Be appalled, O heavens, at this, be shocked, be utterly desolate, says the LORD, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns, that can hold no water. (Jeremiah 2:12-13 RSVA)
One time I tried to engage a pastor in a heart to heart conversation. I said to him, “God has been giving me this revelation lately…” Upon hearing this, he interrupted me and said, “God no longer gives revelation! All revelation ceased with the closing of the canon of the Bible.” I didn’t ask him which of the eight plus canons he was referring to and on which date it was closed. Well, needless to say, that was the end of my attempt to speak from my heart with this man. After all, he had the degree hanging on his office wall to show he was right!
Austin Sparks wrote:
After the Cross, all the fullness of the Divine power was released upon the world through those who had been brought into absolute oneness with the Lord by that Cross… First, let us remember that this knowledge of God is by revelation. We can never get this knowledge of God merely by reading, by listening, by attending meetings…. You may understand it all by mental apprehension, know the terms and the verses, and use them – but what about the dynamic of this thing? What does our personal presence in a situation mean?… It is a most important question. Is this thing alive, or have we merely got a little more mental apprehension of it through conferences [and book learning]? Do we know God in this thing by reason of a personal inward revelation on the subject?
Secondly, it comes by the way of pain. You get a thing revealed to you as truth, perhaps something about the Cross of Christ, or victory over Satan, and you think you know it, and you say, “This is beautiful!” And you begin to talk about it, and it is not very long before something happens –- your circumstances are touched. Now you go down with this truth, down into the vortex of awful agony, right down to the gates of hell, your being is upheaved right from the very bottom, and all the time there is the question – “Will that truth hold good?” Is it going to work? And when you have got down as far as you can go, the flesh elements and the self elements have been dealt with, and you grimly hold on to the Lord in this matter of victory – then it comes out, you have tested it right to the very bottom of your being – that thing has become you, and then you can go to others in their grim conflict and their darkness, and say, “I know – I know this thing, and I know God is faithful, I know the victory.” You have got a mighty emphasis on your knowledge, it is a thing about which you have no doubt, because you have gone down into the depths with it, and proved it down there, and by the very pain the thing has been proved.
Gaining knowledge about something can be fun and stimulating. The thought of having a degree that says you are accomplished and have expertise in a subject and the monetary rewards that go with it keep a multi-billion industry called “education” going in western culture. But is this the education of the saints of God that is important to Him? When Jesus chose His disciples, He did not go to Jerusalem and seek graduates from the best rabbinical schools. Instead He chose His disciples from the unlearned of that nation.
Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ordinary men, they marveled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus. (Acts 4:13 KJ2000)
What a pregnant verse this is! These men were not educated by other men, but they had spent time with Jesus. Just how much of what we write and speak to others is from hearts that have spent time with Jesus? With the advent of desktop publishing, websites and blogs, knowledge has been on the increase, but we can be “ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the Truth.” The knowledge of the Truth only comes through an intimate relationship with the Truth, Jesus Christ. A man or woman can go off to Bible college or seminary and pass all the exams, parrot back what they were taught in the classes, receive a degree and be turned loose to rule over church congregations around the world and never have spent one minute being taught by the Spirit of Christ! In fact, they can take advanced training on how to “grow churches” and look like a total success by the numbers that they gather around them and not even have a relationship with the Father.
Is this the “rock” that Jesus was talking about building His church upon? No! It was the fact that Peter could hear the Father and give witness from his heart to what He heard without having received it from flesh and blood: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”(See Matt. 16:16-17). The called-out ones of God (Greek – ekklesia – mistranslated “church”) are enlivened by the Spirit of God Who leads them into all truth or they are none of His (See John 3:3-7, John 16:13 and Romans 8:9).
I believe that these educational institutions that the church system relies upon for its leaders is what Jesus was warning about:
Truly, truly, I say to you, he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber; but he who enters by the door is the shepherd of the sheep… This figure Jesus used with them, but they did not understand what he was saying to them. So Jesus again said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. (John 10:1-7 RSVA – emphasis added)
Thieves! Robbers! Hirelings! The church systems are overrun with them and the people are clueless and unable to discern the voice of the Good Shepherd. Why? Because the whole system is based on scholarship instead of personal life-changing revelation from God. Are there pastors and church leaders that are born of the Spirit? Absolutely, but more and more we see men behind the pulpits that are more concerned with their wages (hirelings) and gaining a following than they are with pointing the people under them to the one Good Shepherd as their All in all. Knowledge puffs up, but the love of God edifies and that love comes from being in a close relationship with Jesus Christ.
Revelation from God has a price attached to it, a very personal price that will cost you everything and not very many want to pay it. As Sparks put it, “And when you have got down as far as you can go, the flesh elements and the self elements have been dealt with, and you grimly hold on to the Lord in this matter of victory – then it comes out, you have tested it right to the very bottom of your being – that thing has become you, and then you can go to others in their grim conflict and their darkness, and say, ‘I know – I know this thing, and I know God is faithful, I know the victory.’”
Dear Father, don’t let us settle for broken cisterns that can hold no water and forsake the Fountain of Living Water. Amen.