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.