Monday, August 31, 2009

The Great Commission

Groan....

Oh gee, did I hear a Christian actually say "Jesus said we should pray for the sick?"

Let's begin with Jesus:
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father.
John 14:12

Then move a little on to Paul:

My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.
1 Corinthians 2:4,5

Most Christians today have a faith which rests on men's wisdom: theological traditions, apologetics, philosophical arguments. This is the exact thing Paul warns folks against. He wants us to study to be approved and to work the works of God but he doesn't want our faith "resting" on man's wisdom. If we can be talked into a religion -- especially when we're kids-- we can be talked out of it.

So then, returning to this "praying for the sick" business. Puhleze! Folks, Jesus didn't say "pray for the sick. He said heal the sick." Big difference. And Jesus never prayed for the sick. He healed the sick. By a command, generally. Sometimes by a touch. Sometimes by having them affirm something. Sometimes by eliciting a confession of their need or their belief in his power. But he never prayed for the sick. He commanded the sickness to go and their bodies to be healed.

He and Peter prayed to the Father for folks who were dead. Which is what we should do. Peter prayed -- I suspect-- because when someone dies, we aren't too sure if we should raise them back up. Maybe God wants them dead. Maybe they sinned a sin unto death. Both James and John are really iffy about praying for someone who's sinned a sin unto death. Jesus prayed to the Father for Lazarus THEN he commanded.

In his great commission, Jesus said, cast out devils, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, heal the sick, preach the gospel, proclaim the kingdom of heaven, and teach the disciples of Christ to do everything he commanded them to do. He didn't say ask God to preach the gospel. He didn't say ask God to heal the sick. He didn't say teach disciples how to go to church. We're not obeying the great commission and we're not telling the new believers how to heal the sick, cast out demons, and proclaim the kingdom.

Heck, I doubt many believers know what the kingdom of God is all about. They often seem to get the kingdom and the church mixed up. They don't even know that God wants us to use miracles to show the kingdom of God is here, near them, to prove the truth of the gospel without falling into questions about doctrine and converting anyone through mere philosophy. Jesus said the gospel will prove itself. Wisdom is justified by its children. When we heal the sick, cast out demons, raise the dead, we show atheists and non-believers that the name of Jesus is above all diseases, all demons, all other so-called prophets and Gods. Many missionaries in Indonesia, China, and Africa have shown that Devils and sickness will come out in Jesus' name. They won't come out if you command them to come out in Mohammed's name. Ain't gonna happen.

I'm not saying we should never pray for the sick. We should pray to God to give us wisdom and how to pray. (The priestly anointing.) We should tell the sick person what God needs them to know (the prophetic anointing.) Then we should command the sickness to leave. (The kingly anointing.) And these three are stages. We can't go mixing all the anointing. We can't be praying to God at the same time we're commanding a demon. When we pray, we pray. When we speak forth, we speak forth. When we command, we command. The demon won't believe we know we have the power. And it makes us look the opposite of bold when we are casting out a demon and saying "Oh Lord, help me." Jesus told us that we must believe that what we're saying and commanding will come to past. Either we BELIEVE we have power over the demon or we don't. A demon can sense if you don't quite believe you have been given the authority and power of the kingdom. And you can have all the faith in the world but if you don't have the boldness and a true knowledge of who you are in Christ, nothing's gonna happen.

Not every believer has the gift of healing or the gift of miracles. But the gifts were given for the edifying of the church, not for evangelizing. And it's definitely easier to have the gift of healing. It's more dependable. With authority, one has to trust that God is going to reward your boldness when you raise up your hand to heal.

But the thing is to be brave and to believe that EVERY believer has the authority to heal when it comes to witnessing to the truth of the gospel to unbelievers. Scary, though it is. Jesus said, "These signs will follow all who believe." We don't have all authority. Only Jesus had the spirit without measure. But we have some authority...because we are anointed by the spirit. As the Father has sent Jesus, Jesus sent us. We have authority on earth (NOT in the heavens), and to preach the gospel (NOT to win lotto.) We don't really have authority over demons in the heavenlies, only to demons who afflict humans and only to diseases that afflict humans. Maybe the church has authority to pray about heavenly spirits, but even then I wouldn't push it. You really don't want a spiritual counter-attack from a demon. Which tends to happen when we start fooling around with evil spirits in the heavenlies. It's none of our business to go talking to spirits in the heavenlies, only to evil spirits in humans, on our level. It's also not our business to use our authority to get a rolls royce in our driveway. Even if that works, we shouldn't be doing it..and one day God'll call us on such selfish misuse of his authority.

As a regular christian without the gift of healing, our personal authority is limited to authority over disease and demons ...and only to complete the great commission. But even so, that's a lot, isn't it? Let's walk out boldly and show forth the wonderful mercies of God, given us through the grace of the gospel. Let's heal sick unbelievers. Even if we don't have the gift of healing, we have authority to heal them. Let's not ask God to heal them. That's not what he told us to do. Sure, we'll be embarrassed sometimes and fall flat. But if we explain the gospel to the unbeliever and give them an Elijah type chance to see that our God is the living ever-present God and are bold, stuff will happen. Paul prayed for boldness. James told us to pray for wisdom, but he also told us to pray the prayer of faith: which is a command prayer. (I won't go into why folks have been mis-interpreting James 5 about healing the sick. I'll just say that the prayer of faith is "having God's faith" as Jesus said, the faith to command.) Paul prayed that we would know the height, depth, length, width, and riches of God's love and God's kingdom working in us. When we pray that, we will know. And the more we pray in the holy spirit, the more we will understand what to do to prove what is the good and perfect will of God.

We have this treasure in earthen vessels:
2 Corinthians 4:7
But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves;
Imagine that: God in us, the hope of glory. The same spirit that raised Jesus from the dead lives in us.

But if the Spirit of him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, he that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by his Spirit that dwelleth in you.
Romans 8:11

This is a talent we're supposed to use or when our Lord returns he'll ask us how we invented. What will we say, "Oh, Sorry, Lord, I was timid and afraid, so I hid your talent in the ground." Jesus got annoyed several times when the disciples didn't do as he commanded. They had it in them to multiply the loaves. Jesus said, "You feed the people!" The disciples had it in them to calm the storm. They wimped out and Jesus had to do it. The disciples had it in them to heal the boy with the deaf-dumb spirit. They wimped out. Jesus told his ministers that their unbelief prevented them.

These are the four reasons we use when we don't get anyone healed.
It's not God's will.
It's not God's time.
The sick person had sin.
The sick person has no faith.
Jesus didn't say any of this to his disciples. He said, they had no faith.
Either we blame God or we blame the sick person. How convenient for those of us who "pray for the sick." We hardly blame ourselves. We like to think we've arrived spiritually. Sure, some of these might be true. But they're not as true as often as we would like to think. We should not always blame God or put the burden on the sick person. Sometimes, not always but usually, the fault lies with the person ministering the healing. We have some responsibility in this as well.

St Paul told us: "If any man is in Christ, he is a new creature."
We are no longer powerless against sin, sickness, disease as the typical human is. We are not even like regular humans anymore. We have God's holy spirit in us and the kingly, prophetic, and priestly anointing of Christ is upon us. As St Peter said, we are a peculiar people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation."

One thing more: Jesus didn't say to his disciples: "You lack the anointing."

A command is a command, whether it's a supernatural command or a natural command. One has to obey. Let God work through us. The Bible says Faith Cometh. Faith comes by prayer and fasting. It comes by hearing the word of God. We must study to show ourselves approved, not assume that because we are already approved we don't need to study how to get mountain moving faith. Let us let men see our great works and glorify our God in heaven. Let us grasp the supernatural religion Christ has given us.
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