Crossing the Jordan

He said to the Israelites, “In the future when your descendants ask their parents, ‘What do these stones mean?’ tell them, ‘Israel crossed the Jordan on dry ground.’ For the Lord your God dried up the Jordan before you until you had crossed over. The Lord your God did to the Jordan what he had done to the Red Sea when he dried it up before us until we had crossed over. He did this so that all the peoples of the earth might know that the hand of the Lord is powerful and so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:21-24

The people of Israel were to set up memory stones, a memorial, to help them and future generations remember the miracles of God. Just as God created a way through the Red Sea when they were getting free from slavery, God again created a way–this time through the Jordan River–as the people entered the Promised Land. The purpose for both miracles was less about Israel and more about the nature of God. These miracles demonstrated the power of the Lord.

The Red Sea crossing was a kind of water baptism. It was a type, a foreshadow, of our baptism in water when we trust in Jesus. Jesus saves us from slavery to sin. As we leave our old life behind, we go through the waters of baptism.

If the Red Sea crossing was a kind of water baptism, what was the Jordan River crossing?

This second crossing wasn’t about being set free from slavery but about entering the promises of God. It was about stepping into the fullness of the inheritance that God had for the people of God. The Jordan River crossing was a kind of baptism in the Spirit. It was a type, a foreshadow, of what we see in Acts 2 when followers of Jesus are filled with the Spirit.

This second crossing was necessary for Israel to step into the fullness of what God had for them. He didn’t just set them free from Egypt so they could wander around the desert. The purpose of the Red Sea crossing found its fulfillment in the Jordan River crossing.

The same relationship exists between baptism in water and baptism in the Spirit. We didn’t get saved from sin and death just so we could continue to wander around as a slave to sin. We must also be filled with the Spirit in order to experience the fullness of the inheritance that we have been given in the Kingdom of God.

The apostle Paul wrote to a group of Christians who had the Spirit dwelling in them and said, “…be filled with the Spirit“(Ephesians 5:8). In other words, having the Spirit dwelling in you because you are saved is not the same thing as being filled with the Spirit. Israel was technically “saved” in the desert, but they didn’t enter all that God had for them until they crossed the Jordan.

Baptism in the Spirit isn’t you getting more of the Holy Spirit; it’s when the Holy Spirit gets more of you. It’s when your surrender and obedience allows Him access to more and more rooms in your heart, mind and body. As He fills your house with His Presence, there is an overflow that happens. More and more of the Kingdom of God is not only within you but begins to pour out of you.

Have you crossed the Jordan? Have you been filled to overflow with the Spirit?

Some Doubted

Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.

Matthew 28:16-17

Some doubted!?! Let that sink in! They stood in the presence of the resurrected Jesus and still doubted. What? This is the same Jesus that casted out all manner of demons, demons who couldn’t stand to be in His presence. This is the same Jesus who healed all manner of diseases. This is the same Jesus who conquered sin and death.

To me it begs the question, “Why wasn’t doubt obliterated in His presence?”

I believe the root of this reality is that Jesus refuses to override our free will. Our faith will never be forced. God is not a coercive or abusive God, forcing Himself upon people. Instead, God patiently waits for our “Yes.” It doesn’t have to be a big yes. It can be as small as a mustard seed. But He won’t force Himself upon us.

This means the opportunity to doubt will always be there. Even if the resurrected Jesus stood right in front of you, you would still have the option of doubting. You will always have that option. We will also always have the option to believe and not doubt. This is the beauty of it all.

If people can still doubt Jesus even when His miraculously resurrected body stands right in front of them, then people will find reasons to doubt any sort of miraculous event. The spirit of unbelief is a demonic weed that will find any crack in your heart and set down roots as soon as possible.

Faith is choosing to trust. And no matter what we face, no matter the impossible situation in front of us, we can always choose to trust God, to trust His character, to trust His nature. He is worthy of our trust.

Have the seeds of doubt found a way into your heart?

Signs of Unbelief

The Pharisees and Sadducees came to Jesus and tested him by asking him to show them a sign from heaven.

He replied, “When evening comes, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red,’ and in the morning, ‘Today it will be stormy, for the sky is red and overcast.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation looks for a sign, but none will be given it except the sign of Jonah.” Jesus then left them and went away.

Matthew 16:1-4

The Pharisees and Sadducees, religious leaders in that community, asked Jesus to show them a sign from heaven. They wanted to test whether they could really believe Jesus was legitimate. Jesus refuses.

It’s important that we understand why Jesus refuses. This is not Jesus saying He won’t do signs and wonders. He had already performed hundreds and hundreds of healings. He had already cast out an overwhelming number of demons. He had already miraculously fed the 5000 (Matthew 14) and then turned around and miraculously fed the 4000 (Matthew 15). And with these miracles we see it bolster people’s faith. Jesus expects miracles to increase faith. But the Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13) teaches us that it all depends on the soil of our heart.

The Pharisees and Sadducees were around for most of these healings, miracles and deliverances. They had already seen sign after sign from heaven of Jesus’s legitimacy. But their pride caused their hearts to be full of unbelief, doubt and skepticism. So they wanted another sign. Jesus refused to bow down to their unbelief and doubt.

Jesus refuses to bow down to our unbelief and doubt. Instead, He invites our unbelief and doubt to bow down to Him. Jesus is more than willing to show us miraculous signs, but He is unwilling to throw pearls to pigs (Matthew 7:6). He refuses to be treated like a side show, a novelty act, just for the sake of people’s stubborn unbelief.

Right now, so much of our culture operates with the unbelief, doubt and skepticism of these Pharisees and Sadducees. I’ve seen many of my friends go through a process that is called “deconstruction.” I went through it too. It is basically a process of doing surgery on your faith. It’s like breaking a bone that’s not growing correctly in order to set it properly. At least that is what it is supposed to be.

But so many of my friends didn’t go through this process in an atmosphere of faith. It would be like doing surgery on yourself in an open field. It’s not so much the surgery that causes so much damage; it’s the infection that comes from doing the surgery by yourself in an unclean environment that ends up doing the damage.

When deconstruction is attempted on your own in an environment that is filled with doubt, inevitably the infection of unbelief seeps into your bones. Deconstruction itself–when done with spiritual guidance, in community, and in an atmosphere of faith–can be useful. But when it’s done in isolation, without spiritual guidance, in an environment of doubt, unbelief is often the result. Deconstruction in this context will tear down a person’s faith without reconstructing a healthy faith on the other side. It’s like breaking a bone and never resetting it.

If we’re looking for a sign to overcome our unbelief and doubt, Jesus advises us in this passage to look first to the sign of Jonah. In other words, look first to His death on the cross and His resurrection from the dead three days later. That is our primary “sign from heaven” that builds faith. The apostle Paul said it this way:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Romans 5:6-8

While uncertainty is a normal part of the Christian life, unbelief is not. Unbelief (often labeled “doubts”) is an infection that can grow to the point of killing one’s faith. Don’t let it. We are not helpless, passive victims of unbelief as if we can’t do anything about it. Root it out of your heart as soon as possible. Choose to trust God. Choose to trust scripture. Choose not to give in to your doubts.

Healing Brings Praise

Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.

Matthew 15:29-31

Physical healing naturally brings praise to God. Notice that even though Jesus likely healed hundreds of people that day, and some with extremely severe illnesses, the crowd instinctively knew to praise God for the healings. They knew a man could not heal unless God was working through him.

People today get so worried that if someone has gifts of healings (one of the gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12:9) that all the credit will go to the person instead of God. But this is just not true. I have seen it time and again, that when someone experiences healing, the most natural thing in the world is to give glory and praise to God alone. We exaggerate our fear that a person will take the credit for the healing and it keeps us from engaging in more healing prayer in the church.

Through Jesus, the crowds “saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing.” This is what people should be seeing in the Church, the Body of Christ on the earth. We are His hands and feet in the world. We are His ambassadors. “…In this world we are like Jesus“(1 John 4:17). We are called to pick up the mission and ministry of Jesus and continue it today. As more and more people in the Church pray for healing and see people get healed, more and more praise goes to the Father for His goodness and faithfulness.

This is who we are called to be as the Church, ushering in the Kingdom of God on earth. We need more people pursuing the supernatural gifts of the Spirit listed in 1 Corinthians 12, including gifts of healings (in the Greek both the word “gifts” and “healings” are plural). It needs to become commonplace for people to walk into church sick and walk out healed. Just as a nutrition plan has become a new addition to many people’s treatment plan for their illness, we need a new normal where people add regular healing prayer to their treatment plan.

How are you going to pursue more healing prayer in your life with Christ?

If you’re looking for a place to start, this book can help: Power to Heal by Randy Clark

Offensive Miracles

When Jesus had finished these parables, he moved on from there. Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” And they took offense at him.

But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.”

And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Matthew 13:53-58

When there is a lack of faith, people are easily offended. We see this in our own culture. People seem to be offended by everything. People in our culture wear their offense like a badge of honor. So many people, even Christians, live their lives perpetually offended.

The people of Nazareth were offended that Jesus, someone they knew, had incredible wisdom and operated in the miraculous. They couldn’t understand how someone from such a common family could be a prophet. They couldn’t understand how a carpenter’s son could become such a wise Rabbi. It didn’t make sense to them that God would do miracles through such a lowly man. They saw Jesus grow up, after all. How could God use Him? And because it didn’t line up with their understanding and expectations, they took offense. People today do the same thing.

In particular, people get offended by healing for a variety of reasons. They get offended that some people get miraculously healed and others don’t. They especially get offended at the mention of the need for healing. To say a person needs healing means that something is broken. But there is so much fear and insecurity around admitting that something is broken.

We live in a culture where everyone wants to be told that nothing in them is broken. No one wants to admit that their spirit is broken and they need a Savior. No one wants to admit that their heart is broken and they need inner healing and deliverance. No one wants to admit that their body or brain or sexuality is not functioning the way God intended, and that it needs healing. We’re afraid that if we say this about our loved ones they won’t feel “normal.”

But instead of admitting that none of us is “normal,” we’ve decided to call everything normal. We wrongly assume that if we call everything normative then everyone will feel included and loved. But the people who live with brokenness know deep down that something is wrong. I know because we all have brokenness.

So we walk around knowing deep down that something is wrong, and yet we have everyone telling us that everything is fine. We’re told that the disfunction in our body, mind, or spirit is “normal.” Sometimes we’re even told the it’s good! But the deepest parts of us knows better. This creates a cognitive dissonance that is damaging.

We’d do better to communicate the biblical message that we’re all broken, we all need healing, and we all need a savior. The admission of the need for spiritual, emotional, and physical healing should be what is “normative.” For a person to assume that they don’t need healing should not be a mark of superiority but a sign of prideful ignorance. What should be offensive is the person who says they don’t need healing, not the person who suggests the need for healing.

Yes, we love everyone just as they are. We communicate that God loves them unconditionally even if their situation never changes. We help them encounter the absolutely overwhelming love of the Father for them. But His unending love for us–just as we are–does not change our need for healing. God is the one who wants us healed more than anyone else!

Jesus healed every person who came to Him for healing. He never turned anyone away. He never decided that someone should just stay in their condition so that they can know they are loved just the way they are. He healed every single person that came to Him.

Does that means Jesus didn’t love them until after they were healed? Absolutely not! Jesus loved them unconditionally before they were healed. Then, as a demonstration of His unconditional love, Jesus healed them. And He loved them unconditionally after they were healed. Their need for healing didn’t impact Jesus’s love for them in any way. Healing was simply a tangible demonstration of His love.

As followers of Jesus, we can decide to be offended by healing and miracles (like the people of Jesus’s hometown) or we can decide to embrace healing. We all need healing. And as Jesus’ hands and feet in the world, we’ve been sent as His ambassadors to release physical healing to people. We’ve been sent to release inner healing and freedom to people. We’ve been sent to proclaim the gospel, the only thing that brings our dead spirit to life.

Are you offended by healing? Are you offended by the need for healing?

Bringing Justice through to Victory

Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. A large crowd followed him, and he healed all who were ill. He warned them not to tell others about him. This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah:

“Here is my servant whom I have chosen,
    the one I love, in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
    and he will proclaim justice to the nations.
He will not quarrel or cry out;
    no one will hear his voice in the streets.
A bruised reed he will not break,
    and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,
till he has brought justice through to victory.
In his name the nations will put their hope.”[Isaiah 42:1-4]

Matthew 12:15-21

The reason Jesus withdrew from that place is because the Pharisees were plotting to kill Him. Jesus’s response to their plan to kill Him is to move to a different region and heal every single person who came to Him. It doesn’t say that He healed some. It doesn’t say that He healed those with enough faith. It doesn’t say that He healed the righteous. No, He healed “all who were ill.”

