This post is part of a series focused on the “bring the kingdom” teaching of ministries like Bethel Church in Redding, CA and ministers like Bill Johnson and the fruits produced in real people’s lives.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. –Jesus, Mat. 11:29
Every believer, at some time, has struggled with trying to achieve the fruits of the spirit out of the useless resources of the flesh, and found how impossible it is. These are heavy burdens indeed, even heavier than trying to keep the law.
But there is a heavier yoke. You may not have realized it, because it’s tricky. It doesn’t look heavy. It’s given out so frivolously…thrown out like a fragrant lei from the platform to land on some lucky church-goer’s neck… by some of the jolliest preachers you could ever hear. They sound like santa claus, constantly talking about God’s goodness, they call God “papa” (read about that here), they wear jeans, they’re above it all. They are so confident, so at ease. They welcome anyone and everyone in to the service. “Don’t worry,” they say with their body language. “I got this.” Oh, to be so cool, to be so at ease with the Christian life, so comfortable with the God of the universe! Tell me the secret! What’s the yoke? It must be eeeeeeeeasy.
Here it is: just be god. Go ahead. You know you can do it. Heal the sick. Open blind eyes. “Bring the kingdom.” It’s aaaaaall you, baby. Creative miracles? Why not? Don’t put God (yourself) in a box. Hey, why not raise the dead? Empty a hospital! No biggie. It only hasn’t been done before because all the religious nut-jobs in the millenia before us were too tied up with their Bibles to get anything done. They didn’t realize that it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal. ALWAYS. Duh!!!!!!!!!! You would know this if you hadn’t been reading your Bible so much! Just go be god.
The problem with this teaching, other than being anti-biblical in every sense…okay, let me start over. ONE problem with this teaching is that you and I actually cannot be god. When the chips are down, the teaching is obviously a fraud. Because no matter how much I harass a blind person, nothing I can do can make him see. If you stand over a coffin, there’s no way you can bring him or her back. None of us can create a mole on anybody’s toe, much less a limb. EITHER WE CAN OR WE CAN’T. Shouldn’t this teaching have died off a long time ago? Millions of people have proved (sometimes sheepishly, and in private, but often embarrassingly publicly) billions of times that we cannot make God act on our will.
But the teaching is not dead. It is alive and well, yoking believers, especially young ones, all around the world. How? There are three answers to this. I will call them 1) good, 2) bad, and 3) ugly.
1) Good: True believers sincerely take hold of a simple faith in God’s power.
In humility and simplicity, it does not occur to them how ugly the preacher’s pride and heresy is. All they know is that their Jesus is good, and He heals today! They find themselves prompted by the Spirit to pray with faith from time to time, and see spectacular results as God moves in accord with His own sovereign will.
2) Bad: Genuine, unfounded believers with a susceptibility to false teaching, hear the message of bringing heaven to earth.
It is presented as “REAL faith,” and contrasted by the preacher to what he calls the “unbelief” of the wider body of Christ, stuck in their Bibles, bound by a “spirit of religion.” Like it’s a high school game of Chicken, he provokes listeners to cast off the stale, dull, miracle-less Christian life of their old church life in favor of the glamorous new world of being little gods, walking around healing, declaring, binding and loosing, and attempting to raise from the dead. They try this new lifestyle, get really into the music and conferences, have some crazy experiences, rarely ever see any miracles but kinda squint their eyes right so that it seems like they did, and generally remain frozen in immaturity, attending to their imaginations and fantasies, rather than the plain commands of the New Testament. After awhile, they’re so hooked that if anyone questions their new form of Christianity at all, they blow up, enraged at the “unbelief.”
3) Ugly: After some years proclaiming the “miracle life,” spending hours, days, weeks, and a boatload of money attending conferences to learn to “bring the kingdom,” receive “training in the prophetic,” and “get the anointing,” the facade breaks down.
Divorce, rebellious adolescent children, financial problems, and failing health stand in stark contrast to the years of TALK of blessing and miracles and healings and heaven on earth. Maybe this person once believed, but now he or she is just burnt and bitter. Where was God? What happened to all His “promises,” as spun by the smooth-talking, “oozing with eeeeeaseeeeey” preacher on the stage? Angry and done, this person leaves church, except for the occasional TBN program. They tried to straddle the divide between their false theology and real life for too long, and finally just fell in.
