It was a hot summer evening in 1972, the year I was “born of the Spirit”. I was young, I was catholic (sort of), and I was hungry for more of Jesus.
I discovered a small group of catholics in a little chapel-like building, must have been a hundred years old, beside the large catholic church near downtown Kelowna. I was amazed to see fellow catholics enthusiastically praising Jesus with uplifted hands.
One of the songs included the words, “I have decided to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back.” It was a meaningful prayer of loyalty to our Lord, and we all sang with much heart. It was beautiful. Until….
Until we came to the words, “Though none go with me, still I will follow, no turning back, no turning back.” That’s when the Holy Spirit deposited an explicit message into me that was quite disturbing. This message wasn’t in words, but rather an impression, a foretelling of a future happening, the gist of it something like this:
There would be a day when I would have opportunity to prove the words I was singing (“Though none go with me, still I will follow”).
In other words there would be a time when everybody in my entire circle of christian acquaintances would cease following Jesus! Would I still follow Jesus “though none go with me”?
The reason this message was so scary is because I did ‘hear’ it and because what I heard seemed impossible and grim. There is no way every christian I was associated with was going to stop following Christ. Impossible.
A year or so later the Holy Spirit arrived at my own parish, St. Theresa’s Church. Same fervor, same joy, same expressions of praise unto Jesus. Years later, after me and my family escaped catholicism, we entered evangelicalism. Same fervor, same joy, same expressions of praise unto Jesus. My wife and I attended Full Gospel Businessmen’s Fellowship banquets once a month for two or three years. Same fervor, same joy, same expressions of praise unto Jesus.
Indeed the Holy Spirit was moving in phenomenal ways throughout our city, doing the same great work here as He was doing throughout North America and beyond. The seventies and eighties were an amazing time of a Holy Spirit visitation rarely matched in church history.
In time my focus shifted from Jesus to influential christians, from Jesus to people a lot more knowledgeable that me, from Jesus to the swelling ranks of spiritual globetrotters.
There is a saying, “Like priest, like people.” We will eventually become like our leaders. We will talk like them, talk about them, pray like them, follow them.
To follow another we must stop following the One we are following. And so I did. Though forewarned way back in ’72, I had stopped following Jesus. As you can see, I am not the hero type. When I realized my horrible disloyalty to Lord Jesus I repented and headed back toward my 1972 fervency, a journey of about two years or so.
The veil keeping me from seeing my spiritual poverty also prevented me from seeing that of others. When the veil was lifted I could not only see myself, but I could see into those around me. It wasn’t pretty. I felt they were more messed up than I was.
Catholicism had swallowed up the wondrous Holy Spirit happening within its ranks, not only in Kelowna but most (all?) places in Canada and beyond. The evangelical church I attended was going through an ugly split. My next church bordered on man-worship. There was serious infighting within the Businessmen’s Fellowship. The ‘Word of Faith movement’ (whose insignia could rightfully be a dollar sign) infiltrated the FGBIF, turning businessmen from pleasant to greedy. In my rather wide circle of christianity there was theft, accusations, misunderstandings, adultery, you name it. Spiritual compromisers and negotiators and controllers had taken charge. (God bless them all.)
The Lord gave me insights based on Matthew 12:34, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” To know the heart of a man listen to his words. To know the heart of a group (church, family, etcetera) listen to their words. And so I listened….
Jesus was rarely mentioned, although just a few years previous His Name poured out of His people like a fountain. Surprisingly, even pulpit people avoided The Name. One might wonder how a christian can dodge Jesus in his forty-five minute sermon; simply said, what’s not in can’t come out. Their preaching exposed their Jesus-impoverished hearts. (God bless them all.)
“Like priest, like people.” Betrayal of Christ spread rapidly from pulpits to pews, from writers to readers. I am satisfied my prophecy of that summer of 1972 was fulfilled. It seems there was actually a time in my christianity whereby not one born-again followed Christ. Not one. Some were following catholicism, some evangelicalism, others a spiritual celebrity, and some chose the lordship of self. But not one was following Lord Jesus.
Most certainly those who did not follow Christ assumed they did, and would be insulted by an otherwise suggestion. Yet their speech gave them away. (“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”) And so did their actions.
Now I must be quick to say everyone (at least most) were still ‘christian’, their names to be found in the Book of Life. They still had a love (though a diminished love) for Jesus Christ. They had good hearts.
To follow Christ means to follow Christ. It entails sincerely, even fiercely, seeking His will. It requires a continual awareness that He is here, a continued consciousness of His doting love. Following Christ necessitates a complete surrender to His lordship and the governance of His most Holy Spirit.
Today the spiritual landscape, from my perspective, is still bleak, but less so. I know a few who follow Jesus, “no turning back, no turning back”.
I have shared this story for your benefit. You may think it a bit unrealistic – that multitudes within evangelicalism (etcetera) are following someone other than Lord Jesus – but it isn’t. Most (all?) evangelical church leaders who have read my 95 Theses as published in our local newspapers are still being called Pastor Whoever, continue to collect ‘tithes and offerings’, wouldn’t consider shedding their titles, would never share the pulpit, and continue to bow to denominational lords. And pew people, with few exceptions, continue to bow to, and financially support, the way it is.
Some have recaptured their passion and loyalty to our Lord Jesus Christ. Personal revival is a decision away. The difference between the apostle Peter and the apostle Judas is one repented and the other did not. The difference between the overcomer and the overcome is the one repented and the other did not.