When we pray for the sick, we have to own the fact that Jesus healed every person who came to Him. In other words, we have to own the fact that if Jesus were standing there with the person we’re praying for, they’d be healed. But it’s not Jesus standing there, it’s us. It’s Christ in us the hope of glory. The problem is never on God’s end of the equation.

And notice that Jesus healing everyone was a fulfillment of prophecy about the Messiah from Isaiah 42:1-4. When Jesus healed, it was Him bringing the justice of God into that situation. He wouldn’t turn people away who needed healing. A bruised reed He will not break, and a smoldering wick He will not snuff out. Instead, He would bring justice through to victory.

Bringing justice through to victory is language that is often used to describe a military battle. An invading army has come into the Promised Land. An evil foreign king has invaded the Temple. And the job of the Messiah, not unlike King David, was to bring the justice of God into the battle and see it through to victory. This is the imagery scripture gives us for when Jesus heals the sick.

In other words, God sees sickness and disease as an injustice. Sin, the brokenness of the world, and the enemy all can cause the body to malfunction in ways that it was never intended. To bring justice is to make things right that have gone wrong. When Jesus heals, He makes right whatever has gone wrong in the body. He ushers in the Kingdom of God into the body. And in the Kingdom of God, there is no sickness. Your Kingdom come (into this body), Your will be done, on earth (in this body) as it is in heaven (where there is no sickness).

When Jesus brings the justice of God to invade the injustice of sickness, He brings it through to victory. He doesn’t allow the invading armies of illness and disease to stay in the body. He releases the Kingdom of God in its fullness into the body until victory has been won.

This is the example that we are to follow. Jesus is the standard of what the Christian life should look like. The Holy Spirit moves us from glory to glory so that we look ever more like Christ. Part of that means seeing more and more healing as our lives look more and more like Jesus. We learn how to cooperate with the Father and the Spirit, releasing the Kingdom into every body we pray for. We learn how to cooperate with bringing God’s justice to invade the injustice of sickness, until we can bring it through to victory.

We do all of this so that the nations will put their hope and trust in the name of Jesus!

Consequences of a Miracle

Then Jesus began to denounce the towns in which most of his miracles had been performed, because they did not repent. 

“Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, will you be lifted to the heavens? No, you will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were performed in you had been performed in Sodom, it would have remained to this day. But I tell you that it will be more bearable for Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

Matthew 11:20-24

Jesus expected people who had experienced or witnessed miracles performed by Him to respond in repentance and faith. Every time Jesus would heal a broken body, cast out a demon, cleanse a leper, or raise the dead it was a sign of the in-breaking of the Kingdom of God on earth. Repentance and faith are the natural responses to the invasion of the Kingdom.

Yet, instead of repentance and faith, many people responded only with curiosity and amazement. Unfortunately, many people still do. While curiosity and amazement are normal reactions to the miraculous, if it stops there–if it never gives birth to repentance and faith–then the condition of the heart is not where it needs to be.

If a skeptical, unbelieving heart is confronted with a legitimate miracle, that person stands at a crossroads. They can continue in unbelief or they can repent for their unbelief and choose faith. Jesus expects the latter.

We live in a culture that thinks it’s okay to justify our unbelief by continuing to ask for more evidence. We get piles and piles of evidence and still ask for more. We give our unbelief names like “caution” and “wisdom.” But we don’t admit to what it really is: a hardness of heart, a lack of faith.

Miracles, signs and wonders are dangerous in this way. They put everyone involved at a spiritual fork in the road. It’s one thing to waver in doubt having never been exposed to healings, miracles or deliverance. But once you are confronted with a miracle, there’s no more wiggle room. You either believe or you reject. You either repent for your unbelief or you walk away shackled to your unbelief. There’s no more in-between. And there are severe consequences for staying in your unbelief.

Are you still wavering in doubt and unbelief?

Have you embraced the miraculous or would you feel right at home in Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum?