by winston davenport, february 24 2014
I recently had a discussion with an ordained minister that clearly articulated one of the greatest misunderstandings in the Church today. We were sparring, challenging each others' beliefs and spiritual mindsets, when he made a statement that clued me in to his general error. I was insisting that believers should be operating in the miraculous more often, and that the reason people listened to what Jesus had to say was because of the presence of the supernatural in His ministry (see John 5:36; 12:18). This man strongly disagreed, saying, "That was Jesus, and you're not Jesus." When I argued that the apostles weren't Jesus, yet they operated in the same level of power as He did, I was again reprimanded. He explained that the apostles were "special," and we shouldn't expect to perform the same miracles that they did.
His confusion boils down to this common error: assuming that Jesus had special powers because He was God. I would speculate that most Christians probably agree—that Jesus set the bar so high that we were never meant to attain it. But this isn't theology—you can't even find a premise for this belief in the Bible! Plain and simple, it's just an excuse to justify our powerlessness. This is nothing new. For hundreds of years, Catholics have relegated the term saints to a special group of people, those who were especially charitable or had performed a certain number of confirmed miracles. By generating this doctrine, they effectively eliminated any personal accountability as far as living by faith is concerned. By saying, "Only certain people—saints—can perform miracles," it always leaves room to explain powerlessness by claiming that "I'm not one of the chosen."
However, if you are in Christ, you are one of the chosen! As far as I'm concerned, the greatest miracle in history was the miraculous incarnation of God. After thousands of years of God-separation, His people weren't doing so well. They were enslaved to sin, enslaved to their enemies, and enslaved to religion. They were very good at missing the point, missing out on God entirely. Who He really is, what He really wants—these things were relatively unknown to the Jews. Oh, they tried, alright. But no amount of sacrifice, self-degradation, or strict adherence to the Law was pleasing to God. Not only do numerous Scriptures from the Old Testament confirm this, it's one of the basic messages Jesus came to bring.
Rather than sending prophet after prophet, pleading, crying, and wrestling with His people, God finally decided to send His Son. Jesus explained this in the parable of the vineyard and the tenants (see Matthew 21:33-41). Jesus came, living, breathing, and eating just like we do. He set aside His divinity, choosing to live with the same limitations as the rest of us. He slept in a bed, He drank water and wine, He had to bathe and care for His health and hygiene just like you and me. He was one with His Father, yes, but not once did He draw from His "fully God" nature to accomplish anything that He didn't intend us to do as well. After all, He didn't even perform a miracle until He had the Holy Spirit. Without that divine empowerment, given at His baptism (see Matthew 3:16), He was human just like the rest of us:
I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, the Son is able to do nothing of Himself.... I am able to do nothing from Myself.... I have not come on My own authority.... I do nothing of myself.... I did not even come on My own authority or of My own accord.... The very works that I do by the power of My Father.... My Father has enabled me to do many good deeds.... the Father Who lives continually in Me does the works.... (John 5:19, 30; 7:28; 8:28, 42; 10:25, 32; 14:10)
These are just a few of the statements that Jesus made to specifically explain that His power did not come from the fact that He was God incarnate, but that He was fully man, with a revelation of His oneness with the Father, full of the Holy Spirit. The Bible says that "it is evident that it was essential that he be made like His brethren in every respect, in order that He might become a merciful (sympathetic) and faithful High Priest in the things related to God, to make atonement and propitiation for the people's sins" (Hebrews 2:17).
This reality opens up a whole new realm of Christianity. All of a sudden we cannot be comfortable as mere spectators. Jesus didn't intend us to sit around and talk about the good old days, how Jesus did this sign and this wonder, as if we're incapable of doing the same. Jesus wants us to get in on the action. To mimic His supernatural lifestyle. The healing and resurrections and food multiplications—those didn't pass away with the apostles. It is and has always been the presence of the Spirit that has enabled these wonders. The Bible says that if you're saved, you possess the same Spirit as Jesus did. The same fuel that propelled His miraculous standard of living is in you today if you are a Christian. In fact, God expects us to live like Jesus lived. That's why the Scripture says, "...as He is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17).
Next week, I will continue to explain that Jesus's full humanity proves, inspires, and requires that we assume His identity as we perpetuate His ministry on this earth!
by winston davenport, february 24 2014
by winston davenport, february 17 2014
Jesus is operating on Earth right now in exactly the same way He was in the New Testament. Why do we applaud His unpredictability and unprecedented spiritual behavior during His three-year tour, but now assume that He will strictly move inside our prescribed, religious matrix? Let me ask you this: Did Jesus's actions range beyond the written Scripture of His day? Did He do things and present ideas that were beyond the scope of the Old Testament? Absolutely! Were the religious elite upset about this? Absolutely! John even stated that the spectrum of Jesus's supernatural demonstrations was so vast that all the books in the world would be unable to contain it (see John 21:25).
