Tuesday, June 22, 2004

Dangerous Distinction

In a previous post, I addressed some "fine lines" I have begun to see in the life of a believer. In talking with my wife I was able to more clearly understand a very dangerous "fine line."

In my most recent post,
Faith, I wrote of the case when some people use the fact of God’s sovereignty, or his superiority to us in his ways and thoughts, as an excuse when they fail to see the miraculous work of God in a person’s life. Sometimes I think people fear being insensitive in accusing a person of lack of faith when they are not healed, or when they are not lifted from financial burden, or any number of other instances in a person’s life. So instead, we blame it on God. "Well, God knows best, and we cannot argue with Him." "Well, God is sovereign, and sometimes He has a different plan." "Well, God’s ways are higher than ours and we do not understand them."

These are all true, do not misunderstand me. However, this is where the dangerous distinction comes in between the people of God and those who labor in vain; the sheep and the goats to take from one of Jesus’ parables. The danger here is to be satisfied with this lack of knowledge. It is one thing to say and believe, "Well, God’s ways are higher than ours and we do not understand them." It is another thing entirely to say, "LORD, show me your ways and teach me your right paths." Both statements acknowledge the difference between the LORD’s ways and ours, but one statement desires to know God’s ways more deeply, while the other is satisfied with ignorance. Christ is not satisfied with ignorance. He told the goats to depart from Him because He never knew them.

In previous posts I have spoken of the necessity of the Holy Spirit in our walk with Christ. In
Let us Go a Little Deeper, Shall We I spoke of the difference between a requirement of Baptism of the Holy Spirit in power for salvation and the result of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit in power for those who are saved. I have witnessed a similar "satisfaction" with salvation here as well. It is dangerous for someone to think themselves "saved" simply for the purpose of not going to hell, and thus not in need of the Holy Spirit. Why is it dangerous? Because "fire insurance" does not exist outside of your local insurance company. Salvation is so much deeper than this idea of not going to hell. Yet many become satisfied at this point and may not make much effort to go further, thinking they have the grace of the blood. Salvation is the simplest thing in the world, Christ and Him crucified, but it is foolish to think it is simplistic. Never get stuck thinking you are as deep as you can go, or will go, but eagerly seek more. Eagerly seek the greater gifts, for if you seek you will find. Eagerly seek the greater knowledge of Christ, for if you seek you will find. But repent of the mindset of this world, for truly, God’s ways are much higher than the ways of the world, and the world can never understand Him. Consequently, the world also can never enter into his rest.


The last couple of days, almost a week in reality, my wife has been sick. She came down with a fever last Wednesday and is still feeling the effects today. She had a fever almost exclusively for a couple of days, but by Saturday, other symptoms began to show. We took her to an immediate care facility Saturday afternoon. They diagnosed her with a kidney infection and prescribed some antibiotics. Beckie is feeling much better now, but is still recovering the strength she had lost to the fever. We give you praise, O LORD!

This episode brought up some interesting questions to me. I have rebuked sickness in others and myself before, and it has left. I could not do it with this. We prayed, we rebuked sickness and infection, we did everything we could think of spiritually. Still, the fever remained. It caused me to question the validity of the message I have presented in some of the other posts. Thankfully, God is still faithful even in the midst of my doubt.

I asked Him why we did not see the healing in Beckie we expected. The message of the power and authority of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers has been a powerful and enlightening message, but when I needed the power most, it failed. He reminded me of the story in which the disciples were attempting to drive out a demon but were unable to do so. Jesus came over and immediately the demon was exorcised. What was the reason? Let me recount the story.

Mark 9:14-29
When they came to the other disciples, they saw a large crowd around them and the teachers of the law arguing with them. As soon as all the people saw Jesus, they were overwhelmed with wonder and ran to greet him.

"What are you arguing with them about?" he asked.

A man in the crowd answered, "Teacher, I brought you my son, who is possessed of a spirit that has robbed him of speech. Whenever it seizes him, it throws him to the ground. He foams at the mouth, gnashes his teeth and becomes rigid. I asked your disciples to drive out the spirit, but they could not."

"O unbelieving generation," Jesus replied, "how long shall I stay with you? How long shall I put up with you? Bring the boy to me."

So they brought him. When the spirit saw Jesus, it immediately threw the boy into a convulsion. He fell to the ground and rolled around, foaming at the mouth.

Jesus asked the boy’s father, "How long has he been like this?"

"From childhood," he answered. It has often thrown him into fire or water to kill him. But if you can do anything, take pity on us and help us."

"’If you can’?" said Jesus. "Everything is possible for him who believes."

Immediately the boy’s father exclaimed, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief!"

When Jesus saw that a crowd was running to the scene, he rebuked the evil spirit. "You deaf and mute spirit," he said, "I command you come out of him and never enter him again."

The spirit shrieked, convulsed him violently and came out. The boy looked so much like a corpse that many said, "He’s dead." But Jesus took him by the hand and lifted him to his feet, and he stood up.

After Jesus had gone indoors, his disciples asked him privately, "Why couldn’t we drive it out?"

He replied, "This kind can come out only by prayer."

In Matthew 17:20, Jesus’ answer to the disciples’ question was this: "Because you have so little faith. I tell you the truth, 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. 21But this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting."

So here I am, like the disciples, asking why I could not drive out the sickness, and Christ tells me the same thing, "Because you have so little faith...this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting." When you read the story, you do not see Jesus gathering the elders and praying for a long time, fasting, tearing his clothes, or going through any other motions. He just simply rebukes the demon. So, He did not need prayer and fasting, did he?

Yes, he did! He came in prepared with prayer and fasting. His lifestyle was one of prayer and fasting. He was in intimate communion with the Holy Spirit through continuous prayer and/or fasting. And I was not. This is the message He was giving to the disciples: live your lives in such a way so as to not be taken by surprise. Be prepared at all times through prayer and fasting. Then when you are presented with a situation, you can take care of it rather than be overcome with doubt.

As I tried to rebuke the infection, and it would not go, my response was a feeling of doubt. Thoughts began to come to mind like, "Why doesn’t God do this?" "Am I doing something wrong?" "Maybe it is not God’s desire to outright heal her." I experienced many different thoughts which stymied my faith, for I had so little. You see, Romans 10:17 says faith comes from hearing the message and the message is heard through the word of Christ. We can only hear his word when we are in prayer. This is what prayer is, conversation with the LORD. Fasting helps us to drown out the rest of the world and hear Him more clearly. Thus our faith is bolstered through prayer and fasting as we make Christ the center of our lives. LORD I confess to you I have not made you the center of my life.

I have too often been guilty of giving token prayer and fasting, but not making it a discipline in my life. Those who make it a discipline, who seek the LORD always and fully, see marvelous things occur in their lives. Those who do not find themselves riddled with doubt, often unwilling to address the deeper needs and subjects, and excusing this with appeals to the sovereignty of God or "His ways are higher than ours."

Have you ever heard the excuse, "Well, God is sovereign?" Yes, He is, but that has little to do with why we do not see healings or the miraculous. He has already told us we will see miraculous things in our lives if we follow Him. He said ask anything in my name and it will be given to you. He did not qualify this with, "except for such and such a time when I decide not to." God is sovereign, and his sovereign decision is to give without sparing to his people. So then, in the receiving of gifts such as healing, the question comes back to this: "am I one of your people, God?" Oh, LORD, I so want to be.

Thursday, June 03, 2004

Fine Lines

This last weekend, I had the opportunity to speak to a friend of mine while on a trip to New Mexico. He is involved in some exciting things with the body of Christ and taking people deeper in their faith. During the course of our conversation, my friend, unwittingly perhaps (thanks RP), confirmed a whole range of characteristics God had been revealing to me about our Christian walk. RP was speaking of the "fine line" between interdependence and codependence. Interdependence is a quality of relationship whereby the people relating tend to work together to beneficially affect everyone involved. Each member has something significant to share and they use what they have to build up the others while also being built up. This is a healthy relationship among members and is characteristic of the manner in which the parts of the human body work together.

Codependence is a term many of us have heard with regard to drug and alcohol abuse. A codependent is a person who relies upon another, or even manipulates the other, to have some need filled. In the drug or alcohol cultures, this need is a fix, or supply of drugs or alcohol to feed the addiction, or simply the empowerment to continue in the addiction. Unfortunately, all too often we see this same codependency exhibited in churches throughout the nation. Large (or small, I do not mean to discriminate) groups of people gather together every Sunday to be fed and ministered to by a pastor, worship leader, Sunday school leader, etc. They come and get their "religion" fix, or "forgiveness" fix, or "music" fix, each week. Whether it be in a drug addicted human body or a "church" addicted body of Christ, this relationship is dangerous to the proper functioning of the body, and tends to lead to death.

