Monthly Archives: April 2013

Are we being transformed by God? Part 2

As I’ve been traveling down this road recently, and seeking to discover my true intentions regarding my profession that “Jesus is Lord,” this first question didn’t come up immediately (which surely is indicative in itself). Now, however, it seems obvious that I must begin this journey by asking myself carefully, but sincerely, the following question: Does my theology hold up against scripture? In fact, as I’ve honestly searched my heart, I think the correct question actually is: Does my theology hold up against even one verse of scripture?

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12. As I read these words, I am reminded gently by the Holy Spirit of all of the careless, frivolous ways I’ve thrown around scripture for my own defense and for the condemnation of those I claim to love. I can feel the grief of the Holy Spirit as I recall the words in 2 Timothy 3: 1-5: “There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves…having a form of godliness but denying its power.” And for the first time ever, I read those words and feel the double-edge sword penetrating my spirit and revealing the bare truth as I confess, “Oh dear God, that’s me.”

A couple of years ago, I met a young lady in Russia who had come to me and asked me to pray with her. This lady had been a Christian for many years, and had been active in the Christian community there. I distinctly remember the first time we sat down to pray together noticing that her hands, really her whole body, shook constantly. She began to share with me a bit of the intense darkness and fear in which she constantly lived. She couldn’t stand to be alone ever, even in her own home. It had only gotten worse over the years, and by the time we began to meet she had become unable to even leave her husband’s sight.

I remember some time after she and I had begun praying together that I began to get a little discouraged that more healing wasn’t happening as I’d hoped. I shared a little about her with a fellow missionary who I knew didn’t know her, but who had been serving here in Eastern Europe for several years and who I hoped may have some encouraging advice to offer about the situation.

“Well,” my friend responded, “you have to be careful ministering to people who struggle with depression. A lot of times I have found that they really just want company in their darkness, and will just keep dragging you down and down with them.” Of course, this response discouraged me a bit. But honestly, it wasn’t far off from what I’d begun to feel.

I knew what the scriptures said:

Proverbs 14:27 – “The fear of the LORD is a fountain of life, that one may turn away from the snares of death.”

John 3:16 – “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

John 8:12 – “Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”

However, after many hours of prayer over several months, I had to admit to myself that I wasn’t sure that I believed these words were possible for this young lady at all. I began to justify my doubts with ideas like, “Well, Jesus must have meant that we could have the light of life after our bodies die and we go to Him in heaven.” – though I knew that I couldn’t back this up with scripture. I began either to dismiss certain scriptures or at least to add my own caveats to the words of Christ in order to validate my own lack of faith. In this time of trial, I cowered a bit as my ugly, false theology was revealing itself.

I saw this lady in St. Petersburg last week. She told me that she’d decided to come to the conference when she learned I would be there because she wanted to talk with me about some things that were happening. When we found some time to be alone together, she began to share with me a beautiful account from earlier this year.

She asked me if I knew the story of John Wesley’s “Aldersgate experience”, which he declared to be the first time he actually experienced the gift of the grace of God during a worship service (several years after he’d been serving as a pastor). She recalled that Wesley described it as a “warmth in his heart” that came upon him suddenly and without any particular reason. He later recounted this moment as the the first time he not only knew the truth that Jesus was Lord over sin and death, but that he actually experienced the gift of that freedom in his own life as he was able to truly receive an assurance of the grace of God. From that point on Wesley lived with an assurance of the freedom God promised through His son, and he knew a real transformation had happened in his spirit at that moment.

My friend in St. Petersburg told me, “For the first time, I had that same kind of experience a few months ago. Just suddenly, I felt this very tender, warm feeling in my spirit, and I knew it was the presence of God filling me, actually transforming my heart and setting me free.” She continued, “A few weeks after that experience, I was meeting with my bible study group, and was reading Romans 5: 6-8 – ‘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.’ And it just hit me,” she said, “for the first time in my heart that Jesus Christ died for me. I suddenly felt this grief in my heart like if a member of my family had died for me. I could see Jesus hanging on the cross, bleeding, and I just started weeping in the bible study in front of all of those women. I’ve read those words a thousand times before, but now I know that the Lord has truly written them on my heart, and that I’ve been transformed, I have been set free.”

It’s interesting to me how these intimate experiences receiving the gift of the grace of God very often come to people after they have already been through certain battles or times of healing with Him. It seems that in order for the significance of his death on the cross for our salvation to really change our hearts, we must first know Him – allow Him to show Himself to us and allow ourselves to fall in love with Him. We must let Him save us, we must let Him wash our feet, we must let Him have His way with us.

Romans 5:10 – For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved.

John 13:8 – “No,” said Peter, “you shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me.”

Hebrews 4:1 – Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.

Hebrews 4:15-16 – For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Let us be willing to enter into the sanctuary of God today, whatever we are doing, and ask Him to test our theology, to use His word to pierce our spirits. And let us not be afraid of the battles into which He may lead us, of the healing that He desires to bring. For through Him we truly do have life and freedom forever. Amen.

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

It’s Been A While…

My time praying and worshiping with brothers and sisters in St. Petersburg last weekend was difficult at times, of course. But it was entirely beautiful, and I was very encouraged. I feel like a bit of a “crack” has opened up spiritually in the church there, and I could sense the heat and light shining through from the raging fire of the Holy Spirit beneath the surface. The folks in the church there are extremely faithful, serving consistently regardless of whether an “emotional high” is present or not. But I was so blessed to witness a bit of real joy and freedom that many in the church are experiencing in a new and wonderful way, as they are opening up to the Lord and letting Him come in and do His transforming work in their lives.

I had an interesting conversation with a dear brother there about this idea of the transformation of the Holy Spirit. We were discussing the reality that so much of the condemnation that comes to those who are trying to follow Jesus doesn’t come from the world outside the church, but in fact comes from within the Christian community itself. Now we weren’t talking about correction offered to the church in love through the guidance of the Holy Spirit. We were talking about condemnation, which seems to show up much more consistently, and which is almost never offered out of love.

Having himself been the recipient of such condemnation at various times in his walk, and after having seen some of the work the Lord had been doing in our times of prayer, my friend made a very difficult and vital observation. He began to wonder if it could be possible to confess the authority of Jesus Christ as God and Creator of the universe, but to never actually confess Him – allow Him – to be Lord of our lives. I just kind of offered a half-smile back at him. His words hit a source of grief that have been growing in my spirit for some time.

The name of Jesus carries with it great authority. The bible, and all of history, is filled with examples of individuals and communities who have attempted to trade, or rebuke, or kill, on the authority of God’s name as “His children”, or as “Christians”, without ever actually submitting to Jesus as Lord of our lives. I would even argue that some of the most atrocious acts of the enemy historically are due to this arrogant, heinous misuse of the power of the name of Jesus Christ. We say that we desire to glorify the Lord, but we don’t. We desire only to glorify ourselves, and we stamp His name on what we want to do so that others (particularly those meek and humble, who aren’t so sure of themselves in the presence of God) will be afraid to challenge us:

“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’” Matthew 7:21-23

Jesus’ indication that “many” will come to Him on the day of judgment and try to argue their way into heaven by their elaborate use of His name seems pertinent, even a bit alarming, especially for those of us in the church. It seems wise advice for every person whose means of living is in any way dependent on the authority of the name of Jesus Christ to seriously consider whether we may be playing this very dangerous, destructive game. (It’s important to note that you don’t have to be on the staff of a church to be guilty of using the name of Jesus for your own gain or to make yourself more profitable.)

Now being honest with ourselves in this can be a bit tricky. The enemy strongly prefers that we continue to tell ourselves and everyone else that we’re really devoted Christians whose lives are blessed because of our profession that Jesus is Lord. The enemy knows that as long as we convince ourselves that this is enough, then true transformation in our lives never really has to happen. And the enemy knows that when we allow the Lord to transform us – to truly set us free from the sin and death in this world and in ourselves – then not only do his weapons against us become useless, but we ourselves become humble and meek, and broken, and really quite powerful for the Lord.

In a few weeks I will finish seminary for the summer, and plan to catch up a good bit on my blogging! Many things have happened, and are happening as folks are really experiencing the grace of the Lord, and I know I need to share some of this. I especially hope to share more about this idea of true submission. In this ministry, I have been so blessed in my own life and in getting to be with others in prayer – many of whom have been “Christians” for years – and to witness them really start to allow the Lord to come into their hearts, into the very intimate places of their lives, and to set them free.

I also want to say thank you, sincerely, for the faithful support of so many in so many ways, especially in these times of almost complete silence! I love you and pray for a deeper reality of freedom in your life, which only comes as we receive the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized