Yes. I do believe Jesus still heals people but as one who lives unhealed with chronic pain (at least at this writing), this question has haunted me. Holding on to a belief, while being the apparent evidence to the contrary, is a set up for deferred hope which can make the heart sick. If you want to know the why of me, you will need to know where my “Yes” regarding healing began.
My life in Christ began in 1976. I do not exaggerate when I say it was like being shot out of a cannon. Because of the immediate changes He made in my heart and the love which He inundated me with, I had every reason to believe this Jesus whom I had just encountered, was the same guy in the bible who healed people and did miracles. I concluded that the New Testament must be God’s yardstick. I believed life was to be measure by a New Testament standard – which included miracles. My first one involved God changing something about me that was closer to me than my skin.
While Bartemaeus’ paralysis involved sight, I on the other hand, had grown up as a social paralytic. We were both captives but my prison was shyness. My whole personna developed by compensating for this disability. However, when Jesus entered my life, I had a story to tell and I could not shut up. He had set me free and, with all my heart, I believed He intended to do that for all men! After all, I was not special; God so loved the world. As I heard myself giving account of his encounter with God, I wondered, who was this guy jabbering on and and on? The whole thing was like an out of body experience. This was an unprecedented miracle to me that met that ‘far more abundantly beyond’ – (Ephesians 3:20) New Testament standard.
However, as I looked down on motor-mouth Rob, a strange thing was happening – I noticed a cloud forming between him and other (more mature?) Christians. What’s up with this? Upon hearing my story, they would shut down or even walk away. Older believers tried to gently break the news to me that Jesus really isn’t doing that miracle thing anymore. Your kidding! This was quite disorienting to me as a young impressionable Christian. As a recent miracle, I was naturally dubious.
I didn’t know it, but I had been born again right on top of one of the largest fault-lines within Christianity. On one side there were Christians who believed miracles and the gifts were childish things to be done away with after the death of the apostles. The Bible – the perfect, had come and was now the only source of inspiration for them. In this camp, the Holy Spirit’s main job was to interpret scripture.
I sincerely didn’t want to be rude to the sola scripture segment of my new family but I knew God was still revealing Himself to men and speaking to them because He had just done so with me. As I told my story, I watched an unwelcome cloud form, which I learned, could become stormy and even threatening. As I gave an account of the new hope within me, the right hand of fellowship was withdrawn from this branch of the family tree. I loved these people. This made my heart sick.
On the other side of the fault line there were those who were excited, like myself, that Jesus was the same then, now and forever. They were zealous in their exploration of New Testament life. The Holy Spirit was right in the middle of it all. Admittedly, on this side of the divide, there were plenty of things to raise an eyebrow or even a scriptural-based question over but nevertheless, it was among this group that I took my first steps as a baby Christian. Since this tribe was pursuing a biblical New Testament reality (and happened to be the only ones who would accept me) I threw my lot in with them. Miracles here we come.
At least that is what I anticipated. However, after I watched hundreds of prayers for healing go unanswered, many of which were prayed in behalf of my body, my heart started feeling sick all over again. As my expectations were undershot by a few miles, I had to ask, “What is wrong with me that I do not experience divine health which, I had been taught, is my birthright?” It was as though I were lost all over again, except this time, within Christendom.
I became very discouraged trying to connect theologically to either side of the family. Each believed, with certainty, theirs was the way regarding the miraculous. Sadly, the more prideful, insecure and often prominent, would train their doctrinal guns at the more obvious heretics across the fault line. I have been caught in many a crossfire and to be honest, doctrinal arguments whizzing through my brain and over my head effect my heart in a sickening way.
As I have continued to trek along the fault lines, how often I have thought I would love to have a systematic, air-tight theology that removed the mystery and answered my myriad questions. But the Lord, I believe, has prevented this. It seems that mystery, at least for me, is the context where faith, hope and love must grow. The absence of certainty is the odd yet fertile place where faith grows best in my life.
“Here Along The Fault Line” (that was Dylan song wasn’t it?) I have made a choice that I am not going to be offended when I fail to get miracles on demand. Yet, I am going to presume Christ is still a healer and pray along that line. On grounds of my biblical understanding and personal experience, I am going to reject the notion that Jesus has changed His mission. Just because I haven’t experienced my miracle doesn’t prove they no longer exist.
