I am just being honest. At times I find myself wanting to skim over some of Jesus’ troubling words. Yesterday it was, “If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” Today, it’s “Heal the sick and raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons…”
I think it’s the trend I see in these verses that trouble me. They are verses that require that I think and live like Jesus Christ. My first reaction, as I reluctantly processed this, was, “This idea of us doing the miraculous is scandalous! We are talking about God incarnate here! I am just a man! And a fallen one at that!” Yet, here it is again, as we saw it yesterday, “As the Father has sent me, I also send you.” Only today the Lord’s words are loaded with supernatural specifics. In discussing miracles we are treading on one of the major fault lines dividing the Body of Christ.
I frequently get the impression, as I read the New Testament, that Jesus has given His children a frightening amount of authority we simply do not know what to do with. But as I give it more thought, we do come by this authority honestly. After all, with His Holy Spirit, He imparted to us His nature (His DNA). The same power that raised Jesus from the dead, that healed and set people free, that spoke the cosmos into existence, resides within us. So now, in spite of our personal opinions regarding our potential, God’s DNA is our DNA. That is huge! And I believe it should provide for a more flattering view of ourselves individually and collectively than we are accustomed to. Which is truer of us: that we are fallen or that we are new creations? Does this matter of our core identity affect our expectations and faith?
I have discovered in recent conversations that this idea of God’s-DNA-in-us is a bit much for some. I realized they think of the Holy Spirit more as a genie in a human-shaped lamp instead of God’s Spirit intertwined and inseparable from our own nature. I notice they also seem to think that when they sin the Spirit leaves the lamp. This can contribute to quite a lot of labor (plus guilt, plus shame, plus fear) being expended in trying to get Him back in and to stay there. “Oh Lord, do not take Thy Spirit from me.”
We are not going to heaven just because of some legal-heavenly document that has been stamped “SAVED.” While that document may exist, we are going to heaven because our nature is now compatible with that realm. We have been born-again into a race of beings that in Christ originated there. Heaven is our native land. Heaven is our new natures. Jesus’ life (His DNA) is our life. Christ lives in us. He is the first-born of a new race of men of which we are a part. We are so much more than just sinners saved by grace (inhabited on occasion by the Holy Spirit)!
Of course this line of reasoning must be discounted entirely by those who believe the show of miraculous power was an anomaly of the first century when there were legitimate apostles and the Christian religion required a good push out of the starting gate. As convenient and comforting as cessationist reasoning might be, I still have a sense that our deficit of the supernatural is not a God-intended dispensation.
I don’t know all the reasons why we are lean on miracles, but I could reason from scripture that the enemy of God’s kingdom, Satan, whose reign on this earth happens to be inversely related to the realization of God’s kingdom, is violently opposed and is leveraging every available deception to prolong his temporary influence. So, as long as he can promote any line of reasoning in the Church that will discount how we see ourselves and the authority that God has delegated, the Church will continue to fall short of her glorious destiny and the father of lies will prevail in his stall tactics.
I could also speculate that the immense authority God is attempting to delegate to us may frighten us. We are probably also intimidated at the responsibility this would bring. Our reasoning might be: “Oh. Delegating authority of this magnitude to men in their fallen and depraved condition would be like nuclear power in the hands of foolish children. Our egos would never stand the strain.” We are all familiar with the quote, “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” We think, “No, we would screw this up so bad and we would end up on the evening news every night bringing further shame to the name of Jesus.”
Conversely, I could also speculate that God the Father is waiting to release His power through those established sons and daughters who are at rest in Christ and do not feel like abandoned stepchildren when they stumble.
I don’t believe our reluctance toward the supernatural comes exclusively from the cessationist school of thought, but from those of us who have not fully discovered and reclaimed our new identities in Christ. Until this matter of what DNA is primary in us is resolved, any transformational Christian life, especially one that includes “the miraculous,” is going to be hard slogging.
I believe another issue for us is that most of us have received a gospel in western culture that has been divorced from the Kingdom of God. Its emphasis has often been the forgiveness of sins, escaping hell and getting into heaven. The greatest expectation for many of us has been the rapture so we can escape this defiled and unholy world, not to mention our defiled and unholy selves. Unfortunately, the message that our kingdom-less gospel has produced has quite a different flavor, effect, and outcome than the message Jesus introduced. By the way, our kingdom-less gospel has also helped produce a disciple-less Christianity. Here is what Jesus told His disciples to preach and to do: “The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, cast out demons; freely you received, freely give.”
I believe that God has always desired for earth to be overrun and managed by a new race of kingdom citizens—children who resemble Him in character, thought, and deed. I believe, whether we get it yet or not, that He really has called us to think and live like Jesus. I think that the Church will one day rise to her appointed and glorious destiny as kingdom heralds. In that day, we will realize that He actually did delegate outrageous authority to those with the faith and confidence of children.
I believe God has a plan, in these later hours, to rejoin the gloriously good news of the gospel to the all-encompassing, ever-expanding enterprise of His kingdom. The children of this kingdom will be as shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves in the use of their authority. With new identities, grounded in Christ, they will discover and live out their destinies as strategically placed agents of God’s eternal kingdom. I believe there are glorious days ahead for the church!
“Christ in us” is a “now” reality, as is the kingdom of heaven that Jesus introduced. Christ in us is the hope of glory. Like Paul, I believe that there will be suffering, but however it presents itself, it will not be worthy, compared to the glory that is to be revealed to us and through us. At some point in the future, and perhaps it is near, a radical transformation is due within the Church. Paul indicates that creation itself will, with us, escape our joint-slavery to futility and corruption and that the cosmos will be enjoined into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.
Father, may we recognize and receive the inheritance of our new natures and our new identities, which have been so firmly established in Christ. May we discover as kingdom children that we have been united in an enterprise that exceeds all earthly agendas and brings redemption, healing, sanity, and efficiency into all human endeavors. May we repent of our beliefs that, in any way, have discounted your “now” intentions for us and Your kingdom. Anoint us to be catalysts everywhere that our feet tread. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.