Friday, December 27, 2019

God’s Magnetic Power of Healing

“I tried prayer for healing a couple of times, but it didn’t work”

It’s easy for us to become discouraged, disenchanted, and even dismayed with supernatural healing. Some have tried it and it just didn’t take. Others may have even seen positive results, but had the malady later return. And, while others continue to experience success from prayer for healing, these reports often discourage those who seemed to have experienced defeat, rather than being encouraged by them. It makes healing seem more like magic which works, presumably for some, but not for others. While I can’t address every concern about healing, I hope that the following sheds some light on the subject.

Perception is Everything

The more we become familiar with God and his ways, especially when it comes to healing, the more we will become aware of the nature of both. God and the power he uses to affect his creation are invisible, not unlike the power of magnetism. While this comparison is somewhat imperfect, it is a good place to begin in understanding how God works.


Magnets, as we know, attract metals. If we place a piece of metal in direct proximity of a magnetic force, there will be an attraction, right? If there isn’t an attraction, we might assume that what we believed to be a magnet wasn’t really a magnet after all and so, we disregard it altogether. The fact is, however, that magnets only attract certain types of metals. In addition, there are more than just one type of magnet. In other words, we need to look beyond the surface of things, especially when making a comparison between a natural force and God’s supernatural ways.


While magnets occur in nature, there are other kinds of magnets, ones which rely on the power of electricity. If one coils a conductive wire around a metal rod and attaches the ends of the wire to the positive and negative posts of a battery, those efforts will produce an electromagnet where before, no magnet existed at all. The magnetic field it produces is dependent upon the energy flowing through the wire. For this reason, an electromagnet is a much better model for understanding healing.

Discovering Our Metal

Not every metal is affected by magnetic attraction. While iron, nickel, and cobalt are susceptible to a magnetic field, metals like brass, aluminum, and copper are not. And so, an object containing an amalgam of metals might be only mildly attracted to a magnetic force, simply because it does not contain enough iron or other attractive metals. Distance is also a factor for the further away the metal is to the magnetic field, the weaker the attraction will be.

When Healing Doesn’t Come 

As you can see, there are a number of factors which might prevent an attraction between an electromagnet and a metallic object—some which can be easily observed or reasoned, and some which cannot. In our search for answers, we’re not attempting to find a place of blame, but to prove the spiritual law that God heals and that he can heal us. As I said, magnetism and even science, makes for an imperfect comparison to the power of God to heal. But, like science, the nature of God is discoverable. He hides things not from us, but for us that we would seek to know and therefore, find.

The Tenacity of Edison

Thomas Edison is famously quoted for saying that he didn’t fail when searching for the best filament to use in the electric lightbulb, he just found 10,000 ways that wouldn’t work. Eventually, he did find the right filament and you’re likely benefiting from his tenacity right now. Jesus also praised the value of tenacity when he told a parable, just to underscore the idea that we should, “…always pray, and not give up” (Luke 18:1 NHB). Not giving up doesn’t necessarily mean that we try the same thing over and over, although it may. Consider the workings of an electromagnetic experiment. For everything to work properly, one would have to assure that the power source were in order and that the wires were attached properly to the terminals. The wire must also be tightly wound around the metal rod with no overlap. Then there’s the nature and the proximity of the metal to consider. We can’t give up, especially because healing is part of the atonement that Jesus paid for.

From Magnets to Medicines

Have you ever had a headache that just wouldn’t go away? You took all sorts of pain relievers, but they just didn’t make a dent in your headache. Or have you been to a doctor for some sort of fantom pain or lack of motion and they told you that they could find no cause? And yet, I bet you’ve taken pain relievers since those times of failure and have visited a physician again, despite the lack of success previously experienced. With this track record, how is it that we can so easily give up on God saying, “I tried it once, but it didn’t work,” or “My knee felt better instantly and for a couple of weeks, but then the pain came back?” God doesn’t mind if you come back and ask again, just like he doesn’t mind if you have to take another does of acetaminophen.

You Are the Magnet, and I Am the Steel

Perhaps we return to medicine so readily, despite its imperfections, simply because we have become familiar with dealing with its imperfections. And while we understand that God is perfect, we are apprehensive in dealing with the fact that we are not. We don’t always know how to become a piece of metal that is in position to be attracted to God’s healing power and because of our ignorance, we actually repel his power by relying on the power of our own reasoning. While we might believe that our power to repel God’s attraction pales in comparison, in a fallen world, the opposition can be enough to counteract attraction. 

A Positive Force

Electromagnetism makes for an adequate model for divine healing at least in the respect that it shows God’s willingness to attract us. But, we must pursue that attraction and not give up. We must seek to find, knock for doors to open, hunger and thirst that we might be filled, and eagerly desire and pursue what the Gospel freely provides. It is not enough to know that God’s power is available and inexhaustible, we must realize our responsibility to make sure his power is connected to the means by which we’re seeking to be drawn towards the healing he provides. Seek and discover the connections needed. Don’t give up on the attraction. Be the steel that allows Him to pull you and your circumstances towards his ability to affect them and bring healing.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

I Smell Fire

I've just finished listing to, and have been greatly impacted by the audiobook, Supernatural: The life of William Branham. The vibe I picked up from this highly-detailed biography of one of the Churches' healing pioneers, contains a similar and familiar scent, reminding me of what I've read concerning other revivals of the past. And while I've heard a number of voices saying that what God is doing now and is about to do will be a "new thing," it is being birthed by the same fire which ignited Pentecost as well as the subsequent seasons of revival which followed behind it. 

It is said that those who do not study and learn from history are doomed to repeat it. I would add that those who fail to study the past will be less able to comprehend what is possible for us today and in the future. God wants to show and do more among us than we can ask or imagine, but we must at least maintain a healthy and growing baseline so that we can expect the greatest level of the "More" that he would like to show and do.

