Don’t become a cessationist – Live the life we read about in the Bible.
A three minute video of healing and the Christian life that Jesus commanded.
Yesterday Gloria and I went into town for a quick shopping trip.
While there we saw a Christian friend we hadn’t seen for a few years. She and her family attend the local charismatic church who are big devotees of Bill Johnson’s teaching, and many years ago when we attended that church, the pastor and his family took three months leave to attend a leadership training course at the Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship, where the “Toronto blessing” originated. It was soon after their return that Gloria and I left that local church.
Last year, only two or three months before I was diagnosed, the pastor of that local charismatic church died from cancer. Also, during some of my chemotherapy , a member of that church was having treatment as well. He was in a bad way, having to carry oxygen around with him and relying on a walking frame for mobility. According to our friend that man has accepted that it is God’s will that he is dying and doesn’t have long left.
Occasionally those situations, in particular what happened to the pastor, played on my mind. Surely he had trusted the Lord to heal him, and yet he died. Why should I think my situation would be any different?
Talking to that friend yesterday I got my answer. When I told her about the medical diagnosis given to me she cheerily said something about this life being temporary. I countered her seeming acceptance of “my” death sentence with “to live is Christ” – and not surprisingly she replied “to die is gain”.
I then told her I rejected that selfish option (as Paul did after considering his own choice), and referred her to Deuteronomy 30 where God set before His people the choice between life and death, blessings and curses and commanded “now choose life!”.
What could be clearer about God’s will than God Himself COMMANDING the choice of life?
I gave this post the title “disappointment can be encouraging”, because it’s disappointing to know that Christians have so little knowledge of God and His will for their lives (especially regarding healing and His provision of it), and therefore have a compromised foundation for their faith.
But in this particular case it was encouraging to have something confirmed. That despite being a pastor of a charismatic church, it should not be presumed that he was REALLY, single-mindedly believing God for healing. My assessment from yesterday’s conversation leads me to believe that unwavering faith wasn’t there.
The conversation also displayed a mindset common among too many Christians. She said she was pleased the Lord had given me a scripture to let me know His will in my situation (the “now choose life” reference from Deuteronomy). But Scripture isn’t a collection of randomly personal promises that God distributes to individuals according to His whim. The choice of blessings and life isn’t sitting there in the Bible waiting for God to make it a “rhema” (or personally “quickened”) word for lucky individuals. The promise is for ALL of His people. It is an expression of His will for everyone – because He desires ALL to be obedient to Him and the blessings and life are the outcome (reward) for obedience .
To Israel that obedience, under the old covenant, was to the Law. But now under the better, new covenant, obedience is expressed through faith in Jesus.
Jesus paid for our healing just as much as He paid for the forgiveness of our sin. If we believe our sins are forgiven, what’s preventing us from accepting ALL the benefits God has provided through the gift of His Son?
A long video but really worth watching. When Gloria and I saw it we spread it over a few sessions – the format of the Q & A made that easy to do.
This video includes the other view of “discerning the Lord’s body” that I referred to in a postscript here.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion,
who satisfies your desires with good things
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. (PS 103:1-5) NIV
Just as Jesus bore our sins, Jesus also bore our sicknesses so that we don’t need to bear them ourselves – paying the price for both.
His body was broken for our healing, and His blood was shed for our forgiveness.
Gloria and I have realised this is something we ought to remember every time we participate in the Lord’s supper/ communion. And that is something we now do daily. Usually just the two of us, but also shared with other believers when they visit, something that is happening more and more now we’ve chosen to meet with a local fellowship again.
Fellowship and the nature of it is also relevant to the way we take and receive the Lord’s Supper in remembrance of Him.
Paul wrote to the Corinthians telling them:
…whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. So then, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord, Everyone ought to examine themselves before they eat of the bread and drink from the cup. For those who eat and drink without discerning the body of Christ eat and drink judgment on themselves. That is why many among you are weak and sick, and a number of you have fallen asleep (died). (1 Cor 11:28-30) NIV
I see two aspects to the issue of doing this in an “unworthy manner” – the first clearly dealt with in the Corinthians quote refers to the failure of members of the body of Christ to recognise and relate with each other, and ensuring that the needs of the less well-off are being met.
When you come together, it is not the Lord’s Supper you eat, for when you are eating, some of you go ahead with your own private suppers. As a result, one person remains hungry and another gets drunk. Don’t you have homes to eat and drink in? Or do you despise the church of God by humiliating those who have nothing?(1 Cor 11:17-22) NIV.
If we return to Psalm 103, following the excerpt I quoted at the top of the page, we read:
The Lord works righteousness
and justice for all the oppressed. (PS 103:6) NIV
The Lord is very clearly concerned with the way His people treat the less well off. Many of the rebukes against Israel found in the prophetic books, relate to their neglect of the poor, and Israel were punished for that neglect.
Paul, in his teaching about the Lord’s Supper restates the dangers of neglecting less well-off fellow body members.
The second aspect relates to what happened to Jesus’ body leading up to His crucifixion.
His execution and shedding of blood was prefigured in the sacrifice of a spotless lamb under the old covenant Law, however under that law the sacrificed animal wasn’t brutally tortured and disfigured prior to sacrifice.
Isaiah prophesied the brutality inflicted on Jesus, and what it was for.
People despised and avoided him,
a man of pains, well acquainted with illness.
Like someone from whom people turn their faces,
he was despised; we did not value him.
In fact, it was our diseases he bore,
our pains from which he suffered;
yet we regarded him as punished,
stricken and afflicted by God.
But he was wounded because of our crimes,
crushed because of our sins;
the disciplining that makes us whole fell on him,
and by his bruises (wounds/stripes) we are healed.
(Isaiah 53: 3-5) CJB
We also need to discern the body in this way – recognising that Jesus bore torturous treatment of His body prior to death and that treatment relates to the provision of healing. Healing provided within the same atonement through which forgiveness of sins were also made available – both being gifts of God’s grace, made accessible through faith.
Satan has very successfully talked the church out of believing God’s word regarding provision of healing and His revelation that HE wants His people to choose life.
Satan’s first tactic is always to get people to doubt God’s word, such as his temptation of Eve (and Adam who was with her).
He took the same approach with Jesus. (see below *)
We need to decide whose word we are going to believe – God’s, the One who came to give full life? Or the distortions and lies offered by the thief who comes only to kill, steal and destroy (John 10:10).
Post Script: Above I said “I see two aspects to the issue of doing this in an “unworthy manner”. I have now been made aware of a third through some teaching I’ve just heard, so I might revisit this topic after I’ve checked out that teaching against scripture.
* Note that Satan came to the Lord in the wilderness and started his temptation of Jesus by challenging the very words God had spoken to Him at His baptism: “This is my Son…
Immediately after this Jesus was led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness where: “The tempter came to him and said, ‘If you are the Son of God…'”
That happened at the beginning of His ministry. The same thing was tried again at the climax of His ministry – during His death on the cross, this time by demonically inspired mockers. “ …save yourself! Come down from the cross, if you are the Son of God!”
Yesterday I started the sixth cycle of chemotherapy. It’s the halfway point of the only treatment that medicine can provide. Treatment that medically can’t cure, but can only hold things at bay and give me a little more time.
But great is the LORD. The LORD who heals me. The LORD who HAS healed me.
My faith is not in what doctors can’t do, but in what God has already done.
Most importantly the treatment has given me time away from work. So far I’ve had three months and I’ve tried to make every moment count, building and strengthening my faith in the LORD.
More time spent in scripture.
More time spent in prayer.
Reconnecting with local believers in fellowship.
A profitable time in many ways.
A few days ago I wrote of how difficult things had been after my last chemo treatment. There was a physical element, where I had a worse reaction than usual to the treatment, but also a spiritual element, especially through comments made on this blog, attempting to sow seeds of doubt.
I praise the LORD that my time spent with Him over the past three months had strengthened me enough in advance.
I know it is God’s will that I live in health.
I know God’s promises regarding prayer and His desire to heal.
I have a confidence in God.
But I had some fear that I would let Him down, that my faith would waver. Some of the comments posted on my blog last week seemed intent on creating that wavering.
There were references to others who died of cancer despite believing they would be healed. I really don’t know what would motivate someone to purposely post such comments in full knowledge of the current situation.
And things weren’t helped by the fact that the pastor of a church I used to attend had died of cancer only a few months before my diagnosis. I assume he and his family were probably trusting in the Lord for his recovery.
But the experience of others (or even our own) should NEVER be a factor determining our own faith and beliefs. We have to build our foundations on God’s word and not any other message the world (and Satan) may try to throw at us to knock us down.
Yesterday I woke with a strong assurance. A vital confidence. A deeper conviction. It’s as if what I’d previously believed in my head has finally broken through to my heart. That assurance, established on a foundation of scripture remains today.
By Jesus’ stripes (wounds, bruises) I HAVE been healed.
I suspect that some people will reject the teaching within this video, backed by many bible references, because of one reference to Bill Johnson near the beginning.
I wonder, how much bible does it take to cancel out one mention of a word definition given in a Bill Johnson book.
Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. Therefore put on the full armour of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand. Stand firm then
This week hasn’t been the best.
It started off well.
Monday last week I woke full of joy, something that continued throughout our pre-dawn walk around the neighbourhood.
At times I felt I could shout out “HALLELUJAH” and break into a dance of celebration in the middle of the street (totally out of character). But nearby residents would not have taken kindly to the early morning disturbance.
From there things went downhill with a clear attack against my faith on several fronts.
It was the hardest week to date physically, with post-chemo fatigue spreading over three days instead of one (usually only a few hours on that one day) and a few other chemo-related symptoms I’d not previously suffered.
And there have been some comments made on the blog clearly intended to undermine my faith. Even though I give the commenter the courtesy of assuming he had the best of intentions, I have difficulty understanding what he thought those “best intentions” were.
I’ve answered those comments under the posts on which they were made, and also addressed some of his beliefs in my previous topic De Facto Calvinism.
I have now advised that any further comments of that type will not be passed through moderation – although, unfortunately I’ll have to read them myself to make that judgement and decision.
Basically his comments were grounded in typical Calvinist thought – that God is sovereign and He alone will sovereignly choose if I live or die. Forget what God has revealed in scripture. Forget faith in Him, His word, and His promises. Just submit to Divine lottery.
I reject such fatalistic nonsense and submit myself to the One true God through faith in Him and His word. I’ll seek Him HIS way.
We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised. (Heb 6:12) NIV
In addition to that particular commenter, there was also an ongoing series of negative comments about videos I’d posted of two men with healing ministries. One particular thread had to be closed for comments after what was possibly a record 50 comments (mostly negative, apart from my replies). Sadly that seems to show how little regard has been paid to what God has revealed about healing and His will regarding the health of His people, something I have dealt with in some detail, with abundant scripture references, in many posts over the past couple of months.
Despite another doubt-sowing comment, in which I was told of three friends who died of cancer despite believing God would heal them*, things started to turn around yesterday. I had a wonderful time in prayer during which I had a personal breakthrough. This followed on from some very fruitful Bible time when I was able to resolve a longstanding, personal question I’d had, that probably helped make the prayer time so profitable. (Thank you Lord for your word, and thank you Holy Spirit for the understanding.)
I was also contacted by an elder from the church I’ve recently started attending, inviting me to a prayer meeting tonight. It’s good to know this new fellowship is a praying church and I hope to get along to that meeting to join them.
Praise the Lord, my soul;
all my inmost being, praise his holy name.
Praise the Lord, my soul,
and forget not all his benefits—
who forgives all your sins
and heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit
and crowns you with love and compassion
who satisfies your desires with good thing
so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.(PS 103) NIV
Just as I was finalising this post, I was interrupted by a phone call.
It was a very precious long-standing friend, someone I’ve known for about 40 years. She is a woman of strong faith, and powerful prayer, and called to check on how I was going and to encourage me.
Yet another example of the Lord’s care.
Praise His name!!!
* For some reason I have difficulty understanding why believing God should be viewed as a bad thing.
I suspect those friends of the commenter had no regrets for maintaining their faith in God when they found themselves face to face with Him.
One of the main doctrines of Calvinism is that God alone determines who will be saved, and by exclusion, who will be damned to hell. That view is contrary to everything that scripture reveals about God and His desire that all should come to repentance.
But that is not the topic I want to discuss here.
What I’ve observed, and even realised about myself, is that many people who would reject those Calvinist ideas of “Limited Atonement” are no different to the Calvinists when it comes to other beliefs about God’s interaction with humanity.
What do I mean?
A personal example. How often I have taken for granted that my decisions will result in God’s will being done in my life? That I assume He will either endorse my decisions, or will somehow intervene and put a stop to what I’m doing before I become committed? That HE will “sovereignly” direct the outcome, even when I’ve failed to consult Him or seek His will on the matter.
A decade and a half ago I moved to a new town and bought a house – crediting God with the move, even though I’d made no effort at all to see whether that was what HE wanted.
In practice I was convincing myself that the assumed permission and lack of interference, was an endorsement, otherwise He would “sovereignly” stop what I was doing.
Gloria, my wife, pointed out another example of De Facto Calvinism that has far more dangerous connotations than my own personal example. In my case the only ones affected were Gloria and myself.
In the following situation the effects are widespread and far more serious.
Not surprisingly, considering the content of so much of my recent writing, I’m referring to attitudes to healing. Gloria recognised that they are no different to the Calvinist belief in a Limited Atonement, that restricts forgiveness of sins and salvation to an “elect” sovereignly chosen by God.
Those attitudes insist that God sovereignly chooses who will be healed and who won’t be. That healing comes down solely to the personal decision of God. In other words it is determined much the same way that Calvinists insist that salvation is decided: by Divine whim.
While common, that view is completely at odds with scripture in so many ways.
Firstly, scripture is clear on the fact that physical healing is a benefit given by God alongside forgiveness of sins, and is included in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. (Isaiah 53:3-5, Matt 8:16-17)
Secondly, God commands His people to “choose life” after giving them the choice between life and death. That should leave no doubt about God’s will in the matter.
Thirdly, Jesus Himself, doing NOTHING that wasn’t the will of the Father, healed ALL who were brought to Him or came to Him. He later commissioned His followers to continue that ministry in His name, after He had returned to the Father.
(Mark 16: 15-18, John 20:21-22, )
Fourthly, God made available several different ways of healing, all of which require some kind of participation from the sick person, and the exercising of faith, either by the sick one or those ministering to them. Those ways include:
- Laying on of hands. (Mark 5:23, Mark 6:5, Mark 16:18, Luke 4:40, Acts 28:8,)
- Gifts of healing. (1 Corinthians 12 and possibly demonstrated in several cases of early church healings in Acts )
- Prayer of faith (James 5)
- Receiving and attending to Word of God. (Prov 4 Matt 8:8 )
- Faith of the seeker (Luke 17, and a most clear example Matt 9: 20-22 , Acts 14:8-10)
- Intercession and faith of someone else on behalf of a seeker. (Matt 15: 21-28, Acts 3, Matt 8:5-13 )
- By Jesus’ name and through faith. (Acts 3:16)
- General prayer for “whatever” (including healing), as long as we believe, and/or diligently seek God. (Mark 11:24, Matt 21:22, Heb 11:6, 1 John 5: 14-15,)
- Deliverance from demons, (Mark 9:25, Luke 7:21, Acts 5:16, Acts 8: 7,Acts 19:12,
- Special miracles of healing through “handkerchiefs and aprons”, or touching garments. (Acts 19:12,)
- Praying for each other. (James 5:16)
So instead of considering healing as something solely determined by God’s “sovereign choice”, or the domain of select people with certain spiritual gifts, we need to start believing and obeying God and His word, and take responsibility for those things He has commissioned us to do in the name of Jesus.
In the same way that forgiveness of sins, and our acceptance into the family of God are through faith, so are healing and any other benefit God has provided. They are through faith in Him and His word. Believing in Him, His generous promises and His desire for us to receive them. They are not awarded according to Divine lottery.
Instead of using “the sovereignty of God” as an excuse for our failure to receive from God, the following from Hebrews gives valuable instruction.
We want each of you to show this same diligence to the very end, so that what you hope for may be fully realized. We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised.