Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Part 2)

I was sharing my last blog with my family the other night and my eldest daughter (14) challenged me to sum it up in one sentence.  So here goes:

Faith comes by hearing Jesus Christ speaking by the Holy Spirit the Word of God into your heart and mind and not just by seeing words on a page or hearing them from someone else.

So here are a few first hand examples:

I know a man (as Paul might have said in 2 Cor 12:2) who was in a middle eastern country some years ago living in a rented accommodation with his wife.  The landlady lived on the top floor of the same apartment with her brother and sister. When the man went up to pay his rent for the first time he was asked about why he and his wife were there.  So he explained that they were there primarily to help Christians in the country.  At her sister’s prompting the landlady then asked if the man could pray for her since she had a continuous head ache/ migraine that she could not get rid of by any medicine or doctors.  So the man prayed and God showed him clearly the reason she had the headache.  She had the headache because there was someone who had done something in the past to her that she had never forgiven him for (a word of knowledge 1 Cor. 12:8).  After the man had got up the courage to say this to the landlady, her sister immediately piped up and said, “Yes, you know so-and-so that did such-and-such to you 13 years ago!”  So the landlady prayed forgiveness for the person and was healed of her headache.  A few weeks later she was still thanking God for the healing and telling others.  That could have been the start of a series of healings except that the man through whom the healing had come said to the first of the cousins that came with sick children that they could pray themselves, they didn’t need him to pray for them.  However the problem was that these people didn’t know how to hear God speak to them.  He often wondered what would have happened if the selfishness and false humility hadn’t kicked in just then, over 25 years ago now.

The above is an example of where the word of God in response to a prayer was “yes”.  Not long after that we were involved in another situation where the answer to many prayers that looked for the answer “please heal” was “no”.

In the mission organisation we were involved in, one of the wives of a missionary in North Africa was seriously ill.  The leaders of the movement and many others started praying and fasting for her.  At that time the idea that “if you have enough faith you can see her healed” was prevalent among them.  So they tried to work up the faith, quoting the usual Scriptures and speaking forth healing in Jesus name as many do.  Thankfully there were others who were also trying to find out what God wanted.  After a few weeks, there was no sign of the woman improving, she was in fact getting worse.  Everyone then met at a leader’s meeting to seek the Lord further and we were invited along to wash the dishes and generally serve the leaders (something we were delighted to do since we would also be able to attend the prayer times which, with that group, were always powerful and exciting).  The Lord’s presence was palpable and we all knew He was with us.  One of the main leaders then got up and explained how he and his wife had believed for weeks that Ann* was going to be healed but that still it hadn’t happened.  He now thought that actually God wanted them to let her go (he heard the Word of God).  After waiting on the Lord we then all felt as if her spirit had gone to be with the Lord.  We later found out that she had indeed passed on at about the same time.

*Not her real name.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God (Part 1)

A couple of blogs back I wrote about the conflation there is in our terminology when referring to the Word of God.  Jesus Christ is the Spirit behind the words, the Power in them and the Way, the Truth and the Life of them.  The words on the pages of the Bible without His presence in them are like a dead body – instead of giving life they produce death (John 6:63, 2 Cor. 3:6).

So we have to hear His Spirit speaking to us when we read His words.  And when we do what wonders can follow!

“For nothing is impossible with God” – Luke 1:37

“All things are possible to those who believe.” – Mark 9:23

“Everything that you ask, believing, you will receive.” – Matthew 21:22

“Is there anything too hard for God?” – Genesis 18:14

“If you ask anything in My name, I will give it to you.” – John 14:14

are just a few of the things that He says to us.

But what about something specific?  Is it possible to hear about that?  Well I believe it is and that it is essential we do hear specifically.

When David was going to fight against the Philistines, he clearly heard the tactics he was to use straight from the mouth of God (2 Sam 5:17-25):

17 Now when the Philistines heard that they had anointed David king over Israel, all the Philistines went up to search for David. And David heard of it and went down to the stronghold. 18 The Philistines also went and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 19 So David inquired of the Lord, saying, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?”

And the Lord said to David, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into your hand.”

20 So David went to Baal Perazim, and David defeated them there; and he said, “The Lord has broken through my enemies before me, like a breakthrough of water.” Therefore he called the name of that place Baal Perazim. 21 And they left their images there, and David and his men carried them away.

22 Then the Philistines went up once again and deployed themselves in the Valley of Rephaim. 23 Therefore David inquired of the Lord, and He said, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. 24 And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees, then you shall advance quickly. For then the Lord will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” 25 And David did so, as the Lord commanded him; and he drove back the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer.

On two occasions he heard Him and the tactics were different in both cases (he went directly against them the first time and circled around them the second – v. 19, 23,24).

David was an example of someone depending on God on a daily basis and not just someone using a past method that succeeded to do something very similar again the same way.  Had David done the same thing twice, without waiting on God the second time, the results would have no doubt been different.  The first time He heard God, the second time he would have been presumptuous.

Faith comes by hearing the Word of God.  He is not limited to using the same formula time and again.  There is no relationship with God involved in taking a phrase like “By His stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5, 1 Peter 2:24) and using it again and again like a mantra.  I’ve seen people do this and I don’t know of any situation where it achieved the results that they were expecting.  Unless someone hears Jesus say that word specifically in relation to a specific situation then no faith will come, just a kind of stubborn, desperate act of the will and flesh.

There is a school of doctrine that emerges in various places in the Christian churches from time to time. It says something along the line of “If you have enough faith then you can always see someone healed.”  I’d ask the question “Faith in what?”  If it is faith in a sentence plucked from the Scripture, even those I’ve quoted above, then I would ask “Did you hear the Holy Spirit say that to you about this situation or did you just take the words without the power in them?”  The truth is that if you have enough faith you will see someone healed or raised from the dead or whatever.  But faith only comes through hearing the Word of God.  We have to hear Him speak the words to us not just read them and think we can apply them like some kind of lotion.

However, I am still learning, there is much to learn about this area.  If I experienced more miracles of healing on a level that a disciple of Jesus should experience according to the gospels, I could speak with more authority.  I could be wrong.

For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one examine his own work, and then he will have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. For each one shall bear his own load.

Galatians 6:3-5

In my next blog we’ll explore this topic further with some real life examples.

The Word of God and the Salvation of our Spirit, Soul and Body

The Power of the Word of God

Jesus is the Word of God (John 1:1). It is His word that saves us (Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 12) as it is sown into our lives by those who preach the gospel to us (Romans 10:14-17).  It is His DNA that is in His word so that when it is sown in our lives it grows up into Christ in us, our hope of glory (Col. 1:27).

The Tripartite Nature of Man

Like God, whom we are made in the image of (Gen. 1:27), we have three parts to our being: spirit, soul and body (1 Thess. 5:23).  Each of them is saved in a different way according to the Scriptures.  The salvation of all of them is brought about by the action of the Word of God in our lives.

The Salvation of the Spirit (Past)

We are born again by the Word of God (1 Peter 1:23-25).  That is, our spirit is made alive and we are a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17).  Our spirit is eternal and once united with the Spirit of God is imperishable or indestructible (1 Peter 1:23-25).  So our spirit is saved the moment God’s spirit, or the word of God, is conceived in us (John 3:7).  This is the sense in which Paul says we have been transferred from the kingdom of darkness into the kingdom of His Son (Col. 1:13).  Wherever it talks about salvation in an instant sense you can take it that the Scripture writers are referring to the salvation of the spirit of a person.  The spirit of a man is in the very centre of a man, in his heart.  Because our spirits are made alive when we are born again we can worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24) and truly eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:53, 63).  The salvation of our Spirit is the down payment or promise of the salvation of the rest of us (Eph. 1: 13-14).  To be saved you must be born again (or born from above, John 3:3,7).

The Salvation of the Soul (Present)

Whenever the scriptures speak of working out your salvation (Phil. 2:12) – or salvation being an ongoing work – they are referring to the work of the word of God growing through the soul.  The word of God is living and active and divides between the spirit and the soul so you can tell the difference (Heb. 4:12). The fact that our soul needs to be saved is evident in the struggle between the flesh and the spirit that goes on in it (Gal. 5:17, Rom. 8:5-13).  It is in the salvation of our soul that our decisions matter and this affects our eternal destiny. Being conformed to God’s image by beholding the glory of the Lord (2 Cor. 3:18) takes a definite turning to Him and refers to the salvation of the soul.  And there are many Scriptures like that.  In fact our whole life on this earth from the time we are born again until the time we “fall asleep” or, in other words, when this mortal flesh returns to dust, is taken up with the salvation of our soul.  We must work out our salvation with fear and trembling (Phil. 2:12).

The Salvation of the Body (Future)

Jesus is the first born from the dead (Col. 1:18), the first to have a bodily resurrection.  No one else has been raised bodily yet, we either have to physically die first or be able to look Him in the eye when He returns (1 John 3:2).  When that happens our bodies are transformed from this one of flesh and blood (where the perishable life is in the blood Deut. 12:23) to one of flesh and bone (where the eternal life is in the spirit). Jesus’ resurrected body had flesh and bone and he could eat (Luke 24:36-43) and so will we when our bodies are saved.  We live in hope of this though our outward man is decaying day by day (2 Cor. 4:16).  The whole process by which our bodies are saved is described in detail in 1 Cor. 15.

A Blessing

Now may the God of peace make you holy in every way, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless until our Lord Jesus Christ comes again.

1 Thessalonians 5:23.

The sower sows the word

Luke 8:11 explains that when the Scripture talks about seed it  is referring to the word of God.  Its one of those key verses like Rev. 1:20 which explains an object picture that God uses to describe something spiritual.

The parable of the sower in Matthew 13, Mark 4 and Luke 8 is an important one to understand (Mk 4:13).  Seeing our souls as a garden enclosed (Song 4:12) helps.  It is a very large garden capable of growing all sorts of trees and plants.  Just like any garden, if it is left untended it will grow weeds.  The best thing is to clear it, break it up (Hosea 10:12) and sow the word of God.

However there is a more general sense to the parable of the sower.  If we are sowing the word by preaching it (Romans 10:14,17) then we can probably expect 4 types of hearts upon which it will land:  hard ones, stony ones, congested ones and noble ones.  If we look at the parable of the sower in isolation then it would appear that only about a quarter of the people who hear the word produce fruit.

But Jeremiah 23:28-29 gives us some idea of the power of that word and some hope to those who may think their heart is hard, stony or clogged up with the cares of this life:

“Is not My word like a fire?” says the Lord, “and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”

The fire burns up the thorns and the hammer breaks up the path and stones.  A seed can have tremendous power in even the most adverse conditions.  God’s word is even more effective in the heart.