COVID-19 and The Gospel

Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil. Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is. Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another with psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit. Sing and make music from your heart to the Lord, always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ephesians 5:15-20

The gospel and being filled with the Holy Spirit were always meant to spread like a virus, not unlike COVID-19. One person can “infect” a whole group of people. Yet, what are the preventative measures that stop the spread? Masks, hand sanitizer, social distancing, and inoculation.

Masks = when people hide their face, when they are afraid to be transparent about their life

Hand sanitizer = when people refuse to get their hands dirty, when they want their Christianity tidy and neat and don’t want the mess that comes with the Holy Spirit and a servant-life of following Jesus

Social distancing = lack of connection, lack of community, relational distance

Inoculation = vaccines work by exposing the immune system to part of the virus without being exposed to the whole thing. People get inoculated from the gospel and the Holy Spirit when they get a partial exposure but don’t experience the whole thing. This leads them to believe they have experienced the whole thing, and they are not impressed when it is offered again. They’ve built up a hardness of heart, an immunity.

By far the strongest preventive measure against a virus is a vaccine. Likewise, the strongest preventive measure the enemy can enact against the gospel and the filling of the Holy Spirit is partial exposure without full exposure.

I see this with the gospel when people say, “Oh yeah, I grew up in church.” What they often mean is, “I already know all about Jesus and the church and I don’t want any part of it.” But of course, that isn’t true. They were exposed only partially to the Kingdom and all that comes with following Jesus. If they knew the whole thing, they’d want all of it.

I also see this with the filling of the Spirit, mostly from those who have some experience (usually bad experience) with the charismatic tradition. People saw a charismatic televangelist or went to a charismatic. church for a time in their life and had horrible experiences with that. They now believe they are an expert on the Holy Spirit and being filled with the Spirit. They reject so much of the Spirit’s work in the world because “they already know.” But if they really knew the fullness of the Spirit, they would be running around telling everyone about it. They’ve become inoculated with just enough exposure to leave a bad taste in their mouth but not enough exposure to see what all the fuss is about.

This is why it is vital for churches and Christians to be “all in.” When we give people a partial exposure to the gospel or a partial exposure to the gifts of the Spirit, we run the risk of eventual inoculation. We must be all in ourselves, sold out for Christ, and invite people to an uncompromised experience of the Kingdom and the Spirit.

Gnostic dualism

Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.

Mark 12:30

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

When asked what the greatest commandment is Jesus responds that it is to love the Lord your God with your whole being. It was a holistic view of humanity that Jesus had. We are to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and body.

Likewise, when the apostle Paul wrote to the Thessalonians about sanctification, he expresses a holistic view of humanity. The process of sanctification, where the Holy Spirit transforms us into Christ-likeness, is supposed to happen in our spirit, soul, and body. We are whole people that need transformation in every part of us. We are spirit, soul (mind, will, emotions) and body.

In the early years of Christianity a heresy started to creep into the church called gnosticism. Gnosticism didn’t have a holistic view of humanity and instead was a kind of dualism. The idea was that our spirit is what mattered but that our body was disposable. So whether you used your body to sin or treated your body poorly didn’t really matter as long as your spirit was connected to God. As long as you began to discover the secret knowledge of spiritual enlightenment, that is what made you spiritual. Your body was just a shell to carry your spirit and the knowledge of the secret mysteries. This philosophy was denounced as a heresy in the church because it did not express the biblical understanding of humanity or God.

This kind of gnostic dualism is still creeping into the church today.

In more conservative evangelical wings of the church, it looks like an emphasis on “getting souls saved” or “winning people to Christ” while forgetting to care for people’s physical needs. There can be a tendency to downplay the importance of caring for the poor and helping people with material needs in favor of getting someone to confess Jesus as Lord. In some evangelical churches, working for a more just society and care for the marginalized is totally rejected. This is residue of gnostic dualism. A holistic and biblical approach to humanity and the gospel would emphasize the importance of both salvation and meeting people’s physical needs.