Jesus is, in the essence of His being – a healer. This reality is not altered by my incomplete experience. I confess I want relief from my pain but I have also desired healing as a hedge to my faith bets. I believe, in certain instances, for our inheritance sake, God stands between us and objectives like this. Instead, I believe God wants faith to precede outcomes. He says faith itself is the assurance of these things we hope for.
Perhaps, like Bartemaeus, we too have issues with our vision. Perhaps, the cry from our hearts should be the same as his, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on us !” If we feel some heartache regarding division within Christ’s Body, or we find a longing for miracles, perhaps in the midst of our deferred-heart pain, if we will bear it for a while, we will hear Jesus asking us …
What do you want me to do for you?
I believe we too, if we will persevere and not feint by giving into disappointment, will one day, perhaps very soon, hear Jesus say to us …
Go your way; your faith has made you well.
Father, open the eyes of our hearts. Grant us the spiritual courage to ask questions. Grant us the perseverence to lay hold of that for which we were laid hold of – things which eye has not seen nor ears have heard – these good works which you have prepared for us to walk in. May Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Amen.
John, the disciple of whom it was rumored, Jesus especially loved, explains his motives for recording today’s passage …
These things have been written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and in believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31)
The first question God asks us is …
Do you believe in me?
Our honest “Yes Lord” (which is also a gift) is our modest contribution to our rebirth. God lays the foundation stone, in Christ, and the human spirit is awakened to the possibility of communion with God. Eternity has overtaken our hearts and we are born anew! However, the next question will determine what gets built on this new foundation …
Do you love Me?
How do you respond? For many years this question deeply troubled me. I wanted to say with Peter, “Lord, you know that I love You” but there was a problem. That sentence, which I longed to say, would hang up in my conscience, which readily informed me that my life did not meet the criteria permitting such a reply. My foundation was in place in Christ and I enjoyed God’s favor in so many ways but I was still troubled. In the depths of me I believed construction delays were being caused by my inability to say, with clear conscience, “Lord, I love you.”
I was haunted by a sense of unworthiness so, I just built it into my theology. It was like a perfect marriage (but one made in hell), “Do you Rob (insecure to the core) accept Depravity as your partner?” I responded wholeheartedly, “I do.” The vows had been exchanged and the two had become one. The merger resulted in a new identity and an elder brother was birthed.
This all made so much sense. God is great and I am not. He is large and I am small. He is holy so I must live in brokenness, which I thought of as the heart’s ongoing commitment to recall; my sins are ever before me. At this point I was all about the chores – I was now helping with construction. I read, prayed, studied, served and led. In my labors, I held out a feint hope for myself; if I did my chores well, perhaps one day I will turn that corner and break into that place others speak of, known as abiding. I reasoned; if I did my chores wholeheartedly as unto the Lord, perhaps I would one day (probably after I’m dead) hear Him say, “Well done good and faithful servant.”
Ultimately God, in His kindness (which I confess, felt severe at times) led me to repentance for my elder brother, works-oriented heart. He had heard my repeated cry; “Search me and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts and see if there be any hurtful way in me and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23,24)
Had God not loved me while I was yet a sinner? Could anything have separated me from His love? How did the idea that I was not measuring up coexist with my salvation? It can easily happen because our hearts, even though they have been reborn, are not immune to deception.
Christian growth has many names; discipleship, transformation, spiritual formation or sanctification. Since, I am a contractor, I think of it all as construction – a building project spread out over a lifetime. The project has an architect, a general contractor, a location, a plan, a foundation, a superstructure and one very important laborer – us. We can sleep in, go on strike, call in sick or even retire, or we can learn to carry our load – which, it turns out, is light.
Job abandonment is insane though; if we are not on the job, the enemy is going to sneak into the project, steel materials, vandalize, scribble on the plans and disrupt the process however he can. He is a master thief and opportunist. And, If we show up, wearing our elder brother hat, we will assist him in construction delays.
A major project milestone is met when we show up and acknowledge we are exhausted and can labor no more. At this point, the foundation is restored and the superstructure can proceed. God is once again building upon Christ and Christ alone. A lie has been exposed; we cannot work hard enough to earn God’s approval. Believing you are saved yet do not measure up is a hurtful way because it undermines the beautiful structure God has vowed to complete, in Christ.
God exposed the lie. He rescued my heart which had become conditioned to laboring in a vacuum of grace. Today, I can freely respond to the Lord, “I love You”. This liberty is certainly one of the more attractive features of the project! My renewed conscience informs me today that I am God’s possession and He is mine. We are each other’s treasure! It really is finished! Further labor to win approval is nonsensical and destructive.
John not only out-raced Peter to the empty tomb, he was also first to rest in God’s love. One who can rest his head upon God’s chest is no longer working for approval. This soul is at liberty to simply enjoy God’s company. Did Jesus have a greater love for John than Peter? I don’t think so. John had simply presumed upon his friendship with Jesus and discovered that the foundation held up. The New Testament message is good because what John experienced is available to all who come to Jesus. John presumed upon God’s love and the rumors followed.
My first encounters with Jesus began with a literal inundation of God’s love. In spite of the obvious message in this experience, I reasoned (in my insecurity); Rob (you screw up), you better work diligently so that you don’t jack this up like everything else in your life. In my labors, I became the classic elder brother, alienating myself from Father’s affection. His perceived attitude toward me seemed so unfair since I believed I had done my chores so diligently for so long and so much better than my siblings. What can be said to us elder brothers? Here is what I eventually heard …
Congratulations on that performance! Enjoy the brief applause (even if its only your hands clapping) because you have just received your reward in full.
If we must have a blue print to follow, I would suggest one depicting a heart, steeped so thoroughly in God’s grace that it is privately and continually saying to Him, face to face, “Lord, I love you. I love you! I love you!!” This beautiful structure can rise from the ashes only because we have ceased from our labors. We have finally realized (experientially) that God has loved us first. With His cross – the demonstration of His love, He has permanently and totally demolished the basis for our guilt-laden introspection and labors. That false foundation has been obliterated! This is the really good news about the Good News!
I can testify that a heart laboring for approval paints a huge works-shaped bullseye on our back – a nearly perfect target for the enemy’s fiery missiles. When the missiles hit, the result is initially condemnation, then our response follows; it is either depression or, more typically (for the devout), a doubling-down on religious resolve which is driven more by fear than love. There is a problem though; Working without resting produces religion.
Religion is one of the most hurtful things that can grow in a human heart. It is every bit as ugly as debauchery but it can look pretty good, depending on your angle of view. We elder brothers and Pharisees have stacked one good work upon another, liking what we see. Sadly, others have viewed it and found it rigid, unattractive and even bizarre in appearance.
Father, may we realize the life we have in Your name. We pray that You would demolish the foundations of religion in our hearts – these places always teetering between self-condemnation and self-congratulations. Demo the places where we are measuring worth by performance. Teach us to live boldly at rest in Your love. May the world watch as we rest our heads upon Your chest. May we live so that others will believe. And as with John, may the rumors spread. Amen.
Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him, Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come forth from God and was going back to God, got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. (John 13:1-4)
The intense light of these verses reveals a foundational reality; we live temporarily in a world inhabited by the devil. This reality produces wisdom who teaches us that our hour of departure will also come. While we remain in this world there is both – a devil trying to plant lies in our hearts and an opportunity for us to expose and overcome them. One surprising place God attempts to do this, I believe, is at funerals.
Funerals remind us of our transience. These solemn assemblies are often the times of quiet we have failed to take, providing long overdue reflection. For an hour, deep calls unto deep, eternity tampers with the temporal, pressing upon us things we somehow know are vital. As the pastor asks, “Oh death, where is thy sting” many can find it in their own hearts as they mourn for others and themselves. Our hearts may be at their very best in these moments.
The grieving are then dismissed. We step outside, back onto the treadmill of this world, which is busy dying and trying hard not to think about it. I’m sure the devil meets us at the door and skillfully escorts us back into our denial. Many of Satan’s most potent lies are designed to mask our transcience. When we agree with them, we become friends of this world instead of remaining as the aliens and strangers, we actually are. So, what are we to do, embedded in a world that is asleep at the wheel? We can follow Jesus example …
If I then, the Lord and The Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. (john 13:14)
I know people who engage in spiritual warfare at high levels. They are conscious of the battles, like the one where Daniel’s prayers hung-up for 21 days. I am grateful for their faith and their prayers. Even though they have a heavenly orientation, they recognize the battle has two fronts. They know, perhaps better than most, this same battle is being waged on earth where mankind is stumbling badly, trying to make sense of his brief appearance.
Where our feet come into contact with our wounded planet – defiled and defiant, we are not without exposure. As agents of free will, we can succumb to the gravity of sin; we can be pulled into denial and the indulgences it facilitates. So, in order to equip the ground forces, the Lord said,
For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. (John 13:15-17)
The funeral home experience gave us a brief glimpse of the pain and loss that surrounds us. If our eyes could only remain open just a bit longer, after the last respects have been paid, we would discover that we are surrounded by lonely, hurting and confused people, most of whom are pursuing the American dream as their shot at happiness. Where this is the case, the enemy is winning – denial is serving its master. Jesus calls this flock, “confused and aimless, sheep with no shepherd.” And He would add, “What a huge harvest!” (from Matt 9:36)
While the American dream has been lauded as the hope of mankind, it is at best, a temporary arrangement. One of the problems is that it was born in rebellion and still breeds, an independence that is incompatible with the kingdom of God. Capitalism and democracy have teamed up to generate more material blessing than any previous team but, surely we see that it has not insured peace and happiness. If its a good dream, why does it spawn so many nightmares?
Sadly, the wealth created in our pursuit of happiness, often creates space between us and our neighbors, both physical and relational. This is a problem since it is these neighbors Jesus told us to love as ourselves. How can we be isolated from others and serve them as the Lord instructed us to? The religious right will try me on counts of treason here but I believe there are fatal lies embedded in an uncensored American dream. If these so called fatal lies exist, what are they and, in what ways have we been duped?
So far in human history (other than outright plundering), free market capitalism has proven to be the most efficient way to create material abundance. Yet without self-denial it becomes a cancer of the soul. A dream that claims its independence from God and each other will soon see its own funeral. If the U.S. does not confirm its national soul in self-control it will fail to reconcile liberty and law. It will forfeit the true freedoms God intended for her. Here is a worthy plea by Katherine. L. Bates who wrote the lyrics to “America the Beautiful.”
America! America! / God mend thine ev’ry flaw, / confirm thy soul in self-control, / thy liberty in law.
It would do us well if we could transfer our grieving from our neighbor’s death to our nation’s dying. Can America be saved, or will the dream of it be encased in a coffin similar to Europe’s post-Christian model? Who will save us? If we think it will be the federal government, we are deluded. At the same time, we are equally deceived if we think, a new regime of politicians, who we may endorse, will save us. The problem is much deeper than political discourse has uncovered, so far.
As Arthur Brooks has proposed in his book, “The Conservative Heart”, our problems are not complicated matters that can be solved by public policy – this would be the pinnacle of arrogance. Our problems are complex and systemic, meaning, we are going to be living with them, and working through them, together, for a long while. Jesus said, “The poor, you shall always have with you.” Brooks touts a kind of hope for America (especially the poor) that is birthed in an others-oriented kind of independence. He envisions men becoming social entrepreneurs – innovators in serving others. He sees the ground troops creating abundance without being attached to it. Without going christian-ese on his readership (he is a devout Catholic), he has found an overlap between the American dream and the kingdom of God. Isn’t there a movie – “Mr. Brooks Goes To Washington?” There is hope folks! He is already there. He is the President of the American Enterprise Institute.
Even without Mr. Brooks there is hope. The New Testament is crammed with instruction as to how we are to live together. This very moment you and I are connected to a variety of networks in our work, in leisure, and in family. Someone, right next to us, is needing us. God’s Kingdom will one day displace Satan’s temporal kingdom of lies. One day, by God’s grace, we will overcome the unhealthy type of independence which breeds isolation.
By God’s grace, our networks may one day connect. Kingdom communities can be birthed. Kingdom growth can be fostered as we identify Satan’s lies and renounce them. Momentum could build as we repent of our association with darkness. Our minds could become renewed and we could demonstrate the will of God – that which is good acceptable and perfect.
So, let’s find the soiled feet nearest us. Let’s gird ourselves with towels, and begin to cleanse what we may, here on earth in the lowest places, knowing we are fighting the good fight at a very high and strategic level. Remember Jesus promised …
If we know these things, we are blessed if we do them.
Father, please awaken us from our slumber. Expose the enemy’s stratagems. Overcome them with Truth you have planted in our hearts . May it grow and produce an unimaginably large harvest. May the Word of God soon cover this earth as an ocean, displacing every lie that has held humanity in bondage since the Garden. Beginning with us, connect the army You have strategically located for the great and final crisis. Teach us to number our days that we may present to you hearts of wisdom. Help us to resist the devil that he might flee from us in terror. Amen.
How can I become a Christian?
What a crucial question! The classic evangelical answer, in my lifetime, has been, “You must ask Jesus into your heart.” Even though the phrase “ask Jesus into your heart” is not even in the Bible, many have come into the kingdom by way of this contemporary phrase because it can embody the biblical injunction to believe and to submit. Recall: Jesus is a savior and a lord. However, if someone were to ask me today, “How can I become a Christian?” I will likely refer them to John 11:25-26 and let Jesus personally convey to them, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.” I might invite them out for coffee in a week or so and follow up with the same question Jesus asked, “Do you believe this?” If we could poll the hearts of all those who have been authentically born again, I believe we would find that all live rebirths share a miraculous common denominator—they believed in Him.
Pretty simple isn’t it? And yet, having a savior in heaven is one thing; having a Lord living in our hearts at breakfast is another. Where the Eternal Seed takes root, we begin discovering His life in a very personal tension. We discover that we have our ways and He has His, which are somewhat higher than ours. We also learn that He has this notion that it is to everyone’s benefit that we lose every argument. Welcome to the kingdom.
In two different places in this passage, we see this inevitable tension: John 11:21 and 32. Here we see an “if only” attitude being exposed in Martha and Mary, who believed Jesus was the Messiah. The sisters (as believers) had inherited eternal life, and the inherent tension that accompanies it.
“If only” – a seemingly innocuous phrase—is a thin disguise for our anything-but-innocent attitudes. At its core, “if only,” betrays dissatisfaction and disapproval. The Holy Spirit will eventually expose us. We will hear our heart’s protest—“Oh man!” or “That’s not fair!” or “What’s the deal!” Sarcasm also betrays this attitude: “Oh, that’s just perfect!” Decoded, these phrases are all asking the wrong question: “Couldn’t you have done this the way I would have if I were You?
Disciples eventually learn that Jesus is invested in every aspect of their lives and that He knows, in each of these areas, how we are to think and what we are to do. Discovering that the Spirit indwells us and has actually become our life is foundational to knowing Jesus as Lord. Walking in the Spirit, living out of His life, involves the ongoing experience of repentance—the laying down of our opinions for His truth, and our preferences for His ways. This is also called discipleship.
Tragically, in our have-it-your-way/seeker-friendly culture, discipleship has become an optional track within Christendom, an experience reserved for the super zealous or those “called into ministry.” Discipleship has been cast as a works-oriented, excessive burden to be carried by those “in ministry.” Discipleship is nothing more than learning to daily live out of God’s life within us. Being a disciple is neither exclusive nor heavy. Jesus said, “My burden is easy and my yoke is light.”
Only a few special saints are called into ministry, and discipleship is reserved for them—what a lie! No doubt a demon achieved great notoriety in Hell for crafting that whopper. Will there be notoriety in heaven for saints who overcome these demonic strongholds? Probably not. That awards banquet is going to be all about Jesus—the Truth, who ultimately expressed His life through His younger brothers and sisters. These children of the kingdom ultimately arose and overturned the lies which separated discipleship from Christianity and relationship from religion. “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me shall live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me shall never die.”
In summary, salvation was never meant to be a stand-alone event—something that happened way back when. It is true, there was a “when” that we received grace to believe. In that moment, Jesus—the Life of God—invaded our stillborn spirits. This was the beginning of our salvation—a life–process of working out His life with awe and wonder. Discipleship is not a program or a course. It is a lifestyle. Regardless of how alien this post may sound, discipleship is integral to normal Christianity, and it is for all who believe.
Father, thank you that you persevere with us even as we insist on doing life on our own terms. Let our folly run its course. As light, let us overcome darkness. May our lives serve as living proof You have sent Jesus—who saved us and is saving us. Amen.
Do you wish to get well? (from John 5:6)
Why would Jesus ask such an obvious question? Do not all sick people wish to get well? Do not all captives wish to be free?
Not necessarily. Law enforcement dealing with abuse, hostage, and kidnap cases know that a victim can adapt to their enslavement and bond with their captor. It is called Stockholm Syndrome. Like proverbial frogs in a kettle, we can settle for environments—and ideas, which are lethal as long as they are introduced to us in manageable increments. Even after discovering we are in dangerously hot water, we may opt to stay there just because things have become familiar. Think old wineskins.
In our passage Jesus was confronting a victim of Jerusalem Syndrome, a common RTD (Religiously Transmitted Disease). To rescue the man, Jesus had to derail his familiar thinking with a question. He asks the man, “Do you wish to get well or would you prefer to remain here in all this familiarity as a disabled victim?” After the man describes his hopeless circumstances, Jesus says to him, “Arise, take up your pallet, and walk.” With a question and a command Jesus enables this man to trade in the familiar for the impossible.
The scriptures answer the questions we should be asking. Hopefully, as aliens and strangers in this earth, we are at least asking ourselves, “Where am I?” The Bible will tell us we are in a battle and that our hearts are both the battleground and the prize. If this awareness is absent from our consciousness, we are already in very hot water. We are central in this battle between God and Satan. Scripture describes our battle as a conflict between light and darkness. In our battle, the enemy has taken many captives by way of many dark philosophies and theologies. Tragically, wrong ideas can become familiar to us. We will even zealously protect them. I know this first hand.
Ironically, my own prison was constructed from legitimate truths I embraced with a damaged heart. Insecurity in God’s love led me to embrace depravity as my core identity: “What a wretch am I.” Depravity led me to embrace God’s sovereignty as fatalism. Fatalism led to passivity and hopelessness in all things except an after-life, when I would finally be free of me. When Jesus would come to me and ask, “Son. Do you wish to get well?” I would respond, “Oh, Lord, if only that were possible. My sin is ever before me. You know I would like to be free, but things, being fixed as they are, make this impossible. Oh Lord, please do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. I am just a sinner saved by grace and this fate of mine is to be expected, here in this fallen world. Oh, Lord, I’m a lost cause, but Ill be all right. I know You’re busy. Why don’t You spend your valuable time on someone who can receive You?” I’m sure His response was, “Oh, Lord.”
In my prison, I spent a great deal of time in dark introspection. My thoughts and deeds reinforced my self-image as one with a desperately sick heart, beyond understanding and beyond help. Not surprisingly, I was also struggling to receive and enjoy God’s love. I reasoned, as I sulked in my depravity, that discipline and even judgment should be my due from a holy God. I was experiencing chronic Jerusalem Syndrome. I had grown comfortable with ideas about God and myself based on half-truths, also known as lies. I was getting cooked alive.
In my story, events transpired which led me to reconsider my essential identity. Eventually, after God did an especially gracious thing in my heart, I was able to see that I was more than just a sinner saved by grace. I was a saint. On top of that, I was also a son and a friend of God’s. From this place it became easier to acknowledge and receive God’s love. That is a BIG DEAL! Since then, a great deal of shame and guilt has been edited out of my thought process. I feel as though God plucked this frog out of the pan that he might live, and do so abundantly.
It was as if Jesus had come to me and said, “Rob, do you wish to get well, or do you prefer to remain a prisoner to your precious half-truths?” This derailing question was necessary because God knew I was entrapped by toxic and familiar ideas. My theology explained my reality. That reality was the foundation of all my reasoning. Having our cosmology (why things go as they do) altered is the equivalent of a psychic earthquake. The question became, “Rob, will you trade the familiar for the impossible? Give me your incomplete identity as a sinner saved by grace and, in exchange, I will give you a fuller identity as my son and friend.” The Holy Spirit was breaking down all my syndromes and renewing the place of Jesus in my heart.
The enemy delights in any theology that discounts how we see ourselves or distorts how we see God. One of Satan’s strategies is to limit our involvement in the battle by trapping us in our insecurity with bad theology.
One day, when all the enemy’s half-truths have been exposed, I see the Church becoming an agent of healing. Through a liberated Body of Christ, who has grasped her identity and assumed her destiny, captives will be set free. That is what it will look like when God’s will is being done on earth as it is in heaven.
