," and it's our job to make sure it gets heard. "To everything there is a season." This includes every kind of word from God.
In a given move, repentance may not necessarily be the Spirit's focus even though it is always an ever-present objective. We know from Heb. 6:1 that the Spirit ministers beyond repentance to the mature. Oppositely, we know from Heb. 6:6 that the Spirit does not minister repentance to those who are past it in recalcitrance. "Let them alone.." is His only word about such. He has no word toward them.
In either of such times, it is not His issue of choice and thus inappropriate to voice amidst a certain move. And if it's not what He is saying, nobody can say it for Him and be truly in sync with Him. (I have walked into many environments of Spirit anointing where I've seen need for correction, and would have voiced it--except that the Spirit would also say, "Not here, not now. It's not what I'm voicing in this moment."
If then the Spirit has a strategy regarding the ministry of repentance, and if we truly are His disciples, then we have to ask ourselves, are we more interested in submitting the repentance burden He's given us to His strategy for its voicing, or are we more concerned with "shooting at whatever moves" because we've taken ownership of our burden away from the Holy Spirit?
- Listening the Key
OK. So how do we know if the Spirit is trying to voice repentance in a move to bring completion, or if He's not ready to voice it, but it's us stuck on our own religious repentance ownership trying to voice it for Him? How do we know if a move's own silence on repentance is because of apostasy or because the Spirit Himself is just not focusing on it at that hour? The answer can be found only through humble sensitive listening. And believe me, I've been brought to that place of humble pie aplenty.
To sum, all I am saying is we can't use non-evidence of repentance and even the limited presence of falsity in a certain setting to prove the Holy Spirit is not behind a movement or revival. There's a big difference between identifying a revival as incomplete. It's another to mark it as false just because it is incomplete or even contains elements of falsity. Judging the "Jesus Revival" of 27 A.D. by any single episode that did not speak to repentance (such as His turning water to wine), or by the presence of Judas, or by the bickering immaturity of all the disciples, would produce the same false judgment of Him. (This is really what John and his followers were doing.) Judging Jesus' ministry by its "result" in actually bringing about repentance would equally judge it a failure! (Masses of people simply did not fall under the power of conviction of sin when He taught.)
I can agree with your friend's quote from Frank Bartleman about the depth of a Spirit move being proven by the presence of the repentance spirit.
Personally, I whole-heartedly agree with something Frank Bartleman once wrote: "The depth of revival will be determined exactly by the depth of the spirit of repentance." This mindset and focus remained intact throughout the Great Awakening, the Welch revival,
Azusa Street, the Hebrides, and [.....]. It was the main thing I appreciated about . Brownsville
But depth and trueness are not the same. Lack of depth does not prove falsity. My question is, can your friend also agree with Bartleman's assessment of the nasty mixture any true revival will entail as I quoted in my last commentary on
[Azusa] went through about the same experiences that all revivals have. Its foes were both inside and out. Both Luther and Wesley experienced the same difficulties in their time. We have this treasure in "earthen vessel." Every natural birth is surrounded by circumstances not entirely pleasant. God's perfect work is wrought in human imperfection. We are creatures of "the fall." Then why expect a perfect manifestation in this case? We are coming "back to God."
It should now be clear I'm not--as your friend suggests--saying the Holy Spirit is doing something "new" by not necessarily "focusing" on repentance in a given move:
[Anderson] seems to be saying (and my understanding is admittedly limited) that God can do a new thing and it doesn't have to contain the repentance that John (and Jesus!) preached and has always been the hallmark of true revival. He seems to be echoing the predictable mantra of other "anti-holiness" types which is to parade extreme examples of self-righteousness around in an attempt to make it seem that all those who have a passion for holy living have a Pharisee spirit.
I'm just removing layers of biased biblical hindsight varnish and appealing for a higher basis for discerning the Spirit's work. I'm merely proving from a higher vision that the Spirit has never been required to center His voice on repentance to prove the validity of what He is doing, even if repentance is His ever present objective. Your friend speaks from our common John-colored assumption that if the Spirit is not "focusing" His word on repentance in a move, He can't really be behind it.
Comparing John's and Jesus' Ministries
I could easily defend John with the words of Jesus: "Among those born of women there has not arisen anyone greater than John the Baptist." So I'm not sure about [Anderson's] take on things. It certainly lies outside of what every other commentator believes.
Responding to your friend's comment on the Lord's praise of John, I'd like to share more of my view on what was happening between John and Jesus, especially relative to repentance. That the Holy Spirit has different strategies, times and seasons for ministering the word of repentance has great bearing on the contrast between Jesus to John.
I agree with your friend that Jesus noted John's greatness (stated in Part VII of my Wilderness series). But what Jesus meant in context and how your friend reads it are not the same. Jesus was not making a stand-alone statement focused on John's greatness. He was comparing the glory of two entirely different eras and their last and first representatives. His focus is not on John's greatness, but on His own comparative greatness together with "the least" of those who followed Him (all the more reason John's followers should have come over to Jesus)--after which He indicts the crowd for failing to respond to either of their different repentance approaches, of which His was the greater.
What was the difference? John's was a "pre-kingdom" repentance that was prerequisite to receiving ministry, and was preached under an imminent sense of judgment. Jesus fostered "kingdom" repentance which was an objective of ministry out of the first demonstrated goodness of God (as Paul sums in Rom. 2: "the goodness of God leads to repentance"). Kingdom repentance defers the threat of judgment until after goodness fails in its bid to lead to repentance.
In all, while both men preached "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," they did not share the same perception of what that meant. John had an "end-times" perception of the kingdom arriving under imminent judgment, because he was at the end of an age. Jesus had a "new-times" perception under deferred judgment, because He was the beginning of another age. So, while repentance was the objective with Jesus, it was not His "focus" as it was with John (--and again, why therefore repentance does not have to be the focus of a move of the Spirit of Christ to be a valid move.)
In light of this comparison, what I see today from Strom to Bickle are opposing partial visions of Christ neither of which handles repentance well. The wilderness camp advocates a pre-kingdom prerequisite repentance as John did; and the mainstream soaks up God's goodness with only weakly if ever leading to repentance. There is a veil there, and my desire is to see it removed so we come to a true Christ-like "goodness/ repentance," not eliminate repentance or judgment (as your friend suggests I am advocating).
It makes me wonder if he's part of the emergent church movement, that can't seem to throw off every vestige of godliness quickly enough.
His conclusion that I must be part of an "emergent movement that can't throw off godliness fast enough" is spoken entirely from the wilderness side of that veil.
Your friend is right in this: I am part of an emergent movement--but of another kind. I think you are part of it too, which is why you are not like David Wilkerson, who by the way I agree is a great man. Could we even say that, in "his era," there has been "none greater." But those who grow into what will become a fully Christ-like kingdom goodness/ repentance movement are "greater still," and don't fit into either the incomplete divided wilderness or mainstream conceptions of the Lord!
Perceiving the "Goodness-to-Repentance" Cycle Overlaps
An added factor complicates the issue between velvet-gloved and iron-fisted repentance ministry. It's that the two tones of repentance are being played out in numerous overlapping levels from individuals to nations, all of which are in various places in the goodness/repentance cycle.
This is why even among those of us who share Jesus' kingdom view of repentance, some are burdened with an imminent sense of judgment--making us sound more like Jesus at the end of ministry (hence like John too)-- while others are burdened with demonstrating goodness leading to repentance (sounding more like Jesus at the beginning of His ministry). We can be burdened differently before different peoples and churches because of where each is at in the goodness-to-repentance cycle. "Different strokes for different folks."
This also explains how God can still be "outpouring" goodness in some places (like a Lakeland) while pouring out vehement warnings through others at the end of failed cycles of goodness (as He did toward America as a whole through Ravenhill and still does through Wilkerson, etc). We even oscillate between the goodness and judgment messages in our own walks. I know I have, and I would faint if you told me you hadn't! It's my own oscillations in this that are responsible for why I see and write the way I do.
The Nearing "Shotgun Wedding" of "John and Mary"
So where are we at and where do I see us headed and what should we expect regarding all this? In the short view, God is still not done pouring out His goodness among a yet partially immature and disobedient--yet partially hungry for righteousness people--which is no different than what Jesus did. It is still His goodness and we need to embrace it, rejoice in it, partake of it, and even be changed ourselves by it--not chide it because of the lack of worthiness of the vessels receiving it or ministering it.
In the long view, we are at the end of an age. An overall age-long "era of goodness" is ending and massive judgment is indeed imminent. As this progresses to the point of cultural dominance, we can expect a change in the Spirit's focus to bring the harder repentance message "out of the closet" and to the forefront as we see in Rev. 11. It's at this point that the Elijah ministry I referred to in "The Other Side of the Days of Elijah" will really be released.
But before this happens, there is to be a "forced coalescence" between the hearts of "John" and "Mary" in the body of Christ. The Elijahs who are to come forth in Rev. 11 will not be today's untempered Elijah would-be's, but will be the product of this coalescence, which I see occurring in Rev. 12. This is where the "glorious woman" (representing the mainstream "Mary" church) is forced into the wilderness where a place has been prepared for her (by none other than the hidden and unnamed "John" stream). This will not be a pleasant union, but a "marriage" of necessity.
But out of that tribulation necessity will finally come the perfection into Christ's image for the whole church that has eluded us throughout this age. He will make of "twain one new man." There will then be no more "mainstream church" vs. "wilderness camp." It will be then that not only do the streams coalesce, but we see a more composite representation of Christ in the outpourings of the Holy Spirit.
That is my take.
Many blessings, and thanks for listening.
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