The Spiritual Temple: Empowered Believers

The Spirit blog

(I’m moving! My new blog is Formed By The Word and Spirit. www.bluecollar3.blogspot.com)

The people of God, not the Church building, make up Christ Church. Followers of Jesus are God’s spiritual temple in the New Testament.

“And you are living stones that God is building into his spiritual temple. What’s more, you are his holy priests. Through the mediation of Jesus Christ, you offer spiritual sacrifices that please God.” – (1 Peter 2:5 NLT)

The Holy Spirit now resides in the corporate body of Christ. Disciples of Jesus (the Church) make up Christs’ visible body on the earth. After the resurrection, Jesus spent time with his followers, teaching them about his Kingdom before his accession into heaven.

On the day of Pentecost, Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to fall upon and empower the gathering of believers. Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem were full of anticipation. These were just average men, women, and children. Peter stood up to preach about what the prophet Joel had spoken.

“‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares,

that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh,

and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,

    and your young men shall see visions,

    and your old men shall dream dreams;

 even on my male servants and female servants

    in those days I will pour out my Spirit, and they shall prophesy.” – (Acts 2:17-18 ESV)

Dreams, visions, and prophecy should be normative in the contemporary Church. Sadly the excesses of some prophetically gifted people have caused many to doubt the reality of these gifts. Humble praying people are the ones who experience true manifestations of the Holy Spirit. The Apostle Paul is clear that we are too, “Pursue love, and earnestly desire the spiritual gifts, especially that you may prophesy.” – (1 Corinthians 14:1 ESV)

Paul also warns us in 1 Thessalonians 5:19 -21: “Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good.” 

The teaching in some Churches today is to earnestly avoid these gifts! 

The most balanced approach is to test all prophetic experiences. Do they line up with Scripture?  As the old saying goes: “eat the chicken and spit out the bones.”

We (the Church) are the Spirit empower representatives of God on the earth. But many believers never tap into the Source of real power. In the book of Acts, we see the Spirit falling upon a praying people. We must spend time engaged in intercessory prayer, personally and corporately. If we don’t rediscover the power of prayer, we will continue to experience powerless Christianity. The lost world is turned off by the arguments, inconsistencies, and lack of unity in the Church. The world is looking for transforming power.

Unity and prayer are the keys to Kingdom power.

So, let us return to prayer.

Four Reasons Why God Heals by Jack Deere

(Jack Deere has been one of the most influential Bible teachers in my life. His recent book, Why I’m Still Suprised By The Spirit is a follow-up to his 1993 bestseller, Suprised By The Power Of The Spirit. I highly recommend this book or any of Jack’s books. For more posts like this check out my new blog, Formed By The Word And Spirit) http://www.bluecollar3.blogspot.com

 Why did God heal? It’s a simple question, but sometimes we professional Christians have a habit of making simple things complicated. We kick up a cloud of dust and then complain that we can’t see. Healing must have been important to Jesus because he did a lot of it. He taught his disciples to heal, and they taught their disciples to heal. God loves to make wrong things right in our bodies, souls, and spirits, regardless of where we are in our spiritual journeys.                                 

When I first studied every healing and miracle story in the New Testament, I was overwhelmed by the purity and simplicity of the supernatural ministry of the Holy Spirit. God did not heal to show that the apostles were trustworthy teachers of doctrine so we could have confidence in the Bible and make the transition to a new way of worshiping God. The reason for healing did not lay in a historical transition, but in the eternal character of God.

Mark told the story of Jesus healing a deaf and mute man (Mark 7:31–37). The only reason given in the story for Jesus’ healing of the man was that some people had asked him to do it.

Jesus heals because he has compassion on the sick and hurting. A typical incident is recorded in Matthew 14:13–14:

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.

God Heals for His Glory

God Heals Because He Has Compassion

Compassion motivated Jesus to heal a man who had leprosy (Mark 1:41–42), a boy possessed by an impure spirit (Mark 9:22), and two men who were blind (Matthew 20:34), and even to raise a widow’s son from the dead (Luke 7:11–17). In Matthew, the feeding of the four thousand is motivated not by a desire on Jesus’ part to demonstrate that he is the bread of life, but by his compassion for the multitude (Matthew 15:32). Likewise, Jesus healed those who were blind (Matthew 9:27–31; 20:29–34), possessed by demons (Matthew 5:22–28; 17:14–21), and had leprosy (Luke 17:13–14) in response to their cries for mercy. Even the healing of the most severely demon-­possessed person in the New Testament is attributed ultimately to God’s mercy (Mark 5:19).

Sometimes Jesus heals just because he is asked. It can be that simple.

Get Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere!

In Hebrew, the word for “compassion” is derived from the word womb. God feels about his people the way a mother feels about her unborn baby. She has tender longings for that baby and would die to protect her child. Like a mother carrying her child, God longs for his helpless children and is moved by our pains, and he waits for us to cry out to him for help (Isaiah 30:18–19). The sheer number of the texts listed in the previous paragraph demonstrates that God’s compassion and mercy were major factors in the healings of the New Testament. Jesus was touched by the pains and the sicknesses of people all around him. He felt the pain of a widow as he watched the funeral procession carrying the body of her only son, and that compassion moved him to raise the son from the dead (Luke 7:11–17).

If the Lord healed in the first century because he was motivated by his compassion and mercy for the hurting, why would we think he has withdrawn that compassion after the death of the apostles? Why would we think he no longer feels compassion when he sees lepers or those dying from AIDS? Why would we think he is now content to demonstrate that compassion only by giving grace to endure the suffering rather than by healing the condition? When someone tells me that God no longer heals or gives gifts of healing, I ask them to tell me what happened to God’s compassion. It is far more likely that we have stopped asking for healing than it is that God has withdrawn his compassion and mercy for the sick and hurting.

Sometimes the stated purpose for a healing is to bring glory to God. That was one of the primary purposes in raising Lazarus from the dead. Jesus told the disciples, “This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it” (John 11:4). And then he said to Martha, “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (John 11:40). When Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead, he demonstrated that he was the resurrection and the life, and this demonstration brought great glory to God and to the Son of God.

This same purpose is also seen in the apostolic healings. Peter explained the healing of the lame man at the temple gate called Beautiful in the following way:

When Peter saw this [the people’s wonder and amazement over the miracle that had just taken place], he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go.”
Acts 3:12–13

When Peter said the lame man was not healed “by our own power or godliness,” he not only gave God the glory for the healing, but he set healers free from condemnation. Most of us who pray for the sick know that the power for healing comes from God, not us. We are less clear about the role of our own godliness in the healing. Almost every time I pray for someone, whether in front of a crowd or in a home, an evil voice attacks me, saying things like, “You should have been fasting; you should have been praying more . . . ,” and it reminds me of specific sins. That articulate darkness is trying to rob me of faith by persuading me that someone’s healing rests on my goodness instead of God’s goodness.

But Peter’s words set me free from that trap. Every time evil speaks to me in this way, my mind goes back to Acts 3:11–12, and I’m free of that condemnation.

The healing of the lame man achieved its intended effect, for Luke later says that “they were all glorifying God for what had happened” (Acts 4:21 NASB). This was a normal response among people who observed the miraculous ministry of Jesus. They frequently responded by praising and glorifying the God of Israel. For example, Matthew tells us, “Large crowds came to [Jesus], bringing with them those who were lame, crippled, blind, mute, and many others, and they laid them down at His feet; and He healed them. So the crowd marveled as they saw the mute speaking, the crippled restored, and the lame walking, and the blind seeing; and they glorified the God of Israel” (Matthew 15:30–31 NASB).

This is also a major theme in Luke’s gospel. The people glorified God when they saw Jesus heal the paralytic lowered through the roof (Luke 5:24–26), when Jesus raised the widow of Nain’s son from the dead (Luke 7:16), when he healed the woman bent over double by a spirit (Luke 13:13, 17), and when he healed the blind man (Luke 18:42–43). Luke brings this theme to a fitting conclusion at the triumphal entry of the Lord Jesus: “When he came near the place where the road goes down the Mount of Olives, the whole crowd of disciples began joyfully to praise God in loud voices for all the miracles they had seen” (Luke 19:37).

Jesus expected people who received the healing power of God to glorify him. After healing the ten lepers and seeing that only one returned to give thanks, Jesus said, “Were there not ten cleansed? But the nine—­where are they? Was no one found who returned to give glory to God, except this foreigner?” (Luke 17:17–18 NASB). These texts demonstrate that miracles were given not only to authenticate Jesus and his message but also to bring glory to God the Father and God the Son.

This theme of glorifying the Lord through healings and miracles was prominent in the ministry of William Duma, a famous black South African preacher who was used in many notable miracles and healings until his death in 1977. Duma’s reputation was so great that white people visited his church seeking to be healed by Jesus Christ. This was significant because it happened in a time when it was not acceptable for whites to visit black churches in a country controlled by apartheid.

Duma went on an annual twenty-­one-­day fast in complete solitude to gain direction from the Lord for his ministry in the coming year. Yet he would not credit his holiness as the secret to his healing ministry. The title of his biography, Take Your Glory Lord, reveals the real secret of his healing power. When Duma laid his hands on the sick to pray for them, his dominant thought was that the Lord would be glorified. And the Lord honored that desire with many notable miracles, including raising a young girl from the dead. Like God’s compassion, the purpose of bringing God glory is not rooted in temporary historical circumstances. God has always been concerned to bring glory to himself and to his Son. And healed people are still glorifying God today.

God Heals in Response to Faith

A woman who had a hemorrhage for twelve years sneaked up behind Jesus, touched the edge of his cloak, and then was instantly healed of her hemorrhage. Jesus felt power leave his body and turned to find the woman. When he found her, he said, “Take heart, daughter . . . your faith has healed you” (Matthew 9:22). It was the faith of a Canaanite woman that moved Jesus to heal her demonized daughter. He said to her, “Woman, you have great faith! Your request is granted” (Matthew 15:28). What motivated the Lord Jesus to heal the paralytic who was lowered through the roof at Capernaum? The Bible says that “when Jesus saw their faith” (Matthew 9:2), he healed the paralytic.

This same principle of God’s healing in response to faith is found in the ministry of the apostles. Luke records that “in Lystra there sat a man who was lame. He had been that way from birth and had never walked. He listened to Paul as he was speaking. Paul looked directly at him, saw that he had faith to be healed and called out, ‘Stand up on your feet!’ At that, the man jumped up and began to walk (Acts 14:8–10).

Get Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere!

God Heals in Response to His Own Promise

Another reason for believing that healing ought to be a primary ministry of the church today is God’s promise to heal through the elders of the church. In James 5:14–16, God commissioned the whole church to heal:

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. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

Why would God command the church to pray for the sick and promise the church healing if they prayed unless God intended healing to be a normative part of church life? Many Christians who believe in the infallibility of their Bibles hardly know that James 5:14–16 is in their Bibles. I taught seminary classes for ten years before I ever encouraged students to apply James 5:14–16.

Church members will never ask their elders for healing prayer unless they are taught to do so, and they will never have confidence in God to heal unless they are taught that God does heal and the reasons that he heals. As soon as we began to teach and practice James 5:14–16 with a little anticipation, God began to heal in our church. Ruth Gay, the woman I mentioned in chapter 4 who was healed of an aneurysm, was one of the first for whom we prayed. It is not only the elders who pray for the sick. In verse 16, James commands all Christians to “pray for each other so that you may be healed.” If the whole church were to take God’s command seriously, we would see a great deal more healing than we see presently.

In this chapter, I have cited Scripture showing that God heals:

  • because he is asked
  • because he has compassion and mercy on the sick
  • to bring glory to himself
  • in response to his promise to the elders
  • in response to faith

The Scriptures also give other reasons that God heals. Although I discuss these in appendix 2, I will mention them briefly here:

He heals to lead people to repentance and open doors for the gospel.
He heals to remove hindrances to ministry and service.
He heals to teach us about himself and his kingdom.
He heals to demonstrate the presence of his kingdom.
And he heals for sovereign purposes known only to himself.

None of these reasons are based on the changing historical circumstances of the first-­century church. They are rooted in the character and eternal purposes of God.

I have learned these reasons by heart, and they have given me confidence to pray for the sick, even to hold the dead in my arms and ask God to bring them back to life. To the degree that any individual or church will align themselves with these purposes when they pray for the sick, they will see healings take place in their ministry.

This is an excerpt from Why I Am Still Surprised by the Power of the Spirit by Jack Deere. In this revised volume he demonstrates that the Scriptures teach that God is healing and speaking today just as he did 2000 years ago. He tells documented stories of modern miracles. He explains the nature of spiritual gifts, defines each spiritual gift, offers sound advice on discovering and using the gifts in church today. He shows how all of this part of God’s way of deepening our friendship with him. There are many new stories of God’s power, even walking on water and multiplying food. Deere also introduces the newest literature defending and explaining the gifts of the Spirit. All this and more continues the book’s legacy for a new time.

The Fire Of God’s Love: The End Times

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(I’m moving my blog to http://www.bluecollar3.blogspot.com)

“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.” – (2 Peter 3:10 ESV)

The fire of God’s love will one day burn up all the impurity on earth in a moment. Jesus’ return to the earth will be much more spectacular than some second-rate Christian movie. There is a debate between believers on how and when Jesus’ visible return to the earth will happen. God will ultimately bring into existence a New Heaven and a New Earth. That fact is non-debatable among orthodox Christians. It’s important to remember that all of God’s present and future judgments are justified. God’s motives are pure and holy as “Fire goes before him and consumes his foes on every side.” – (Psalm 97:6-9) We can be confident that; He will ultimately remove all evil from the earth.

While world leaders and their economic, military, and political unions seek to eradicate all signs of Christian influence in the west, we must remember that God will have the final say on the matter. We live in a spiritually dark culture filled with moral pollution with no end to the madness in sight. The Apostle Paul describes our spiritual condition in Romans chapter one. We are as those that “…worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator…(Romans 1:25.) This is self-worship which is idolatry, and much of the western world has been given over to a “debased mind” as we allow our sin to rule us and not God. ( See Romans chapter 1)

The Scripture is clear that: “We know that we are children of God, and that the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 John 5:19) In reality, there are only two Kingdoms – God’s and Satan’s. We are either members of the Kingdom of God or the Kingdom of Darkness. As the days grow darker in the western world, followers of Jesus must “count the cost” of being rejected and persecuted for the sake of truth. Those of us who name the name of Christ must learn to stand for righteousness without being mean-spirited or obnoxious. Our calling is to share and live out the Gospel. Our job in this world is to make disciples of Jesus Christ. 

Jesus is calling those who are his to total allegiance. He said, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”(John 8:32.) And, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”(John 14:6)

The Watchman: Part Two

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Roman Wall in Germany

“And I sought for a man among them who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” – Ezekial 22:30

A spiritual Watchman watches out for the welfare of others through intercessory prayer. Just like a military sentry, we must remain at our post in prayer – spiritually alert on behalf of others. When a person, Church, or nation starts drifting away from God, we become vulnerable to the enemy’s attack. A Watchmen’s call is to warn those we are spiritually responsible for and to pray for revival.

God calls some to stand watch over Nations, geographical regions, cities, and Churches. We all have different assignments. But the Lord expects all of us to pray for those in positions of authority(1 Timothy 2:1-4.) Those who watch and pray sometimes receive revelation or spiritual insights before conflict arises. Such spiritually sensitive people should be accountable to elders in a local Church. It’s important to share with leadership what you believe the Lord is revealing to you. Then leave it to the elders to pray over. It’s their responsibility to accept or reject your guidance.

As we engage in intercessory prayer, we become sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading. And God may reveal to us the schemes of the devil (Ephesians 6:11.) I believe God gives us insight so that we can pray God’s kingdom into the situation. As a person of prayer, you can influence the culture around you – if you are diligent and refuse to give up. God is sovereign, but there are some things he will not do until we ask him ( James 4:2-3.)

Our goal is to become discerning, not suspicious. And discernment comes from time spent with God in prayer. Knowing and obeying Scripture is essential to our roles as prayer warriors. We must embrace a wartime mentality while realizing that we are at war with spiritual entities, not people. Philosophies and ideologies that contradict God’s truth are weapons that the adversary uses to destroy societies.

No matter the sphere of spiritual influence that God assigns you, know that your prayers on behalf of others will make a difference.