Belief vs Faith

“Belief is a cognitive commodity, whereas faith is a spiritual commodity” David Carr

David Carr argues that belief based on evidence takes you so far, but faith enables us to see beyond the natural; beyond what we might expect based on evidence alone.

I find this view on faith and belief very interesting and it articulates a tension that I have experienced when talking and thinking about it. On the one hand, when responding to Richard Dawkin’s, “faith is believing in the absence of evidence” I want to reply that there is lots of evidence for faith. There are philosophical, physical and historical arguments for God’s existence all based on good evidence. However, I remember being at a conference where Rob Rufus spoke and he stressed that faith is not evidence based. Rather, it’s something supernatural. I guess the two come together in that evidence and reason get you so far in terms of trusting that there is a God, but there is a gap. Different people look at the same evidence and come to different conclusions. There are no knock down watertight arguments for the existence of God. There are, in my opinion, some very good ones, but no perfect proofs as such. “Belief” in David Carr’s sense runs along the reasons and the evidences for God, and then faith leaps the gap onto God. Faith is God’s gift and gets you airborne from possibilities, even probabilities, to certainties. Belief points you to the reliability of God and his word, but then faith moves your confidence from reason to revelation. From standing on the arguments and evidence,to standing on God and his word. In this sense the arguments that got you there could appear to crumble or be undermined, but you would not budge from your conviction in God’s faithfulness. You now see something even more substantial and real than the evidences that pointed you in the right direction.

I’m not sure if faith and belief actually mean different things in English or the Bible, but this is a helpful distinction for resolving of the word “faith”.  Faith is based on what God has said. Sometimes that is based on clearer evidence than at other times. Another distinction could be made between belief/faith based on evidence, and belief/faith based on what God says.

Even if the words faith and beliefreally mean much the same thing, Carr points out two different aspects of faith/belief that are really helpful. But Ah! There are actually two Greek words in play here. πιστεύω “Pistew” for faith and  δοκέω “dokew” for believe or think.  The latter seems to have more of a mental rational element to it and, as Mounce says in his Complete Expository Dictionary, can “simply denote human thoughts or opinions”.

Then it seemed good (dokew δοκέω ) to the apostles and the elders, with the whole church, to choose men from among them and send them to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas. They sent Judas called Barabbas, and Silas, leading men among the brothers, Acts 15:22 (ESV)

And do not presume (or think – δοκέω) to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. Matthew 3:9 (ESV)

Pisteuw is used for saving faith, but also for what seems to be mental assent (ie not a special gift from God).

just as Abraham “believed (pisteuw πιστεύω) God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? Galatians 3:6 (ESV)

You believe (pisteuw πιστεύω ) that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe (pisteuw πιστεύω) —and shudder! James 2:19 (ESV)

There are some other Greek words, all of which seem to have more of a rational cognitive meaning.

Ὴγεομαι Hegeomai which means “to consider, think , regard”

Λογίζομαι logizomai which means “to count or think or count against”.

Νομίζω Nomizw which means “to think or suppose”.

Φρονέω Phronew which means “to think, set ones mind on something, have in mind”.

So, while πιστεύω is not simply limited to a spiritual “faith in God” sense (why would it, the word was probably in general use before the NT was written) it is helpfully resolved into two senses.

Ok, so how does this relate to healing? Well, I think there is evidence that God exists and that he is trustworthy. Belief, therefore, gets me to a reasonable probability. Faith gets me to a place of confidence. Not so much 100% certainty if that means no doubt or niggles or space to at least consider alternative hypotheses at all, but I’m not sure that definition works for anything. But faith is more than placing a bet. Biblical faith I think is more than what is needed for Pascal’s wager. There is a solidness about it. A supernatural element to it. A presuppositional feel to it, whereby the object of faith becomes the basis for all our thinking. Reason comes to stands on faith in this respect. I think it was C S Lewis who said something like “it’s not that what I see reveals God to me, rather it is by God that I see anything at all.” I can’t find it on the internet so maybe I’m wrong on that. Anyway the thought is a good one. Once we have faith, reason has a stronger foundation as we see more clearly the reasonableness of the evidence that points us to God. (see my New Year’s sanity check

