Recently, I had the privilege of spending an hour and a half in the manifest presence of God. What made the experience so unique is all the things that many of those reading this have been conditioned to believe are necessary for such a thing to occur in a meeting (a good crowd, prolonged praise and worship, sermon/ministry of the “word,” prayer, altar call, heart wrenching repentance, whatever, were all absent. How can that be possible?
You do not have to be a member of the family of God for long, before you will be exposed to one of the major divides in doctrine and practice among believers: the division over the continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit, and all the gifts of Ephesians 4:11-13 until the return of the Lord. This blog is the first in a series that examines the implications of the full humanity of our Lord on charismatic issues, and many other foundational facets of the gospel. There is much at stake.
I have been a lifelong charismatic believer. This is declarative, confessional, repentant, and pejorative all at once. I have given my life for the issue of continuation of all the gifts of the Spirit, and the Eph. 4:11 ministries. However, the adjective “charismatic” has a lot of unfortunate baggage because of the debris it has accumulated over forty years of use.
To my fellows: There is a reason 1 Cor. 13 is between 12 and 14. Love without power is impotent piety. Jehovah’s Witnesses can be “loving” after a sort. We are supposed to be able to deliver something of a foretaste of a quality of existence that others cannot. Power without love is utilitarian. People become commodities for an expression of a phenomenon, rather than the phenomenon serving people. It does not have to be an either or matter, rather, both and: power contextualized and administered in, through, and by love.
I am very suspicious of many anecdotal tales of miracles. I believe in the modern day manifestation of miracles. I have seen miracles with my own eyes and I have been a participator in some cases. HOWEVER, I do not believe that the cause of Jesus and His kingdom is helped by inflated, inaccurate, sketchy, “show time,” and overtly fraudulent claims to the miraculous. If anyone cares, I can personally connect you with the individual involved in the following true story of a miracle of radical grace, who can verify it.
I recently had the privilege of attending a gathering of a few families with whom we have developed varying degrees of relationship over the recent years. The very young to senior citizens were present. As I reflected on the two and a half days together, I was amazed at the ease in which so many different fruit and gifts of the Spirit were manifest during our time.
Proverbs says a broken spirit dries the bones. For those of us from even a nominally Christian background, this is hardly earth shaking news. However it is more than a quaint archaic metaphor. The implication in this verse, and others like it, is that the inner man affects the outer. Sometimes, even our physical health can be affected by the state of our soul. Those of us who have trusted Christ for our salvation don’t realize how deeply imprinted we’ve been with a scientific materialist worldview regarding everything except our salvation. This unconscious frequency in our thinking affects the issue of faith for healing and our approach to sickness, disease, health, and medicine. It is one reason among many why we do not see legitimate physical healings as we might.
One of the most significant reasons we do not see healings in our midst as we might, is because of the worldview assumptions and the cultural values of western individualism and personal privacy. The scriptures were not written to, or by, people with a western worldview. They understood sickness, disease, and healing differently than we do. We cannot come to the scriptures with our western presuppositions, and expect kingdom results. This profoundly affects our theology and practice of praying for the sick.
Biblical faith has three important objective elements: His Word, His Person, and His Cross. These three are in fact, one. The Word is the revelation of His Person. The Cross is the instrument of revelation. The Person of the Holy Spirit (the Spirit of the Lord) actively administers both the Word and the Cross to us. We get into trouble when we try to separate these three from one another.
The Jews didn’t engage life in a compartmentalized fashion. For them, Yahweh’s nature couldn’t be parsed into this or that sub-attribute and broken out for independent analysis. For us, it’s the methodology we use for deepening our understanding of something. It’s the foundation of our science. Acknowledged or not, it’s the way Western Christians have been taught to engage life, the Scriptures, and God Himself. Our worldview affects how we approach the topic of healing. Healing is an outflow of a maintained relationship, not the result of adherence to principles.
Healing gifts have ceased. They have passed away because we now have the Bible. If you are not healed it is because of sin or a lack of faith on your part. God only heals from His sovereignty. Healing is guaranteed in the atonement, if you are not healed, it’s your fault.
These and many other diverse perspectives have left many in the body of Christ in confusion and pain. This five-part blog series will be excerpts from my book, Healing: Hope or Hype? In it, I try to find a new covenant, grace-filled, faith-filled, God-honoring, scripture-honoring middle road on this topic. Neither ditch of passive, fatalist, unbelief in a mysterious sovereignty and the guilt, manipulation, and fraud of the televangelists is acceptable. Those suffering in their bodies deserve better than either of these extremes can offer. Those of us in health owe it to those who suffer to minister to them in identificational care, and power . . . without the hype, shame, and manipulation.