We can see the "fine line" here between someone in church who is ministered to while also ministering, and the one who only just soaks up the ministry being handed out. No wonder we have so many pastors who suffer from stress and burn out, as well as any number of other sinful activities. They are like a battery we use up, throw out, and replace. Sometimes we hook them up to the "charger" (retreats, pastor’s conferences, etc.), but generally we are only interested in what they provide us.

This is not, however, the subject of this post. My subject here is "fine lines." The LORD has been showing me many different "fine lines" in this relationship we have with Him. One such "fine line" could be delineated from my
first post. The "fine line" between reaction to heresy in the church and identification by that reaction. For instance, most of us are somewhat familiar with the fact Martin Luther was a Roman Catholic priest who, after reading the Bible, realized much of the Roman Catholic doctrine was flawed. When he was unable to affect change within the church, he left. I do not see this to be a problem. The problem was how his followers then identified themselves with Luther rather than the Christ Luther found. Thus we have the Lutherans. The Calvinists formed in much the same way. In fact we can trace nearly any denomination to such reaction and identification. Why are the Baptists called Baptists? It is because they identify themselves with the issue of baptism, and that by immersion. Why do we have Pentecostals? Because these people identify themselves with the issue of Holy Spirit power as seen at Pentecost. I could go on. The key question here is whether the body of Christ will go where God is and then follow him, or will the body go where God is and then let Him carry on without us as we cherish the teaching rather than the Teacher.

My second post also showed a "fine line." A doctrine is being taught in churches in various places adding baptism of the Holy Spirit to the requirements for salvation. Can you see the "fine line?" The baptism of the Holy Spirit in power is not a requirement of salvation, but an evidence of it. I will not rehash the post I previously had written but you can read it
here. Jesus said miraculous things would follow those who believed in Him. This does not mean we must exhibit the power of the Holy Spirit to become saved, but we can see how easily it would be to fall into this doctrine.

Another "fine line" can be seen in the idea of the trinity of God. I also covered this some in a
previous post. It is equally easy to fall into the fallacy claiming there to be three equal gods unified in purpose as it is to fall into the fallacy claiming the three manifestations of God are simply Him revealing himself in different ways in different contexts.

So what is the purpose of all this? Why do we need to know about "fine lines?" Simply this: Jesus said, "wide is the gate and broad is the path which leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it." (Matthew 7:13-14) Jesus also said, "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 perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me you evildoers!’" (Matthew 7:22-23) This word "knew" indicates deeply intimate knowledge, the kind which is mutual. I infer from this the previous verse can also mean we did not know Him. "Why do I say this" you ask? Because Christ is God and He knows us better than we know ourselves since He knit us together in the womb. So when He says in Matthew He never knew us, I think He means we never entered into relationship with Him and got to know Him.

We start to flirt with the danger of "fine lines" when we forsake intimate knowledge of Christ through the Holy Spirit for doctrines and teachings which rest on the vain understanding of finite men. The road is narrow, and not just anybody travels it. Frequently people stray from the narrow path into heresy simply by taking a scripture out of context. This is the importance of the Holy Spirit: He never takes scripture out of context, but reveals the full truth of Christ to the hearts of God’s people. Because he is one and unified, He will never tell one group of people one way is right and tell another group a different way is right. Only one way exists. That way is full knowledge (intimacy) of Christ.

This is the heart of the vision of the reviving body. Christ is seeking those who seek more intimate knowledge and will turn from the wickedness of their own hearts and their own understanding from the midst of the millions who claim to be His and cry out "Lord, Lord." These cannot help but be unified in purpose. Drop the arguments over baptism, for baptism will flow from Christ. Stop arguing over the Holy Spirit, for He also has been sent of Christ. Do not be concerned over the Great Commission, for it too will be fulfilled in Christ when we let Him rule in our lives by his salvation. All of these discussions are deviations from the "fine lines" upon which we can only remain through the sustaining guidance of the Holy Spirit.