In more progressive and mainline Protestant wings of the church, this dualism looks like an emphasis on caring for people’s emotional needs while forgetting that Jesus wants to heal people’s physical body. There can be a tendency to downplay the reality that God still wants to heal people’s physical illnesses in favor of only caring about people’s emotional healing. In many progressive churches, the idea that God still supernaturally heals bodies from illness and injury is completely rejected. Healing in the church is exclusively an emotional category while physical care is left up to the medical community. This rejection of healing ministry for the body is rife with gnostic dualism. A holistic and biblical approach to humanity and the gospel would emphasize the importance of both physical and emotional healing.

And in typical fashion, progressives often point out the dualism of conservatives and can’t see their own. Likewise, conservatives often point out the dualism of progressives and can’t see their own. This lack of self-awareness mixed with a myopic view of others is how the enemy defeats the church.

Gnostic dualism in any form is not the true gospel. It is not how Jesus viewed humanity nor how the apostle Paul viewed humanity. The gospel addresses the whole person. The gospel sets us free from sin, heals our heart, and offers healing for the body. The Kingdom of God is interested in bringing new life, redemption, and restoration to the whole person, not just part of a person.

Hungry

One who is full loathes honey from the comb,
    but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.

Proverbs 27:7

This proverb could rightly be re-written,

“One who is content with religion, who loves church but is not desperate for Jesus, will hate it when the Presence of God comes crashing in with all of His weird manifestations and powerful encounters. But to those who hunger for more of God’s Presence, who are desperate for life-changing encounters with Jesus, who know that church is worthless without Him, even uncomfortable moments with Him are better than comfortable moments without Him.”

Are we full? Are we satisfied with the intensity of the Presence of God in our midst? Or does He have permission to disrupt our comfort? Does He have permission to cause weird things to happen to us and those around us? Do we crave the level of the Presence of God that the priests experienced when the Temple was dedicated?

When Solomon finished praying, fire came down from heaven and consumed the burnt offering and the sacrifices, and the glory of the Lord filled the temple. The priests could not enter the temple of the Lord because the glory of the Lord filled it. When all the Israelites saw the fire coming down and the glory of the Lord above the temple, they knelt on the pavement with their faces to the ground, and they worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord, saying,

“He is good;
    his love endures forever.”

2 Chronicles 7:1-3

God’s Presence was so thick and so real that it totally disrupted their worship plans. All they could do was bow with their faces to the ground and proclaim God’s goodness and love. Do we hunger for that level of God’s manifest Presence in our midst? Do we long to see God drop fire down in the center of our worship space? Or are we so full with other Christian activities that we’re missing the best part?

While Christian community, small groups, social justice and outreach programs are all good things, they are not the main thing. Jesus is the main thing. God in His glory is the best thing. All other aspects of church should flow from our all-out pursuit of Him and our experience of Him in our midst.

Christ is preeminent. He is above all things!

Father, may you stir in us that deep hunger again! May we become so unsatisfied with Americanized church that we begin to simply long for your manifest Presence in our midst. We are changed when You draw near!

Attending to Jesus

At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.

Mark 1:12-13

It is astounding to me that Jesus––God incarnate––needed angels to attend to Him after His time of fasting and testing in the wilderness. The fact that Jesus would humble Himself to the point of needing attending to is amazing to me. He allowed Himself to be in need. He allowed Himself to suffer. He allowed Himself to go through the fire of trial and temptation.

This truth also points to the reality that Jesus continually chose not to tap into His power as God and instead continued to act only as a man. God does not need help. God does not need attending to by angels. But we do as humans. Jesus chose not to pull from His divinity. Instead, He chose only to pull from His connection to His Father and from the Holy Spirit within and upon Him. He did this to model for us the resources we have in our own connection to the Father and the Holy Spirit within and upon us.

The apostle Paul said it this way:

…have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

Who, being in very nature God,
    did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
rather, he made himself nothing
    by taking the very nature of a servant,
    being made in human likeness.

Philippians 2:5-7

Jesus, although He was in very nature God, never used His divinity to His own advantage. He chose to stay dependent on the Father and empowered by the Holy Spirit. All of Jesus’s strength came from the Father and through the Spirit. All of Jesus’s miracles, healings, and power came from the Father and through the Spirit. Though He could have tapped into His divinity at any point, He continually chose not to. And in doing so, He left us without excuse.

We don’t get to read through the Gospel accounts and let ourself off the hook by saying, “Yeah, but that was Jesus. He was God.” Jesus didn’t leave us that out. He modeled full dependency on the Father, complete obedience, and total cooperation with the Spirit as a man. When we are called to be Christ-like, this is what that means.

Jesus implied our ability to imitate His life when He said:

Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 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, because I am going to the Father. 

John 14:11-12

Jesus expected that we could look at His miraculous works and allow that to foster faith in Him. He also expected that whoever believes in Him would be able to do the same miraculous works, and even greater. What an incredible claim! And if that claim was spoken by a televangelist, I wouldn’t believe it. But it wasn’t. It was spoken by Jesus Himself and recorded in the word of God.

Jesus is our goal. He is our benchmark. His life is what we are trying to replicate by the transforming power of the Spirit within us. Our goal is to imitate the life of Jesus…full obedience and dependence on the Father…full cooperation with the Holy Spirit…total surrender to God’s will. And along with this the expectation that we too will face trials, temptations, and hardships in this life just as Jesus did. We too will face moments of such depths that we’ll also need angels to attend to us.

Fear of the Lord

That day the Lord saved Israel from the hands of the Egyptians… And when the Israelites saw the mighty hand of the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant.

Exodus 14:30-31

Let all the earth fear the Lord;
    let all the people of the world revere him…

No king is saved by the size of his army;
    no warrior escapes by his great strength.
A horse is a vain hope for deliverance;
    despite all its great strength it cannot save.
But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him,
    on those whose hope is in his unfailing love,

Psalm 33:8, 16-18

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
    and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.

Proverbs 9:10

I believe the Lord is inviting the church back to the fear of the Lord. We must know how loved and cherished we are by our Father in heaven. We must know that we are a son or daughter of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. We must understand our inheritance in the Kingdom of God. And knowing all of this will inevitably lead to the fear of the Lord, an encounter with His holiness.

What is the fear of the Lord?

1. It is absolute surrender. It’s saying “Yes” to God before we even fully understand His command.

2. It is freedom from the fear of man. It’s no longer being bound by people pleasing. It’s seeking God’s approval above all others.

3. It is humility. It’s owning the fact that He is God and we are not. It’s living out the reality that we are not equal with God. (Philippians 2:5-8) He gets to call the shots. We are following Jesus not the other way around.

4. It is waiting on the Lord. It’s knowing that going forward without Him is pointless.

5. It is going boldly when we are sent by the Lord. It’s taking risks and stepping out in faith.

6. It is making hosting God’s Presence the primary concern, making sure He feels welcome before anyone else feels welcome.

There are a few reasons I feel like the Lord wants to return the fear of the Lord to the church. I’ve heard more than one major church leader talk about feeling this pull toward the fear of the Lord. I’ve also had talks with prophetic friends who feel the same way.

But the main reason I think Jesus wants to reintroduce the fear of the Lord to the church is because of an encounter I had at the end of 2019. I experienced just a taste of God’s raw holiness and was undone by the fear of the Lord. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before, and I’ll never forget it. I believe the Lord was giving me a taste of what is to come. I wrote about that experience here.

In the future, I believe entire worship services will be taken over by the fear of the Lord. People will bow in repentance and kneel weeping before the Lord as they encounter His awesome holiness. Lukewarm Christianity will be broken in half. Syncretistic agreement with our current culture will be washed away in the hearts of believers. Being obedient will take precedence over being liked. The fear of the Lord will shake us and cause a full surrender.

Baptism of Jesus

And so John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River. John wore clothing made of camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey. And this was his message: “After me comes the one more powerful than I, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie. I baptize you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”

Mark 1:4-8

John the Baptist baptized people in water for repentance. But where did he get the concept of being baptized with or in the Holy Spirit by Jesus? Because of church history and tradition, we usually reserve that phrase, “baptism in the Spirit”, for charismatic or Pentecostal churches. So where did John get this idea from?

John the Baptist was the final and greatest prophet of the Old Testament/old covenant (Matthew 11:11). So this idea of Jesus baptizing with the Holy Spirit must have been a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. John was simply proclaiming what was expected of the coming Messiah. And there are a number of prophetic passages that expected the Messiah to have the Holy Spirit upon him and for the Spirit to be poured out in abundance in the new Messianic age. This was in contrast to the Spirit being selectively given to certain kings and prophets as was the case is the Old Testament. Here’s a few of those passages:

A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse;
    from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.
The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him—
    the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
    the Spirit of counsel and of might,
    the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord—
and he will delight in the fear of the Lord.

Isaiah 11:1-3

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners…

Isaiah 61:1

For I will pour water on the thirsty land,
    and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring,
    and my blessing on your descendants.

Isaiah 44:3

I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
    your old men will dream dreams,
    your young men will see visions.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
    I will pour out my Spirit in those days.
I will show wonders in the heavens
    and on the earth…
    
And everyone who calls
    on the name of the Lord will be saved;
for on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
    there will be deliverance

Joel 2:28-32

We know that Peter quoted this Joel 2 passages when the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost in Acts 2. The disciples saw that moment as the beginning of the fulfillment of these prophetic promises. Jesus was baptizing, immersing, flooding them with the Holy Spirit just as others had been baptized by John in water.

When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.

Acts 2:1-4

Baptism in the Holy Spirit is when we are filled and flooded with the Spirit. There is a tipping point of Jesus being invited to take over every part of a person’s life. Like a dam breaking and a flood carving new terrain in the landscape, the will breaks in surrender to the Lord and the Spirit pours out, carving new terrain, new freedom, new gifts, new power, new intimacy in the life of a believer.

The prophets of old had long expected this kind of outpouring of the Spirit. We get the incredible blessing of being a part of this Messianic age where all of this is possible under the new covenant. The Old Testament prophets and king longed to see what we see and experience what we now have access to in the Spirit.

Then he (Jesus) turned to his disciples and said privately, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I tell you that many prophets and kings wanted to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it.”

Luke 10:23-24

Expensive Miracles (Part 2)

In my original post entitled Expensive Miracles I discussed how Jesus expects our thinking and our actions to change if we have experienced miracles in our midst. We can’t go back to business as usual. Here is a summary quote from that post.

As Bill Johnson said, miracles are expensive. Once they are happening in our midst, we can’t go back to business as usual. Jesus expects more. He expects that they change how we operate in the world, that they change how we think and reason. If they don’t, we become like the Pharisees who saw so many of Jesus’s miracles and walked away with hardened hearts.

In this post I want to explore the consequences of seeing miracles happen and then not responding. Jesus warns that there is a greater responsibility for those who have witnessed the supernatural. When we’ve seen people radically saved, miraculously healed, or powerfully delivered from a demonic presence we are held accountable to those experiences. We don’t get to ignore them, hide them, or make little of them. Here is Jesus in His own words:

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus expected that the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum––after having seen so many healings, deliverances and miracles––would embrace the miracles and repent. But repent of what?

We should always repent of our sin regardless of whether we’ve seen miracles in our midst. Yet here in this passage of scripture Jesus is specifically expecting repentance for unbelief. They had the absolute honor of seeing miracles in their midst, yet their response to them was lukewarm at best. Rather than embracing the miracles and Jesus––the One who did the miracles––they were likely offended or embarrassed by them. Jesus does not take lightly that kind of response to His supernatural work. It’s as if we are almost better off not experiencing the supernatural side of the Kingdom of God than experiencing it and rejecting it.

Remember what happened in Jesus’s own hometown when they responded similarly.

Jesus left there and went to his hometown, accompanied by his disciples. When the Sabbath came, he began to teach in the synagogue,and many who heard him were amazed.

“Where did this man get these things?” they asked. “What’s this wisdom that has been given him? What are these remarkable miracles he is performing? Isn’t this the carpenter? Isn’t this Mary’s son and the brother of James, Joseph, Judas and Simon? Aren’t his sisters here with us?” And they took offense at him.

Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town, among his relatives and in his own home.” He could not do any miracles there, except lay his hands on a few sick people and heal them. He was amazed at their lack of faith.

Jesus was amazed by the people in His own hometown but not in a good way. He was amazed at their lack of faith. Their rejection of Jesus and His supernatural ministry caused a limitation in what happened in their midst. Miracles did not happen. What we learn here is that God will not continue to move supernaturally in a community that continues to reject Him and His miracles.

This is a sobering warning for those of us who have experienced the Holy Spirit move powerfully in our midst. God is slow to anger and abounding in love. But He will not throw His pearls to pigs and see them trampled (see Jesus’s words in Matthew 7:6). He will not continue to entertain the sin of unbelief. He is a good Father who disciplines His children. Part of His love for us includes leaving places where He and His miracles are not welcomed.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled“(Matthew 5:6). God is looking for the teachable, the humble, and the hungry. He is looking for those who won’t be offended by His supernatural work. He’s looking for a people who refuse to be cavalier about His wonder working power. He’s inviting those who are curious about the supernatural possibilities of God’s Kingdom to lean into faith and embrace the impossible.

Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

Matthew 19:26

When miracles happen in our midst, we can choose to lean into them rather than away from them. We can choose to get curious about the supernatural gifts of the Spirit and how they can operate in a healthy way in the church. We can choose to take greater risks praying for healing and deliverance. We can see the miraculous in our midst as an incredible honor rather than a burden to be managed. The Holy Spirit didn’t have to come in power and perform miracles in our midst. But if He decides to show up in this way, we can embrace Him with open arms. We can celebrate that a measure of the Kingdom is breaking out among us! Praise God for His generosity and kindness! Praise Him for His miraculous power in our midst!

Prayer and Fasting Week

Blow the trumpet in Zion, declare a holy fast, call a sacred assembly. Gather the people, consecrate the assembly…

Joel 2:15-16

Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting. Some people came and asked Jesus, “How is it that John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees are fasting, but yours are not?”
Jesus answered, “How can the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? They cannot, so long as they have him with them. But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them, and on that day they will fast.

Mark 2:18-20

Our church, Horizon Church of Towson, is stepping into big things as a community and we want to cover them in prayer. So, we are taking this week to focus our prayer and to fast. We also have a treasured member of our community who is in need of some serious breakthrough in her situation. So we are focusing on her as well.

We are encouraging our people from June 21st to June 25th to choose one or more days to fast (from food, coffee, social media, or something else that is usually a part of your daily life…just make sure it is a sacrifice) and pray for the three big prayer requests below.

If fasting is new to you, here is a quick guide that we put together for Lent that can give you some basics on fasting.  

Three Things to Focus on in Prayer this week:

1.  Breakthrough in healing for Katie Laughlin:  

Five years ago, on June 25th, Katie was admitted to the E.R. Because of medical mistakes, she suffered from a traumatic brain injury. They told us she’d never wake up from her coma. We prayed. She did. They told us she’d never have cognitive functioning. We prayed. She does. They told us she’d never have the trach removed. We prayed. She did. They told us she’d likely never go home. We prayed. She’s home. It has been a long, exhausting road. But we are more determined than ever to fight for Katie in prayer. We believe there is power when we unite together in prayer as a community. We need to pray for healing in her brain, improvement with her speech, and mobility in her hands. Let us cry out to our Heavenly Father who is good and loving and ask God to once again do the impossible for the glory of His Name and for Katie’s sake. 

2. Stewardship in owning a church property:

It has been a multi-year process of working with First Lutheran to purchase their church property and continue a legacy of the Kingdom of God in the heart of Towson. We want this building to be used for God’s glory and to make an impact on our surrounding community. God has answered our prayer in providing a permanent location for us, and now we want to be good stewards of this great gift. Pray that we would have the vision, wisdom, and provision to use this building in a way that would usher in the Kingdom of God right here in the heart of Towson. 

3. New Senior Leadership Team:

Over the last year we’ve been working hard behind the scenes to update and overhaul our leadership structure at Horizon. We are so grateful for the all the Leaders who have sacrificed so much of themselves to bring this church to where it is today. Now we take a giant step forward and pass the reins to a smaller, more agile, power-packed team of leaders that we are calling the Senior Leadership Team. Pray that each member of that team would have the hand of God upon them and that the wisdom of God would flow through them as we make decisions about Horizon’s future. (Tyler Bello, Lisa Bond, Steve McDonald, Beth Ann Davis, Jenn Zipp, Tom Sanco) Pray that the transition from one leadership team to another would be smooth and full of blessing for everyone involved.

Roadblocks

Jesus and his disciples went on to the villages around Caesarea Philippi. On the way he asked them, “Who do people say I am?”

They replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, one of the prophets.”

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?”

Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.”

Jesus warned them not to tell anyone about him.

Mark 8:27-30

A local YoungLife leader took some of his guys out on a camping trip. After some time talking about life, the young men were asked this question, “What is the biggest roadblock that is holding you back from truly saying ‘Yes’ to a relationship with Jesus?

What a fascinating question. There are so many things that can be roadblocks to surrendering our life to Jesus. Most people who take this question seriously understand that saying “Yes” to Jesus is more than just believing that He died for our sins so that we can be forgiven. They get that following Jesus with our whole life is deciding to surrender to His way rather than our own way. It is inviting the Holy Spirit to come and live inside of us so that He can begin to transform us from the inside out.

Some common roadblocks are things like a faulty view of God, thinking that we must clean up our act before surrendering to Jesus. But this is obviously backward. We surrender to Jesus because we admit that in our own strength we can’t clean up our act.

Doubt and unbelief can be a roadblock. Bad experiences with Christians or the church can cause offense, bitterness, or resentment to strangle our heart and these three emotional toxins can become roadblocks. Many times our favorite sins keep us from Jesus. We’re afraid He’s going to ask us to surrender those to Him and we just don’t want to. Or maybe we just don’t know who Jesus is. Many in Jesus’s own day were confused about His true identity.

But, if we adjust this question a little, it can also apply to people who have been Christians for most of their life.

What is the biggest roadblock that is holding you back from truly surrendering every part of your life to Jesus?

I can tell you that in my own life, I have hit different moments where I was convicted by the Holy Spirit that I had been holding different parts of my life back from Jesus. Ultimately, the roadblock for me was that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Pridefully, I thought I knew all about the Kingdom of God, Jesus, the Bible and the gospel.

This kind of pride is especially prevalent in my fellow seminarians who have advanced degrees in theology and have gone into full-time ministry. This is especially true of my more “progressive” friends. Their alignment with current cultural attitudes has bolstered their confidence in their own “rightness.” I remember the feeling.

However, God encountered me in a profound way that I wasn’t expecting. He showed me different parts of the Kingdom that I knew nothing about. But before He would show me, I had to surrender. I had to 1) trust in the Lord with all my heart and 2) lean not on my own understanding (Proverbs 3:5). Many people with advanced degrees in theology want to do the first but aren’t willing to do the second. I had to confess that I didn’t know what I didn’t know.

In other words, the further you go with God, the less you can take with you. And pride about your own understanding is one of those things you can’t take with you. I had to admit, “There is more and I had no idea.” I had to pray, “Lord, forgive me, I didn’t know what I was doing. I didn’t know what I didn’t know.” I had to re-enter a kind of Holy Spirit discipleship training with the Lord and this after a decade of pastoral ministry.

So, it is a worthy question to ask yourself. “What is the biggest roadblock that is holding you back from truly surrendering every part of your life to Jesus?

You might know immediately. If not, ask the Holy Spirit to reveal it. Just be ready for an answer that you may not have expected and that you may not like.

Words of Knowledge for Healing

Then they came to Jericho. As Jesus and his disciples, together with a large crowd, were leaving the city, a blind man, Bartimaeus (which means “son of Timaeus”), was sitting by the roadside begging. When he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to shout, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!”

Many rebuked him and told him to be quiet, but he shouted all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” Jesus stopped and said, “Call him.”

So they called to the blind man, “Cheer up! On your feet! He’s calling you.” Throwing his cloak aside, he jumped to his feet and came to Jesus.

“What do you want me to do for you?” Jesus asked him.

The blind man said, “Rabbi, I want to see.”

“Go,” said Jesus, “your faith has healed you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed Jesus along the road.

Mark 10:46-52

Sometimes on a Sunday morning before church, I’ll ask God if He wants me to focus on praying for anything in particular in the church service that morning. Sometimes I don’t hear anything. Sometimes I sense that He wants me to invite people to give their lives to Jesus or pray for people dealing with emotional needs. Other times I will hear a particular physical ailment to pray for.

I want to be obedient to do whatever it is He asked me to do. People tend to be fine with me praying for salvation or for emotional healing. Yet, when I pray for physical healing, that can sometimes cause some discomfort in the room.

The reason I pray for healing like this is multifaceted. I’ll admit that I don’t always hear the Lord correctly. My gifts have a lot of room to grow, and I am still a work in progress. But here is why I try:

1) The Lord has given me spiritual gifts that I want to faithfully steward. This requires their use. I want others to discover their gifts and put them to good use as well.

2) I want to take risks of obedience that don’t always make rational sense. I want to model obedience over rationalism and skepticism.

3) I believe it is loving to pray for healing. Those who desperately desire to be physically healed tend to love healing prayer. Those who live with the privilege of a healthy body sometimes don’t.

4) The Sunday morning worship service is my workplace. Praying this way is me stepping out in faith at work. I want people in our church to do the same. I want them to sit at their work desk, ask the Holy Spirit who and what they should pray for that day, and then obey…even if it doesn’t make sense…even if it is a little awkward.

5) I want to see people get miraculously healed in our midst. I’ve seen it happen a lot at our church. I want to continue to see it happen more and more. The only way for it to continue is for us to continue to step out in faith and ask for it.

6) I want to normalize the supernatural side of the Kingdom of God. I believe this is what following Jesus was always meant to be. This is what Christianity looks like in the rest of the world. The church in the West is lagging behind. Healings, signs & wonders, casting out demons, words of knowledge, prophesy, prophetic dreams, encounters with the Holy Spirit…I want all of it to become “normal Christianity” for my whole church just as it has become normal Christianity for me and some others. This is what following Jesus looked like in the Gospels and the book of Acts. This is what normal Christianity currently looks like in the Southern Hemisphere of the world and in the East.

A “word of knowledge” is a supernatural download of information from the Lord to our mind from the Holy Spirit. It’s often about another person. It is one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12. Many followers of Jesus have gotten little bits of information about people from the Spirit and didn’t know that’s what was happening. Maybe they didn’t know it was the Holy Spirit or that it was a gift meant for the church. A word of knowledge for healing is a supernatural download of information about someone else’s physical illness as an indicator that God wants to heal it.

I was asked by a friend if standing up and giving a word of knowledge and then praying for healing was ever in the Bible. It’s a question that is rooted in legitimate skepticism about the charismatic tradition and the abuses of televangelists in the past.

There are a few things that came to mind when this question was asked. First, you can’t read more than two paragraphs of the Gospels without Jesus healing someone, performing a miracle, or casting out a demon. Healing was a regular, daily part of Jesus ministry and the ministry of the disciples.

Secondly, one must believe that Jesus used supernatural gifts of the Spirit to do His supernatural ministry in order to find an example of Jesus using “words of knowledge.” Some Christians believe Jesus just used His divinity to do all of His miracles. But if one holds this view, then we could never expect to find any example of Jesus using any of the supernatural gifts of the Spirit.

