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.

One Thing I Do Know

A second time they summoned the man who had been blind. “Give glory to God by telling the truth,” they said. “We know this man is a sinner.”

He replied, “Whether he is a sinner or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was blind but now I see!”

John 9:24-25

Jesus spit on the ground, made mud, and put in on the blind man’s eyes. Then Jesus told him to go wash in the Pool of Siloam. The man went and washed and came home seeing. People were astonished. The man’s neighbors couldn’t believe it. His own parents couldn’t believe it. But the Pharisees had the hardest time believing it.

The man told the Pharisees his testimony about Jesus but they were sure Jesus was not from God. So they asked the parents to confirm the story. Still in unbelief, they asked the man to explain his healing again.

What I love about the man’s second response is that he confesses his own lack of theological acumen. He is not a scribe. He is not a scholar. He can’t break down Torah law like a professor. All he knows is his testimony. He was blind and now he can see. And this is the heart of every follower of Jesus.

This is also why I love praying for people and leaning into the supernatural gifts of the Spirit. You can find me most Wednesday mornings praying for someone in an extended prayer session of two to three hours. My prayer partner and I do a lot of listening to the Holy Spirit during these prayer sessions. We try to follow His lead. We engage in the gifts of discerning the spirits, healing, prophecy, impartation and the like. We see the power of God move as we pray. It is truly an amazing and humbling experience.

But the best part is yet to come. The best part is the testimony emails that we get a few days later. When the Presence of God comes in power, people are changed. People are set free from demonic oppression. People are healed in their soul. People are healed in their bodies. People reconnect with the love of the Father and are forever changed.

If you want to read some of these awesome testimonies, we’ve collected some of them here. We received a recent testimony from a person we prayed for. They had felt anger and bitterness in their chest for a long time. This person wrote to tell us that on their drive home from work two days after our prayer session they realized that feeling was gone. God had lifted it off their chest and it wasn’t there anymore. Instead, the Lord had filled them with peace. Upon realizing this, the person broke down and wept tears of joy for the first time in their life. They described this experience as “wild.”

This is why we do what we do. This is why gifts of the Spirit are so vital to the Church and shouldn’t be abandoned just because we’ve seen them used poorly in the past. They are tools that were given to the Church to bring life-change.

What people often need is not a theological explanation of Jesus. They need an encounter with Him. They need to feel His Presence and be changed by it. They may walk away not having all their theology worked out, but their testimony will be the same as the blind man who was healed. “Whether Jesus is _________ or not, I don’t know. One thing I do know. I was hurting and broken but now I‘m healed!

A spirit of rejection

Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior. His father was Gilead; his mother was a prostitute. Gilead’s wife also bore him sons, and when they were grown up, they drove Jephthah away. “You are not going to get any inheritance in our family,” they said, “because you are the son of another woman.” So Jephthah fled from his brothers and settled in the land of Tob, where a gang of scoundrels gathered around him and followed him.

Judges 11:1-3

It doesn’t take a psychologist to see how Jephthah being born to a prostitute and feeling rejected by his family led him to connect to “a gang of scoundrels.” This same story is playing out in our culture over and over again.

I’ve prayed for a number of people in the last couple years in extended prayer sessions that last two to three hours. During these prayer sessions we focus on inner healing and deliverance. Inner healing is when wounds of the heart are uncovered, forgiveness is given, judgments are forsaken, and the love of the Father and peace of Christ are invited in to bring healing. Deliverance is when demons, who often entered a person through the wounds of the heart or generational sin, are cast out.

It is a regular occurrence to find a spirit of rejection as the primary, and often the most insidious, demon a person is dealing with. A spirit of rejection often attacks a person in early childhood and sometimes in utero. This spirit then becomes a kind of “door opener” propping the doors of a person’s life open for other bigger and stronger demons to enter.

It’s not hard to see the strategy of the enemy here. If someone has a spirit of rejection, they feel a pervasive and constant sense of rejection from everyone in their life. Even small slights become major wounds. Over time a long line of rejections–relationships, work situations, church, and family–start to mount. The lens through which a person sees the world is colored by rejection. This is the set up.

Now when other sins start to show up in a person’s life (anger, hate, lust, pride, homosexuality, greed, fear, lying, gossiping) it is nearly impossible to address it with that person without them feeling rejected. They will live in a constant state of feeling that any confrontation of their sin is a rejection of them. They will demand full acceptance, not only of their person, but of their sin. In other words, they will so strongly identify with their sin, they will demand that you accept it as a part of them.

Loved ones are now trapped. How do you let this person know that they are fully and completely loved and yet that their sin is hurting them? A spirit of rejection is often at the root of this dilemma.

A spirit of rejection enters a person’s life at such a young age, they are often unaware of what life feels like without its talons dug into their heart and mind. Babies can often sense what is happening in their mother in utero. If a child was an unwanted pregnancy, a spirit of rejection can attach itself to that child before they are even born. It was given access by the rejection of the mother. I’ve prayed for a number of people where this was the situation.

The antidote to a spirit of rejection is to renounce it, break its bondage, and cast it out in Jesus’ name. It’s important to no longer believe the lies that rejection whispers.

Additionally, experiencing the acceptance and love of the Father is essential. God is able to perfectly love and accept who we really are and who we are created to be without embracing our sin. Without experiencing the acceptance of the Father, a spirit of rejection will often worm its way back into a person’s life. We must go to God and hear from Him about who we really are and how He sees us. A single word from Him is more powerful than years in a counselor’s office or a decade of sermons.

Jephthah was a mighty warrior. That is his true identity. That is who he was before rejection had a chance to speak a different identity over his life. We need the Father to remind us of who He created us to be. We need to daily hear His words of acceptance and love.

Has a spirit of rejection gotten a hold of your life?

Teaching-Preaching-Healing-Deliverance

Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed; and he healed them. Large crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea and the region across the Jordan followed him.

Matthew 4:23-25

There were four main components of Jesus’s ministry: 1) teaching, 2) proclaiming/preaching, 3) physical healing, and 4) deliverance (casting out demons). Most of the time Jesus would first give a proclamation of the Kingdom (teaching & preaching) and then give a demonstration of the Kingdom (healing & deliverance).

He then taught His disciples to do the same (Matthew 10:1-8). And we see the early church do the same (Acts 2:42-44). The early church was simply obeying Jesus’s command to teach the next generation of disciples everything they had been taught by Jesus (Matthew 28:19-20). The pattern was proclamation and then demonstration.

This fourfold ministry of the proclamation and demonstration of the Kingdom was done in the church for nearly 400 years. When you study church history, nearly all the early church fathers bear witness to many regular healings and deliverances for the first few centuries of the church (Justin Martyr, Hermas, Tertullian, Origen, Irenaeus, Athanasius, Gregory of Nazianzus, Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great).

If this was the early pattern of church ministry, what happened? In most churches, why do we only get the proclamation part today and no miraculous demonstration of the Kingdom?

Unfortunately, Augustine introduced some poor theology about miracles to the church and things started to change. Augustine later changed his view toward the end of his life and himself had many testimonies of miraculous healings. But the damage had been done.

The Protestant Reformers (in the 1500s), when they were breaking away from the Roman Catholic Church, picked up on Augustine’s earlier writings (and ignored his later writings) about miracles, signs and wonders. This is how cessationism was born (the erroneous theological belief that miracles, signs, wonders are not normative and that the gifts of the Spirit no longer exist in the church today).

But what does it look like for a church today to get back to its original roots? What does it look like to do more than just proclamation, more than just teaching and preaching, more than settling for just half of Jesus’s ministry? What would it look like for the church to attempt all four main components of Jesus’s ministry, including physical healing and deliverance?

My church is attempting just that. Most churches have teaching and preaching, but how do you add the ministries of physical healing and deliverance? If you want to hear how we are doing this through our prayer team, listen to Part 1 and Part 2 of this podcast episode. It is an interview with me and a couple of the people on our prayer team.

This isn’t about becoming a “charismatic” church. This is about believing Jesus’s words when He said, “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).

Does your church have the four main components of Jesus’s ministry?

We may have many good ministries in our churches, but if we don’t start with the core of what Jesus did, we’ll look more like the church of the Protestant Reformers than we do the church of Jesus and the apostles.

Hearts At Rest

This is how we know that we belong to the truth and how we set our hearts at rest in his presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 

1 John 3:19-20

As a pastor, I have recommended counseling for a countless number of people. I am a strong believer that getting to a place of emotional health often requires the help of others, and sometimes professionals, to help us see our blind sides and the deeper wounds in our hearts.

When counseling is done well, especially when done by someone with a Christian worldview, it can be a good first step toward emotional healing and emotional health. However, I’ve also seen the darker, more damaging side of counseling.

Do you know people who have gone to counseling for years, even decades, and are not much better than they were before? They are no more free and no more like Christ than when they started counseling? Sometimes they are worse? Me too. Unfortunately, as a pastor, I have had front row seats to see how very common this is. It is so common it is embarrassing.

John reminds us in this passage from 1 John 3 that what truly sets our hearts at rest in God’s presence is not an endless cycle of morbid introspection. The key to emotional health and healing in our hearts, he tells us, is having confidence that God is greater than our hurts, our emotions, our past and that He knows everything. Which means instead of spending years in an introspective search for all that is wrong with us, we can simply seek God and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the things deep in us that need healing.

The apostle Paul reminds the Corinthian Christians about the “search engine” capabilities of the Holy Spirit:

…these are the things God has revealed to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God. For who knows a person’s thoughts except their own spirit within them? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God. What we have received is not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may understand what God has freely given us. This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words.

1 Corinthians 2:10-13

In a subsequent letter to the Corinthians, Paul reminds them that it is the Spirit that does the work of transformation in us. He said:

Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.

2 Corinthians 3:17-18

The Holy Spirit is a master at searching the deep things in our heart and in the heart of God and bringing them to the surface so that our heart can be healed. So often we struggle to see ourselves the way God sees us, so we either end up blind to our own sin or we end up with a lot of self-condemnation.

The beauty of allowing the Holy Spirit to reveal things to us–rather than endlessly, introspectively searching for what is wrong with us–is that He is able to masterfully avoid the traps of justification and condemnation. He reveals to us what needs to be healed, what needs to be surrendered, what needs to be faced, what needs to be forgiven, what needs to be confessed, but does it without an ounce of fear, avoidance, shame or condemnation. He also knows when to reveal it and when to wait until we can handle seeing it. As John said, “If our hearts condemn us, we know God is greater than our hearts…

Counseling, without also engaging in the inner healing ministry of the Holy Spirit, can become just a self-absorbed exercise in endlessly talking about oneself. And we all know people that love to endlessly talk about themselves. It is a sign of the very opposite of emotional health.

Morbid introspection assumes: 1) I will have the ability to see what the problem is, 2) I will want to do something about it, and 3) I will be able to do something about it. But we need the Holy Spirit to enable us to do all of these things. Without the Spirit we are blind and powerless to enact real, deep and lasting change in our lives. Christian counselors know this better than most.

What we need to cultivate is 1) the willingness to ask the Holy Spirit to reveal areas that need addressed in our life and 2) the ability to listen to the Spirit’s direction. So much of Christianity has lost the ability to hear the intimate voice of the Shepherd. Jesus said, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me“(John 10:27). But rather than cultivate the ability to hear the Spirit speak to us, direct us, and reveal things to us (1 Kings 19:12-18), we’ve substituted that kind of intimacy with other people telling us what’s wrong with us.

I will always be an advocate of counseling, especially by those who do therapy from a Christian worldview. But I do not think it is the ultimate solution to our problems nor should it be done in a vacuum. I believe it should be used as an aid, a helpful addition, to the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit speaking to us and revealing to us what He wants us to see when He wants us to see it. This allows us to “fix our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of our faith,” (Hebrews 12:2) rather than turning our attention to self-absorbed introspection.