I don't believe that anyone could accuse me of operating in a gift of intercession. I have always seemed to struggle through to try to generate a disciplined prayer life. However, sometimes praying for God to move among us can be as simple as coming into agreement with what he has put in front of us and made plain concerning his intentions. I believe that he has released and sparked something that should not be too hard for us to detect, and with which we can resonate. They say that animals can readily smell and detect a coming forest fire and act accordingly, even when the fire is small and undetectable by humans. Can you catch the scent of something beginning to burn? If so, follow that scent!

What God needs is for us to be ready and equipped for a full-fledged fire, not so that we can extinguish it but so that it might consume us up. Some of us have fears and insecurities, which on a personal level, have held us back. And while the fire comes to test us (something which might initially generate some fear and apprehension), it comes primarily to burn away those things which have hindered us. Unlike its natural counterpart, supernatural fire creates more opportunities than what it consumes.

So against nature, we must turn towards the coming fire so that we can be part of it. This is how all revivals of the past were encouraged and maintained. We cannot let this one fail to burn because we're sitting amidst damp wood, or have surrounded ourselves with a moat of stagnant water so as to bar the flames from coming. We must welcome them. It seems counter-intuitive but these flames bring life, not damage. Remember how the flames of fire rested on the disciples' heads at Pentecost? The fire did not come to destroy but to do its work in them, eventually spreading outwards to those around them. Let's let it do that same work in each of us.

Sunday, September 15, 2019


Is there a different faith required for those believing for relief from great financial need than those who are believing for a family member to be freed from substance abuse? Is there a difference between the nature of faith it takes to pray for others to be healed and the nature of faith it takes to receive healing for ourselves? I contend that the faith is the same, but that its application and the roadblocks to apprehending that faith may differ depending upon the situation. Paul says that there is one faith (Eph 4:5), and that the same faith that saves the Jews, saves the Gentiles as well (Ro 3:30). It is that, “Same Faith” which I want to talk about.

Faith is not something we produce out of our will. While faith can be stirred up and encouraged—something we should spend more time thinking about—we have absolutely no power in ourselves to create faith so that God will answer our prayers. Zilch! There is truth in the idea of believing “more,” but not in the context that we can believe “harder.” Think back to when we first met the Lord. Somehow, we heard the Word of the Gospel and were able to believe it. And this, the greatest miracle of all, did not come because we had all the answers.

We heard the Word and were empowered to believe in Jesus Christ as the only mediator between God and man. We believed that he was just who he said that he was and somehow, we believed that he would adopt us into his Kingdom. How could we believe all that through what little had been presented to most of us? I contend that in that moment, it was the power of that faith, a faith which could be argued as being “little faith,” which translated us from the kingdom of darkness into the Kingdom of his dear Son! And, it was also “little faith,” perhaps as small as a mustard seed which empowered Peter to walk on the surface of Lake Galilee. Because of who Jesus is, anything is possible for those who believe, that is, those who apply their faith in Jesus (Mark 9:23). And that’s where the difference lies.

We apprehend our faith in Jesus based upon the task or need before us, but our focus must be upon Jesus—who he is, what he’s done, and how he is the same yesterday, today, and forever. Hebrews calls faith, the, “…Confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb 11:1 NIV). We have confidence in what we hope for, and are assured about what we do not yet see before us only because of Jesus. This is not a different faith from that which saved us, it is merely an extension of that same faith.

I love the HELPS Word Study available on as they do such a good job of illuminating the original text. Here’s what they say about the word translated as “little faith.” They note that “little faith,” (oligรณpistos), is a compound word meaning “little in number”…”faith.” In context of its five appearances in the New Testament, it is used as a rebuke each time the disciples failed to hear what Jesus was saying and failure to put their faith into practice, that they had little or few occurrences or few applications of their faith.

So Jesus was not chiding them for not ramping up enough faith, or trying to push the right “faith buttons,” but was admonishing them for not putting their faith into practice by acting upon what he had said. While we can’t produce faith out of thin air, something we sometimes try to do, we can exercise, practice, and expand upon the faith we’ve been given. The more we do, we’ll move from being those who have little faith, to those who walk in faith…and isn’t that the goal? If that little bit of faith was enough to get us saved when we were still yet sinners and his enemies, how much more is available to us now through that very same faith, now that we have been reconciled to him? (Ro 5:8-11) So let’s drop all pretense and simply say, “Jesus, I believe you. Show me how to practice my belief in you because I am in need.” Remember, a bruised reed he will not break and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out (Mat 12:20). Draw close to him, using the same faith that brought you in, and he will draw near to you. That’s how Paul could say…

“…I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me…Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain? So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?…He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit” (Galatians 2:20, 3:3-5, 14).

There’s a lot of faith found in those passages. Believing what we hear from God is Paul’s prescription for the Galatians and for us, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit in our lives…the same Spirit that Jesus said would be with us and alongside of us, so that he could remind us of what Jesus is saying, that is, what we have heard (Jo 16:13-15). That’s what Jesus rebuked his disciples for, they were not listening to and heeding what he said by putting their faith into practice. And where do we get that kind of faith? As believers, we all have that kind of faith already, but we must cultivate it. It is not a different faith for those other, more faith-like Christians, it is the measure of faith given to each of us as a deposit that we might expand upon it in our lives and affect those around us. That’s who we are and we can always start right where we’re at, especially if we feel faithless and full of failure. That might actually be the very best place to begin, understanding that it even those with faith as small as a mustard seed can uproot a tree planted in the earth, and replant it in the sea (Luke 17:6). So, start by taking what Jesus has said and begin by putting him front and center, relying upon his faithfulness. Start digging up that, “Same Faith” today!

Sunday, August 18, 2019

Is It Today Yet?

I was recently in a conversation where the idea that God still speaks today was in question. The person making the point believed that God only speaks today through his written word. That logic, however, creates quite a conundrum because the Bible, gives no indication that God would or has ever stopped speaking. Jesus Christ is, after all, the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). After his resurrection and ascension, he, along with his Father and the Spirit, are found speaking to believers in various ways up until the final pages of the New Testament.

It is today with which we should be most concerned, but before we go there, let’s first dismiss the idea that God could lose the will or the ability to speak, that he has had his larynx legally tied in a Knott, or that he has taken a vow of silence seeing that everything that he had wanted to say had finally been written down. I’m finding that reasoning very difficult to support, especially since God also indicates in his written word that even inanimate objects like rocks could cry out if necessary (Luke 19:40). In addition, we're told that the blood of Abel, though dead, is still able to speak (Hebrews 11:4). And if God does not speak today, how were any of us enabled to answer his call?

As I read them, the Scriptures indicate that God is a God of and for all seasons and dispensations, not a God of the past only. Furthermore, the written word, which I am told is the only means by which God speaks today, promises us that in these last days, Jesus is indeed speaking (Hebrews 1:1-2). Since the time that this passage was written, the only thing which has changed in the new, everlasting, and final covenant is that there have been more last days added to the tally. As long as we are his sheep, we should be hearing his voice (John 10:27). While yesterday is gone, eternity starts fresh each morning, becoming a day which the Holy Spirit calls, “Today.” And according to the author of Hebrews, as long as it is called, “Today,” we are called to encourage one another, keep our hearts soft and on target, and of course, hear God’s voice (Hebrews 3:7-15 NIV). Everyday is “Today,” yet, we’ve not yet excelled in keeping our hearts from getting hard and have a long way to go to perfect the art of encouragement. Is that merely because we’ve not responded well to his voice, or is it because we have come to deny that he is even speaking?

So while it is one thing to acknowledge that the Bible contains the very thoughts and expressions of God, we must not fall prey to the notion that God no longer speaks today. He has not imposed a gag order on himself, freezing himself in time while posting his instructions for life on the outside of the fridge. For all intents and purposes, many have put God in just such a box, unintentionally rendering his voice as the dead author of a living autobiography, instead of a very present voice which makes his word alive in us. God did not speak from the beginning of creation so that we might one day receive his thoughts in written form alone. Instead, he recorded all those things so that we might seek out and listen to his voice. Today, if you hear his voice, don’t let your hearts become hardened for as long as it is called, “Today,” his living voice still speaks…at least that’s what the Holy Spirit says. 
"Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts" (Hebrews 3:7 NIV).

Saturday, May 18, 2019

This Is That!

While we might desire to easily understand the workings of the Holy Spirit, God makes that very difficult. We desire straight-edged explanations as well as the means by which we can measure what God has done and is doing. Yet, even a Spirit-inspired explanation by an eye-witness participant on the Day of Pentecost appears to generate more questions than answers. While that day obviously impacted the crowds, Luke’s account of Peter’s sermon continues to make many of us scratch our heads. 

Let Me Explain

It seems, at first glance anyway, that Peter did a lousy job of explaining the events of Pentecost—at least by quoting Joel. On the morning when 120 spoke in languages they themselves didn't know, but that their hearers could understand, he had this to say in explanation:
“…This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams. Even on my servants, both men and women, I will pour out my Spirit in those days, and they will prophesy. I will show wonders in the heavens above and signs on the earth below, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and glorious day of the Lord. And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved’” (Acts 2:17-21 NIV).

This seems more mystery than explanation. What was Peter doing?

This is That

This passage never mentions the phenomenon of speaking in different languages nor does Luke care to give commentary on the day’s events. Watchman Nee, however, adds an interesting perspective to Peter’s reference to Joel’s prophecy:
“What did Peter mean? Imagine him quoting God's Word to show that the experience of Pentecost was the outpouring of the Spirit spoken of by Joel, without a single one of the evidences mentioned by Joel being found at Pentecost. What the Book mentioned the disciples lacked, and what the disciples had the Book did not mention!…Note carefully that Peter did not say: `What you see and hear fulfills what was spoken by the prophet Joel'. What he said was: ‘This is that which hath been spoken by the prophet Joel’ (Acts 2:16). It was not a case of fulfillment, but of an experience of the same order. ‘This is that’ means that `this which you see and hear is of the same order as that which is foretold'…The outward evidences may be many and varied, and we have to admit that occasionally they are strange; but the Spirit is one, and He is Lord. 
(Watchman Nee, The Normal Christian Life)
Nee does a good job of putting Peter’s explanation into perspective. Gifts of other languages, the ability to operate in inspired knowledge and speech, receiving inspired dreams, and other such manifestations of the Spirit, were of the same source. They were all those things Jesus said believers would operate in (Mark 16:17-18) and they all come from the same Spirit.
“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work” (1 Corinthians 12:4-6 NIV)
In addition to this message of oneness concerning the expression of God’s power, there is a familiarity about Peter’s lack of specificity which he must have learned from Jesus during the three years prior to this day of the outpouring of the Spirit.


Jesus always spoke to the people in parables, saying, “This is what the Kingdom of God is like,” never saying, “This is what the Kingdom of God is.” It’s not that Jesus and Peter did not give details, nor did they neglect referencing relevant Scripture passages, but they proclaimed the Gospel in a way which made people seek after it if they wanted to enter in.
…Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33 NIV).
(Mt 5:6, Acts 15:16-17, 17:26-27, Ro 8:5, 1 Co 12:31, 14:1, etc.).
The reason many don’t pursue the gifts of the Spirit initially poured out on the Church at Pentecost, seems to stem from ignorance of them. To be sure, the gifts of the Spirit are not easily understood. Paul’s treatise on the subject in Chapters 12-14 of 1 Corinthians, intended to put the operation of the gifts in their proper perspective, these are the same passages many rest upon to dispute their operation today. We tend towards clear and exact definitions, that which we can grasp and understand. That’s how we like our theology and the power of God isn’t so easily codified. However logic seems to become less important to us in the realm of relationships and perhaps we should consider God’s power from that perspective.

The Mystery of His Power

While building a meaningful relationship, especially a romantic one, we are often less concerned with collecting facts as we are experiencing the presence of, and building a rapport with the other person. In other words, we enjoy experiencing the mystery of the relationship.  We must take the same approach as we seek to understand how and why God releases his power and why he has designated the Church to be the expression of that power.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the…incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead… And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way” (Ephesians 1:17,19-20,22 NIV).
His power remains a mystery only to those who approach it through wisdom and reasoning alone, or who choose not to approach it at all. That is not to say that God is not interested in reason, but simply that his reason surpasses our finite understanding. This knowledge can only come by faith and experience. And so, we can’t measure God’s power. But, we can at least measure the effectiveness and witness of his power through us.

Spiritual Impact

Remember that the Day of Pentecost began with an outpouring of the Spirit and concluded with the influx of 3,000 believers into the Church—some of whom had been cheering on the death of Jesus just weeks before. How did this happen?

While even sincere believers can shy away from, and even become ashamed of how God expresses himself in power as on the Day of Pentecost, we cannot escape the fact that such expressions can be extremely effective in confirming the Gospel. We must, then, weigh our comfort level against what God might do if we were to participate in those things which are “like” those described by Joel. Pentecost was not an isolated incident nor a singular display of God’s power, nor was it intended to be.

The Power of Power

Prophecy is one of gift of the Spirit which holds great power. Through Joel, God promised that all “…sons and daughters will prophesy” (Acts 2:17), in the same way that Jesus told us of the supernatural signs that would follow those who believe (Mark 16:17-18). In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul reveals that prophecy is the gift which we should most eagerly desire so that the Church might be built up (1 Co 14:1). But this gift also holds great power for the Church in reaching unbelievers.
But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, ‘God is really among you!’” (1 Corinthians 14:24-25 NIV).
So while it is true that Paul reasoned with the Jews and Greeks alike on a regular basis, there is little mention of any great effectiveness in employing that practice; and we owe it to Paul himself to explain why that might be. He understood that reason and understanding have their place but are limited by the nature of human wisdom. Instead, he relied upon the power of God.
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV).
I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God” (Romans 15:18-19 NIV).
Despite the fact that it doesn’t seem to make sense, we must accept Paul’s testimony that the presentation of God’s power is the firmest foundation for faith to rest. That’s what happened on the Day of Pentecost. It was strange, it was off-putting to some, and yet that’s what drew in 3,000 believers. This is what Joel prophesied and what manifest on that day—it was a sign on the earth below.

Measuring Up

While we can’t quantify or measure the power of Pentecost, we can begin to measure our own effectiveness. If our efforts are not making people fall down and exclaim that God is really among us, to what extent is God really among us? I suggest that as the Church, we have room to grow into the full stature of Christ so that we might begin to look and act more like Jesus (Eph 4:13), and the early Church. What are we afraid of?

While the first stage of wisdom is indeed reverential fear, our wisdom must mature beyond fear. After escaping Egypt, the Israelites were given the Gospel, but their fear of the presence and power of God kept them from acting in faith (Ex 20:18-19, Heb 4:2, 12:18-21). But, we are better equipped to move beyond our fears. Consider that while we respect the awesome power of electricity, we don’t shut it off in fear of what it might do to us. We understand what it can do for us and so, move beyond our fear. We must do the same with the power of the resurrection as displayed on the Day of Pentecost and throughout the Book of Acts.


Jesus called the outpouring of the Spirit, the promise of the Father. While he personally told the disciples to wait until they received the Spirit, the promise is for all believers. It was granted for all alive in the last days, and is a direct result of Jesus’ resurrection:
In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams” (Acts 2:17 NIV).
God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear” (Acts 2:32-33 NIV).
According to Peter, it is Jesus himself who has poured out the Spirit. The crowds both saw and heard the power of God in action, and they came to believe. It’s not easily understood, but can be easily received. Peter was just a fisherman, and until he received the promise of the Father.
“…Wait for the gift my Father promised, which you have heard me speak about… you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4,8 NIV).
We are able to receive the same promise of the Father that Peter and 120 received in the upper room on the Day of Pentecost for as Peter said:
…You will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call.” (Acts 2:38-39).
It is not easily understood, yet worthy of our pursuit (1 Co 14:1). 

Sunday, April 28, 2019

...As the Waters Cover the Sea

The Knowledge of the Glory of the Lord

“…the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea” (Habakkuk 2:14 NIV). 
Have you ever stopped to think about how it is that the waters cover the sea? The simple answer to this question is that they cover the sea completely—from the surface all the way to the ocean floor. And so, in like manner, we look forward to the knowledge of the glory of the Lord covering the earth fully and completely. This sentiment is echoed throughout Scripture -  

“May the whole earth be filled with his glory” (Psalm 72:19 NIV). 
“... as surely as the glory of the LORD fills the whole earth” (Numbers 14:92 NIV). 
“The whole earth is full of His glory” (Isaiah 6:2 NIV).

What is the Glory of God?

God's glory has to do with his power, and his renown, but it is also directly related to his nature. When Moses asked to see God's glory, Scripture tells us that God acted by showing Moses the one thing the world needs the most...his goodness.

"Then Moses said, ‘Now show me your glory.’ And the Lord said, ‘I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the Lord, in your presence’” (Exodus 33:18-19 NIV).

The glory of the Lord is awesome in its splendor like a vast, deep ocean which covers everything beneath it. Yet, beyond its depth and its fullness, the ocean exhibits other qualities and attributes which address the implications of the manifestation of his glory. These four states of oceanic glory help describe the magnitude of the majesty and glory of God. 

Still Waters

At times, waters are placid, peaceful and still. This glory emotes safety, serenity, and rest. Not only is it peaceful, it is a state that reflects on earth, the glory of heaven above. In this state, we might be tempted to sit and be stagnant in the status quo of the moment, forgetting the deepness beneath. 

Wind and the Water

Gentle motion, navigable sea lanes, and the ebb and flow of normal life are accomplished in the midst of fair weather. Wind that fills the sails and ruffles the surface of the waters makes for easy travel. The glory of this state is that learned skills can be applied in conjunction with the rhythm and flow of nature to produce forward motion and momentum. 

Stormy Weather

Heavy storms can unsettle the sea, bringing challenge and risk, making travel dependent upon the mercy of the waves. The vast majority try to avoid its unavoidable glory and run from its transformative power. But the fact that at least two miracles recorded in the Gospels took place amidst stormy weather, should encourage us to trust and leave fear behind.

Volatile Conditions

Harsh atmospheric and geological events can turn the sea into a force to be reckoned with. An earthquake, for example, can set water in motion, building wave upon wave until it reaches critical mass, not unlike the waves of revival. Often resisted, this force of glory is actually the remedy for those who possess an unquenchable thirst. Here, there is no more argument as to the majesty of His power.

Navigating the Glories

If we pray for the knowledge of the glory of the Lord to cover the earth as the waters cover the sea, then we must respect every aspect of how his glory manifests and the manner in which it covers creation.

Friday, April 5, 2019

What are Works and Why Should Believers Perform them?

The Works

Work: 2041 รฉrgon - work, task, employment; a deed, action; that which is wrought or made, a work.
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these…” (John 14:12).

Types of Works

In the New Testament, works (sometimes translated as deeds or some other variation) consist of anything from clothing or feeding someone in need to healing the sick. When the word work (ergon) is used in Scripture, there is no indication as to whether it refers to a natural or supernatural work, outside of the context in which it is used. That said, even passages which favor natural works to supernatural works, or vice versa, don’t necessarily exclude works on the other end of the spectrum. So the above passage could also include natural works like feeding the poor, and James 2:14-25 could also include healing the sick, without either passage specifically referring to these alternate works.

Work Standards

Whether supernatural or natural, it is clear through scripture that we are to do the works of Jesus—and as Jesus said, greater works than he performed. It is not clear whether Jesus was saying that we will perform more powerful works than he performed, or merely that we will perform a greater quantity of works. Regardless, we would do well to at least attempt to match the works of Jesus, despite not having a full record of the works he performed.
“Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name…Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written.” (John 20:30-31, 21:25 NIV).

The Worth of a Work

The deciding factor in terms of a work’s worth, as far as it concerns those who perform them, is whether the work is done in the name of Jesus and if it is performed in love.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed (ergon), do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).
“If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing” (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NIV).
When Jesus rebuked those who would perform works in his name, he did so because they performed these works outside of a relationship with him while at the same time, they tried to justify themselves by their works, not by the righteousness imputed to them by the death and resurrection of Jesus.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” (Matthew 7:21-23 NIV).
While God is omniscient and is familiar with the entirety of his creation, this passage refers to a lack of intimate relationship which was not of his choosing. This situation speaks to the state of their hearts and not their performance of the miracles. Jesus would not punish anyone for doing the very works he commanded us to perform, but he is obligated to judge the heart and motivations of man.
“…He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart.” (1 Corinthians 4:5 NIV).
We should not neglect the works of God for fear of punishment.
“This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:17-18 NIV).
The opposite of the fear of punishment is love and in this love, we are empowered to be like Jesus so that we can perform the same works that he did.

Works Commission

John 14:12 does not stand alone as a command to do the works of Jesus. The Great Commission, given to all believers, is a call to spread the Gospel in tandem with performing the works of Jesus.
“Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well” (Mark 16:16-18 NIV).
“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:18-20 NIV).
“…Wait for the gift my Father promised… the Holy Spirityou will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:4-5, 7 NIV).
“‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your young men will see visions, your old men will dream dreams’… Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:17, 38-39 NIV).
Matthew, Mark, and Luke settle the argument of whether the performance of supernatural works were just for the original disciples, or for all. Mark tells us that “those who believe” will do these things. First of all, those "who believe” are what we refer to as believers—the same believers who in the previous verse are saved by means of their belief. Then, becoming believers, they will do these works—unless of course, they stop believing. Are you a believer? 

Matthew lets us know that the things Jesus commanded them to do, they were to teach those who came after them, up to the end of the age. Luke reiterates the same theme that supernatural ability accompanies the giving of the Holy Spirt who is offered to even those who are “far off” into the future. As believers, we’ve been commissioned to repent, believe the Gospel, and do the works of Jesus. That’s what believers do!

Love Your Work

As already stated, a work as referenced in the New Testament is more than an action; it is an expression of love as Paul so eloquently expresses in his letter to the Corinthians:
“But desire the greater gifts. And I will show you an even better way…Now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. Pursue love and desire spiritual gifts, and above all that you may prophesy…So also you — since you are zealous for spiritual gifts, seek to excel in building up the church” (1 Corinthians 12:31, 13:13, 14:1, 12 HCSB).
So in these passages, Paul reiterates Jesus’ intention that we should perform the works of the Spirit and he does so in the most intense way. The term eagerly desire means to burn with zeal, to be jealous for, and to bubble over out of desire. It would be difficult to believe that Jesus would ban us from performing these works, then allow Paul to endorse them with such intensity. Jesus’ rebuke, while off-putting, should not overwhelm the subject as his rebuke does not apply to those who are in good relationship with him, are pursuing love, and are not seeking to establish their own righteousness by means of the works they perform. 

And, remember that the opposite of love is not hate, but fear (1 John 4:17-18 NIV) and it is fear that keeps most from pursuing the gifts so that they may perform the works of Jesus. In addition, if we love our work, we won’t hide our light under a basket, nor will we, through fear, bury in the ground the investment that he’s given us.

Why Works?

The works of Jesus are performed to confirm his word. Scripture could not be clearer about this. These passages show that they were performed by Jesus and all who come after him so that it is clear that God’s kingdom has begun to manifest as an ongoing and perpetually growing witness of that Kingdom until he returns with a full manifestation of heaven on earth.

“For the works that the Father has given me to finish--the very works that I am doing--testify that the Father has sent me” (John 5:36 NIV).
“Do not believe me unless I do the works of my Father. But if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (John 10:38-39 NIV).
"Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know” (Acts 2:22 NIV).
“But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28 NIV).
“Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35 NIV)
“Jesus called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out impure spirits and to heal every disease and sickness…’As you go, proclaim this message: “The kingdom of heaven has come near.” Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons. Freely you have received; freely give’” (Matthew 10: 1, 7-8 NIV).
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God's power” (1 Corinthians 2:4-5 NIV).
Jesus sent his disciples out to proclaim the Gospel in the same way that he proclaimed the Gospel—with signs, wonders, and miracles. He then commanded them to teach others all that Jesus had commanded them. Years later, Paul followed suit with the same emphasis upon the power of the works of God. 

Keep Working!

We do the works of Jesus because:
  • He commanded us to do them (John 14:12, Mark 16:16-18, Matthew 28:18)
  • He demonstrated how to do them (Matthew 4:23, Acts 10:38)
  • He empowered us to do them (Acts 1:9, 1 Corinthians 12:11)

Believers should do the works of Jesus out of obedience to his word and out of love (John 14:15-23). Yet it is clear that many believers are not aware of what Bible says about the works we are to perform, nor have they been exposed to a proper demonstration of their use. As believers, our first priority is to read the Scriptures and prayerfully consider what they say and then, seek an opportunity to fulfill them.

Remember that:

“..Whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Colossians 3:17 NIV).

Saturday, February 16, 2019

If We Like Him, We Should Be Like Him!

Jesus tells us that we need to receive power from the Holy Spirit to become his witnesses (Acts 1:8). That word receive means "to lay hold of." We must purpose to "take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of [us]...," and " on toward the goal..." (Phil 12:8-14 NIV).

While attaining to the resurrection of the dead is a future promise, it is also a present reality for Jesus said, "I AM the resurrection and the life." We must walk in that resurrection power now, just as Paul prayed for the Ephesians:

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ...may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know...his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead..." (Eph 1:17-23 NIV).

Paul understood that his audience didn’t fully perceive that they had been given the very same power that raised Christ from the dead. How could anyone fully comprehend that all at once? Regardless, this is a truth that we must lay hold of so that we might have a better relationship with the Father, through the Son, and by the Holy Spirit. His power is the key to understanding the love and compassion of God.

We have often felt unworthy to walk in that power because we've felt that we come up short and lack the love of Christ. We haven’t understood that we must walk in the midst of his power so that we might be transformed. We’ve had it backwards! Subconsciously, we thought, "Get right and God can use you." Instead Scripture tells us things like, “For when I am weak, then I am strong,” and “My power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Co 2:11, 12:9 NIV). Our weakness is the conduit by which his power flows and that power, according to Paul, is for us who believe.

It is in that spirit that Jesus said, "These signs will follow those who believe." He wasn’t speaking to an elite group but simply those who believe, and then lay hold of what he promised. If we like him, we must be like him!

We become like him by believing (agreeing with) what he has said. Do we want to know Christ? Then we must walk as he did and BE Jesus in the world. We are to do the works of Christ, and greater (Jn 14:12). As we do them, we take another step closer to knowing him better. After all, how can one know a man unless he walk in that man's shoes? That has been the goal all along. We walk by faith, not by what we see concerning our unworthiness. Faith says that in my weakness, I lay hold of the truth that God has made me worthy to accomplish (Eph 2:10). We know him BY walking in faith and we know him by walking as he did. Humility is not displayed by how low we denigrate ourselves, but in how highly we esteem what he has said about himself and what he’s said about us. If he says we are, “More than conquerors,” “The light of the world,” “The salt of the earth,” and other lofty things, who are we to disagree?
"This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus" (1 Jn 4:17 NIV).
"Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did" (1 Jn 2:6 NIV).
If we like him, we must be like him! We must lay hold of what he laid hold of for us.

Friday, February 1, 2019

Think Different!


When Steve Jobs returned to Apple Computer back in the late 1990s, Apple launched an ad campaign using pictures of iconic achievers who went against the grain, like Pablo Picasso, Albert Einstein, and Martin Luther King, Jr. Over their heads were posted the words, "Think Different!" It was an effective and inspired campaign. Like Steve Jobs, God wants us to think different. 

The words, holy, saint, and sanctification, are all forms of the same Greek word, hรกgios, which is normally defined as being “set apart.” Recently, however, I heard someone define holiness as being "different, or of a different nature. It is that quality which sets something or someone apart:

hรกgios – properly, different (unlike), other ("otherness"), holy; for the believer, 40 (hรกgios) means "likeness of nature with the Lord" because "different from the world.” (HELPS Word-Studies)

๐—›๐—ผ๐˜„ ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐—š๐—ผ๐—ฑ ๐——๐—ถ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜?

God’s ways are more than just a better version of what we can conceive, or merely an amalgamation of the best of human qualities. He is different! That’s why Scripture uses words like wonderful, majestic, glorious, awesome, etc., to attempt to describe him. He is full of wonder, majesty, glory, awe, etc. That’s very different!

The thing about different is that it’s…well, different. You can’t conceive of different until you experience different. With God, he is not only different, he is multi-faceted. That means there are many different aspects to God that we can come to know. We know all that is different about him through faith.

๐—™๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต ๐—ถ๐˜€ ๐——๐—ถ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜

Faith has to do with believing that God’s invisible qualities and blessings become visible to those who believe. This is different from the way we naturally think, and it distinguishes faith from wishful or positive thinking. Faith comes from hope, and hope is built through our experience in our knowledge of God and his faithfulness, based upon Scripture. If our natures are no different than that of those around us, it’s likely we haven’t been seeking and experiencing just how different God is.

๐—˜๐˜…๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐——๐—ถ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜

Jesus was different. Those who met him noticed he was different.
”No one ever spoke the way this man does…” (John 7:46 NIV)
“…the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Matthew 7:28-29 NIV)
“Nobody has ever heard of opening the eyes of a man born blind. If this man were not from God, he could do nothing.” (John 9:32-33 NIV)
Do people ever say these things about us? Are we that different? Different is scary. Different is uncomfortable. By human nature, we don’t seek out or readily accept what is different. But, we’re encouraged in Scripture to seek his kingdom - a kingdom so different, it is not of this world.

๐—ฆ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐——๐—ถ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜

When we talk about seeking what is different about God, we’re not talking about some vague, supernatural, or esoteric world. To seek God is to seek him through the Scriptures and by the power of the Holy Spirit. Although we’ve been born into a different kingdom, there are parts of us which haven’t been transformed and been made different. These “unspiritual” parts will not accept, nor will they seek out God’s nature on their own; in fact, they’ll avoid what is different altogether:
“A person who isn't spiritual doesn't accept the things of God's Spirit, for they are nonsense to him. He can't understand them because they are spiritually evaluated.” (1 Co 2:14 ISV)
It takes risk and trust to move forward in the kingdom of God. Like Abraham, we have to trust that God is leading us somewhere. We can’t stay in the same place, we must get on board.