In terms of healing, I have seen people get healed and heard their testimony so there is some evidence that people do indeed get better through prayer. But I have also seen a thousand times more often that prayer does not seem to make a difference. Belief based on evidence, in this sense, would certainly not cause me to press forward and throw myself wholeheartedly into praying for people to be healed. The Bible also strongly raises an expectation for people to be healed in the name of Jesus. To a certain extent it increases my belief, presenting as it does more evidence (resting on the existence of God and further evidence for the credibility of the scriptures) that God responds to prayer. However, through reading God’s word something more can happen. A course-of-life altering conviction has come upon me that God does and will heal in the name of Jesus. It is a conviction that is impervious to disappointment and discouragement and stands defiantly in the face of the strongest evidence against it. I think that’s David Carr’s “faith” and I think it is Dawkin’s “faith” and I think it is Hebrews 11:1 “faith”. It is prepared to fly in the face of the strongest contrary evidence because it has made visible something unseen, but more real. It is utter foolishness to those without it and with good reason. In fact, it is almost a defining characteristic of faith that others should think it totally crazy. If your course of action seems reasonable to most rational people then it may not be Carr’s “faith” but his “belief”.

When I step out and pray for the 100th person or for the 100th time and still nothing happens, it looks really foolish. But I can genuinely see something real that is there for the taking. I can see health and wholeness in the kingdom of God.

Before I finish this I should probably put the word faith back together. De-constructing it has been helpful but the reality is that both aspects often work together in an inseparable way.

And one final note. Shortly after writing this I listened to Wayne Grudem saying pretty much the same thing in terms of the truthfulness and authority of the bible. There is good evidence to point to its truthfulness and authority over our lives, but at some stage the bible itself  becomes self authenticating. The bible is ultimately true not because a higher authority says it is – there is no higher authority – rather is it true because it says it is. Yes it is reasoning in a circle but that’s got to happen at some point or we have an infinite regress. The buck stops with God.

PS. Interesting quotes from the interview

“Faith is a gift”.

“We only see ourselves in the level of failure we are in at the moment…”

“the Bible says that faith is the tangible evidence of things not seen but hoped for. Well that’s a contradiction because evidence can’t be invisible. And tangible means you can feel it and touch it. So the bible says that this invisible faith is more real than what you can touch. ”

“We are not born for failure… The big questions is what is success?”

“Faith does not take you to what you could be, it takes you to what you could never be. If you could do it, you would not need faith, you would only need belief”.

“Faith is not an illusion. Faith was a crutch until I was able to walk. It was getting me better.”

“Faith enables you to achieve what is impossible for you to achieve”.

“you grow out of illusions but you grow into into faith and Christianity”.

“you can’t describe faith, it’s invisible”

“If I stayed in football I would be on about £300,000 a year by now so why would I give that up if faith is an illusion”.

If faith is a gift then how do you get it? “well, you find the person who is giving it… Talk to God and get to know him… ask”.

“faith is the real thing, drugs are the substitute”

How do you build it? “the bible talks about exercising faith. You grow it by using it”.

“there is a lot of things that I do now that faith has taught me, so I don’t now have to draw on faith to do them..but it’s there if I need to go a bit further”

“Belief rests on top of faith… for example I have prayed for 33 women for whom it was impossible for them to have babies. Every one of them has had a baby. Now, that is easy for me to pray for so I believe that it can happen. It was faith, now it has become a belief. But if you said to me how about a man who is blind, who only had one leg and is deaf, do you think his leg is going to grow back? I’d say no. My belief ain’t going to do that, but then again my faith isn’t going to either. Because I haven’t got it up that far yet.”

“If a boxer gives up boxing he balloons (puts on weight).  Faith is also keeping you where you are. A lot of people have faith to get there but not many have faith to stay there. What’s wrong with staying there… we are living in a world where we have lost the ability to stay.”

“I wanted to walk out of football, I wanted to walk out of relationships and I wanted to walk out of the church.”

“Some things we are genuinely frightened of. We are going to face issues in our lives that frighten us. If you admit it, you can confront the fear.”

David Carr says he used to be physically sick with fear before business meetings, but of course as he pushed through they got easier.


I love your presence (part 11)

A few more notes from an excellent healing conference I went to a few months ago where two of the guys from Bill Johnsons Bethel church spoke on healing and healed lots of people too!

  • Three ways to carry the anointing
  • Heb 4:11   Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. (ESV)
  • you will know the truth / reality and the reality will set you free John 8:32
  • faith is the muscle that moves heaven [me – and you can feel it working sometimes. It may be because I am not trusting fully but it can be exhausting at times!]
  • Faith is expectation [me – hey, I realised that connection a year ago, that’s encouraging]
  • Anointing = smeared
  • They told a story of a guy who saw them do some strange stuff in a parking lot. He was attracted to the joy.
  • Pete : Info gets you so far. Revelation gets you further [yes, there is a big difference! You can know something and then you can own something. Revelation leads to knowing]
  • Pete talked about “The road to Emmaus“:
  • Luke 24:13 That very day two of them were going to a village named Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem (ESV)
  • They knew Jesus was a prophet but that was not the full truth.
  • They were disappointed (hope had been crushed)
  • Jesus had said he would raise but it had only been information to them.
  • They had to heard the grave was empty but they were not getting the juice.
  • greater things will he do“. “anyone”, is this info to us or revelation to us?
  • Jesus gave them a bible study and their hearts burned. Hope began to rise.
  • Jesus acted like he was going further. [me – I have blogged on this tactic of Jesus to draw us to him ]
  • Jesus wanted an invitation from them
  • “they urged him strongly” [me – I have taken to praying like this recently; calling out to Jesus with loud cries. Of course he can hear me but that fact that he knows what I want even before I say it at all does not make prayer unnecessary.]
  • A bible study will only get you so far
  • We need to invite Jesus in to eat and drink with us.
  • Once they had realized it was Jesus they went to tell others.
  • Many of us are more comfy doing bible studies than telling people about Jesus

Ι love your presence (part 7)

More faith food from the guys at Bethel to help me as I believe God for healing breakthrough.

  • Keys to breakthrough:
  • Sometimes when God’s presence comes on you it’s not do something. It’s just because he wants to be with you.
  • I’m not intimidated by nothing happening because I know God wants to do it.
  • Get people to focus on what is happening.
  • Matthew 3:17: “this is my beloved son in whom I am well pleased.
  • [me – Since we are in Christ and being transformed to be like him we can] read the Bible and put our name in Jesus’ place. You are Christ revealed to those around you. [me – that is probably a bit of an overstatement, although it may be true in many places in the Bible. (I would not want to say “be healed in Marcus’s name!”)]
  • If you are the son of God, command the stones to become bread. Notice how the devil leaves out “beloved”
  • we need to know that we are beloved sons so we can do the things that Jesus did.
  • It’s all Grace
  • Say quick prayers
  • Not prayer but commands.
  • God said pick up the boy”. [me – I think that this in reference to some healing stories they told]
  • You don’t need a lot of faith to see things happen (I agree, a mustard seed is very small).
  • He (Joaquin I think) has seen the greatest miracles when he felt the least faith. It’s there even if you don’t feel it.
  • When you gives someone a command to do something and they do it they are coming under your authority and into the kingdom. (me- interesting way of looking at it)

I love your presence (part 5)

Here is some of my notes from the healing conference in Kent a few weeks ago. I appreciate that they will not be much interest to most people and are a bit too bitty but it’s doing me a lot of good writing them up  and I want to keep a record of them. I’m pushing forward at the moment with the idea of putting more stuff online. I can’t see much reason to keep this where I will forget about it and no one else will ever see it. Anyway, this talk was given by Joaquin Evans:

  • Christianity is not about God it’s being with God.
  • God is not just a healer he is healing. Healing is not just something he does from time to time, it is something that he is, his presence brings healing. Where his presence goes healing goes. If God is healing then wherever he is healing will come. (me – God releases the captives, “where the Spirit of the Lord is there is freedom” – however God is sometimes very present with people in captivity…)
  • Hebrews 11:1 tells us that faith is a substance. (me – I have often wondered about what this verse is saying about faith…I must look into it more. Similarly with the idea of the anointing…)
  • Belief needs expectancy to become faith. You can believe but not do or expect something to happen. Faith has expectancy. (me – I like this, not least because God has been highlighting the word expectancy for me as a key part of faith).
  • They often see miracles without anyone laying hands on people. Once a man’s ear started hearing again as he stepped into the room.
  • “We lay hands on people if we have to”
  • Faith is spelt risk because we have to step out
  • Sometimes the best thing you can do is outside the box. There was a lady with crushed bones, I think in her foot. An off road vehicle had run over her. You would think that would take lots of prayer. They just said to her “Walk down to the wall and back” and she was healed.
  • The world is currently experiencing the greatest revival that has ever touched the Earth (apart from when Jesus was around). It’s not just happening in one place, it’s worldwide.
  • Col 1:19 – “peace” in this verse means to be made whole or to be set at one again.
  • (me – creation waits for the sons of God to be revealed because son ship is more primary). Not conservation but conversion.
  • “The cool of the day” = “ruach/breath of the day”, => Adam walked with God in the spirit. (me – I can kind of see that as the word can be translated “breath”)
  • I command this knee to behave itself” ie call the knee back into the order it was created for.
  • A man persuaded his father who had stage for esophageal cancer to come to the Bethel healing rooms. His father didn’t want to go but agreed on the condition that no one would lay hands on him. Everyone respected his desire when he was being prayed for, except a 12-year-old boy who hadn’t heard the instruction. The boy placed his hand on the man and the man fell over backwards and was out for 45 mins. There is no junior holy spirit! When the man came round he remarked what are the odds I would have landed on a pillow! (of course it had been put there for him after he fell!). He had felt fire and warmth in his chest and throat. While he was out Jesus had introduced himself. If you asked him who led him to the Lord he would reply “Jesus!”. He was totally healed and completely free of cancer. He got so tired of telling the specialists what had happened to him he made a brochure to tell all about it.
  • This man who I think is called Rick now drives people up every other weekend to the healing rooms to get them healed. He drove one lady who was going to die up to Redding. During the six-hour drive she was in great pain. She didn’t sleep all night when she got there because of the pain and the fear that it would not work. They brought her in a wheelchair. In 20 min she was up doing laps around the healing rooms.
  • The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. That means “God will do it again” (me – I am still looking in to this as I can’t quite see it).
  • A lady called Betty is 87 years old and is the most dangerous lady in the kingdom of heaven.
  • There is no such thing as a hard place once you show up.
  • In the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem Joaquin got a pain in his jaw. He asked two ladies if they had any pain in their jaw but they didn’t. He kept asking people until someone said “yes, how did you know?“. He replied “the God of Israel showed me“. If there is ever supposed to be a hard place you would think it would be in the Jewish quarter of Jerusalem. He prayed “in the name of the God of Israel, pain going“. When the person got healed he told them that this power is available through Jesus who we believe is the Messiah. The man he was healed couldn’t really argue because he had already has experience of Jesus and his power. It is hard to argue with an experience of the truth.
  • Jesus demonstrated first and explained second. (not always true but he did use miracles to back up his words “so that you may know…get up and walk”).
  • Anyway, after healing the man they called out to see if anybody else want to be healed. Breakthrough releases more breakthrough. Faith releases more faith. Just start with the one.
  • This might sound like an odd question but have you got pain in your left shoulder?”
  • I think they ended up being there 45 min healing loads of people.
  • Joaquin wasn’t always a Christian. For a while he was one foot in and one foot out. He prayed for two days “if you are real show up”. God said “you need to be humble”. He prayed what he later found out to be a very dangerous prayer “okay, then humble me“. In a meeting God told him to “get low“. The speaker was talking about this generation being the captain of the final harvest. He then said “there are people who need to humble themselves before God”. Joaquin said “if its you [God] get him to say it again“. The man did.  Joaquin ran to the front and threw himself on the ground. The liquid love of God fell on him and he had a vision of Jesus on the other side of a lake saying there is enough for anyone to have all they want. Joaquin was standing ankle deep at the water’s edge.
  • I do not have all the answers. “Not everyone that we pray for gets healed”. But I will see more tomorrow than today. When someone doesn’t get healed it’s important not to take offence. Why does someone get healed one time and not someone else the next time? I don’t know. Lean not on your own understanding. If I do not stop I will have more breakthrough.
  • They stopped people in Croatia and asked “do you want to feel the power of God?”. They place their hands over the hands of the person they were talking to and they felt the power of God. That makes talking about Jesus a whole lot easier because people have already encountered him
  • It’s about hosting his presence and letting him be good.
  • A number of people got healed to the conference. A five-year shoulder injury, a four-year numbness on one side from a 20 footfall. Four years of pain in the feet (and he was a postman!). Many years of pain the top of the back went in Jesus name. 10 years of allergies to fruit and vegetables and that’s gone. They eight an apple at lunch and lived to tell the tale (ie they suffered no ill effects). 20 years of pain and numbness all gone. Four years of pressure in the ears gone. They can also hear better now.
  • I think it was Bill Johnson who said “when you tell God you love him he puts it on speaker phone“.

I love your presence (part 3)

I have been writing up my notes from a healing conference I went to a few weeks ago in Kent. The two key speakers were Joaquin Evans and Josh Stephens. I think Josh started taking at this point:

  • Testimony means do it again(me – I’m not quite sure how they get this. They made reference to Rev 19:10. When I looked up the word translated testimony there means “evidence given, a record or report, witness, the office committed to the prophets of testifying concerning future events, what one testifies i.e. before a judge”.
  • Allergies aren’t in heaven.
  • Always check things out with a doctor first unless God says otherwise.
  • You will know the truth, that is you will have an encounter which is not simply an intellectual assent of it.
  • God likes to heal through multimedia. Texts, skype, e-mail answering machines. I sometimes get words of knowledge when I receive a text from somebody.
  • The girl with an allergy once got a phone message from someone at a meeting where people were getting healed of allergies. She couldn’t hear anything on the recording just some mumbling. Later on she realised she hadn’t taken her medication and she was feeling much better. She was healed!
  • People that expect things get things (my paraphrase)
  • You don’t need to pray and fast harder. It is the grace of God.
  • God gives his gifts for free. It’s about impartation not just fasting.
  • That’s how we will see generational growth in this area. It can’t be limited to what we ourselves can do.
  • On the other side of fear is your biggest breakthrough.
  • Identify where your thoughts are coming from.

God speaks to you through your thoughts.

  • Josh went into Hindu temple while on a treasure hunt. Sometimes the holy spirit will come upon you and you will be filled with boldness. He was going to stay outside but then suddenly boldness came upon him and he went in. He had a Word of knowledge about someone’s dodgy knee. The first few people he asked were fine but then he saw some young people at the back of the room. One was 15 or 16. He said “no but you can pray for him”.  His friend had a hand in a bandage. As Josh prayed he said “you are releasing energy on me I can feel it, the pain is leaving my hand“. He takes the bandage off. Other kids gather and even pray with words of knowledge and people get healed. They get their family members and more people get healed. They ask “how do you do these things?”. After they ask you gradually tell them about Jesus. Eight kids give their lives to Jesus in a Hindu temple! 15 to 20 miracles take place. There are some other kids that started feeling extremely drunk. “I feel fire on my hands!” one says. He gets two of the people who have just become Christians to pray for and heal some of their friends. They haven’t been saved 2 min and yet God is working miracles through them. They haven’t earned it. It’s a gift.
  • me – if you don’t see anything happen don’t think it’s something that you are doing wrong. It’s not that. Its grace. Look to Jesus, looked to God alone its grace!
  • Take the testimony and repeat it until it happens again. Use other people’s Testament if you don’t have your own.
  • Share what you hear until it happens.
  • In Acts 18 Jesus says you shall receive power when the holy spirit comes upon you. It’s not a one-time experience. You will be a witness of what you experience. Josh has seen cancer healed and the deaf hear and is not because he is deserving of God working through him. Its grace.
  • It’s not about me or us. When we pray long and hard we can actually lose faith. Our attention comes on ourselves. “The longer I pray the less faith I have” says Josh. (me – that sounds odd at first but God does not do something based on our efforts. Jesus says we must not think we’re heard because of our many words. Its grace! All we need to “do” is trust God and expects him to work.
  • With words of knowledge it never hurts to ask even if you are wrong.
  • If you pray once and nothing happens simply praying again.
  • Sometimes it’s good to tell someone to do something and as they go they are healed.
  • The key to breakthrough is to get someone to step out and do something they couldn’t do before.
  • “Thank you God that you are good and that you hear and that it’s not about us. Let your Grace just rest upon so and so…. How does it feel?”
  • Expectancy brings breakthrough
  • Josh had grown up in a Christian and had loved God his whole life. He never really went off the rails. Then he went to Bible College and almost lost his faith!
  • He didn’t know about the spirit of God coming upon people until three years ago. Before that time he had never let anyone to Christ or healed anyone.
  • Them over the last three years he seen hundreds saved and thousands healed and delivered.
  • When someone said they had been prayed for many times before he said “let’s pray like it’s the first time then”
  • they prayed for someone in Virginia who had been trampled on by a horse. Most things in her body were not working properly. Swelling, numbness, ringing in the ears. 45 min later every symptom was gone!
  • Once, not sure if it was a time of the previous feeling they were on top of an Aztec temple where there had been in the past many human sacrifices. They were there for 45 min of miracles and salvation.
  • It’s way way way easier than you think.
  • Everywhere you go it is easy. But some places it’s really easy!
  • “When I feel nothing I think about how much God loves them”
  • someone said “when Joaquin gave his testimony I felt fire on my hands, oh this is why people do wacky things!”
  • You don’t have to pray really hard for God to show up. He wants to.
  • Everything in the kingdom is about increase.
  • It’s not about how much God pours out it’s how much we can receive.

“He’s behind you!”

Recently I heard someone make the point that Jesus sometimes deliberately provokes us to call out to him. In Mark 10:46-52 Jesus is walking by and Blind Bartimaeus calls out to him for mercy. Most of the time in the gospels Jesus is responding to requests from people. Jesus tells the people who were previously telling Bartimaeus to shut up to call him over. Bartimaeus throws his cloak aside (someone made the insightful point that if he didn’t get healed he would have trouble finding it again ie already in anticipation of his healing he is casting aside his old way of life and living in the new) and comes to Jesus. Jesus then asks this blind man what he wants! Of course he wants to see but Jesus seems to want him to ask for it. The moment he clarifies his particular need Jesus says “Go, your faith has healed you!”. Bartimaeus had  faith to call, to come and to ask and so got healed.

I was reminded of (I know that expression sounds like the introduction to radio 4’s ‘thought for the day’ but I can’t think of another way of putting it) the time Jesus appeared to the disciples on the road to Emmaus. He didn’t reveal himself but let their hearts burn and drew out from them an invitation to stay with them. I love the way it says “Jesus acted as if he were going farther” (Luke 24:28). That’s almost cheeky isn’t it?! It’s like at a pantomime where one of the characters plays to the audience by pretending not to know that there is someone behind him. Their actions are designed to draw in and engage the watching children.  Each time he fains ignorance their cries of “he’s behind you” grow ever more earnest and ecstatic.

Jesus was also a little enigmatic when he first appeared to Mary at the tomb. He stands behind her and when she turns he asks “Why are you crying? Who is it that you are looking for”. What kind of a question is that??? I know it may be reading too much into it but I am sure Jesus was really excited about this encounter. He’s holding back the moment of realization. Drawing it out. Savoring it even. I do that with my kids sometimes. I might hold a surprise behind my back for while before revealing it or say “Did I say I would give you a double chocolate biscuit? I don’t remember, are you sure?”. It’s like turning the handle on a Van de Graaff generator, building up the static charge, ready for it to spark when finally touched. When Mary mistakes him for the gardener and continues to look around, he doesn’t say “Hey, it’s me Jesus” he just says “Mary”. I can imagine him looking into her eyes for that precious moment of recognition. And then it comes “Rabbi!”.

And heres another one: When the disciples were struggling across a lake in a storm, Jesus walks out to them and “was about to pass them by” (Mark 6:48). They call out to him (of course!), he comes into the boat and the storm dies down. Why was he going to pass by? Did he have an urgent appointment in the middle of the lake? Was he fetching his frisbee from the waves? No. he wanted them to call out to him! That’s because he loves to draw out our faith. It utterly delights him! Our asking is like a champaign bottle being opened. The request pops out of our  mouths in an explosive flow of faith.

So many times in the bible we are encouraged to ask:

“You may ask me for anything in my name and I will do it” John 14:14

“You do not have, because you do not ask” James 4:2

Especially in terms of the Holy Spirit.

