Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Some years back I met with a middle-aged man from Columbus who was brought to the Vineyard on a weekday afternoon by a friend. He had been concerned about some chronic issue in his life that he really didn’t want to identify and wondered if his friend knew someone he could talk to somewhat confidentially. For whatever reason, my name popped up.
The three of us sat in a little room as he began to casually share his story with me, nothing too deep. He was well dressed, polite, and a successful sales rep. After about twenty minutes of mostly listening, I asked if we could pray together and invite the Holy Spirit to come. He said he wouldn’t mind at all.
We prayed for a few minutes and then I asked God to come upon him. He promptly curled over, head over his knees, and then fell out of his chair and began to writhe on the floor like a snake, grunting as if in pain. His friend was quite surprised as we went through what I would call a low-level deliverance that lasted only about fifteen minutes. It mostly had to do with demonic harassment regarding a sexual bondage. After that, he lay on the floor like a wet dishrag for a few moments, got back up in his chair, and was a bit bewildered over his behavior. I asked if anything like that had ever happened in the past and he said no. We chatted a few more minutes and he left, in his own words, “feeling lighter.”
I bet so.
Prior to launching his public ministry, Jesus presented His mission statement in Luke chapter 4:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor.”
Immediately Jesus began His public ministry and gave expression to “the Lord’s favor”, the Kingdom of God. This is a classic passage for us at the Vineyard; we want to describe ourselves as a Luke 4 church. Matthew describes what happened after that announcement in Jesus’ hometown synagogue as nothing short of astonishing:
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the good news of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. News about him spread all over Syria, and people brought to him all who were ill with various diseases, those suffering severe pain, the demon-possessed, those having seizures, and the paralyzed, and he healed them. (Matthew 4:23, 24)
Jesus came to announce freedom to bruised, broken and bound humanity. He came to make people whole, to set them free. If you want to know what God is like and what He wants to do, look at Jesus. If you want to know what Jesus is like and what he wants to do, we should be able to look at the Church. And if the Church is to do the same work as Jesus—and he indicated we would in several places—you can be guaranteed we’ll have some supernatural encounters.
Typically in the book of Acts, with an outpouring of the Spirit comes an initial explosion of transrational experiences: people prophesy or spontaneous worship erupts or tongues occur or, at least in one instance, the facility vibrated. But when you look at what continued in the behaviors of the Church, the ongoing evidence that God was moving among them in the Spirit were: transformed lives, the activity of spiritual warfare (usually in the form of persecution), a boldness in evangelism (often accompanied with signs and wonders), and radical generosity.
I hope this series on the Holy Spirit created a desire that moved beyond the typical charismatic borders and into a longing for God-centered power that focuses on mission.