Chosenness & Selectivity

After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them. 

Mark 9:2

They left that place and passed through Galilee. Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples. 

Mark 9:30-31

In Mark 9 we see Jesus choose to be exclusive on two back-to-back occasions. First, only Peter, James and John were invited up the mountain to see Jesus transfigured before them. Then, Jesus intentionally tried to avoid the crowds who needed ministry because “he was teaching his disciples.”

Peter, James, and John were Jesus’s inner circle. They were the ones Jesus wanted with Him when His soul was in turmoil in the Garden of Gethsemane (see Mark 14:32-33). Jesus repeatedly picked these three men out from the rest of the twelve disciples.

Jesus also was unapologetic about choosing the twelve over the crowds. When Jesus wanted to spend extra time on discipleship, teaching the twelve disciples the deeper things of the Kingdom of God, Jesus didn’t mind intentionally avoiding the crowds.

This theme of “intentional chosenness” demonstrated by Jesus continues a theme we see throughout the Old Testament as God chose Israel as His chosen people. One of God’s main strategies throughout the Bible is to choose a small number of people in order that they might absorb the DNA of the Kingdom and then bless the rest of the world with it.

But this selectivity on the part of Jesus flies in the face of our sense of democratic equality. Shouldn’t everyone have been invited up the mountain with Jesus? How is that fair? Shouldn’t they at least vote on who gets to see Jesus transfigured?

And why would Jesus go incognito in trying to avoid people who are genuinely in need? Why did the disciples get an “unfair” amount of time with Him? Shouldn’t Jesus have made Himself more available to the poor huddled masses?

The truth is that good leadership demands that we pick and choose who to pour our lives into. We have to admit our limitations of time, energy, and resources. So the best leaders are selective. The point is multiplication. Invest in a few who will then, in turn, invest in a few, and the chain reaction impacts more people than one person could have otherwise.

So what looks like unfair selectivity and favoritism on the surface is actually powerful wisdom on display. If Jesus had spread Himself “equally” to everyone, no one would have had the depth needed to carry the DNA of the Kingdom after Jesus was gone.

In our culture we rightly champion equality because it is the closest approximation we can muster to the love and servanthood that is found in the Kingdom of God. But sometimes the unintended by-product is that this good principle of equality gets applied in ways that actually does more harm than good. Everyone should be treated with the same amount of love and respect, but that doesn’t mean we give our time and energy to everyone in the same way.

When it comes to good leadership, there are times we must employ “intentional selectivity” with our time and a kind of “purposeful chosenness” with people. “Equality” cannot be the driving principle behind how we spend our time. “Investment” needs to be the driving principle. We need to ask ourselves, “Who can we pour our lives into in such a way that it multiplies the work and impact of the Kingdom of God?”

No Demilitarized Zone

If your hand causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go into hell, where the fire never goes out. And if your foot causes you to stumble, cut it off. It is better for you to enter life crippled than to have two feet and be thrown into hell. And if your eye causes you to stumble, pluck it out. It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than to have two eyes and be thrown into hell…

Mark 9:43-47

What Jesus says here is so extreme! What in the world is He talking about?

First, we have to understand that this is hyperbole. Jesus is exaggerating to make a point. He doesn’t want people to literally cut things off. Jesus is trying to drive home the point that pruning unhealthy parts of our life is necessary in a life of following Jesus because there is no middle ground (also see John 15:1-6).

Jesus is trying to convey the severity of this truth: if we haven’t surrendered a part of our life to the Kingdom fo God then it has been surrendered to hell. And the gangrene of hell spreads.

We tend to frame things as if there is some neutral ground that is available to us. Jesus makes clear that there isn’t. We tend to ask ourselves, “Should I give God control of this part of my life or not?” But that is a false choice. The true question is, “Should I give God control of this part of my life or continue to submit it to the enemy?”

We tend to ask ourselves, “Should I step out in faith or remain safe in my comfort zone?” But if the Lord has asked us to do something then the true question is, “Should I step out in faith or continue to feed and cultivate the weeds of unbelief in my life?”

There is a war between the kingdom of darkness and the Kingdom of God and we are the battle ground. This war has no DMZ. What isn’t actively surrendered to the Kingdom of God in our life is already being used by the kingdom of darkness for the enemy’s purposes of stealing, killing, and destroying. The apostle Paul described it this way:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground…

Ephesians 6:10-13

This lie that there is some magical middle ground, some objective neutral territory, some spiritual Switzerland is one of the most prevalent lies swirling around the Church. Jesus knew this lie would be tempting to believe because no one wants to face open warfare. Appeasement is so alluring in the face of open conflict. And this is why Jesus used language that would shock us back into reality. He knew only this kind of hyperbole would be enough to break through our biases expose us to the truth.

Sacrifice Something

During those days another large crowd gathered. Since they had nothing to eat, Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them home hungry, they will collapse on the way, because some of them have come a long distance.”

Mark 8:1-3

Jesus had already fed one large crowd (Mark 6:30-46) with just a few loaves and fishes. Once again He and the disciples found themselves with a large crowd that needed food.

Jesus essentially hosted what, today, we would call a conference. People were there receiving healing and deliverance and listening to Him teach for three days. Some of them had walked a long distance to be there. Most of them had long since run out of the food that they brought with them.

What follows is another incredible miracle of seven loaves of bread being multiplied to feed a crowd of 4000 men plus women and children. Jesus’s compassion for the people sparked another miraculous event. Yet, there is another ingredient in this equation that needs to be recognized.

There is a pattern in the Gospels of God moving powerfully when people make personal sacrifices to get to Jesus. There is something about people traveling long distances, or going without food, or risking their social standing, or digging through a roof that touches the heart of Jesus. The kind of faith that is willing to sacrifice something pleases God.

I have seen this Kingdom principle play out in our own time. I’ve seen people sacrifice time, money and effort in order to get to a conference, and I have watched as God honored that sacrifice by moving powerfully in their lives. I have seen a number of people sacrifice a whole day driving up from Virginia in order to receive prayer from our prayer team. I’ve watched as God honored that sacrifice by moving powerfully in their lives during the prayer times.

There is something about being willing to travel. There is something about being willing to sacrifice time and money for the sake of our pursuit of intimacy with Jesus. There is something about getting out of our comfort zone and being obedient. God rewards those who earnestly seek Him.

And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.

Hebrews 11:6

King David had sinned against the Lord. He was then instructed by the prophet Gad to go up to the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite and built an altar to the Lord there. When King David got there, Araunah offered to give him the threshing floor rather than have the king purchase it. Araunah was even going to throw in the oxen for the burnt offering for free as well. We learn something important from King David’s response:

…the king replied to Araunah, “No, I insist on paying you for it. I will not sacrifice to the Lord my God burnt offerings that cost me nothing.”

2 Samuel 24:24

We see here again this principle of the Kingdom of God. For it to be an offering to the Lord, it should cost us something. And when it costs us something, God is honored by it. God is moved by sacrificial action that costs us something.

God is not a vending machine where we sacrifice something to get what we want. But He is a loving Father whose heart is moved by people willing to pay the price to pursue Him.

The Children’s Bread

Jesus left that place and went to the vicinity of Tyre. He entered a house and did not want anyone to know it; yet he could not keep his presence secret. In fact, as soon as she heard about him, a woman whose little daughter was possessed by an impure spirit came and fell at his feet. The woman was a Greek, born in Syrian Phoenicia. She begged Jesus to drive the demon out of her daughter.

“First let the children eat all they want,” he told her, “for it is not right to take the children’s bread and toss it to the dogs.”

“Lord,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.”

Then he told her, “For such a reply, you may go; the demon has left your daughter.”

She went home and found her child lying on the bed, and the demon gone.

Mark 7:24-30

A woman outside of the covenant––a woman who wasn’t a part of the people of God––asked Jesus to do deliverance on her young daughter. The phrase, “little daughter” in the Greek likely means the girl was 12-years-old or younger. The mom had likely heard about Jesus’s ability to set people free from demonic torment from news that had spread from Galilee. Jesus had done a lot of ministry is northwest Galilee (like in the town of Chorazin) which was only a two and a half days walk from Tyre.

We learn a lot from Jesus’s initial response. Jesus used the analogy of bread and essentially called deliverance ministry “the children’s bread.” In other words, Jesus was announcing that ministry which sets people free from demonic torment was primarily for those inside the covenant, for those who are members of the people of God.

Think about the implications of this! At the time, the people of God were the Jewish people. But since then, Jesus has expanded the people of God to include Gentiles under the new covenant. Those who believe in Jesus and surrender their life to Him are the new people of God. This is how Paul explained it to the Galatians:

for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Galatians 3:27-29

That means “the children’s bread,” which is ministry that casts out demons so that people are free from demonic torment and oppression, is primarily meant for the people of God today (that is, followers of Jesus). It is part of the inheritance of the Kingdom, the ability to experience freedom from demonic torment. It is one of the perks of being in the family of God!

After people discover that I do a lot of deliverance ministry, sometimes a person will ask me, “Have you ever cast a demon out of a Christian?” First, I try to make it clear that I am not able to cast anything out of anyone on my own (see Acts 19:13-16). I am simply operating in the delegated authority of Christ and the power of the Spirit. We get to do that as ambassadors of Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20). Demons aren’t scared of me, but they are terrified of Christ in me, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

But, secondly, I let them know that I’ve only cast demons out of Christians. Deliverance ministry is the children’s bread. It’s not that I wouldn’t pray for an unbeliever to be set free from demonic oppression, but they would then need to give their life to Jesus to stay free. The Holy Spirit must backfill any area vacated by a demon. If not, the person can end up worse off than they were before. Jesus warned us about someone whose inner life is “unoccupied” by the Holy Spirit.

“When an impure spirit comes out of a person, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. Then it says, ‘I will return to the house I left.’ When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that person is worse than the first. 

Matthew 12:43-45

We also learn from Jesus’s interaction with the Syrophoenician woman and her daughter that children can sometimes be attacked and affected by demons. Demonization isn’t like the movies. It is often much more hidden and subtle than that. And we as the church need to know how to help a person get free. Jesus paid for their freedom, and we must learn how to enforce what Jesus enacted by His death and resurrection.

The good news is that there are a number of churches awakening to this reality in the Kingdom of God. This week I met with leaders from five different churches in Northern Virginia who have themselves experienced deliverance and who want to learn how to bring deliverance ministry to their congregations. People all over this country are hungry for real freedom, real life-change. They are hungry to experience more of the full, abundant life that is promised to us in the gospel, not only for themselves but for their friends, family, and church community.

Amazement

People were overwhelmed with amazement.

Mark 7:37

Jesus went into the region east of the Sea of Galilee called the Decapolis. This region was known for ten cities that were networked with each other and Greek in culture. It would have been likely to find a high Gentile population in this region. Yet, word of Jesus’s miracles had spread and people brought Him a man who was deaf and mute.

Jesus touched the man’s tongue, put His fingers in the man’s ears, and commanded them to “Be opened!” In the original language this is a passive imperative in the second person. That means it is a command that can only be obeyed passively. One way we see Jesus heal in the Gospels is to command parts of the body to “be healed” or “be opened” or “be made well.” Jesus isn’t commanding the unhealthy body part to heal itself. Instead, because these are passive imperatives, He’s essentially speaking to the unhealthy body part and commanding it to receive healing from God (passive).

When the man’s hearing and speaking were immediately healed, the people “were overwhelmed with amazement.” And these were likely Gentiles or, at the very least, Hellenized Jews. Jesus was getting a better response from these folks than from many of the Jewish leaders.

Being overwhelmed with amazement is the proper response to the Kingdom of God invading earth. It is the proper response to seeing or hearing about a healing, a miracle or a deliverance. This is how we were supposed to react to these things. Unfortunately, cynicism, skepticism, and the fear of being tricked by charlatans has left a deep wound in the heart of the American church. And this has caused muted reactions to moments when God moves in power.

Here are some reasons why many Christians are no longer overwhelmed with amazement when God moves in power:

  • Unbelief: they’ve heard too many stories, or witnessed it themselves, of fake healings or church leaders trying to use the miraculous for personal and financial gain. So when they hear of a testimony of someone getting healed or set free from demonic oppression, they just don’t believe it.
  • Indifference: they don’t necessarily doubt the stories of healings and miracles, they just have been taught that these things aren’t important. They’ve been taught an almost Gnostic version of the gospel that says the really important story is the one where a soul gets saved. Material/physical stuff doesn’t matter. Or an updated version of this is where a person gets really excited about a person outside the church finding loving community inside the church, yet all other stories of God moving in power get a shrug of the shoulders.
  • Confusion: they hear these stories and don’t really have a compartment in their brain to put it. They’ve lived in the American culture that is saturated with the worship of rationalism and empiricism, so God doing the supernatural is disorienting. They don’t know what to do with these stories of healing and miracles so the stories are mostly met with blank stares.
  • Familiarity: they have been a part of a church community where healings and deliverances happen regularly. Over time, people become so accustomed to God moving in supernatural power that they take it for granted. It becomes so commonplace that people stop living in awe and wonder of the Lord.

All of the above reactions are understandable, but they’re also unhealthy. The people of the Decapolis had it right. When God moves in power, when the Kingdom of God invades the kingdom of darkness, when someone gets healed or delivered, the proper response is worship. The proper response is awe and wonder. The proper response is deep gratitude and thanksgiving. And if we see it happen right in front of us, the proper response is to be overwhelmed with amazement!

Proximity Healing

As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognized Jesus. They ran throughout that whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.

Mark 6:54-56

A guy in my church came down for prayer after our service was over on Sunday. He wanted prayer for his foot that had been bothering him for some time. When we prayed, he immediately started to feel heat all over his body to the point where he started sweating. The Presence of God was on him in an intensified way. As I continued to pray for his foot, the pain left. The prayer time took no more than 5 minutes. Jesus healed his foot right there.

But why ask someone else for prayer? Why go to someone who has seen people physically healed before and ask them to pray for your physical ailment? Can’t we just pray on our own? Doesn’t God just heal whomever He wants whenever He wants? Why would the book of James recommend that we go to particular people for prayer?

Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. 

James 5:14-15

In the time of Jesus, people traveled long distances carrying their loved one on a mat just to get them near Jesus. Proximity mattered. They wanted Jesus to touch them or for them to touch the edge of Jesus’s cloak. Either way, power seemed to be coming from Jesus that was bringing physical healing to people. Jesus was a touchpoint, a conduit, of God’s power. So they traveled to get near Jesus wherever He was. The Gospel of Luke says it this way:

…a great number of people from all over Judea, from Jerusalem, and from the coastal region around Tyre and Sidon, who had come to hear him and to be healed of their diseases. Those troubled by impure spirits were cured, and the people all tried to touch him, because power was coming from him and healing them all.

Luke 6:17-19

But couldn’t God just heal all those people in their own homes? Couldn’t God just heal them in their own synagogues? If God really wanted them to be healed, couldn’t God just answer their prayers for healing right where they were? Why would God have them travel to Jesus to get healed?

The answer is, “Yes.” God could have healed each of these people right in their own homes and in their own synagogues. He could have sovereignly healed them right where they were. But He didn’t. Just like He could have healed my friend in my church who came forward for prayer. God could have answered His prayer for healing right in his own bedroom. But God didn’t. God chose, instead, to use me as a touchpoint of His grace, a conduit of His power, in order to heal. This is something that is a regular pattern for God.

When God flows through us, through the Holy Spirit, to bring healing to someone else, we are functioning like a spring of water. Sovereign healings are like rain. Someone in ancient times could wait and say, “If God really wanted me to have water, He would send rain.” And there is some truth in that. But understanding the ways of God is really important. Another way God provides water is having people travel to a spring, or to a well, to collect water. People shouldn’t just wait on rain; they must travel to that spring if they want water.

Waiting on rain isn’t always always an act of faith. Often it is an act of misunderstanding the different ways that God provides water for us. The same is true of healing. Waiting for a sovereign healing is sometimes an act of faith. But often, it is simply a misunderstanding of the different ways that God provides healing for us. Sometimes we must travel to a source of healing, a place or person where God is regularly pouring out His healing through the gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:9-10, 28).

So we should always pray for our own healing and ask God to bring healing. But sometimes we must go to the wellsprings of healing. This means seeking prayer from those within our church who operate in gifts of healing. It also might mean traveling to people and ministries who specialize in gifts of healing and miracles.

In Jesus’s day, people could have stubbornly stayed home and reasoned with themselves, “If God wanted to heal me, He would do it wherever He wanted and whenever He wanted.” But this is a misapplication of the truth of God’s sovereignty. Those who traveled to Jesus got healed. Those who saw the power of God pouring out of Jesus, and understood that proximity mattered, picked up their friend on a mat and did whatever they could to get them in front of Jesus. They understood that sometimes God sends rain to us and other times we must go to the wellspring for water.

We need to be ready in faith to travel, to go to where God is pouring out His healing power. We need to be able to identify healthy springs and go to them. We need to have enough wisdom to discern the difference between the charlatans and the real servants of God. Going to someone who has gifts of healing still does not guarantee our healing, but it acknowledges one of the primary ways God brings His healing into this world.

Region of the Gerasenes

They went across the lake to the region of the Gerasenes. When Jesus got out of the boat, a man with an impure spirit came from the tombs to meet him. This man lived in the tombs, and no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain. For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him. Night and day among the tombs and in the hills he would cry out and cut himself with stones.

Mark 5:1-5

Jesus encountered a heavily demonized man in a Gentile region and a spiritual battle ensued. But the battle was not between Jesus and the demons. That wasn’t even a battle. Jesus immediately and easily cast a legion of demons out of the man. The real battle was over the region. When one reads the full story in Mark 5, it becomes clear that there was a demonic principality who sat over that Gentile region and did not want to be overthrown (Ephesians 6:12).

First, the legion of demons were perfectly fine leaving the man, they just didn’t want to be sent out of the region. “…he begged Jesus again and again not to send them out of the area”(Mark 5:10). These demons had likely operated with impunity and without resistance in that region for centuries. They had gained authority in that region over the people there. And they were likely ruled by a principality who protected them.

Secondly, when the townspeople discover what happened to the man and the pigs, they ask Jesus to leave the region. “…the people began to plead with Jesus to leave their region“(Mark 5:17). The people were more terrified of Jesus and His authority than they were of this crazed and demonized man living among the tombs. They likely were Gentiles and had been under the influence of the demonic principality of the region their whole life. They became as afraid of Jesus as the demons were. They needed Jesus to leave because His power and authority were a threat to all that they had normalized.

Third, Jesus was willing to leave because He didn’t want to overthrow the demonic principality of that region and leave a spiritual vacuum. Imagine overthrowing a dictator by force and having no government to replace it. Things end up worse than before. Jesus says as much in Matthew 12:43-45. So instead, Jesus enacts a subversive spiritual revolution through the man that was just delivered of a legion of demons. But the man wanted to go with Jesus. “…the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him“(Mark 5:18).

It’s like the man could still sense the darkness of the region. He knew that darkness all too well. He didn’t want to stay there. He wanted to be near Jesus. He wanted to be near the light, safety, and freedom that enveloped Jesus. He didn’t want to stay in that region still ruled by that old, familiar demonic principality. But Jesus knew that the only way to overthrow a demonic principality was through subversive spiritual revolution. In other words, the principality would be displaced when there was enough people of the Kingdom of God no longer bowing to its demands in that area.

Jesus did not let him, but said, “Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Mark 5:19

When we first read about the demonized man with a legion of demons in him and how Jesus set him free, we can think this encounter was all about one man. And in a sense, it was about that one man. But more than that, this was about a region under the rule of the kingdom of darkness. This was about Jesus planting a small seed in the enemy’s garden and watching as it becomes the largest tree in the garden, gradually displacing all the weeds that had grown there.

The spiritual battle was not between Jesus and the demons. That is a fight that is all too easily won by Jesus. The spiritual battle was between the people of that region and the demonic principality calling the shots in that area. That is where the real battle was.

That is where the real battle still is.

What you hear

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. 

Mark 4:24

Jesus had just gotten accused of being possessed by a demon by the Pharisees. He was casting out demons everywhere He went, and they didn’t want to admit that this was from God. So their assumption was that Jesus’s power was coming from a demonic spirit rather than the Holy Spirit.

When His own family members saw the large crowds following Jesus, even they said, “He is out of His mind!”(Mark 3:21) They still saw Jesus as their brother, a carpenter from a small town, and struggled to understand what was happening with so many people getting healed of disease and delivered from demons.

After telling the Parable of the Sower, Jesus then says, “Consider carefully what you hear.” We might expect Him to say instead, “Be careful what you say.” But He doesn’t say that. He wants people to guard what they hear. He wants them to know what they consume, with their ears and eyes, will affect them.

Based on the follow-up statement about measuring others, Jesus is saying there is a direct connection between what we listen to and how we will judge others. If we listen to gossip, we will measure people incorrectly, just as the Pharisees and Jesus’s own family did with Him. If we listen to bad news all the time, we will measure the world incorrectly. What we allow in our ears matters.

One of the strategies of the enemy is to manipulate what we hear. He is a master linguist who loves to manipulate language. He’s a master at propaganda and slogans that change the meaning of words to fit his evil schemes. We see this characteristic reveal itself in political powers that have committed genocide and horrible atrocities throughout history. One thing that is true of almost all of them is that they were good at manipulating people through propaganda, slogans, and the redefinition of words.

It’s happening now in our own culture over the definition of love. The enemy is trying to get our entire society to embrace a selfish kind of “love” focused on self-fulfillment rather than the self-sacrificing kind of agape love of scripture.

I saw the same thing happen in the church as this slogan became popular, “It’s okay to have doubts.” This was a reaction against fundamentalism’s obsession with certainty. And, originally, “doubt” meant “uncertainty.” So, originally, the idea was that it is okay to be uncertain about things. Being uncertain about some things is not contrary to a life of faith. I agree with this whole-heartedly.

However, what started to happen was a slight-of-hand with the definition of “doubt.” Soon, doubt no loner meant “uncertainty” and started to mean “unbelief.” Yet, people used the same slogan, “It’s okay to have doubts.” But now this slogan meant that it was okay to embrace unbelief. I couldn’t disagree more. Unbelief is antithetical to a life of faith. Unbelief became welcomed and accepted in the church through the Trojan-horse word “doubt” all by simply manipulating its definition.

Can you see how it works? Can you see the enemy’s scheme with language and definitions? Can you see why Jesus said, “Consider carefully what you hear.

The same kind of manipulation of language is happening now around discussions of gender identity and racism. Words that used to mean one thing now mean another. Old definitions are thrown out and manipulative new definitions are added.

We saw the same thing happen in the abortion debate. The murder of children became “a woman’s choice.” Who in their right mind would be against something labeled simply as a “choice.” And who in their right mind would be against “re-education” if we label it correctly. Again, you can see the enemy’s schemes clearly once they are exposed.

Language matters. Correct definitions matter. Truth matters. What we actually allow ourselves to listen to, what we allow our children to listen to, matters. We need the Holy Spirit to give us discernment to see through the nonsense that is out there in our culture right now.

Consider carefully what you hear.

Encounters with the Lord

Meanwhile, Saul was still breathing out murderous threats against the Lord’s disciples. He went to the high priest and asked him for letters to the synagogues in Damascus, so that if he found any there who belonged to the Way, whether men or women, he might take them as prisoners to Jerusalem. As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

“Who are you, Lord?” Saul asked.

“I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting,” he replied. “Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”

Acts 9:1-6

Saul was on his way to Damascus to persecute more Christians when he had a life-changing encounter with the Lord. Jesus showed up in such a powerful way that it knocked Saul to the ground and blinded him. This was the beginning of the Pharisee Saul becoming the apostle Paul.

Encounters with the Lord change us. But not all encounters are like the one Saul had. Throughout the Bible we see people having encounters with the Lord in different ways. And in the New Testament church, because of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, those encounters only increased in variety.

What follows is a list of a variety of different encounters that are available to us. This list is not exhaustive but instead representative of the variety of ways Jesus encounters us through the Spirit. There are as many kinds of encounters as there are characteristics of Christ.

1. Mercy Encounter: most Christians have had this kind of encounter with the Lord. This is when the Lord reveals our sin and our unworthy state as we stand vulnerable before the Lord and He pours out his forgiveness upon us. As His grace and mercy envelop us, we feel free from the guilt and shame of our sin. We feel washed clean and made right with the Lord. Tears often accompany this encounter.

2. Truth Encounter: this is when we have been shackled by a lie (or lies) and we didn’t even know it. The Lord reveals a powerful truth to us through scripture, through prayer, through a sermon, or through a friend. That truth rocks us to the core and breaks the chains of the lie we had been believing. Jesus is the Truth as He comes with a fresh perspective and sets us free. An “ah ha” feeling, a feeling of new revelation and new perspective, often accompanies this kind of encounter.

3. Love Encounter: this is when the Love of the Father gets poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. We may have felt unaccepted or unloved until this moment. When God’s love pours out on us we feel totally accepted and cherished as a child of God. Performance mentality is broken off of us. We finally accept that we don’t have to earn God’s love. We just bask in it. More than tears, weeping often accompanies this kind of encounter. Others have felt what they can only describe as liquid love pouring onto them.

4. Power Encounter: this is when the power of God shoots through someone’s body like electricity. These encounters most often happen during prayers of impartation, prayers for healing, and prayers for deliverance. The power of God surges through someone physically and they have physical reactions to it. They often tremble, shake, fall to the ground, have muscle contractions, and sometimes experience pain. It makes sense that our frail human bodies would have a hard time handling the power of our omnipotent God. Sometimes, especially if this kind of encounter is new to someone, it is a little frightening because a person can lose control of their bodies for a moment.

5. Peace Encounter: this is when the peace of Christ comes and blankets us. We suddenly go from a mind filled with anxiety, fear, worry, and grief to a complete calm. All the anxiety, fear, and worry leave. We feel totally at peace. Our problems that seemed so huge before melt away. The problem doesn’t change but we see it differently now. We are confident in God’s ability to work in any situation. We are not worrying about the future nor trapped in the past. When the peace of Christ blankets us, we are completely present in the moment. A sense of total calm mixed with unconditional hope often accompanies this kind of encounter.

6. Joy Encounter: this is when the explainable joy of the Lord fills our hearts. This is not joy based on people around us or our circumstances. This is an outpouring of joy from the heart of God. Sometimes there is a feeling that a person is so filled with the Spirit that they feel intoxicated or high. The heaviness of life, despair, depression, and hopelessness immediately evaporate as they are overwhelmed by the joy of the Lord. This joy encounter can be momentary (just a few hours) or it can last days. People often experience uncontrollable laughter even when nothing around them is funny.

7. Fire Encounter: this is when the fire of God comes upon a person. This is a kind of power encounter. The person feels heat all over their body or in one particular part of their body. It gets so hot that the person often sweats profusely though no one around them is warm. This can be localized if someone is praying for healing for a particular part of the body, or it can be felt all over if the Presence of God is all over a person.

8. Vision/Dream Encounter: this is a revelatory encounter where God gives a person an open vision. An internal vision is when God gives us a picture or a scene in our mind’s eye. That is a much more common experience than an open vision. An open vision is when a person is stopped in their tracks by seeing a spiritual vision externally with their physical eyes. We see this kind of encounter many times in the New Testament. Those with prophetic gifts will have more of these kinds of encounters. This kind of encounter can also happen while we are sleeping if Jesus comes to speak to us in our dreams.

9. Angelic Encounter: this is when a person sees with their physical eyes an angel near them. Often the angel has been sent to do something or say something to them. The angel is never worshipped as they are simply servants in the Kingdom of God. But the experience of seeing an angel can shake a person and cause a level of holy fear. The angel often has just been in God’s Presence and, like an aroma or a kind of radiation, the residue of God’s Presence can be felt on them.

10. Fear of the Lord Encounter: this is when a person encounters God’s Presence and God reveals to them just how close He was to them. When that revelation hits, the awesome fear of the Lord falls upon them. The awareness of just how awesome, powerful, holy, and glorious the Lord is hits a person all at once and it’s terrifying. Holy fear envelops them. Shaking, weeping, and repentance often accompanies this kind of encounter.

I know all of these encounters are real and available to us as followers of Jesus because I’ve had most of them. Though I’ve never had an open vision, I have had inner visions and I’ve had good friends who’ve experienced open visions. Though I’ve never had an angelic encounter, I have good friends and loved ones who have. All the rest of these I’ve experienced firsthand. And this is only a list of 10. There are so many attributes of God and encounters with Him that await those who pursue Him.

We don’t pursue the encounter, we pursue Jesus. We go after Him with everything we are and He meets us where we are with a unique encounter just for us. Encountering Jesus through the Spirit is life-changing. Every time we have an experience with Him we are changed by it. We get a taste of His nature and His character and we want more. And as we get to know Him, we want to be just like Him.

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.