In the history of Azuza Street (1906) and the Pentecostal Movement it is said that the manifestations of the Spirit and the experience of the Baptism in the Holy Spirit soon took the place of Christ. The experience they had and were receiving placed the focus on the Holy Spirit and took the central focus off of Christ and Him crucified.
There was, according to Frank Bartleman who is called, by some, the father of the Pentecostal Movement a great danger of losing sight of the fact that Jesus was “all, and in all.” After all, the Holy Spirit was given to “show the things of Christ” and not to draw attention to Himself. He believed that the work of Calvary, the atonement, must be the centre of our consideration. The Holy Spirit never draws our attention from Christ to Himself, but rather reveals Christ in a fuller way. I believe we are facing the same danger today.
Frank Bartleman wrote, “We may not even hold a doctrine, or seek an experience, except in Christ. Many are willing to seek power from every battery they can lay their hands on in order to perform miracles, draw attention and adoration of the people to themselves, thus robbing Christ of His glory and making a fair showing in the flesh. The greatest religious need of our day would seem to be that of true followers of the meek and lowly Jesus. Religious enthusiasm easily goes to seed. The human spirit so predominates the show-off, religious spirit. But we must stick to our text – Christ, He alone can save!”
The attention of the people must be first of all, and always, held to Him. A true “Pentecost” will produce a mighty conviction of sin, a turning to God. Acts 2 and the Day of Pentecost saw Jesus preached and 3,000 saved the first time an apostle preached after receiving the power. False manifestations produce only excitement and wonder. Sin and self-life will not materially suffer from these. We must get what our conviction calls for. Believe in your own heart’s hunger and go ahead with God. Don’t allow the devil to rob you of a real ‘Pentecost.’
Any work that exalts the Holy Spirit or the gifts above Jesus will finally end up in fanaticism. Whatever causes us to exalt and love Jesus is well and safe. The reverse will ruin all. The Holy Spirit is a great light, but will always be focused on Jesus for His revealing.
When the Pentecostal Movement did not experience life lived in fellowship with the indwelling Christ, the artesian river that flows from Him as a life source was lost. Christ stated, “Whoever believes in Me, as the Scripture has said, rivers of living waters will flow from within him. The fountainhead of the rivers is the indwelling Christ. The flowing of those rivers is the ministry of the Spirit.
I believe that is is what also happened in the 1940’s with the healing revival and the ministry of men like Oral Roberts. It happened again in the Latter Rains Movement in the same decade where the emphasis became who was an apostle and who was a prophet and then who was the greatest apostle or prophet. In the 1970’s the Charismatic Movement again forgot that Jesus should be the centre of the life of the Church and made the Holy Spirit and the gifts the major focus. And again, the river dried up. We might hazard a guess that this happened as well with the Toronto Blessing when the manifestations took centre stage and Jesus was left waiting in the wings.
Let’s learn from the past and be careful as we see the full fivefold ministry, and especially the ministry of the apostle, reintroduced to the Church. Let’s keep Jesus at the centre of all we do because it is Jesus who gave to the Church some to be apostles, some to be prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers (Ephesians 4:11-12). Jesus is the focus and only Jesus.
Let’s not watch the river dry up once again. The world needs to hear the message and come to the Cross of Christ – and the manifestations will not enable that to happen unless they are the true biblical manifestation listed in 1 Corinthians 12:4-11…the manifestations of the Spirit … the 9 supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit given to us with the power when we were baptized in the Holy Spirit. With these manifestations (gifts) we can then be a witness (Acts 1:8) and thus Jesus is again and still the centre of the ministry and the only focus.