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Truth and Reality

I think I’m sensing something of the Lord’s grief for the condition of the church, the unreality of the church. I think no where is it more flagrant than in, ironically, the Holy Spirit, charismatic, Pentecostal dimension. I don’t have all that much contact with fundamental churches, but I think in a certain sense they may well be cleaner than we. They make no profession of the gifts of the Spirit which we purport to have and therefore, they don’t run into the kind of excesses and abuses that we exhibit. That was what the Lord put on my heart.

I have a paper here that was composed and was stimulated by a brother on the subject of anointing in which his principle theme is that anointing is not some fixed phenomenon that God confers on individuals as if it were an office, an ecclesiastical office in the church, but something proportionate to one’s actual authentic relationship with God in moment by moment obedience to the thing which He requires. And in it and with it comes the spirit of revelation and he gives the example of Peter recognizing that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God and upon which He says “upon this rock I will build My church” and the rock was not Peter himself but rather the revelation that had come through the Spirit in a moment given, which is to be the foundation itself, the operation of God’s Spirit in them who are in true union with Him.

And so we’ve moved away from this moment by moment dependency in authentic relationship with God to somehow thinking that anointing is a fixed thing conferred upon certain men of faith and power and that naiveté requires us to turn up the amplifiers to give a sense of anointing, a certain loudness in the church, in our speaking, in our activity which the naive presume to think IS anointing. The message is a call to authenticity, to reality, because God is the God of truth and when we move off and away from that place and come to unreality, the Spirit is not there, and we therefore compensate for it by turning up the dials, which further deepens the unreality and puts the church in a lamentable place and condition.

Cues are used like “revival!”, “praise the Lord!”, and “I feel the presence of God”. These have almost become clichéd expressions and we’re almost expected to jump when we hear them, and we do! But it’s not the prompting, in my opinion, of God’s spirit and the whole thing is becoming increasingly unreal. I call it surrealism, that’s a form of art that’s very exacting in it’s depicting of real things, but the whole thing that is depicted, is unreal. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard the name Salvador Dali, he was the great surrealistic artist, painstaking attention to detail, but the actual thing that he was depicting was mirage, an unreality and we are lapsing into that. Either I’m in poor condition myself, or my condition is of such a kind that I’m picking up and discerning God’s own sense of things and His grief.

I have an extra motivation for being concerned for the reality of the church, namely, that the church is God’s appointed agency in moving Jews to jealousy. And we Jews, even in our darkness have a kind of unfailing radar whereby we can, in a moment, identify and sense whether something is real or feigned. And I think that we would be more relentless in identifying the phoniness of tele-evangelist ministries than the church itself which has supported them right into their deceptions and into their moral failures and past their moral failures, whereas a Jew would have clicked on the TV set and instantly had a reaction against the hype that has become so familiar to us that we don’t even wince any more. We’ve become dull. You cannot be exposed to untruth and come away unscathed. Something is lost, your spirit becomes dull and then the next opportunity for being brought into unreality is the greater until by a series of meetings and exposures and the whole content of that kind of thing, we become deceived. I am concerned that we’re moving toward that.

If we were vigilant for the truth instead of allowing ourselves to be boxed in and cued to perform, we would blow the whistle and say, “Something’s amiss here. I don’t sense God’s presence and I’m not going to allow you to manipulate me to produce something that will give you a high. Lets look and pray and see what it is that somehow has alienated God and find our way back to Him who IS reality”. And of course that would jar people and adversely affect the service and spoil it perhaps, but God calls the church to be the ground and pillar of truth and if we are unwilling for the risk of a spoiled service, the show must go on and it will invariably become a show. And in that show, in that congregation, are people who are hurting. Who’s marriages are threatened. Whose family life is collapsing and whose own sense of integrity is failing, and sense of God. And yet they’re being brought into a certain environment; an atmosphere where they have to wear a kind of chintzy smile and “ain’t we got fun” and “we’re all spiritual” and come out of that and go back again into their grayness and their unhappy situation that is at home in their real life which is not met in the unreality to which they are exposed to in the church. And then they think something is wrong with them, because they are not sufficiently spiritual, or out of the Spirit, when it’s the system itself; the religious thing itself which is at fault and of which they are the victim and the product.

In my opinion, and I’ve been a believer 32 years and traveled broadly, the anointing is my life. If I’m not in the anointing of God, woe unto me and those who are hearing me because I have a kind of prophetic jealousy that any given moment of service is once and for all and shall not be given again. There is a sense in which eternity hangs in the balance and life and death issues are being propounded and can only be propounded in the anointing of God.

We’re not talking about merchandise or making a sale, grave issues are at stake and can only go forth in the power of God. And my sense is that the anointing oil is the measure of God’s approval on the thing that is being spoken and performed. He anoints what He appoints and when we move from that, in the promotion of our own ministry, our own self, our own vanity; the Lord recoils. The Spirit of God is not attesting to that and that’s when we raise the decibels of our sound system to compensate. So I would say that a man has the measure of anointing in proportion to the consistency of his obedience to God which will often bring him into conflict with his own interests, or the promotion of his own ministry, or with those to whom he is ministering. There’s got to be a certain kind of integrity and a ruthlessness, certainly a fearlessness with regard to accommodating men. There are not many who are walking that way with any consistency that the oil of God would be upon them and that there would be a residue because its not that God just doles it out by the spoonful for the moment, because often when we finish our ministry, the anointing yet lingers even sometimes so strongly we can’t fall asleep; the energy remains.

Now in Zechariah 4 there’s remarkable discussion about the two men who stand by the Lord and by the candlestick of God and feed it and it says the anointing is within themselves. Its not some artificial linkage, but that there’s an accumulation of something that has come through obedience, it comes through prayer, it comes through anything in which there is a replication of the cross. A suffering that is born in an obedience to the Lord. A willingness to suffer humiliation, to bring disappointments, to be disappointed even in ourselves. In other words a suffering that need not be our experience if we want to play it safe, to go along, to be promoted within a system. When we risk those things, have no interest in those things, then we serve the purposes of God.

We see examples of the unreality that parades as anointing and is called even revival. We saw a young minister get up and bring a series of clichéd statements even referring to the cross, but there was no explication of the cross; there was no word of the cross or requirement to face the cross in one’s own experience but just to rev up the atmosphere and create a certain thing through verbiage. That’s not going to build a residue of anointing or oil.

A beautiful portion of Scripture is about the five wise virgins and the five foolish. The five wise had an abundance of oil so they didn’t have to go searching for it when the midnight hour came and the Lord called and the door was open for the wedding banquet. But the five foolish, their light was flickering out, they had only oil to carry them to midnight but not through it and they missed out. And it’s interesting that when they finally sought to get in and cried out, the Lord would not open the door to them, instead He said, “I never KNEW you”. It raises the question, what kind of oil did they have even until midnight? Was it some kind of synthetic equivalent of the true, seeing that He didn’t know them? The oil is His conferring of Himself, His Spirit, because the believer and servant is in union with Him according to His purpose and will. Or it might have been that they had a minimal oil that they had obtained with prayer in petitions that had only to do with their own need. The residue that would have been sufficient beyond that, would have been prayers beyond their own needs.

Often testimonies have to do with “me” and “my”. The benefit and blessing God gave ME, does for ME, what He will do for ME; me, me, me! It’s true and I’ve been a recipient as all believers, of the things God gives and does for us. But when our whole Christian viewpoint is fixed at the level of what we will receive in our petitions and prayers, is “Lord do for me” and “give me”, there’s no abundance beyond that. I think that the abundance, the extra oil, comes when we go beyond our own needs and take up the things that have to do with the Lord’s need; His Name, His honor, His glory, His purpose, His will. The virgin’s lack of abundance indicates that their petitions were fixed at the level of self. And I think that’s characteristic, unhappily, of most of the church today. Even all the more painfully, the charismatic and Pentecostal segment of it.

Even when believers pray for revival, what they’re wanting is a shot in the arm, a benefit and a blessing that will accrue to them. Where is the ‘spirit of revival’ when these believers are in contact with the lost and when eternity is hanging in the balance? Where is that vitality and anointing and Spirit so ostensibly displayed in a Christian cultural setting which is a performance? The fact that it is lacking in the world where it should penetrate the unbelieving, is embarrassing. If they had it, they would not have to be encouraged or provoked to speak to the lost, the very Life within them would be pressing them for expression to the lost!

Something is profoundly amiss. The contrast raises some very serious questions about truth, integrity, righteousness, our relationship with the Lord. What we have been exaggerating and building up in a kind of phraseological Christianity in key words that evoke certain responses, is in fact not truth; and God is the God of Truth and the Spirit is the Spirit of Truth before He’s the Spirit of power. And so we need to return to reality, to a God who is truth and in truth or we’re going to find ourselves painfully deceived.

And here’s what I want to say, here’s my burden. The Lord has impressed this upon me: Don’t spare, name names so to speak, identify and share with people the experience through which you have passed with them because if they do not howl at the deviousness of their life and the deceit of it; in the Name of the Lord, what will happen in the day of the Lord’s appearing and before the throne of His judgment when we stand before Him? And in that moment when we stand before Him, we see as we are seen and we recognize the fraudulence of our life too late to remedy any part of it and we are fixed and stuck with that unreality for all eternity. It is an unspeakable shame. It’s an eternal embarrassment without remedy. Every one of us have had experiences where we’ve been flushed with embarrassment, and there’s a red burning and the most uncomfortable feeling when you’re caught in moments like that, but praise God, it passes! But how about if it was fixed for eternity and it never passed? God is giving men an opportunity to see their condition and the untruth of it however well meaning their intentions and thinking they were even doing God’s service in promoting that, and to cry out in acknowledgment of truth and ask for God’s forgiveness.

The Lord put upon my heart the word “caul”, its a Hebraic word about the ‘caul’ of the heart. It’s a membrane that grows over the heart, it’s a viscous, transparent kind of tissue that for every untruth, every lie, every deceit, every cutting of corners, every unfaithfulness, every taking of liberties where we don’t insist upon the truth, something develops over our heart. It’s the ‘caul’ of the heart, it’s a membrane and it becomes thicker and thicker by every untruth until our hearts are rendered dull. The Spirit of God cannot come through that veil that is over our own heart that is the product of our own insincerity and our own deceit.

Psalm 24 says who shall ascend the hill of the Lord? Who shall stand in His holy place? He who has clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood, not given to vanity or deceit. I will tell you that my impression is that an overwhelming number of, quote: “Charismatic, Spirit-filled, Pentecostal believers” cannot ascend that hill. They have given themselves to deceit. The system itself ENCOURAGES it and on the few occasions when I get into churches like that and speak in the integrity of God the things that He gives, I tell you that people stop breathing. They know that a moment of truth has come that requires the most radical of adjustments and the believers, many of them will respond. But the officialdom, whose positions and religious office is caught up with the system and (they) are defensive of it.

What’s the issue of ascending the mount of God? Why is it so critical? God raises the question WHO shall ascend as if to say, how many candidates are there? Who is even desirous of going UP? Most of us like to remain at the plateau of familiarity in things that give us some vibes, kicks, warm feelings and sentimental things. We don’t want to go up, up is defying gravity! You get burrs and sticky things in your legs, you pant for air, its hard. But WHO will go up? Who will ascend the hill of the Lord? Those of clean hands and a pure heart, who has not lifted himself up to falsehood or vanity, and then Psalm 24 ends speaking about the King of Glory is at the gate, as if to say, He’s waiting to come in, but He will not knock the gate down. He has restricted Himself and imposed a condition upon Himself that the gate must be opened by those who ascend the hill of God and have hands clean enough to throw the bolt that allows the King of glory to come in. Our unreality, religiously, is costing us dearly and will eventuate in rivers of blood unless there’s a true church that will ascend the hill and throw open the bolt that opens the gate that allows the King of glory to come in.

The issue of anointing is the issue of truth. The issue of authentic relationship with God, because if we are not authentically related to Him in truth moment by moment, how can we relate to men? And if we’re not authentic with ourselves, with those of the same race, the same religious persuasion, what shall we be expressing to those who are outside of our orbit and to whom we need to bring a greater reality? The challenge is to bring to them a greater reality than what they themselves know and esteem and you cannot fabricate that.

There’s something ironic, I’ve been a believer for 32 years, struggled and struggled with these issues and I was a Jew who was turned off these issues for the first 35 years of my life because I could not stand clichés, empty, vacuous phrases, cheap religious things that seemed even to be an obstruction to the progress of mankind and still are.

There’s something about the nature of that which is holy, that if it’s not jealously guarded, and watched over, becomes the cruelest of deceptions and clichés. It becomes the introversion, the negation of what is holy – it becomes, in a word: “religion”. Jesus came to bring us life, and that more abundantly. Because we, the church, have not jealously guarded the Life, have not lived in the Life, have not been jealous for the Spirit of the Life which can only go forth in truth, the life and the faith has degenerated into mere religion, empty clichés. And we’re looking for revival to bring some kind of jumpstart to a very grave condition that needs a much deeper remedy than some kind of back thumping, back slapping preacher who can string together a number of clichéd phrases with a hype-up ability and call that revival!

Transcribed excerpts from a published video interview with Art Katz in Raleigh, North Carolina, 1997.

Art Katz