Tip of the Shovel

Jesus called them together and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Matthew 20:25-28

I have found that in the Kingdom of God being the tip of the spear often means being the tip of the shovel.

In the Kingdom of God, the reward for faithfulness often comes in the form of more responsibility. If you see someone who is incredibly gifted in the Kingdom, it is often the case they they have sacrificed a tremendous amount for the Lord. They have humbled themselves in obedient surrender in ways that would seem like “too much” for us. For them, it simply flowed out of their intimacy with the Lord.

Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you… Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

James 4:7-8, 10

Already – Not Yet

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”

John 16:33

The longer you live the more you come face to face with the enormity of pain and tragedy in this world. There is suffering and heartbreak at every turn. As a follower of Jesus, the only way to navigate the brokenness of the world is to have both a theology of healing and a theology of suffering. One without the other will be insufficient and will lead to despair.

A theology of suffering without a theology of healing leads us to believe we can’t have victory over sin, disease, or spiritual darkness this side of heaven. It leaves us trudging through this world of pain in a perpetual state of gloom and doom. It neglects our calling to bring heaven to earth. It never fully embraces all that Jesus accomplished on the cross and in the resurrection. It will likely lead to cynicism and attempts to escape this world rather than transform it. In Ephesians 4:11 terms, it tries to be pastoral without being apostolic.

Likewise, a theology of healing without a theology of suffering has a difficult time facing tragedy and pain. It tends to avoid the reality of suffering. It doesn’t allow for people to be in process or in grief. It neglects the important disciplines of being joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in enduring prayer. It struggles to be down in the muck walking with people. In Ephesians 4:11 terms, it tries to be apostolic without being pastoral.

A healthy and robust Kingdom theology makes room for both healing and suffering. When Jesus arrived in the flesh, He inaugurated the Kingdom of God on the earth. “Inaugurated” is a term that speaks to the reality that the Kingdom is already here, breaking out among us, but not yet here in all of its fullness and glory. Scholars call this the “already/not yet” of the Kingdom.

We now live in the in-between. This means that our reality will bear witness to both the “already” of the Kingdom and the “not yet” of the Kingdom. Our theology of healing expresses the already of the Kingdom. Our theology of suffering expresses the not yet of the Kingdom.

We must hold the already and not yet in tension with each other. Leaning too far in one direction or the other causes problems. For instance, when it comes to physical healing, we must admit these two truths: 1) God wants to heal and 2) not everyone is healed this side of heaven. Likewise, we must admit these two truths about salvation: 1) God wants all to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth, and 2) not all will be saved.

There are a number of variables that prevent the Kingdom of God from expressing its fullness. Sin has caused a general brokenness in all of creation. It’s the background noise of brokenness that seems to infect every part of the world. Not only that, but sin has caused a break down in the way people treat each other. It has also caused a break in the way we relate to ourselves and to God. Add to all of this a real enemy, Satan, who is actively employing the kingdom of darkness to work against God’s purposes in the world, and you can begin to get a picture of the real mess we are in.

So while God’s Kingdom has come and is breaking out out among us–seeking to restore, redeem, and renew–there are many factors that are pressing against the advancement of God’s Kingdom in the world. The Parable of the Wheat and the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) gives us a picture of this reality. God’s Kingdom is growing in the world, but so is the kingdom of darkness.

A healthy theology of healing acknowledges things like our victory in Christ, that sin and death have been defeated, that we are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms, and that all things have been placed under His feet. A healthy theology of healing declares that God wants to heal in the same way that God wants all to be saved (1 Timothy 2:3-4), that healing is a mandate given to the Church by Christ, and that there is no sickness in heaven. This is why we pray expecting healing when we pray “Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10). We have been given supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit, and we are expected to use them to the glory of God. We aren’t waiting to get to heaven to experience the Kingdom of God. We are called to partner with God now in ushering in His Kingdom in increasing measure.

Likewise, a healthy theology of suffering acknowledges that, this side of heaven, not everyone will be miraculously healed, that God’s will is not always done on earth as it is in heaven, and that pain is a part of this broken world. A healthy theology of suffering acknowledges that in this world we will have trouble and that the enemy doesn’t play fair but is out to steal, kill, and destroy (John 10:10). A healthy theology of suffering will not blame God as the author of suffering, but will acknowledge that sin has stained all aspects of life and that we wade through a sea of brokenness as we live in this world. We are called to come alongside people and walk with people through their suffering. We are called to love others in the same way that Jesus loves us.

In the end, God is with us through it all. Sometimes we’ll be healed. Sometimes we won’t. Some aspects of God’s Kingdom are already here, and some have not yet arrived. But what is always available to us is the peace of Christ that passes all understanding (Philippians 4:7). His comfort and Presence are always available to us. He will never leave us nor forsake us. His love for us is our unending source of strength even in the midst of brokenness. And we can take comfort in the fact that we serve a God of resurrection. He specializes in bringing new life out of death. We confess that whether in healing or in suffering, Christ is all in all. For we have died with Christ and our life is now hidden in Him.

Washing Feet

It was just before the Passover Festival. Jesus knew that the hour had come for him to leave this world and go to the Father. Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

The evening meal was in progress, and the devil had already prompted Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot, to betray Jesus. Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

John 13:1-5

Jesus’s response to the knowledge that the Father had put all things under his power was to take the posture of a house servant and wash the disciples’ feet. In our culture, power often leads people to exalt themselves or to being exalted by others. Yet, with the knowledge of His supreme power at the forefront of this mind, Jesus goes low.

Jesus models for us a different kind of leadership. Jesus described this kind of Kingdom leadership when He taught the disciples, “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many“(Mark 10:43-45).

This kind of leadership can only happen when we are secure in who we are. If we don’t know who we are in Christ, if we aren’t aware of the power and authority given to us as children of God, we’ll never be able to go this low. We’ll still be striving to prove ourselves. Or, we’ll be tempted to fight for our “rights.” Only when we see the fullness of our inheritance in Christ can we be strong enough and secure enough to wash the feet of those around us.

We can give ourselves way if we know there is always more in the Kingdom. When we posture ourselves to be continually receiving from the Lord, we can continually give things away. We can give love because we are loved. We can give grace because we daily live in a waterfall of grace. We can give away our resources knowing that God always has more for us. We can go low because we trust that it is the Father who lifts us up.

You see, it wasn’t that Jesus had to try to forget that “the Father had put all things under his power.” He didn’t have to try to put His own power out of His mind in order to be a servant. He wasn’t trying to be less than He was in order to achieve humility. It was the opposite. It was Jesus’s awareness of His immense power that allowed Him to take the low place and wash His disciples’ feet. It wasn’t a self-deprecating, false humility. It was real, authentic humility.

It was love.

Good Soil

“A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil, where it produced a crop—a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

Matthew 13:3-8

After telling the people the Parable of the Sower, Jesus pulled His disciples aside and explained it (Matthew 13:18-23). The seed is the message about the Kingdom of God. The different soils represent the various conditions of our heart. The fruit produced doesn’t have to do with the quality of the seed but the quality of the soil. And the truths found in this parable are true not only for the message of the Kingdom of God but also the demonstration of the Kingdom.

For instance, why didn’t everyone believe after seeing Jesus do so many miracles, signs, and wonders? They had just witnessed a demonstration of the Kingdom of God coming to earth. How could someone not believe after seeing that? The Parable of the Sower explains it. Witnessing a miracle is a seed of the Kingdom. Our response to a miracle reveals the condition of our hearts.

Jesus’s miracles were not occasional. They were a staple in His life. He was demonstrating the Kingdom everywhere He went. It was not a side ministry. It was His ministry.

When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:
“He took up our infirmities
    and bore our diseases.”

Matthew 8:16-17

The Pharisees were particularly bothered when Jesus cast out demons. (This is still true today!) Maybe because they had seen faith-healers before who were easily falsified. But having authority over demons and casting them out was something no one could fake and something they couldn’t do. The soil of their hearts got exposed. Their only recourse was to claim Jesus was demonized Himself and using demons to cast out demons.

While they were going out, a man who was demon-possessed and could not talk was brought to Jesus. And when the demon was driven out, the man who had been mute spoke. The crowd was amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.”

But the Pharisees said, “It is by the prince of demons that he drives out demons.”

Matthew 9:32-34

A little while later, they accused Him of being demon-possessed again after he delivered another man, so Jesus decided to clarify the situation.

Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them, “Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand. If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand?…But if it is by the Spirit of God that I drive out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

Matthew 12:25-28

The Kingdom had come in their midst. It had shown up right in front of them in the form of healings and deliverances. People being set free from illness and from demons was supposed to be a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God. It was good seed scattered by the Good Sower. It was supposed to be good news that people rejoiced over. Instead, because of their path-hardened hearts, the Pharisees used it as an accusation against Jesus. The very thing that should have been a reason to crown Jesus King of Kings was used against Him to bring a crown of thorns upon His head.

Telling Secrets

Then he told them many things in parables…  …Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?”

He replied, “Because the knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them. Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them. This is why I speak to them in parables:

“Though seeing, they do not see;
    though hearing, they do not hear or understand.”

Matthew 13:3, 9-13

In front of a gathering of people, Jesus tells the Parable of the Sower. A farmer scattered seed and it fell in four different places. The seed on the hardened path was eaten by birds. The seed on the rocky soil sprung up quickly yet died for lack of soil. The seed among the thorns grew but was eventually choked out. Finally, the seed that fell on the good soil produced a harvest. Jesus concluded this parable by saying, “Whoever has ears, let them hear.”

The disciples wanted to know what we want to know. Why was Jesus speaking in parables? So Jesus explains why He does this.

Jesus’s teachings contain the secrets of the Kingdom of God. But Jesus has to be careful who obtains these secrets. He’s looking for the seed of the Kingdom to fall into good soil. So, the principle Jesus is applying is the same one we see in the Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30). In the Parable of the Talents, those who were faithful with little were given more. The one who was not faithful with little, even what little he had was given to someone who would be faithful with it. Jesus is looking for good stewards, those who will be faithful with what they’ve been given. Those who will believe the word and apply it. Those who will cultivate the seed in good soil.

Jesus states the principle plainly, “Whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance.” Whoever has what? Good question. Jesus already told us. Whoever has “ears to hear.” They will be given more.

Then Jesus follows with, “Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” Whoever does not have what? Good question. Whoever does not have “ears to hear.” They will not be trusted with more, and what they did have will be taken from them. He’s not talking finances here. He’s talking about revelation, truth, secrets of the Kingdom of God.

Jesus then describes people who don’t have ears to hear the secrets of the Kingdom. He says that they can see with their eyes, but are blind to truth. He says that they can hear with their ears, but their hearts are deaf to the what God is revealing.

Jesus wanted to reveal the secrets of the Kingdom, but He wanted to do it for people who would be faithful with it. He wanted the secrets of the Kingdom to be revealed to people whose hearts were like good soil, soft hearts, surrendered hearts. He wanted secrets of the Kingdom to be concealed to those who weren’t ready for them, so He spoke in parables. Like Jesus said in Matthew 7:6, “Do not throw pearls to pigs” or they will not only trample them but turn and tear you to pieces.

And this reveals two secrets about hearing God. When we talk about hearing God more clearly, we aren’t talking about literal volume. Imagine a radio tuning in to a radio signal. There is the tune knob and the volume knob. The tune knob in the Kingdom is surrender. The volume knob in the Kingdom is believing God. The more we surrender and obey, believing what God has already said, the more we continue to hear from God. The more our heart is soften to the Lord, the more His parables–the words He speaks directly to our hearts–make sense.

God didn’t want the secrets of His Kingdom in the hands of people who were hard-hearted and didn’t believe. He didn’t want His secrets in the hands of the arrogant and prideful. So Jesus spoke in parables. Jesus hid the secrets of the Kingdom for us, not from us. Those who are willing to go low, willing to surrender, willing to believe with soften hearts, they will be given a truckload of truth, a reservoir of revelation. Those who live in skepticism and unbelief will not.

If you are wanting to hear more from God, if you want Him to reveal things to you, if you want Him to unveil secrets of the Kingdom to you, the first step is repenting of an unbelieving heart. Ask God to forgive you for your unbelief, cynicism, skepticism and doubt. Ask Him to soften your heart. Then ask the Holy Spirit to speak clearly to you and set aside daily time to listen. Listen for pictures and words that the Lord brings to your mind. And whatever He shows you, be a good steward of it. Be obedient. Stewarding what He’s already said is key in receiving more.

Full of Joy

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go…

…The seventy-two returned with joy and said, “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.”

He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. I have given you authority to trample on snakes and scorpions and to overcome all the power of the enemy; nothing will harm you. However, do not rejoice that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

At that time Jesus, full of joy through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children. Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Luke 10:1, 17-21

Jesus sent out 72 disciples to go ahead of him, town to town, doing the same ministry He was doing. They were to proclaim that the Kingdom of God had arrived and was well within their reach. They were to heal the sick and cast out demons. Then they were to report their experiences back to Jesus.

Don’t forget who Jesus is sending to do this. These are fishermen not Pharisees. These are not experts in the Law. These are not theologians and Bible teachers. These are farmers and stay-at-home moms. These are tax-collectors and women with questionable backgrounds. These are blacksmiths and shepherd boys.

When they return, did you notice that they return with joy. Doing ministry in the power and authority of Jesus was not burdensome to them. Though they didn’t take a purse or bag, though they were like sheep among wolves (Luke 10:3-4), they still returned with joy! And they were completely shocked that demons submitted to them in Jesus’s name.

Demons didn’t submit to the religious leaders and teachers of the law. Demons didn’t even submit to the high priest. Demons didn’t submit to the magicians, mediums, or fortune-tellers. And yet, in the name of Jesus, demons submitted to these no-named, low-status disciples. It was astounding! And it wasn’t because of them, but because they were given the delegated authority of Jesus.

Jesus reminds them to keep their focus in the right place. He doesn’t want them to be enamored with the reality that they can cast out demons. Jesus knows that focusing on the enemy is just a waste of time. He’s not worth that kind of focus. Instead, Jesus wanted their focus to be on the Lord and that they walk in His authority because of their salvation.

And notice how excited Jesus is for the 72 disciples returning from ministry. Scripture says Jesus was “full of joy through the Holy Spirit.” Can’t you just see the huge smile on Jesus’s face as each of them tell their stories of healing people, delivering people from demons, and proclaiming the Kingdom of God. He would have been beaming like a proud papa.

Then Jesus turns toward heaven and thanks the Father that He made all of this possible. The Father had revealed the power and authority of His Kingdom to bankers and bakers, wine-makers and carpenters, and not to the religious elite. The Father was pleased to have the enormous power and authority of heaven flow through people of low status, people with little more social status than children, instead of those the world considered learned and wise. And this reality brought Jesus so much joy!

And it still brings Him so much joy today! He’s still doing this very thing today!

As a follower of Jesus, you were designed to carry the authority and power of Jesus. You were created to see the impossible become possible. God delights in answering the prayers of His children. Before Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and ascended, Jesus talked about how joy would come when their prayers were answered.

In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16:23-24

That is how prayer was designed to work. We ask in the name of Jesus–the delegated authority of Jesus–and we receive what we asked. When that prayer gets answered right in front of us, we are filled with joy by the Holy Spirit just as Jesus was. We were meant to proclaim the Kingdom in the authority of Jesus. We were meant to see the sick healed and the oppressed set free from the demonic. We were designed to operate in the delegated authority of Jesus and the power of the Spirit.

And when we see people come to know Jesus, when we see people healed, when we see people set free, we get filled with joy! There is so much joy in seeing God’s Kingdom break through on earth as it is in heaven. Galatians 5:22 lists joy as a fruit of the Spirit. Yet, joy is also a fruit of supernatural ministry. It’s the fruit of seeing God move powerfully through our prayers.

A Co-Laboring Kingdom

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow.

1 Corinthians 3:5-6

One of the most fascinating things about being a follower of Jesus Christ and participating in the Kingdom of God is that God has decided to co-labor with us to bring about His Kingdom on the earth. The apostle Paul saw himself as a cultivator, a farmer, of the Kingdom. He planted the seed of the gospel and Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. There is a partnership between our work and the work of God.

For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Ephesians 2:10

God has always wanted this kind of partnership with humanity. We see it in the Garden of Eden. God gave humanity responsibility as co-workers and co-rulers of His creation. He told them to “fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over… every living creature that moves on the ground“(Genesis 1:28). God never wanted to just sovereignly make everything happen. He’s always wanted to co-labor with humanity to bring about His goodness and His purposes in the earth.

So when people say, “God’s going to do whatever God’s going to do,” it’s sort of a half-truth. Yes, there are times when God acts sovereignly. He sometimes tells humanity to get out of His way and follow His lead. But there are other times that God chooses to only work through people. And if people don’t obey, it doesn’t get done. This is the weight of responsibility we carry as co-creators and co-heirs of Christ. Romans 8:17 says of followers of Jesus that, “we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ.”

When Jesus fed the 5000 with a few fish and loaves, He handed the food to the disciples and essentially told them, “You do it.” (Matthew 14:19) When Jesus sent the disciples out ahead of Him two by two, He essentially told the disciples, “Go do what I’ve been doing.” (see Matthew 10) After the resurrection, just before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told His disciples essentially, “Now you do it. You go and make disciples.” (Matthew 28:19)

I don’t know why God would entrust so much of His work to us. I don’t know why He put Himself in a position to be dependent on our follow-through. Maybe that is what love does; it depends on people when it doesn’t really have to. Like when parents ask kids to clean up their room as much for the kids’ sake as for their own. It would be 10 times faster and cleaner if we did it ourselves, but then our kids would never become who they were meant to be. Maybe we are invited in to co-labor with Christ so that we can become who we are called to be. And God is willing to risk failure for the sake of our growth.

New Law

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. 

Romans 8:1-2

When we move from the Old Testament to the New Testament, we can mistakenly think we moved from the Law to “no law.” But this is a misunderstanding of the covenants. The first covenant was governed by the Law of Moses. Yet, the new covenant is governed by new laws, laws that are far superior because they are from a superior Kingdom. Jesus told us that he didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it (Matthew 5:17). The new laws of the Kingdom of God have come to fulfill and supersede the old covenant laws.

For instance, the law of the Spirit has set us free from the law of sin and death. A superior law has come to fulfill and supersede the old law. The law of the Spirit is greater than the law of sin and death. Both laws are “true” but the law of the Spirit takes precedent over the law of sin. Because of this, not only are we able to be saved, but we are able to now live in a holiness would could never attain under the old law.

Likewise, the apostle Paul writes, “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law“(Romans 13:8). So the new law of love has fulfilled the old covenant list of commandments. Leif Hetland always says that, in this new covenant, the law of love replaces the love of law. Peter put it this way, “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins“(1 Peter 4:8).

There are many laws of the Kingdom of God that arrived with Jesus and remain with the Spirit. These new laws fulfill and supersede both the laws of Moses and the laws of the kingdom of this world. The fact that righteousness now comes by grace through faith in Jesus rather than through works is an example of this. Another example is that the law of resurrection life supersedes the law of death. When someone gets miraculously healed, the law of the Kingdom of God has fulfilled and superseded the laws of physics in our world. Miracles are signs that a superior law is at work.

In the Kingdom of God, the law of forgiveness fulfills and supersedes laws of justice and retribution. Likewise, the laws of the Kingdom state that the first will be last and the humble will be exalted. Basically, what Jesus was trying to teach in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7) was about this new law that fulfills and supersede the old law.

The new laws of the Kingdom feel strange to us because they are so different than how our world operates. They feel foreign because they come from a foreign Kingdom, the Kingdom of God. Yet, they are far superior to the current laws that govern our world. The gospel has not only set us free from the old law of Moses, but it has set us free to embrace the new and superior laws of the Kingdom.

The Laws of the Kingdom

…through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

Romans 8:2

All throughout the created world we see laws at work that counteract each other. One law of nature seems to be greater than other laws. For instance, the law of centrifugal force should mean that the rotation of the earth flings us all out into space. Centrifugal force is that feeling of being pushed to the outside anytime you spin around something. It’s that feeling of sliding to the far side of the car when it’s going around a turn.

But the reason we don’t fly out into space is because of the law of gravity. The force of gravity is stronger than the centrifugal force. Another way of saying this is that the law of gravity is above or greater than the law of centrifugal force. It doesn’t make the lesser law less true. It just means the greater law takes precedence. Both laws are true but the greater law wins out.

(Fun fact: the centrifugal force is greatest on the earth at the equator. So gravity is counteracted the most at the equator. Meaning, you are a little lighter at the equator–by about 10 oz or so–than you are at the poles of the earth.)

We see this same principle at work in the judicial system. There are many laws on the books. But in the courtroom the judge often has to decide between two competing laws. This is especially true with the Supreme Court. Both laws are true. Both laws are there for a reason. But often one law takes precedence over another law in a particular case. For instance, a federal law will take precedence over a state law if they are in conflict with each other.

These examples are simply reflections of what is true in God’s Kingdom. In the spirit realm, there are laws at work. And some laws supersede other laws. Romans 8 tells us that the law of the Spirit of life is greater than the law of sin and death. Both laws are true, but one is greater than the other. It is true that sin leads to death. It is true that because of our sin we deserve spiritual death. But a new law was introduced in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. We are now saved by grace through faith in Jesus. And having been given the Spirit, we are now set free from the law of sin and death. There is a greater law at work.

Paul describes a hierarchy of Kingdom laws in Galatians 5. The law of freedom stands over the law of the Spirit of life. Yet, the law of the Spirit of life stands over law of sin and death. Paul warns the Galatians to use their freedom to submit to the Spirit rather than to sin. And if we use our freedom to submit to the Spirit, we will walk in the Spirit and the will keep us from sin.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 

So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 

Galatians 5:1, 13, 16

The reason I am pointing out that some laws in God’s Kingdom supersede and take precedent over other laws is to highlight an important truth about healing. This is something the Lord has shown me over the last few weeks. If we want to operate in healing gifts and if we want to pray and see people healed, we need to remember this truth.

What the Lord showed me was that, because the law of the Spirit of life is greater than the law of sin and death, people can be healed of disease. We might call this the law of healing. But He also showed me that the law of freedom (or what we would call free will) is greater than the law of healing in God’s Kingdom.

Let’s break this down.

First, the law of healing is the general principle that God wants people to be healed in their bodies. Jesus is the perfect embodiment of the will of God on earth. Jesus only did what He saw the Father doing. He was God in the flesh. Every single person who came to Jesus and asked for healing got healed. Jesus never turned someone away in the Gospels and said, “You need to be sick so the Father can teach you a lesson.” No. Scripture says, “Jesus went through all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom and healing every disease and sickness” (Matthew 9:35).

The life of the Spirit in Jesus was transmitted to those who had illness. Disease is a product of sin and death in the world. The law of the Spirit of life overcame the law of sin and death. It is clear from the life of Jesus that God’s will is to heal disease and sickness.

The obvious question becomes, “Why then isn’t everyone healed?” The same kind of question could be asked about why then isn’t everyone saved. 1 Timothy 2:4 states very plainly that God our Savior, “wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” God wants everyone saved. But not all are saved. Why? Free will. The law of freedom gives people a choice to trust in Jesus or not.

So how does the law of freedom sometimes supersede or have precedence over the law of healing?

One example is a testimony from a woman named Joanne Moody. She wanted to be healed and believed in healing and got lots of prayer for healing but for years was not healed of her chronic pain. It wasn’t until a man spiritually discerned that she had made agreements with certain demonic spirits (spirits of death, spirits of suicide, etc) that anything changed. When the man discerned the truth and led Joanne to break those agreements (with her own free will) only then did prayer for healing actually heal her body. She was completely and totally healed. [See her testimony here.]

She had made agreements with the enemy that were blocking her healing. She was free to make those agreements because of the law of freedom (free will). Only when she renounced those agreements and had those demonic spirits cast out of her did her healing come. In other words, her free will had to cooperate with what God was doing in order for the law of healing to take center stage.

Another part of Joanne Moody’s testimony is that she almost died on an operating table. When this happened, her spirit floated above her body and the Lord came into the room. He gave her a choice to go home and be with the Lord or to go back into her body. She admits that she wanted to go be with the Lord, but she choose, for her son’s sake, to go back into her body riddled with pain.

Think about that scenario for a second. All these people were praying for her not to die. All these people were praying for her to come back and be healed. God wanted her to be healed. Yet, ultimately, God gave her a choice. The law of freedom took precedence over the law of healing. Had she freely chosen to go home to be with the Lord, she would not have been healed. She would have died right there on the operating table.

We see this with Jesus and the ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19). They cried out for physical healing. Jesus then gave them a command to go show themselves to the priests. They had the freedom as to whether they were going to obey. If they didn’t go, they wouldn’t be healed. If they did go, they would be healed. The law of freedom takes precedence over the law of healing.

They all decided to go, and “as they went” they were all healed. Before they even got to the priests, Jesus healed them. So now all of them were physically healed from leprosy but only one came back to thank Jesus, and he was apparently a “Samaritan.”

Jesus responded to the gratitude in the man’s heart (his free will choice to return and give thanks) by granting the man even more healing. Jesus said, “Rise and go; your faith has made you well.” That word in the Greek translated as “made you well” is the word for saved (sozo). The man was already physically healed; Jesus then healed him at a much deeper level. The other nine men who were also physically healed made their own free will choice not to return and give thanks, and they did not receive the deeper healing.

What’s the point?

The point is that the law of freedom sometimes takes precedence over the law of healing in God’s Kingdom. Does God want to heal? Yes! Emphatically, yes! This is what we see over and over again in the life of Jesus. Yet, it seems, there is a greater law that is often at work. God does want to heal but more than that He wants us to have our God given freedom of will. Without freedom there is no love. In order for love to be real it must be free. The law of love is dependent on the law of freedom. And so often, in order to see healing, we must freely cooperate with what God is doing and saying.

This is not to say that this is the only reason people are not healed. Don’t hear me say that. There are lots of variables involved with someone getting healed and many of those variables are a mystery. What I am saying is that one of the variables is the reality that the law of freedom supersedes the law of healing in God’s Kingdom. Our freedom is one of God’s top priorities and we must use that freedom to cooperate with Him. Learning to cooperate with God in healing is part of the journey of the Christian life.

We must explore this truth more. I feel like this is just the tip of the iceberg. How does our freedom and our free choices interact with healing? How can we engage the law of freedom in such a way that it enacts the law of healing? There is much more that we have to learn about this truth.

The Power of the Spirit

Samson went down to Timnah together with his father and mother. As they approached the vineyards of Timnah, suddenly a young lion came roaring toward him. The Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him so that he tore the lion apart with his bare hands as he might have torn a young goat. But he told neither his father nor his mother what he had done.

Judges 14:5-6

Samson was set apart from birth. The angel of the Lord came to his mother and father and directed them regarding how to consecrate themselves and the baby to the Lord. Samson was set apart with a Nazarite vow from the time of his conception. God had a calling on his life as one who would begin to deliver the people of Israel from the oppressive rule of the Philistines.

This kind of exceptional consecration and calling resulted in an unusual level of anointing on Samson’s life. When the Spirit of the Lord came upon him, he was able to operate with an extreme level of power and authority. Samson didn’t always use this power wisely, but it was always available to him.

Then the Spirit of the Lord came powerfully upon him. He went down to Ashkelon, struck down thirty of their men, stripped them of everything and gave their clothes to those who had explained the riddle.

Judges 14:19

Samson’s early life is a foreshadowing of Jesus’s birth and anointing. Jesus was similarly set apart from birth and operated in a similarly powerful anointing. And Jesus was the fulfillment of all that Samson wasn’t.

Samson is also a picture of what is available to us in the Holy Spirit. Samson had the Spirit come upon him in power. We have this same opportunity. As people who have surrendered our lives to Jesus, not only do we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, but we have access to the Holy Spirit coming upon us in power. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell within us for our sake but often comes upon us for the sake of others. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us in power, the enemy gets torn to shreds.

I’ve witnessed what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person who is preaching. What is released in the room is more powerful than the words that are being spoken. People are cut to the heart by the word of God. People give their lives to Jesus for the first time. People respond with their whole hearts and their whole lives.

I’ve witnessed what happens when the Holy Spirit comes upon a person in prayer. Power is released on the person receiving prayer in such a way that dramatic things happen. Demons flee. They can’t seem to get out of there fast enough. Instant physical healings take place. The person’s body conforms to the Kingdom of God breaking into the kingdom of this world. Things are set right. Wounded hearts are repaired as the love of the Father is tangibly experienced.

Without the tangible demonstration of the power of the Holy Spirit, Christianity devolves into just one religion among many. But when the Spirit of the Lord comes upon us in power, and the reality of the Kingdom of God is on display, Jesus is revealed for who He really is–King of Kings and Lord of Lords!

This is how the apostle Paul describes his own ministry:

I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done—by the power of signs and wonders, through the power of the Spirit of God. So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ. 

Romans 15:18:19

For Paul, to “fully proclaim” the gospel of Christ meant that signs and wonders through the power of the Spirit had to be on display. Anything less than that was not the full proclamation of the gospel of Christ. We are called to daily walk in the power of the Holy Spirit!