I do believe Jesus used the supernatural gifts of the Spirit in order to set an example to His disciples and to us. If He simply used His divinity, we could never follow His example (something we’re asked to do repeatedly). And I do believe that, in many of these scenarios of healing, Jesus used what we would call a “word of knowledge” to determine the source and identity of the illness. We see this specifically with the crippled woman in the synagogue in Luke 13:10-17 and the demonized boy after the Transfiguration in Mark 9:14-29. In both cases Jesus supernaturally diagnoses the source of the physical ailment and the solution. These were words of knowledge for healing (maybe with a little “discerning the spirits” mixed in, another gift listed in 1 Corinthians 12).

I also believe there were lots of instances with Jesus that resemble what we do when we give words of knowledge for healing in a church service. For instance, when the demon in the man at the synagogue in Capernaum starting yelling at Jesus, He immediately cast the demon out of the man in front of the whole congregation (Mark 1:21-34; Luke 4:31-37). We likely wouldn’t be that bold in our church. We’d likely drag the person off to the prayer room and do deliverance there. In other words, in so many ways, we are much more tame with the supernatural than Jesus ever was.

We know that Jesus dropped a bunch of words of knowledge on the woman at the well, and these words of knowledge actually exposed her sin (John 4:1-42). We would rightly hesitate to be so bold as that! Yet Jesus didn’t hesitate at all. The woman’s own testimony was, “Come, see a man who told me everything I ever did!” Again, we are much more tame with the supernatural than Jesus ever was.

But the scenario that most resembles doing words of knowledge for healing in a church service is the interaction between Jesus, the disciples, and blind Bartimaeus. Here is the sequence from Mark 10:

  1. Bartimaeus cries out to Jesus for healing.
  2. Jesus sent a message to Bartimaeus through His disciples indicating that Jesus wanted to heal him.
  3. The disciples delivered the personal message to Bartimaeus in the midst of a large crowd of people.
  4. Bartimaeus identifies his need for healing, his desire for healing, and his faith for Jesus healing him.
  5. Jesus heals Bartimaeus through the conduit of Bartimaeus’s own faith.

That same chain of events is what happens when a person gives a word of knowledge for healing in a church service. Jesus is sending a message through a disciple that indicates what Jesus wants to do. That person/disciple must be obedient and say what they heard. The person needing healing then responds in faith, acknowledging their need and believing that Jesus wants to heal them in that moment. Their faith becomes a possible conduit through which Jesus heals them.

I’ve personally seen this happen a number of times in a number of different worship services. And once you’ve seen it once, you believe it can happen again and again. But it requires obedience and faith, both on the part of the “disciple delivering Jesus’s message” and on the part of the “Bartimaeus” in the room.

Even after all of these biblical examples, I understand the skepticism that still may exist. There have been abuses with this kind of healing ministry in the past in certain streams of the church. It makes sense that people would be wary of the improper use of words of knowledge for healing. Someone may read all of the above and respond with something like, “Yeah, but we aren’t Jesus. His ministry was different.” I get it. But to this objection I would offer Jesus’ own words.

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, because I am going to the Father. 

John 14:12

I am fine with the critique that argues that there are better ways to pray for healing in a church service than doing words of knowledge for healing. Maybe so. If so, let’s discover what those are. But I believe not praying for healing is just not an option for churches moving forward. The churches around the world that are growing are the ones who are fully embracing the gifts of the Spirit. Our post-Christian culture is resembling the rest of the world more and more. And so, I believe we must resemble the faithful global church more and more.

Consider the possibility that you have already been getting words of knowledge and just didn’t know what they were. Maybe you don’t use that terminology, or maybe you didn’t know it was a gift of the Spirit. Yet, many of you reading this right now have experienced the Lord give you a small nugget of information about someone through the Holy Spirit that you couldn’t have possibly known otherwise. Consider how God may want to use that gift in your life to love others. Could seeing others get healed be a part of that?