Why is the Church Powerless? Part 3
In the confrontation between Elijah and the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel, we find a graphic demonstration of the difference between the true fire of God, and the lack of fire in false revival (1Kings 18:20-40).
With much noise, shouting and dancing the false prophets attempted to move their god to action. Hour after hour they created the impression that something was happening but the only thing that happened was they fell into a mesmeric trance. Many of the techniques of the prophets of Baal are still repeated in churches today. “Christian TV” abounds with those who claim revival, miracles and a move of God, but it is all smoke and mirrors and no fire: “…there was no voice; no one answered, no one paid attention.” (1 Kings 18:29).
Decibels and dancing do not move God, and these activities do not bring the fire of God down.
Yet these are used together all the time, and every week people are told that the trance-like state they achieved is the “presence” of God. That it is not the presence, but rather the absence of God, is clear by the lack of any real change. (No fire, whether natural or spiritual, ever leaves that which it touches unchanged.) It does not matter how loud and how animated the worship becomes, if God does not reveal Himself through the pouring out of the fire of the Holy Spirit, then it is no different than the worship of Baal.
It is vital that we see the clear difference between Elijah’s approach and that of the false prophets. The one is dependent on the Lord and His blessing; the other has to whip people into a frenzy in order to create the illusion of an anointing. After the prophets of Baal had failed, Elijah’s chance came, but he acted alone (v22). The true men of God are always a minority, and most often, not the popular choice of the people like the prophets of Baal were.
The first thing Elijah did was to repair the altar.
Every altar in the Old Testament was a foreshadowing of the Cross of Calvary. There will be no fire without restoring the Cross to its central position in our preaching, thinking and living. Israel had neglected the Altar of the Lord and allowed it to fall into disrepair. The church of today has not only neglected the message of the Cross, but turned its back on it and replaced it with a different gospel. Without returning to the Cross, there will be no anointing, no blessing and no fire. The altar also represents sacrifice, worship and prayer. There will also not be any fire unless true worship “In spirit and in truth” (John 4:24) and prayer are restored.
Next, Elijah put the wood on the altar (v33). Wood is a picture of our human flesh. The wood was consumed in the fire and our fleshly tendencies will also be consumed when God’s fire falls. In prophesying about Jesus, John the Baptist said: “He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire… but the chaff He will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Luke 3:16,17). Isaiah said: “When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion… by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning,” (Isaiah 4:4).
Fire purges and refines so that only that which is divine and eternal will survive the flame. Before the fire can fall, each of us needs to be willing to allow the Lord to burn everything in our lives that does not speak of Him. Before the Lord met with Jacob at the brook, Jacob had sent all his possessions, and even his family, away and was left alone with the Lord. Sadly, very few are willing to allow their carnality to be consumed for Christ, and thus we want a sanitized fire that will not touch us, our pride, our sin, and our stuff."Fire purges and refines!"
Then the bull was cut in pieces and laid on the wood.
The animal always represents sacrifice. Sacrifice is a word that we only understand in the context of what Jesus did and what others do. But it is not a word we like to think of in personal terms. Yes, others need to make sacrifices but we never think we do. However unless you, personally, are willing to be laid on the altar and are willing to sacrifice your comfort, ease, time, pride and possessions; your spiritual life will remain lifeless and cold. A sacrifice always required the death of the animal sacrificed. You cannot “sacrifice” ten percent of yourself – it has to be a total surrender, just as the whole bull was laid on that altar. To expect God to honor a half-hearted service and a partial sacrifice is an insult to God’s ultimate Sacrifice of His Son at the Cross.
What happened next is the most amazing thing: Elijah doused the entire altar, wood, and sacrifice with water. This is counterintuitive. If you want fire, then you surely need to create the right environment for the fire – which requires that things be as dry as possible. Clearly Elijah’s point was that he was not going to do anything that would even suggest a man-made fire. He killed any hope of fire. He didn’t just sprinkle a few drops, but soaked the altar and then filled the trench so that everything was standing in water. God did not need Elijah’s help in any shape and form. When the fire fell it made no difference at all that the whole lot was wet.
The difference between Elijah and the false prophets is marked.
They would do anything, and stop at nothing, to bring the fire down. Elijah did everything to make sure that there was no human element to the fire so that when it came it would, without question, be a work of God. For myself, I would rather be on Elijah’s side and kill any attempt to engineer a “move of God” through human means. Stomping all over fleshly manifestations and carnal attempts at whipping up a revival or move of God will not, and cannot, prevent a sovereign work of God. He is not hindered by a bit of water, and He is not limited by healthy caution and sound doctrine on the part of the church.
There are indeed many things we can do that prevent God from moving (See part 1 of this series). But decency and order (1Corinthians 14:40), and an unwillingness to accept anything of the flesh never has, and never will, stop God from moving. My personal prayer is that when God’s fire falls in my life and in that of my church there would be no doubt that it is truly a work of God and not some weak manmade imitation. Until that happens I will not settle for any compromise, substitute or placebo. It has to be all or nothing.
False revivals leave more questions than answers, but when the fire fell on that day, it “…consumed the burnt sacrifice, and the wood and the stones and the dust, and it licked up the water that was in the trench.” (1 Kings 18:38). There were no questions or doubts, and the people who were more on the side of Baal than on the Lord’s “… fell on their faces; and they said, ‘The LORD, He is God! The LORD, He is God!’” (1 Kings 18:39).
Dr. Anton Bosch
9070 Sunland Blvd, Sun Valley, CA, 91352