Father, strengthen our hearts. Help us to be bold and courageous in our faith. Lead us to that place where we anticipate, in all arenas of the battle, to see You doing good, exceedingly above and beyond our understanding and expectation. Please show us where we are constricted by half-truths, however comfortable we have become with them. May our beliefs be in sync with Yours. Nothing is impossible for You. Amen.
After the two heard John identify Him as the Passover Lamb, they left his company and began following Jesus. As Jesus became aware He was being tailed, He turned and asked, “What do you seek?”
These two men had already crossed a line. They were hanging out with John the Baptist—a man at odds with the religious establishment. John was preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The citizenry had concluded He was, at the very least, a great prophet and possibly even the Messiah.
What drew these two original disciples away from John? I believe it was this; they knew the Law, but they wanted to know God. The Law and its stewards, the Pharisees, guaranteed the former; their hearts were being drawn to the latter. The Law without grace was a massive burden to their hearts, reminding them they were the types of persons requiring law upon law to save. They knew about God and they knew they were sinners, but these things had not liberated their hearts. This accounts, at least in part, for their association with John—one who was announcing forgiveness. How sweet that must have sounded!
The Law and the Prophets had awakened them to the chasm existing between God and themselves. The ancient scrolls had also hinted of a bridge to come and the reunion that bridge would facilitate. Perhaps the Psalmist’s candor had also awakened a liberty within them, bold enough to ask, “Is there not more?
As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? (Psalm 42:1-2)
In their search for more, the two found themselves in the company of others at odds with the religious status quo. Following Jesus was dangerous! Yet, something about Him made the risk worth it. What was this something? Somehow, Jesus Himself was the answer. Without them knowing it, the Master Teacher was making His primary point: one could stand clean and unburdened in God’s presence.
For these men, a plant had pushed up through the soil, presenting itself in the form of their questions. It had been germinating in the soil of religion. It had produced a sacred weariness and an attendant hunger for reality and relationship with God.
The questions our hearts ask are provoked by the Spirit of Truth. They are signs that God is drawing us. However, we must learn from the original disciples—trouble awaits question-askers. In the context of transformation (the very nature of God’s expanding kingdom) Truth predictably leads men outside the boundaries of establishment. Truth is bold and will challenge the underlying assumptions driving performance religion. It does so, because It came to set us free—to let us soar at higher altitudes than are possible with form and tradition.
For followers of Jesus, tensions within and without, are inevitable. Establishment (aka old wineskins) doesn’t respond well to questions. They quickly withdraw the right hand of fellowship from anyone disturbing what they believe God has established. Question askers will either be censored or ushered to the back door and shown the broad opportunities that await them outside. In extreme situations, they may be crucified.
If God is transforming His Bride from what she is into what she shall be, change is inevitable. Questions precede transformation and the big question remains: “What do you seek?”
I watched a Russian film called Stalker. A stalker leads men into a place where their innermost desire will be met. It reminded me that our innermost desire is also the main thing with God. This thing, whatever it is, will be revealed when we ultimately stand before him—“when nothing that was hidden will remain.” Therefore, why we do what we do is a big deal. This is why God keeps asking, “Really, children, I’m serious—What is it that you want?”
If we find that following Jesus has created tensions between the keepers of tradition and ourselves, let’s quickly give thanks to God for the excellent soil and His gardening skill. Let’s also avoid pointing fingers at the establishment for its shortcomings. Instead, let’s listen to the questions God is asking us. This way, when He asks us why we have done what we have done, our answer can simply be, “Father, You know I have done these things because I have loved You and simply could not bear the thought of our separation.”
In the School of Christ, which meets continually in our hearts, our Teacher, the Holy Spirit, is tutoring us into an experiential love affair with God. Our current relationships and circumstances are our curriculum. If we attend class, we discover that His kingdom is inverted and foreign (at least initially) to our natural minds. Example: in the kingdom, longing, disorientation, and questions are not signs of failure; instead, they indicate our good attendance record.
I am so looking forward to commencement. Aren’t you?
Father, may your Spirit succeed in the re-education of our hearts. Exposing us where we are doing right for wrong reasons. May we see the test at hand. May we give thanks for its content, and may we all graduate with flying colors. Amen.