We need more troublemakers in the church! I pray that every member of the body of Christ would become a troublemaker! We need an army of troublemakers who have become so full of the Holy Ghost they will stir up and trouble New York City and every other city around the world; trouble their wicked institutions — challenge the established dead churches — trouble the leaders, the mayors, the city councils, the community leadership! In other words, we need Holy Ghost troublemakers moving in the Spirit, proclaiming the kingship of Christ so effectively that whole cities are stirred!
Paul and Silas were two the world's biggest troublemakers! The Bible speaks of "men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 15:26, NAS). Paul, Barnabas, Silas, and Timothy were such men, walking in the power of the Spirit. As seen in Acts 16, when the Holy Ghost forbid them to speak the Word in Asia, they obeyed. When they tried to go to Bithynia, but the Spirit would not permit them, they went instead to Troas, under the Spirit's direction. Paul then had a vision of a man calling them to Macedonia, so they set out immediately to Philippi, the chief city of Macedonia. When they arrived, a fortune teller followed them about, crying, "...These men are the servants of the most high God, which shew unto us the way of salvation" (Acts 16:17). After enduring it for many days, Paul turned and "...said to the spirit, I command thee in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her. And he came out the same hour" (Acts 16:18). Suddenly the whole city was in an uproar: this fortune teller was apparently a big tourist attraction, but now she was healed and praising the Lord!
Paul had upset the status quo. He had challenged the devil who had been having his way for years. The slave-owners of the delivered woman then dragged Paul and Silas into the marketplace to stand trial before the city magistrates. The charge was, "...These men...do exceedingly trouble our city" (Acts 16:20). "And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison...and made their feet fast in the stocks" (Acts 16:22-24). It looked as though Satan had won. The new converts must have been stunned!
But all the power of God is with Holy Ghost troublemakers! "And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God...and suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one's bands were loosed" (Acts 16:25-26). The jailer, seeing what had happened, even fell down before Paul and Silas, saying "...Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" (Acts 16:30). Those city officials and religious leaders went to bed thinking, "We did it to them! That's the last we will hear of those vagabond troublemakers. We really shut them up and scared them!" But what a commotion the next day! I can imagine sergeants knocking on the doors of the mayor, city council members, and the religious leaders, telling them, "Quick! Get down to city hall — we've got a big problem!" In a state of shock, the officials probably responded, "What? An earthquake? The prison doors opened? Their chains all fell off? They didn't even try to escape? The jailer joined their faith? They're Romans?!?" Now, they were really afraid. It was a crime to beat Roman citizens (Paul and Silas were both Romans). "What do you mean they won't budge from our jail? They demand what? For us to come down and apologize and escort them out of jail?" "And they came...and brought them out...begging them to leave the city" (Acts 16:39 NASB).
I love it! Here they were, not flaunting their spiritual authority, but merely acting as ambassadors of King Jesus. As they had witnessed Christ's power being mocked, Paul and Silas now wanted that little riverside prayer group to see how God manifests His power to those who stand up against the forces of hell. They went directly to the house of Lydia — and what a meeting that must have been! I would think Paul told that house group, "See! The devil can rage, the powers that be may threaten — but God has all the power! God will stand by you if you take a stand!"
I preach a great deal on prayer and I believe in the effectual, fervent prayer of the righteous. But praying alone, praying by two's and three's, or even in a large prayer meeting will not alone shake a city! Elijah was a man of powerful prayer, but it was more than his prayers that shook Ahab's kingdom and enraged Jezebel: He called the false prophets to Mount Carmel and challenged them. Jezebel had slain God's prophets and led Israel into apostasy and the horrible idolatry of Baal worship — and no one had challenged her! Seven thousand believers had not bowed, but they were silent, unknown, and afraid. So along comes Elijah, the troublemaker! Ahab called him "the troubler of Israel!" (1 Kings 18:17). Elijah ended up at the Brook Kishon with a sword in his hand, slaying hundreds of Baal's false prophets "in the name of Jehovah."