๐—ง๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฎ ๐——๐—ถ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜ ๐—ง๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ถ๐—ป

We need different now more than we’ve ever needed it before. If insanity is doing the same thing over an over, but expecting a different result, by doing so, we’re seeking the rewards of being different without becoming different. It’s like burying our talents in the ground and expecting a return. It’s like carrying a lamp, but leaving the oil behind. Different is a moving train. Taking the same old train, or camping out at the train station will not move us forward. We don’t want to miss that train’s visitation.

As previously stated, we don’t know different until we’ve experienced it. Therefore, we don’t know what to ask for in prayer so that we can move towards different. To keep it simple, we might merely ask the Lord to show us something different and to give us a path forward to reach it. As Watchman Nee said -
“Our prayers lay the track down which God’s power can come. Like a mighty locomotive, his power is irresistible, but it cannot reach us without rails.” ~ Watchman Nee

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Overcoming Unbelief

While God is all-powerful, he choses to use his power within the confines of the plan of redemption. That plan operates by his will and through our willing participation which works by our faith in him. Because of this, and based upon our response, either of the following scenarios can be true:
“Anything is possible for him who believes” (Mk 9:23), 
“He could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he marveled because of their unbelief” (Mk 6:5-6  ESV). 
Faith is the avenue which completes the circuit and allows God’s power to bring positive change. And, it doesn’t take great faith for things to happen! 

“Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Mt 17:20 NIV). 

That said, nothing can thwart God’s intentions and desire to intervene more than the power of unbelief. Unbelief acts like a grounding agent attached to a lightning rod. Outside of God's graciousness, any positive effect of God’s power is absorbed, or dispelled when affected by unbelief.

According to Jesus, Peter was enabled to walk on the water by using this “little faith,” but when Peter began to doubt, the power to continue walking was thwarted. As Jesus said, “‘You of little faith…why did you doubt?’” (Mt 14:31 NIV).

So while we may have sought to do great things for God, survive the sin which so easily besets, and/or to overcome the works of the enemy,  we have come to feel or have reasoned that we needed more faith, what we likely required was that we nullify our doubt and unbelief.
“But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us.’ ‘If you can’?’ said Jesus. ‘Everything is possible for one who believes.’ Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, ‘I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!’” (Mk 9:22-24 NIV).
Belief creates possibility, but possibility is diffused and shielded from us until unbelief can be overcome. Only overcoming faith can overcome unbelief—as long as that faith is in Jesus. Formulas have been tried and doctrines have been instituted which allow Jesus to flow in varying degrees within our situations, but ultimately, many of these methods have focused upon themselves instead of upon the true object of our faith, and that’s Jesus himself. Faith must always be in him and not in our faith.

Jesus is the name above all names! His name embodies his character, his goodness, and willingness to bring redemption to every area of our lives. Unbelief is the force which challenges these truths concerning the nature of God. Unbelief says that the world was more than a match for Jesus and that Christ’s character, power, and willingness to bring breakthrough in our lives is not available to us. The only way to overcome this unbelief is to take heart that Jesus has overcome the world.
"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (Jn 16:33 NIV).
“This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world? Only the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God” (1 Jn 5:4-5 NIV).
Now it is one thing to say that we believe that Jesus is the Son of God, but it’s another thing to believe that he is the Son of God over our situation. Unbelief may on one hand acknowledge Jesus’ power and authority, but on the other hand, it won’t recognize that his power and authority have dominion in our situation. 

Unbelief is not actually the lack of belief; it is the belief that everything we experience, the world in all its turmoil, has more power and authority than Jesus does. It is a transfer of faith (and sometimes even our default belief) that the world is more powerful than Jesus. Isn’t that what happened to Peter on the water? Peter's fear motivated his belief that the lie was more powerful than what Jesus had told him. 
“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’” (Mt 13:30-31 NIV).
The lie that Peter believed was that the world around him had power over the word Jesus had given him to come towards him on the water. Despite popular belief, Jesus did not rebuke Peter for his “little faith.” Instead, he asked Peter why he had shifted his faith towards the circumstances around him. Doubt and unbelief say that what we know and are familiar with is more powerful than what God has said. In that case, our faith is in what we know or can see, not in him. 

Faith, after all, is the substance of the things we hope for and the evidence of what is unseen (Heb 11:1), but this can only be true if our hope is in the character of God as expressed through the promises he has given. But if our hope is based upon, or gives way to what we see or "the way things are," we deny that the unseen Kingdom has dominion over our circumstances. While this seems to put us in a rather dire position, we can take heart that stepping out in faith is always rewarded, and when we start to sink, Jesus is only a call away—more than willing to reach down and pick us up. That too is part of his character. 

We need to be reminded of who he is, but also, we need to be reminded of who he is in us.
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written: ‘For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.’ No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Ro 8:28-39 NIV).
We must remember that we are “those who have been called according to his purpose.” We are the “us” Paul says that God loves, justifies, and makes more than conquerors. 

He is worthy to be believed, he is the trustworthy God who loves us. He is worthy of our belief which completes the circuit and allows those things to be true in our lives and circumstances. And, it only takes faith the size of mustard seed to receive it.

Saturday, January 19, 2019

Jesus Christ…In the Flesh!

I’ve often heard people say that their faith would be strengthened and they would feel more comforted if Jesus were actually standing in the room with them, here in the flesh. While Jesus did come to earth to live in the flesh over two thousand years ago, that seems little comfort to some now. 

Yet, the idea of Jesus coming in the flesh is more than a hope and desire, it is an established fact and has become a matter of theological interest, particularly for those who focus upon the end times—mainly due to the following found in 1 John. But are those concerns really the focus of what John is saying in the following passage?
“This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” (1 Jn 4:2,3 NIV)
I propose that this passage has less to do with identifying some sort of false messiah as it has in defining who we are in Christ…or more directly, who he is in us. Christ in us, after all, is the hope of glory. Before we go there, we should first establish that Christ has indeed come in the flesh (Heb 2:15, Phil 2:8). This truth is fundamental to our faith.
“The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14 NIV).
This truth is not in contention and it is evident that this sentiment is reflected in John’s statement concerning Jesus Christ having come in the flesh. But John is concerned about more than recognizing or denying the incarnation two thousand years ago. We don’t worship a historical Jesus who once came in the flesh and left us to our own devices; we worship the one who is the same, yesterday, and today, and forever (Heb 13:8).

We worship the one, as translated in the King James, who “is come” in the flesh. The word translated as is means I exist, or I am and is used elsewhere in passages such as, “I am the way the truth and the life” (Jn 14:6 NIV). Jesus has not stopped coming in the flesh for he has come for that very purpose, to set up an eternal Kingdom—not one that is merely historical or futuristic. Now, I understand with so many passages decrying the flesh as evil and in opposition to the Spirit of God, that the idea that Jesus has come to dwell in our flesh might be difficult to accept at first. The fact is that no good things lies within my flesh (Ro 7:18), but fortunately, this problem was remedied:
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Ro 8:3-4 NIV).
God condemned the sin that resided in the flesh so that his Spirit had a place to dwell. Paul, throughout all his writings on this subject, repeatedly decried the flesh as an inferior and evil source of existence. We are not to follow its ways, but instead, overcome the flesh by the Spirit.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16 NIV).
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit” (Gal 5:25-26 NIV).
 “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20 ESV).

All this is to say what is already readily apparent, our flesh is still here, but it must be dealt with by the power of the Spirit. As believers, the Spirit lives within our flesh and was sent that we might overcome the flesh. Does this sound like a new concept to you? It is not new. Ezekiel knew all about it thousands of years ago when through him, God promised (twice) that this would be so.
“I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh” (Ez 11:19 NIV).
“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ez 36:26 NIV).
If our flesh is unworthy, why would God give us a heart made of flesh so that his Spirit could reside there? Because, that is how God's unlikely plan of redemption was meant to unfold.  Christ in us is the fruit of that redemption. Because of what he accomplished, he lives in our flesh just as he lived in his own flesh. We are not worthy of this, except for the fact that he makes us worthy. The spirit of the antichrist is any force or influence which denies that Jesus Christ has come in our flesh to carry on the ministry of Jesus by the Holy Spirit. All we can ever be for Christ is only by what he has accomplished within us that we may be enabled to co-labor with him. As Michael Card wrote in his song, To The Mystery, "He was made like us, so we could be like him." If this were not true, these Scriptures would not have been so clear otherwise:
“Whoever claims to live in him must live as Jesus did” (1 Jn 2:6 NIV)
“This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus” (1 Jn 4:17 NIV).
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (Jn 8:12 NIV).
“You are the light of the world. …let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Mt 5:14,16 NIV).
“Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these” (Jn 14:12 NIV).
I especially like the fact that Jesus tells us that he is the light of the world, and then turns around and tells us that we are the light of the world. This was not written as poetry to be admired, but as a truth to be lived. Any voice that purposes to buffet the work of Christ in us is from the Spirit of the antichrist—the spirit of the world. John tells us that false prophets have gone into the world, but these are not necessarily those who take on some sort of grandiose position or public platform! This warning speaks more to the tone and source of their voice than their position or status. John tells us that the spirit of the antichrist was already in the world back then as the voice of how the world thinks and speaks. We are to test those voices to determine their source. Those who deny that Christ has come in our flesh, exist to deter the work of Christ within us.
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 Jn 4:1-4 NIV).
These voices are in the world and are from the world. But John tells us that the good news is that we have already overcome the world! How could we manage such a thing? There is nothing good that resides in our flesh, right? That is true, except for the fact that the Spirit of Christ has come to reside within the flesh of the believer and guess what…he overcame the forces of the world and the voice by which they speak so that through him, we have done the same:
“When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross” (Col 2:13-15 NIV).
Again, Paul spells it all out. Our flesh was dead because of sin...sin was dealt with along with the principalities and powers connected with it. These contrary voices of influence have been defeated. Paul goes on to connect the dots by defining our mission:
“This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus…His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose that he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Eph 3:6,10 NIV).
That is why Christ in us is the hope of glory. He has given us his heart of redeemed flesh that he can carry on his mission through us. That’s why we’re called The Body of Christ! It is his body, made up of his flesh. Any voice that denies this truth is trying to usurp our place and thwart God’s plan. That’s what a false prophet does. They speak a false humility that says that we’re not worthy to carry the cause of Christ. True humility, on the other hand, says that we will lay down our own way of thinking and listen to what the Spirit says:
“The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments, for, “Who has known the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Co 2:14-16 NIV).
We have been given hearts of flesh so that the Spirit can give us the mind of Christ. Any voice that denies this fact comes from the spirit of the antichrist which has gone into the world where human judgments are born. Jesus has come in the flesh of the Body of Christ with the same mission he’s always had, to destroy the works of the evil one (1 Jn 3:8). That includes these contrary voices which deny that Jesus has come in the flesh. We take these voices captive, just like Jesus did in the wilderness.
“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Co 10:3-5 NIV)
I suggest we stop searching for some kind of personification of the spirit of the antichrist and acknowledge that John was merely pointing out the influence already embedded in the way the world works. Individuals who speak these words will come and go, just as John told us they would, “…as you have heard that the antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come.” Many means…many. But he also tells us to take heart because we have already overcome them.

So while many people, even believers have pined for a physical manifestation of Christ that they can hold onto, the truth is that the Church is that physical manifestation. As we express him, he lives more vitally through us. If that idea feels foreign to us, than we need simply to ask for a greater revelation of our place in the Kingdom and the purpose for which we were called.
“Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit” (Eph 2:19-22 NIV).
Or flesh is the dwelling place where God lives by his Spirit. It could not be presented more plainly than that.