I don't put credit into too many dreams or visions that I had as a Pentecostal Christian, because too much emphasis was put on extra-Biblical experiences in that denomination, (please see my pages on Pentecostalism and my testimony page 2), but I am a believer that God will use the supernatural once in awhile in people's lives. Sometimes it is to get them saved and other times to help a Christian in their walk with Him. About a year or so in my church days as a Pentecostal I had one dream that I will tell you about now that I do put stock in because of how it ended and because of how I believe the Holy Spirit has helped me to interpret it over the years. See, at first I didn't give it any fuller message than just a visual of how Jesus saves us from being spiritually dead but now I feel it has another message in it as well that was meant to help me stay alive in Christ. The dream went like this....
One day I was walking outside and came upon a cemetery and began to walk among the tombs towards a large mausoleum. The next thing I knew, without opening any door, I was inside the mausoleum, which was filled with all kinds of ghost-like people. The depth of this mausoleum was bottomless and it was dark inside, like night-time, (even though it had been day out on the grounds) and there were ghost-like people floating one on top of each other going all the way down beyond what the eye could see. I began to be pulled down by the other ghost-people. . . . . . one after another began to pull me down in what seemed to be an effort on their part to rise up to the top by pulling me down underneath them. They may have been trying to get out of there from the top where I had apparently entered in but all I knew was I didn't like them pulling me down and I began to be very distressed and felt hopelessness in getting out of there! But, thank God, all of a sudden Jesus appeared and He was full of light and He took arms and he began to pull me out of there, while the ghost-like people kept trying to pull against His strength and continue to grab my legs and pull me down. The tug-of-war only lasted a half a minute, as Jesus' strength was too much for the ghost-people. Jesus and I rose out the top of that mausoleum back out into the day air and the dream was over!
I cry even as I write this out and the day after I had this dream, which was Sunday, I cried so hard when the preacher said "Jesus is the way, the truth and the life", so much so that the pastor's wife, (who didn't really like me) came over after service and said "you really do love Jesus". I don't think I told her I was crying because of the dream I had had and how grateful it made me that I am one whom Jesus has saved, but I knew in my heart that the dream had made me realize how blessed I am that Jesus saw my plight and came for me!!!
Over the years as I felt the Lord lead me out of the worldliness of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements, I often could see how this dream's visual description of a cemetery yard and mausoleum actually fit the way the parking lot and church building sat on it's lot of land of my Church of God church and I wondered if Jesus was saving me from that particular church by revealing this dream to me. And while I say yes to that, I also now see it is not just that church or denomination, but others as well! You see, after I left my "spirit-filled" or "full Gospel" church and denomination (parenthesis used on the terms those denominations use to differentiate themselves as better than other churches), I began to try and go to Protestant or Baptist churches, because well that is all there is, unless you want to join a cult like Jehovah's Witness or Seventh Day Adventist or Church of Christ or go to a liberal "seeker friendly" church that teaches you how to "gain prosperity in your life through fulfilled goals".
I felt safer in these Protestant or Baptist churches in one way, they didn't allow for all kinds of out-there experiences so I felt I was on the right path, but I must confess, I have struggled to find a place to worship each week, because there is NO supernatural in those churches, none, not even the felt presence of God. You leave there with only the "pat-on-your-back" feeling that you went to church and God must be pleased with you and that it was nice to smile at or talk with a few people who were there. Some church denominations were better than others as far as the people go, some more friendly than others, but overall there was no real encounter with the living Lord in the services. There is just people sitting there for an hour listening and singing when told to do so and then they go home until the next time they show up again to do more of the same. While I liked the emphasis on the Word of God being preached and people learning to live within those boundaries, (rather than the no-boundaries experiences approach of the "spirit-filled" churches), I found that we were all just subject to one man's thoughts and agenda each week. We all sat and listened to the pastor and whether he was a son of a pastor or was mentored by a known "famous" pastor, we were just being fed HIS theology. And as I tried different churches I began to notice the theologies were often times convoluted or manipulated to fit with their denomination's stance on Biblical issues.
And recently I have had the revelation knowledge from God that after I left my my street evangelism work on Sunday mornings, (which I did for a few years after leaving my Pentecostal church), and began to attend different churches, I became prosperity-oriented! I didn't realize until just now that it was coming just from church attendance and over the years I have been wracking my brain trying to figure out how my heart had gotten so wrapped up in material things, and so I have been renouncing all of the work-related and television influences and any other thing that I had been seduced by, only to now see it is fully in the churches, even if they aren't preaching that message from the pulpit! I began to change from being not materialistic to being materialistic and it happened by osmosis, by just the church company I was keeping! By sitting with and amongst parishioners who were successful in life and seeing that they were the norm for churches, I began to change to be like them, to fit in with a church family. You could tell the parishioners were successful people, more-so than me, by the cars they drove, the suits they wore and the neighborhoods they lived in, which were close to the nice church building where we met each week. They were families who had done everything right by American standards, gotten married, had children, gotten nicer and nicer homes as the career(s) paid off and they have attended church weekly and most likely gave 10% tithe each week and possibly even gave to missions too. It all looked good and I was envious, I wanted to be as good as them, as successful as them, live in their neighborhoods, drive a nice car and over-all just have the successful Christian life they have. Snared! Hooked! The devil got me with the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh and the pride of life - AGAIN! This is my sin, yes, but why are the churches representing this picture to people looking to connect with God each week?