That lovely lei flung from the stage, the Omnipotent-sized to-do list given by the easy-going guy in jeans, it looked so easy at first. Such a beautiful message. A few verses here and there seem to finalize the deal. “This is the gospel! Healing for everybody, every time! Why has the church been so blind for 2000 years? God is happy…take a little drink at His bar to cure your grumps!” Breathe Him in, blow Him out, wave Him around, declare this and that, and follow the prophets off the edge of their presumptuous, pompous cliff. And then try not to notice as the everlasting judgments of the Real God of the Universe play out. Prov. 16:18
Because He did not call us to be god. He did not call us to save, heal, and deliver… No, He said,
“I, even I, am the Lord,
And besides Me there is no savior.” Is 43:11
He did not call us to save anybody, but to testify to His salvation. You and I will never decide who receives physical healing or when. That is sacred, directly between a needy soul and a Saving God. He said,
“I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” Rom. 9:15
He tells the needy to “Call on the name of the Lord…” Acts 2:21, promising an outpouring of salvation to those that will. How foolish of us to think we can go dispense mercy and healing to people, with no knowledge of whether they have humbled themselves, called out to God for help, or even acknowledged His existence? How foolish to say ALWAYS, in defiance of Scripture?
He did not command us to “bring the kingdom.” In stark contrast, we are commanded to humbly pray that His kingdom would come, on earth as it is in heaven (Mat 6:10). A petition and a demand, though they be for the same outcome, are worlds apart. A humble petition is moving. A declarative demand is disgusting.
The Syro-Phoenician woman came to ask Jesus to deliver her daughter from a demon, but He rebuffed her because He was sent to the Jews first. She exhibited profound humility and faith by asking for the “crumbs from the children’s table.” She received her plea, and exhibited a heart condition that these brash, bold teachers who buddy up with Jesus at the bar know nothing of.
“Declare! Demand! Prophesy! Walk in signs and wonders! Heal the sick!” They teach a god of their own ideas to people who don’t know better. “Go give that stranger a word about how much God likes them!”
But the Bible says:
You have wearied the Lord with your words;
Yet you say,
“In what way have we wearied Him?”
In that you say,
“Everyone who does evil
Is good in the sight of the Lord,
And He delights in them,” Mal. 2:17
As “ambassadors of reconciliation,” the gospel we bring is the offer of hope and reconciliation to those who will turn from their wickedness and receive salvation from sin’s curse. We have no right to proclaim mercy and acceptance over people who have not repented! We bring His judgment on ourselves when we do so.
Are you beginning to see the yoke? Are you beginning to see the trick? Instead of being humble like the Syro-Phoenician, (who is honored for all eternity by mention in Scripture) asking for what we need from the only One who can save, we have to be Saviors (which we are not). Instead of testifying faithfully to His compassion and healing, we are supposed to supply them from our own empty pockets! Instead of pointing to the power of the Almighty, and urging the world to consider His judgments, we are somehow supposed to suspend his judgments from their lives and introduce ours, calling sinners delightful, no matter their state! Jesus said the power of the Holy Spirit would empower us to be His witnesses, not His replacements.
For my part, I can testify to the crushing severity of these task-lists. I can remember my utter inadequacy to be god. How long it took me to untangle the matching game of figuring out what bad fruit went with what bad teaching. And how long it took me to see that were it not for my pride I would have trembled to watch foolish teachers who disregard Scripture act so familiar and comfortable with God Almighty, seen the many scriptures that describe insolent, arrogant, sensual false teachers who have no shame as they “blaspheme the glorious ones.” (Jude 8, Col. 2:18)
But now with the help of Scripture to restore me to the simple peace that comes from the fear of the Lord, I have bowed down low and asked Him for mercy. I have received miracle healing, provision, prophecies, but not because I believed, declared, and commanded the God of the Universe to fill my order and respond to my mighty faith. Only because He is good.
Number me with the Syro-Phoenician, with the Prodigal Son, with the Roman Centurion…the unworthy recipient of miracles, deliverance, love, honor, provision, and acceptance. I have nothing to demand, and so much to testify to. And today I need to testify that OBEDIENCE IS AN EASY YOKE, proving fruitful and powerful and unfailing, under which the humble find blessed relief. I am so relieved to be free from the heavy yoke of trying to “be god.” I’m so glad it’s not my job to “bring the kingdom” (Jesus did that), walk in signs and wonders (as if there’s anything more wonderful than being saved), declare into being anything at all ever, hasten the return of the Lord, or any other ridiculous self-inflated notion. It’s simple joy to be a bondservant, safe, lowly and loved (Eph. 6:6), wholeheartedly obeying God’s simple, scriptural commands rather than trying to command HIm.