Yet today if there is a miracle or a manifestation that we can't see clearly in Scripture, it is quickly condemned by our very own religious elite: self-appointed watchdogs. We're repeating the great Pharisaical blunder of the ages: opposing what God is doing because it doesn't make sense to us. But what if it really is God? What if the holy laughter, dancing in the Spirit, gold dust, and other unusual phenomena really are the Holy Ghost at work in the Church? Who are we to judge or condemn these things simply because they breach our personal margins? Who are we to say that someone else's spiritual encounter was at best unfounded, and at worst demonic, just because it looked different than our expectations?
The Bible does make something clear: Giving God credit for something, even if it's not from Him, is not the end of the world (see Luke 9:49-50; Philippians 1:17-18). However, attributing God's works to the demonic realm is called "an eternal sin" (see Mark 3:22-30). Perhaps we shouldn't be so quick to call signs and wonders "demonic" just because we don't understand them.
Many of the unusual spiritual manifestations over the years have been inspired by the flesh, while some truly demonic. Nevertheless, this doesn't negate those experiences that truly are from God. In addition, Jesus did warn about false prophets in the last days who would deceive many with signs and wonders. However, our gauge of what's real and what's counterfeit has nothing to do with what makes intellectual sense. Using our current and limited understanding of the Bible to fence out what might be spiritually illegitimate is not acceptable. After all, when Peter's shadow started healing the sick in Acts 5:15, what was the Biblical proof text for this sign? In addition, God did "unusual miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were even carried from his body to the sick, and the diseases left them and the evil spirits went out" (Acts 19:11-12 NASB). At that time, what was their scriptural validation for that supernatural operation? There wasn't one! Yet they did not challenge what the Spirit was doing because they couldn't find it in the Bible. That attitude was unheard of.
How about this one: Did you know that even though Jesus told the disciples to preach the Gospel to all creatures, Paul was "forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia"? (Acts 16:6). Whoa! How is this possible? Today's Pharisees would say, "If what the Holy Spirit is telling you contradicts the clear instruction of Scripture, you're not hearing the Holy Spirit." But maybe, just maybe, God is bigger than the book!
People have often asked me, "Why would the Spirit cause people to laugh uncontrollably? What's the point?"
First of all, why does there have to be a point? And who says that this "point" must be intelligible to the masses? Last time I checked, God could do whatever He wanted. Besides, if you are an earthly parent, don't you get joy from tickling your children, or teasing them, playing games and making them laugh? I loved to receive that kind of love and attention growing up! Is it really that obscure to suggest that our Heavenly Father—"a Father to the fatherless" (see Psalm 68:5)—might just find enjoyment in making His children laugh? After all, if you can't see the scriptural emphasis on joy, you're blind! Guess what? Laughter is a significant part of joy! So next time you see a fellow believer rolling on the floor with "holy laughter," restrain your judgment. In fact, it might do you some good to yield your dignity and join them!
People question, "Why would God send gold dust or jewels from Heaven? Why would He inspire people to bark like a dog or roar like a lion?"
My response is, "Why don't you ask Him?" I honestly don't feel the need to try and justify what my Heavenly Father decides to do. But I have a suspicion that sometimes His motivation is to deliberately violate what certain Christians deem acceptable. And really, you might not be able to find these things in the Bible, but consider some of the things God inspired His prophets to do. He suspended Ezekiel in midair by the hair (See 8:3). He stuck his tongue to the roof of his mouth (see 3:26). He made him lie on his side for over a year (see 4:4). Then He told him to bake a cake over human dung! (see 4:12). In light of these occurances, gold dust or angel feathers from Heaven doesn't seem that ridiculous.
In the New Testament, when John encountered Jesus, he "fell at His feet like a dead man" (Revelation 1:17). Yet many Christians are ridiculed today because they are "slain in the Spirit." Can you see how that same spirit of the Pharisees is still active in the Church?
Another Pharisaical ax to grind is being "drunk in the Spirit." Zechariah 9:15 prophesies, "And they will drink and be boisterous as with wine.... And the Lord their God will save them in that day." Is this the day in which we have been saved? Yes! And along with salvation comes a celebration. Drink up! The day the Church was born, people got drunk in the Spirit. They must have been carrying on extravagantly as they spoke in unknown tongues, because the crowd said, "They are full of sweet wine" (Acts 2:13 NASB). Notice that this is exactly what Zechariah prophesied. They were drunk as with wine.
Next, Peter stood up and said, "These men are not drunk, as you suppose...." Now, pay attention to this verse. The actual order of the Greek sentence (minus the punctuation that isn't included in the original manuscripts) says, "These men are become drunk not as you suppose...." I believe that Peter was saying, "Yeah, we're drunk, but not in the way that you think!" There's a reason Jesus talked about putting "new wine into fresh wineskins" (Matthew 9:17 NASB). Even Paul used this example, saying, "And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit" (Ephesians 5:18 NASB). The word "but" means "instead," or "in its stead," or "as an alternative." In the stead of natural wine and its mind-altering effects, Paul commands us to become mind-altered by the Holy Spirit!
Finally, I'd like to point out that the true gauge to identify a legitimate sign or wonder is the discernment of the Holy Spirit. We are never instructed to measure what we see against the Bible, but rather against what the Spirit is telling us. Indeed, false signs will be performed. But the issue isn't the sign itself. A sign points to something, remember? The question we should be asking is, "Who is the source of this sign, and where does it point?" That answer can't be found in Scripture. That's why we were given the living, active Holy Spirit to live in us. He is the One who will expose the counterfeit prophets and their false miracles.
If you are guilty of judging spiritual experiences based on what you think God might or might not do, ask Him to show you a better way. Ask Him to teach you how to follow the discernment of the Holy Spirit. It's possible that a leader could come looking, sounding, and acting exactly how you think He should. He could seem very Bible-based. But the Holy Spirit might tell you otherwise. Be sensitive to that inward peace, and never use the Scriptures to hold God hostage. Whenever we attempt to control or limit His work, He will intentionally violate our expectations. It's so much better to just stay in the flow. Don't be held back by your denomination, either. The Kingdom of God is advancing, and we must advance with it!
by winston davenport, february 17 2014
by winston davenport, february 9 2014
The church I led worship at for many years may not have always been doctrinally correct on every issue, but they were open to the Holy Spirit, something far more commendable. I would much rather attend an immature church that possesses and appetite for spiritual growth than a church I agree with on every issue, that fails to demonstrate a willingness to move past the current level of revelation.
The reason for this is simple: The true Church is a kinetic entity. In other words, the Holy Spirit, in His task of bringing us into perfect alignment with God, is always advancing. He is always doing something new (see Malachi 3:6; Isaiah 43:19). "His intention was the perfecting and the full equipping of the saints (His consecrated people), [that they should do] the work of ministering toward building up Christ's body (the church)" (Ephesians 4:12 AMP).
Many congregations are content to stay fixed at the revelation where their denomination has dropped the anchor. Because of this, many churches are stuck in stagnant waters. The place of expectation where they stopped was probably a powerful location at one time. But when the ship departed the next day, headed for the next destination, they somehow failed to board. This has caused so much confusion and disunity in the Church because the denominations that were once on the cutting edge of what the Holy Spirit was doing at the time have relegated God's entire work to their single experience.
Most of the mainstream Protestant denominations were birthed out of some type of revival or renewal. At one time, they were alive and powerful because they were congruent to the current move of God. But for some reason, each of them has assumed that their move of God is the only move of God. Every time God enacts a restoration movement, there is always a crowd that resists the transformation.
Martin Luther began the Lutheran Church, a once revolutionary assembly of believers who walked in a robust sense of grace and faith. But there they remain. They got comfortable in the present and lost their vision for the future. Their eyes became fixed on what God had done rather than on what He was doing. Thus, when the Spirit moved to the next item on the agenda of "the full equipping of the saints," they stayed behind at an incomplete---good, yes, but only partial---revelation. What once were the fresh flowing waters of the Spirit is now stagnant and useless.
And so it has gone with many such moves of the Spirit. Methodists, Baptists, Pentecostals---you name it. Bishop T. D. Jakes says, "Denomonations don't tell you who you are, they tell you what truth you stopped at." That doesn't mean it's too late for those folks to catch up, or that every church body within these denominations is outdated. The necessary transformation will require an undignified abandonment of comfort and convenience in exchange for a real and vibrant spiritual experience. It can happen. This is one of the passions of my calling: waking up a sleeping Church to the fullness that God has planned.
God even provided spiritual gifts to the body so "[That it might develop] until we all attain oneness in the faith and in the comprehension of the [full and accurate] knowledge of the Son of God, that [we might arrive] at really mature manhood (the completeness of personality which is nothing less than the standard height of Christ's own perfection), the measure of the stature of the fullness of the Christ and the completeness found in Him" (Ephesians 4:13). As a body, we are being built up, from the foundation to the capstone.
However, sometimes these gifts don't look like we think they should look. This is a clever method God uses to weed out the mere intellectual Christians from those who are genuinely hungry for something real. To those who know God personally, these sometimes out-of-the-ordinary manifestations are welcome. True heart-believers recognize what is genuinely heavenly and what is not.
But to those who only know about God, learning Christianity on a mere cerebral plane, the manifestation of the Holy Spirit is simply foolish. Their established and unyielding expectations of how a meeting should look become easily violated, leading them to offense. This is unfortunate, but nonetheless necessary.
Jesus conducted His earthly ministry in precisely this same manner. Everything He said and did was crafted in such a way as to deliberately bypass the intellectual grasp of the Pharisees while apprehending an entire generation of those who were spiritually hungry. Those who recognized their need for a spiritual awakening were the first to embrace everything Jesus said, did, and taught. The religiously established of that day hated Him with a vengeance. in fact, they killed Him.
Jesus said, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:3 NKJV). In doing this, He made it clear that the current move of God was not available to those who were firmly rooted in their religious paradigms. It was to the hungry---those willing to risk their dignity and comfort---that Jesus made His appeal. Remember, the Kingdom of God isn't stationary; it's advancing, increasing (see Isaiah 9:7).
Next week, we will talk more about the kinetic Church, the Church on the move. We will discuss some of the peculiar signs and wonders that occur in the Body of Christ and discuss whether or not they are acceptable.
by winston davenport, february 9 2014