This piece is not to disparage these saints who are successful in life because I don't know their hearts, they may really be on-fire for God, but what if they are not and are just walking through the motions set up by a church system, a religious church system that is not that much different than the Catholic church system? You see the Protestant Reformation was supposed to free us from the grip of death the Catholic church and Papal system had on people who were seeking a relationship with God. But it really hasn't moved that far because think about it, at the top of the hierarchy of the Vatican is a Pope and at the top of every Protestant church there is a pastor, (and sometimes worse, like how my former denomination has many more levels of leadership a pastor can be promoted up to) and the sheep just dutifully do whatever this leadership says. I want to point out that I am not trying to be rebellious against any authority the Bible tells us we are to have but the word pastor in the Bible is synonymous with elder or bishop and the words pastor and elder are always used in the plural in the New Testament. (Bishop is sometimes referred to in singular due to Paul telling how a bishop should behave.) So let's look at the one verse where this whole church system is built upon:
Now let's look at verses that have to do with pastoral duties and let's see how many times we see the word pastor:
Acts 20:28 - Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Matthew 23:8 - But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, [even] Christ; and all ye are brethren.
1 Timothy 3:1-2 - This [is] a true saying, If a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;
1 Timothy 5:17 - Let the elders that rule well be counted worthy of double honour, especially they who labour in the word and doctrine.
1 Peter 5:1-5 - The elders which are among you I exhort, who am also an elder, and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that shall be revealed: 2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind; 3 Neither as being lords over God's heritage, but being examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away. 5 Likewise, ye younger, submit yourselves unto the elder. Yea, all of you be subject one to another, and be clothed with humility: for God resisteth the proud, and giveth grace to the humble.
6 If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly. 7 For a bishop must be blameless, as the steward of God; not selfwilled, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre
Jeremiah 12:10 - Many pastors have destroyed my vineyard, they have trodden my portion under foot, they have made my pleasant portion a desolate wilderness.
Jeremiah 22:22 - The wind shall eat up all thy pastors, and thy lovers shall go into captivity: surely then shalt thou be ashamed and confounded for all thy wickedness.
Jeremiah 23: 1-2 - Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the Lord. Therefore thus saith the Lord God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the Lord.
Jeremiah does have one verse that says good things about pastors in chapter 3 verse 15 - And I will give you pastors according to mine heart, which shall feed you with knowledge and understanding.
So, I am not saying pastors are not good but I am questioning the modern church system that has made one man at the top of everyone and we sit and listen to him teach us theology every week. The only elders our current church system has is those that take up the tithes and offerings, they never teach us the Word, and what about the bishops? They've been made into the office of those who preach to pastors or oversee the pastors when they need counsel or correction. Where is that in the Bible? No folks, I am here to tell you that we have a church hierarchical system that is not that much different than the Catholic church and I believe us submitting ourselves to the modern church system is making dead zombies out of us!
As I said earlier, preachers who manipulate the Word of God to fit with their denominations theology is wrong and I believe it is killing the sheep! We need pure water and lots of it to be healthy and all we are getting is drips of polluted water each Sunday because denominations feel they have to have a mandate of what the Bible teaches on each issue. For example, I just heard a preacher from the Moody Bible church in Chicago (on the radio) teach on what salvation is and by the time he got done with his theological semantics I was thoroughly confused! And I am sure his congregation was too but because he has such authority and such a great reputation for being a solid Bible expositor for many years, that I bet many of them sat there and swallowed that message without even questioning it! He said about 5 minutes of back and forth but I will summarize his meaning: that all a person has to do is believe on Jesus Christ but that there are people in the congregation that believe Jesus is Lord but are not saved because they have not done anything about it. He continued, they have to be willing to do something about their belief that Jesus is Lord and if they are willing to believe on Him they will be saved. I was like, what? You are saying people who believe Jesus is Lord are not saved if they are not willing to believe He is Lord? And that if they put that extra effort in being willing to believe it they are? That makes no sense! I understand the difference between head-knowledge and heart-knowledge, but this is not what he preached. He preached the only difference between those that are saved and unsaved was a willingness to believe. Now, if I was that preacher I would've explained that the word believe meant a lot more in Biblical times than it does in our modern culture because people were looking for a Messiah back then and so they knew that to believe on Jesus Christ meant they believed He was the long awaited Messiah. Now in our modern culture we are just told to believe Jesus died for our sins and we are saved from hell, but the original meaning of the word believe had a lot of earnest seeking to it, seeking of the promised Messiah who could and would save mankind from this fallen evil world. Then I would've gone on to say that belief in Jesus Christ as the Savior God sent also has with it the willingness to live in His Kingdom. (See I do believe there is a willingness to salvation but it doesn't just lie in being willing to believe) and I would've taught that salvation is in Christ, not in ourselves, it's not us roaming around the planet wherever we wish to go and someday we will connect with Jesus again in the sky during the rapture because the "one-time prayer for salvation" sealed us for heaven. No, I believe the Bible is correct when it teaches that salvation is in Christ and that we are to be discipled on what it is to live according to Kingdom principles. Jesus Christ is the one who is eternally alive and He was the one who made resurrection possible so if we don't live our lives in Christ we are not eligible for 1) eternal life and 2) for resurrection to heaven.
So you see the willingness to live in/with Christ after you are told about Him is obedience to God and it is the salvation key!!! A person who just believes that Jesus died for them and that they need a Savior to get into heaven, is pointed in the right direction but they will not be able to grasp what the Christian life is after saying "the prayer" if they are not taught about being obedient to Christ's teachings over the world's ways. Now for those who might be thinking I am teaching "Lordship Theology" as people like to slam on this type of teaching (which is anything past "just believe and you are saved"), I am not, because unlike those who teach Lordship Theology, I am not saying a person has to be totally submitted under Jesus' Lordship right off the bat. No, that is what our whole life is about, learning to submit more and more as we are discipled. But what I am saying is a person has to realize that there are two kingdoms going on in the world and they have to opt to leave their citizenship with this one run by Satan and be willing to follow Jesus into the Kingdom of God and that is done by willingness to obey His teachings. This willingness to leave one's past sinful ways and to decide to learn and do (to the best of one's ability) Christ's way is what the born-again moment is about. Anything other is to not understand what salvation is; it is not being saved from hell, (though that is the end result), it is about being saved from one's sins and that means following Christ to be sanctified away more and more from our sinful nature. Without that willingness to follow Christ, the poor person who said "the prayer" can never really enter into a saved place and worse, they can believe they are saved when they are not! The Book of Isaiah teaches the government will be upon His (Jesus') shoulders (Isaiah 9:6) which means Jesus has authority and a way of life for the people who live in His kingdom. And that kingdom is now, not off in the future because Jesus walked around telling the Jews to repent the Kingdom of God was at hand. And that was 2000+ years ago so you know it is at hand today!!!
But back to this Moody sermon I heard, you see this pastor was unable to go into all of this because his denomination does not believe works has anything to do with salvation and they believe obedience is a work! I do not hold to that, obedience is not a work, it is merely staying in Christ! Jesus Christ told people to follow Him and that is what we are to do! The difference between saved and unsaved people is the willingness of the saved to leave life as we know it in the flesh and learn to live according to the Kingdom of God that Jesus taught about. But Moody Bible and so many of the Protestant type churches that have developed out of the Protestant Reformation have adopted the far opposite stance of the Catholic churches "works-based salvation" to it being "by faith alone" that they have made it a sin to even be willing to obey Christ! Heaven forbid a Protestant preacher teach that a person's heart has to be turned to obedience to Christ's teachings to be saved! They just won't do it, they say it is faith alone. But let's look at that all famous Reformation verse - Romans 1:17 - For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
Every Protestant has put the emphasis on that one word 'faith' as if it negates everything else God has taught in His Word. Even Martin Luther did not mean it to be only by faith the way modern expositors and theologians do. But neither am I saying it is by faith and works like the Catholic church teaches. No, I am saying maybe we should take the emphasis off of this verse being the whole Gospel and unchain the Gospel so it can fully be what God intends it to be. And maybe if we took the emphasis off of the word 'faith' in that verse and put it on the word 'live' we would get the understanding that it is a life of faith that God is interested in, not a one-time prayer to be saved from hell. And then maybe we wouldn't have churches full of people who dutifully show up to listen to preachers that may or may not be correct in their theology, only to go home and live our normal lives out with our material things around us, while the whole world sees nothing special about Christians, nothing different from the world, and no reason to want Christ.
If you want to get born again in Christ Jesus, please take this time now to talk to God. You can say something like this: God I know I am a sinner and I need a Savior and I believe Jesus Christ is the promised Messiah. I believe Jesus Christ was born of a virgin mother, conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that He lived a sinless life because He was God in the flesh, and that He was crucified as the once for all sacrifice for mankind's sins. I believe he was buried and rose from the grave and was witnessed alive before ascending to heaven where He now sits on the throne as King of Kings. I repent of my sins and accept Jesus' gift of salvation today and I ask Him to be my Savior and Lord. I ask the Holy Spirit to come and make a dwelling in my heart and to lead me into all righteousness. Thank you God for hearing my prayer and for sending your Son to save me by dying in my place at the Cross so I can be in the family of God. And Father, I understand that while I am saved by my confession of faith, it is also Your will for me to get water baptized to show my private confession in a public way, and so I ask you to lead me to the church or baptismal situation you have for me so I can get baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen!