“It is too soon to tell.” Though no one is quite sure if it is fact or fiction, this historic quip is attributed to the first Premier of the People’s Republic of China, Zhou Enlai, in answer to President Nixon’s question, “What is the impact of the French Revolution?”
In my experiences during intimate personal conversations with politicians over the years, I’ve observed that most are deeply interested in whatever or whoever is influencing politics, votes, culture, religion, education, and so forth. They assess both the good and the bad, usually from the point of view of how it affects their own agendas or beliefs. This interest comes about because they fully understand that nothing just happens. Influences and influencers are everywhere and eventually they will either matter or they won’t matter, and only time will determine their ultimate contribution to the future.
Legend or not, the Premier’s quote challenges one to consider not only the action that is taking place around us, but the implication of an action or series of actions in relationship to the historic record. This is true not only in politics but is applicable to changes that are taking place within Christianity and our Apostolic movement. Time will tell the significance or insignificance of present influences. It might be too soon to tell, but the law of consequences will eventually reveal the outcome of our actions and our inactions.
This challenges us to ask certain questions: “To what degree do we embrace the secular world? How important is the doctrine of separation? What and whose guidance should we seek? Whose values and ideas and what authority will guide our lives and our churches?”
Seeking so-called personal “truths” is extremely different than seeking God’s Truth. In the same sense, the Church’s imperative is the work of conversion and this is much different from mere social work. The decline in church attendance and the growing secularism of our day demand an unwavering clarity of the Apostolic mission which will only come from the Holy Spirit. As the Apostle Paul reminded us, “… we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned” (1 Corinthians 2:13-14).
“Who is in charge?” It is the old, new question. I pray it is not our flesh. No generation in the history of human civilization has ever faced what now comes our way. One might ask, “If God is in charge, what is His plan concerning these times?” That is a fair question; however, the answer may not be so obvious within the context of our human understanding. God’s thoughts are not our thoughts. This is the central “faith factor” of the Bible. “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:8-9).
I suspect we all hear a good number of subtly argued positions regarding how we Pentecostals must change this or that, especially in the area of holiness, separation from the world, and more surreptitiously, issues concerning the essentiality of the baptism of the Holy Ghost. We patiently listen to arrogant admonitions of how vital it is to be “cool” and follow formulaic, scripted programs to the point that church is reduced to a theatrical production. This is dangerous territory, not only to our unity and our loyalty to the Scripture, but ultimately these distractions have the potential of replacing the Godly anointing that comes from seeking a genuine move of the Holy Spirit.
There is a distinct difference between the direction and guidance that the flesh provides compared to the leading of the Spirit. What is of the flesh pleases the flesh, but what God has for us in the Spirit is not carnal in nature and, therefore, cannot be received by the natural man. “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be” (Romans 8:7). False prophets under the guidance of their own spirit or the spirit of the age can disrupt and change the will and purpose of God in lives, in churches, and in organizations – if they fail to crucify the flesh. Influence can be set in motion and the course of history altered by a spoken word, a compromise, or a wrong motive. We must seek discernment, clarity, and divine focus lest we wrongly promote, endorse, or positively identify ourselves with things that are not of God.
Surely our hearts tell us that we are facing a crossroads, that a revolution is underway. And . . . just what is the impact of it all? Is it really too soon to tell? Or are we seeing a loosening from the ties that have bound us together in holiness and held us to the Apostles’ doctrine? The battle lines are being drawn in front of our very eyes. We grieve any falling away, but nevertheless, the true Church must be led of His Spirit and cling to the cross.