Elijah was not a polite gentlemen with the devil and his crowd. While "...they leaped upon the altar...Elijah mocked them [derided them]" (1 Kings 18:26-27). The church of late has cowered before the powers of darkness due to the lack of holiness, for the Scripture tells us, "...the righteous are bold as a lion" (Proverbs 28:1). Some will say, "But Jesus was meek — He never opened His mouth or resisted when they took Him to be crucified!" But that was because the hour of darkness had come, the hour He was to be given into the hands of the enemy. He was not silent in the temple when driving out the money-changers. He was not silent when calling religious leaders serpents — blind guides — whited sepulchers — a brood of vipers (see Matthew 23). He even told some boldly that Satan was their father!
Many churches today are full of silent, gentlemanly diplomats, not wanting to make waves! Nobody wants trouble! So the devil's kingdom goes unchallenged. We have more than enough smiling, mousy Christians! I heard the raging of a man who said to me, "Let's you and me make a bet — any amount of money! You people in the church can't stop anything! You'll get a little publicity, but nothing ever changes. You can't shut anything down! You're powerless in this league!" He was speaking of abortion and I could detect the mocking of Satan in his voice. It was a dare! It was as if to say to all Christians, "You're all spiritual wimps. You won't last — you'll give up when the opposition comes. You'll just run back inside your safe walls and hide!"
Let me show you how and where the apostolic men of God challenged the powers of darkness — the areas where we too must act.
Paul and Silas Challenged a Dead, Corrupt Religious System!
"...they came to Thessalonica, where was a synagogue of the Jews: And Paul, as his manner was, went in unto them, and...reasoned with them out of the scriptures, opening and alleging, that Christ must needs have suffered, and risen again from the dead; and that this Jesus, whom I preach unto you, is Christ" (Acts 17:1-3). The synagogue at Thessalonica had probably conducted quiet meetings for years, undisturbed. They diligently taught Scripture and in outward appearance they seemed very holy.
Then Paul, the troublemaker, came on the scene and in just three weeks of preaching the kingship of Jesus, he turned that whole area of Thessalonica upside down! He knew from experience that only a few devout ones would listen to Christ's demanding word, that the majority would not give up their hard-shelled religious traditions. He also knew they would be filled with envy and hate towards anything that disturbed their way of doing things. Paul declared that the preaching of his gospel caused contention: "...we were bold in our God to speak unto you the gospel of God with much contention" (1 Thessalonians 2:2). The New American Standard says "with much opposition."
What caused the contention, the violent opposition? Paul and Silas were not loud or provocative — they were not robbing churches? Later, in a letter to those in Thessalonica who went on with the Lord, Paul wrote, "For our exhortation was not of deceit, nor of uncleanness, nor in guile...not as pleasing men, but God, which trieth our hearts. For neither at any time used we flattering words, as ye know, nor a cloak of covetousness; God is witness.... But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children...we were willing to have imparted unto you, not the gospel of God only, but also our own souls, because ye were dear unto us" (1 Thessalonians 2:3-8). These religious people who had for years acted so demure and God-loving are now enraged. They became an angry mob, assaulting the house of Jason and troubling the people and rulers of the city. (See Acts 17.) The cause of all this contention was this one uncompromising word: "There is another king...Jesus" (Acts 17:7).
Paul's preaching on the lordship of Jesus was not like what we hear on that subject today! It was not a cheerleader's slogan or emotional hype. I believe Paul stood for hours before those religious Jews, laying down the whole cost of following Jesus as King. He preached the laying down of all idols and giving up the pleasures of sin. He preached self-denial and suffering for Christ's glory, even to martyrdom. His message of Christ's kingship included a warning to no longer follow men or teachers or their doctrines, nor be led about by men who make merchandise of others; but rather, to adopt a life of holiness and separation from all appearance of evil, having no fellowship with evil men.
I know of Christians who are absolutely in love with their pastor and church, even where it is known for certain there is pride, domination of spirits, manipulation, and flesh. But they say, "We hear the right message. We hear about holiness, about the lordship of Jesus! Sin is not condoned in our church! If that is so, why do those same ministers and congregations become so enraged and hostile to those others who begin to preach and live out the true cost of making Christ king in their lives? Why is there such opposition to believers who faithfully practice the Lord's uncompromising commandments?
"These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also" (Acts 17:6). Whose world is upside down? It is that religious circle where nobody takes the kingship of Christ seriously. A minister's wife here in New York City told me, "Times Square Church has upset just about every charismatic church in the city! You know that, don't you?" I did not know that. I don't know if in fact it is true. But if it is, and if it is because of arrogance in this pulpit or from people going out bragging that this is the only church preaching real holiness, then we would be in great error! But on the other hand, if ministers and congregations are getting "turned upside down" because we preach the uncompromising kingship of Christ — if people are leaving some of those churches because their sin was not exposed and challenged — if people go from here, becoming more like Jesus, walking in His purity — then we are Holy Ghost troublemakers of the right kind!
I can assure you from the Word of God that nothing shakes up or angers dead, compromising churches and preachers more than someone moving in the fullness of Christ who lives and preaches Paul's demanding gospel of holiness. It's a reproof! In every church you will find those few "devout Christians," as Paul called them. But the day you say with Paul — "The things of this world are as dung. I have turned from idols to serve my King. I will no longer serve two masters. I have seen a great light and have come out from among the wicked, the unbelieving, the apostate, the workers of iniquity" — that is the day you are marked as a troublemaker! Are you also to "go in unto them" as Paul did and share the light you have received, to pull others out of deception? Absolutely, yes! By phone, by visits, by tapes, in every way go in unto them, willing to even lay your life down for them.
"The brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night..." (Acts 17:10). Once again it looked like Satan won the battle with the two of them having to sneak out of town in the dark of night. Just imagine the proud boastings of the people on the next Sabbath: "Some revival that was! We were here before they came and we're here when they're gone. People just don't want that kind of preaching around here! Let us go on with God with no more interruptions from these holiness troublemakers!" But Paul and Silas had so turned the converts eyes off themselves and onto Jesus that they could leave town and the body still flourish there. Under persecution the church in Thessalonica became so strong in faith that they became a powerful witness to all of Asia — and the joy of Paul's heart!
Paul Stirred Things Up in the Market Place.
Paul stirred things up right on the job by preaching Jesus the King with resurrection power: "...in the market daily with them that met with him...he preached unto them Jesus, and the resurrection" (Acts 17:17-18). If there is any one place Christians hide their light more than any other place it is on the job, in their workplace. There are multitudes of Christians in this country who sit in God's house proclaiming their intense love for Jesus, yet when they go to their jobs, they're timid and ashamed of Christ! Like Peter, they say by their silence, "I don't know the man!" They fear losing their jobs as well as being ridiculed or rejected.
Why is there such cowardly silence about Jesus on the job by Christians who pray, devour the Word, and walk in holiness? It is because, unlike Paul, our hearts are not stirred, as we see all around us a people given to idolatry. (See Acts 7:16.) We dare not say, "But Paul was a preacher. He was called to this work!" We are all ambassadors of Jesus Christ and are all commanded never to hide our light under a bushel.
These Athenians were exactly like the people you work with nowadays, spending "their time in nothing else, but either to tell, or to hear some new thing...in all things...too superstitious" (Acts 17:21-22). Many Christians were led to believe that the President was a born again believer in Christ, while all along it appears he and his wife were following stars! It is now apparent that those who live in the White House are superstitious and have been guided by spiritualistic channelers! I believe God is angry about it because we lied to the whole world by proclaiming "In God we trust." God's anger is expressed in Isaiah: "Thy nakedness shall be uncovered, yea, thy shame shall be seen: I will take vengeance...for the multitude of thy sorceries, and for the great abundance of thine enchantments. For thou hast trusted in thy wickedness: thou hast said, None seeth me. Thy wisdom and thy knowledge, it hath perverted thee...Therefore shall evil come upon thee; thou shalt not know from whence it riseth.... Stand now with thine enchantments, and with the multitude of thy sorceries.... Let now the astrologers, the stargazers, the monthly prognosticators, stand up, and save thee from these things that shall come upon thee" (Isaiah 47:3, 9-13). "Though thou set thy nest among the stars, thence will I bring thee down..." (Obadiah verse 4). According to these Scriptures, such leaders will be put to shame!
So it is throughout this nation: the majority of those around you on the job are given over to idolatry, gossip, and superstitions of all kinds. On Wall Street the newest thing is "crystal power"! Intelligent, rich power brokers put thousands of dollars into a hunk of crystal or jade and place it in their office to receive "radiant rays" and "vibes" to imbue them with secret knowledge. Others are into yoga, meditation, the occult, and many now won't do anything until they consult their guru or stargazer!
Athens was a city wholly given over to idolatry. Their sin and wickedness had to be even more overpowering than what we have here in New York City because there was no gospel light, no church there. The population was under the sway of two powerful doctrines of delusion: the Epicureans and the Stoics — twin doctrines of devils! The Epicureans did not believe in life after death. They believed that death is the end of all things and that happiness is achieved by a meditative detachment, and joy is to be found only in friendship. The end result was sensuality, gluttony, and exotic pleasures. The Stoics, on the other hand, had a religion of human reasoning, of closeness to nature. They reasoned that to serve one's fellowman through love would cause one pain and sufferings; therefore they urged each one to find his salvation in nature, by aligning the will with universal wisdom." It was so hopeless that it often led to suicide. [Today we call it "new age" as Satan seeks to become the universal mind.] The Athenians ultimately degenerated into blood-thirsty sadists, finding pleasure in the gladiators' slaughterings.
In its time, Athens was one of the most modern, advanced, and intellectual cities in the world. It was palatial, busy, powerful, and godless! I can imagine Paul, a tentmaker, as he waited for Silas and Timothy to arrive from Berea, going to the marketplace to look over the latest needles and thread, comparing canvases. Paul had visited many cities and had seen it all: the drunkenness of Corinth, the homosexual spirit that ruled Rome, the spiritual darkness of Jerusalem. But he never let his heart get hard; he could still be moved by it all. As he walked through the Athens marketplace weeping, "his spirit was stirred in him..." (Acts 17:16). Paul had no strategy, no plan of evangelism, no scheme or tactic. He had only a broken heart full of the burden of Christ. He said to himself, "They're all going to hell. They're all lost, all blind. Someone has to do something!"
For those of you who live in New York City or who have visited, have you never stood in Times Square at midday and looked at the multitudes, at masses of business people going helter-skelter, or at night seen the wandering dregs of humanity? Have you not wept, "Lord, they are lost! This city is going to hell — the devil is having his way and no one seems to be challenging this mess!" Or have you become so used to the darkness, so burned out with all the beggars, the poverty, the crime, and the filth that you are no longer stirred? I know how it feels to be bombarded on all sides with beggars, knowing that handouts are going to drugs and alcohol. You can't keep up with it all; but there is the danger of allowing callouses to form over your heart, so that on the job you're no longer stirred by the sin and hurt all around you.
Paul Focused on the Resurrection Power of the Gospel.
Paul was not put off by the immensity of the problem. He wasn't overwhelmed by Satan's hold on the city because he knew he had a secret weapon against it: the gospel of resurrection power! Paul took his eyes off what the devil had done and focused on what Jesus could do in the resurrection might! It did not matter that they called him a "babbler," meaning a sponger, a loafer, a preacher of nonsense. Have you ever been called "a troublemaker babbler"? Has anyone ever said to you, "Stop infringing on my rights. Stop pushing your religion on me. Stop trying to make me believe like you do!" None of that kind of mockery could stop Paul because his heart was bleeding. Let them say what they will or call him any name they please — he knew if he didn't take his stand for Christ they would die in sin without a witness.
It is not enough to just live right or to "set a good example." For too long we have hidden behind the old cliche, "Actions speak louder than words." We claim to be silent witnesses living His life. The testimony must include the spoken Word: "Thy watchman shall lift up the voice..." (Isaiah 52:8). "...How shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:14).
There Is a "Philip" Ministry for Every Believer Who Walks in Christ's Holiness.
"Philip went down to the city of Samaria, and preached Christ unto them. And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed. And there was great joy in that city" (Acts 8:5-8). Philip was a layman, full of the Holy Ghost. He was not a pulpit man, but a lay person who simply believed in Christ's power of resurrection life. So he went everywhere expecting miracles. He was a man of the marketplace. We will never impact this city or any other until every member of the body becomes a Christ-consumed Philip, a lay evangelist with faith to cast out evil spirits and with faith to pray for the salvation and healing of fellow workers. We can and shall stir up this wicked city!
If We Do Not Obey the Lord's Command to Preach the Gospel We Will Become Self-Centered and Obsessed With Our Own Problems.
The Plymouth Brethren started in Plymouth, England many years ago. They were a godly group who took the gospel to the streets. What a burden for souls they had! A great revival broke out and Christ was revealed to them as a glorified man in heaven. But they became so consumed in studying Christ, so focused on their form of worship, they lost their burden for dying souls. They split up into two groups, the open and closed brethren. The closed brethren ended up permitting no one to partake of fellowship with them except by invitation. Today all that is left of the original movement are the great writings of men like Darby, Stoney, Mackintosh, and Raven, all of which are wonderful teachings on Christ and holiness. But spiritual elitism had crept in, with no burning passion for the lost. We need the deep, pure Word and the burning passion for the lost.
You can hear so much preaching and teachings that you become "dull of hearing" (Hebrews 5:11). I receive reams of prophecies, long involved "spirit" writings, from Christians who claim to be spending days and weeks and even months in prayer. It is a barrage of "thus saith the Lord," much of it with no meaning at all! One husband asked me to set his wife straight. She had been telling people how she supposedly died and went to heaven, danced with Jesus, and went skydiving with Him! She claimed her revelation came to her after praying for hours.
Why are these dear ones not out among the people, preaching a resurrected Jesus? Why are they spending all their time reproving others, with no brokenness for the lost? The best cure for "flakiness" is getting out among sinners, preaching, healing, and casting out devils. We pray, "Holy Ghost, come!" But for what? To simply bless us and meet our needs? Or to equip us and reveal to us the broken heart of our Lord? The last words of Jesus before leaving this earth were, "Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature" (Mark 16:15).
We have been praying that God will close down the transvestite bar next door to Times Square Church. The proprietor said to us, "You people are in real trouble. You don't know who you're dealing with?" No! He doesn't know with whom he is dealing! Jesus said, "All power is given unto me..." (Matthew 28:18). Therefore, "we may boldly say, The Lord is my helper, and I will not fear what man shall do unto me" (Hebrews 13:6). Paul prayed that "ye may know...what is the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe, according to the working of His mighty power, which He wrought in Christ...far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: and hath put all things under His feet..." (Ephesians 1:18-22).
"My brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might" (Ephesians 6:10). Satan has made some of you afraid: afraid of falling, afraid of a besetting sin or a hounding habit, and afraid of men. But the Word says, "...Resist the devil, and he will flee from you" (James 4:7). You are not the one who runs! "And with great power gave the apostles witness of the resurrection of the Lord Jesus..." (Acts 4:33). "Though an host should encamp against me, my heart shall not fear: though war should rise against me, in this will I be confident.... For in the time of trouble he shall hide me in His pavilion...he shall set me up upon a rock" (Psalm 27:3,5).