“Ask and it will be given to you” Luke 11:9

“how much more will your father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him” Luke 11:13

“If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water.” (ESV) John 4:10

I wonder how many times Jesus is walking by and wanting me to call out to him. So many voices are trying to dissuade us from doing so but if our need is big enough and our confidence in Jesus is great enough we will break the sound barrier. I want to know more of the presence of Jesus and that means more of the Holy Spirit. My cry to God over the last few weeks has been “more Lord, more!” even in the midst of incredible blessing I want more.  God wants us to cry from the heart “come, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:20). I will call out to him when he comes near, recognise him when he says my name, watch for him walking past in the storm, and take note when my heart burns within me.

Authority explored

What is authority and how does it really work? I know it is defined as “the right to rule” or “the legitimate use of power“, but what power and when? Can you exercise authority without exerting power? What is the opposite of authority? ie what are you doing when you use power illegitimately or misuse authority or pretend to have authority when you don’t actually have it? These are some of the questions I have in my head. I will launch out and see where I get to. I will start with a concrete natural example:

A policeman has authority. When he turns on his blue lights and stops your car he is using authority. He hasn’t exerted much physical power though except catching up with you and motioning for you to pull over. If authority is the right use of power then authority must involve some exertion of power. The policeman’s authority at this point relies mainly on your submission. However it is 99.9% effective in the UK. Something real is happening. The mechanism of physical presence and communication are in operation. You pull over because that’s what people do. You pull over because your moral sense of what is right motivates you. You pull over because you know he can exert more power to get you to comply. You pull over because you don’t want to get into any more trouble than you are already in. It’s as if over the years in this country a stone has been rolled up hill. Battles have been fought, laws passed, criminals chassed and imprisoned etc. Now, in many cases, simply giving it a little push will cause the stone to roll down hill releasing all that potential energy.

If the speeding person doesn’t stop then the power has to be ramped up. The policemen has to keep up with you and continue communicating with increasing emphasis. More police cars will arrive, then a helicopter. They will either run you out of petrol or puncture your tires. They will then surround you and order you out of the car. At this point you might comply or you might not, in which case they will physically pull you out of the car. You will then be handcuffed and if you won’t walk to the police car you will be physically carried. It’s all the application of enough power to get you to comply.

Now all the above would be the same (except the moral bit) even in a country  where the police were corrupt. However if someone is misusing authority God will eventually call them to account for it. A person using power illegitimately, for example wearing a police uniform and flagging you down even though they are not a policeman, or mugging you and forcing your handbag from you, does not have authority. They are a rebel. They have power but not authority. There is nothing legitimate about them or their actions.

Now what about Spiritual authority? When we say “In Jesus name be healed” what is going on? Well, in the bible demons recognize Jesus’ authority and they do what he says. They even ask him for permission to do stuff. There is something built into the culture of the unseen spiritual world that makes demons submit to Jesus’ name. Just turning up and issuing a command in Jesus name works in 99.9% of cases. However sometimes more power is needed. Jesus seems to say that comes by praying. Maybe that’s a bit like calling for backup! When Daniel prayed and fasted in the OT an angel was sent.

The issuing of a command must, in itself, involve an exertion of power. It’s not merely a voiced command awaiting further backup. I think the power of the Holy Spirit is exerted when we issue commands. We are clothed with power. Jesus walked in the power of the Spirit. It must also be connected with faith as Jesus says something like “if you say to a mountain move, and believe it will do so, it will move”.

The water flows when the source is lifted or the end of the tube is lowered.

I am thinking of it like a container of water with a tube coming out of the bottom of it. The default position has the end of the tube level with the top of the water so there is no flow. If you raise the container but keep the end of the tube in the same place water will start to flow out of it. The other way to get the water to flow is to lower the end of the tube. The rate of flow is determined by the relative height of the water level in the container above the end of the tube. Now think of faith. Faith can push up the source at the sending end or faith can pull down the tube at the receiving end. By that I mean the person praying could have faith, the sick person could have faith, or they could both have faith. You could touch Jesus with faith and power would flow out of him. Conversely Jesus could operate in faith and raise the dead where the dead person obviously could not exercise faith. The rate of flow of power is determined by the amount of faith present.

Since God’s power is unlimited the flow of power is limited only by faith. Two caveats spring to mind. The first is that God can stop the flow if he wants. The Holy Spirit is not going to empower something that God is not ok with. He can shut it off at the mains if he wants. The second is that often only a little power is needed to release a massive potential power. This potential power has been built up previously through God’s working in that situation.

Christians are like fire fighters holding a massive high pressure hose. Our job is to keep hold of the end and point it where we expect God to work. Actually, putting out a fire is a helpful picture as you can spray water onto flames and it may take a while for them to go out. As with someone running from the law God’s power can be resisted, but not for long. I was struck by a guy from the Bethel team who prayed with me for a lady to get well. We didn’t see anything but he said to her “It is impossible for us to pray and command you to be well and for nothing to happen”. I also remember the time I was getting disheartened about getting well myself. People kept praying for me and nothing seemed to be happening. Then God read my mind and someone brought a prophetic word to the effect that the prayers of the saints were being effective. I’ve held onto that. It is impossible for God’s power to be released and nothing to happen.

If there was no power released at the time of the first command then it’s hard to see what we have to do to see it exerted. If “be healed in Jesus name” doesn’t releases power for healing then why would power be released when we say it a second time? No. Power must be released on the first and subsequent times until, just like a jar lid suddenly pops of, or a fire is put out, a person is healed or delivered.

Finally, just a point on the legitimate use of power. I have heard some say (or I interpreted them as saying) that Satan gained the legitimate right to rule over us and the earth when Adam sinned. I do not think that is a good way of looking at it. The transaction that takes place on the cross is not between God and Satan but between God and God! Jesus pays our ransom to God. We are rescued from the kingdom of darkness but not by some legal transaction between two equal kingdoms. It’s not like one government negotiating with another for the rescue of hostages. It’s more akin to one government sending in a special forces team to destroy the hostage takers and rescue the hostages by force. Since the hostages were taken illegally their rescue is legal. Put it another way. You don’t buy back stolen goods, you seize them and imprison the thief. Satan is a rebel, a liar and a thief. He owns nothing legitimately. The earth is the Lord’s and everything in it! The Christians role is to seize what he has stolen and free the people he has imprisoned and oppressed. One day God will bring him to justice and throw him into the lake of fire mentioned in the book of Revelation.

I wonder if the view that Satan has some legitimate right to us or this world comes from a faulty interpretation of this passage:

“And the devil took [Jesus] up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will.” (ESV) Luke 4:5-6

We have to remember that what the devil says is going to be a lie or a purposeful distortion of the truth intended to deceive us. Reading what he says I would say it’s a good bet that:

1) He has not been given authority to rule the kingdoms

2) He can not give it to whoever he chooses

He is either deceived or is deceiving.  He may be acting as the prince of this world, but he has no legitimate right to it. We should be very wary of getting doctrine from the devil! Adam and Eve did it in the garden of Eden and things didn’t go too well.

In the Matthew passage the devil seems to be acting out a sham of Matthew 28:18-19 where Jesus says:

“All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (ESV) Matthew 28:18-19

The devil is not in charge of doing bad tings for Jesus. Jesus only does good things. Satan has no legitimate authority at all. The only thing lurking in the back of my mind is that no one can do anything without God’s sovereign permission. God gives Satan permission to hassle Job. Does that mean he uses his power legitimately when he takes Job’s possessions? Is God giving Satan authority to make Job ill? I think it’s important to separate God’s delegated authority with his permissive will. He gives us room to rebel but that does not make our rebellion legitimate. The bent cop is not acting with the governments authority but in rebellion to the government.

Well, I didn’t have any of this worked out when I started writing so as usual it’s my raw thoughts. I will continue to process these ideas. My main hunch is that power is released through faith. It’s not simply a command that may or may not have to be backed up by power later. There is immediately a release of power as soon as a person operates in faith. It may not need much power if power has been exerted previously in that context. For example after decades of law enforcement most people will comply very quickly. Their response has been shaped by previous power. In a similar way we work after the death and resurrection of Jesus. At the cross Jesus dealt a death blow to the forces of darkness. We do not therefore face an uphill struggle to see darkness overcome in Jesus name. I am also persuaded that Satan has no legitimate authority but is a thief, a liar and a rebel. I could go on about mankind’s original remit to rule, the extent to which that is still in effect and how Jesus has now given some increased authority but this blog is way too long already!