We’ve lost our way, and God is calling us to return to Him. Every church walks a “path,” comprised of methods, programs, worship styles, etc. The paths our churches travel may have served us well in the past, but they are losing their effectiveness with every passing day. Christian churches in America are facing the challenge of decline, yet many cling to their current paths expecting fresh results of revival and renewal. We are deceived and need direction. God told Israel through the prophet Jeremiah, This is what the LORD says: “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls. But you said, ‘We will not walk in it’” (Jeremiah 6:16 NIV). Today, churches are standing at a crossroads. The Crossroads is a critical point of decision that can mean life and fruitfulness or death and extinction, depending on the choices we make today. Will we stay on the unfruitful paths, or will we seek God for the ancient paths of His choosing: Paths of Holy Spirit power and Kingdom purposes? At the crossroads, the choice must be made. The Crossroads points the way to the ancient paths of true Kingdom fruitfulness.
Without the Holy Spirit, there is no holiness. Without His power, there is no victory. Without His leading, we have no worthwhile plans. Without His presence, we are left as desolate orphans.
The crossroads before us, in regards to the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, is the intersection of cooperation and control. We will either cooperate with the Holy Spirit, or we will insist on having our own way. Jesus described the two roads from which people may choose to travel.
"Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it.” (Matthew 7:13-14)
There is a narrow road that leads to life. That narrow road is the way of holiness. It is where both individuals and churches cooperate fully with the voice and leading of the Holy Spirit. The wide road is the way of self. It is where both individuals and churches retain control and insist on having their own way. The narrow road can feel a bit risky, so only a few find it. The wide road is comfortable and familiar. The wide road has far fewer chances for experiencing true faith, but it’s predictable. The narrow road requires surrender and careful attentiveness to the voice of God. The wide road is full of forms of religion with no power where we retain control over our lives. Only one road can be traveled. Will we cooperate with the Holy Spirit to have His way, or will insist on control? If you are on the narrow road of holiness, it will be visible through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
Businesses distinguish themselves from competitors by finding niche markets or using creative marketing ploys. Charitable organizations distinguish themselves by championing a cause, filling a need, or righting a wrong. However, what distinguishes the church from any other people group in the world is the power and the presence of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it is impossible to produce fruit that is authentically spiritual without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.
The distinctive of the church is the manifestation and demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power which accompanies the proclamation of the Good News of the Kingdom of God. That alone is what sets us apart. As Free Methodists, our doctrinal teaching of entire sanctification has no power, no effect, no validity, no “teeth” without the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit, through surrender of a person’s will, is given full access to that person’s life, the Spirit’s power and presence will inevitably and quite naturally lead to a life of personal holiness; entire sanctification in all its fullness.
Paul describes how the Holy Spirit’s power and presence was foundational in his ministry.
When I came to you, brothers, I did not come with eloquence or superior wisdom as I proclaimed to you the testimony about God. For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. I came to you in weakness and fear, and with much trembling. My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power. (1 Corinthians 2:1-5)
The prophet Joel foretold, and Jesus confirmed, the coming of the Holy Spirit.
And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days. I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD” (Joel 2:28-31)
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. (John 16:7)
We must never be deceived into thinking that forms of worship, or rightly articulated doctrine, is equivalent to holiness of life birthed through the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. In other words, participation in a worship service is not necessarily a demonstration of the Holy Spirit’s power, and the recitation of doctrine does not necessarily indicate the Holy Spirit’s presence. Jesus told the Pharisees and the Teachers of the Law that though they studied the law and adhered to every edict it contained, their father was the devil. (John 8:44) Furthermore, Stephen, prior to his stoning and filled with the Holy Spirit, told the Sanhedrin they always resisted the Holy Spirit. (Acts 7:51) To walk humbly before God is to be ever mindful that there might be something of which we may need to repent.
Brett Heintzman is the pastor of Jamestown Free Methodist Church in Jamestown, New York, where he lives with his wife, Barb. Brett is passionate to see churches thrive and encourages pastors and the greater church through teaching, blogging, and proclaiming the message of the Kingdom of God.