Bethel Church, Redding / Five Fruits

Fruit 2: Preaching that does not save

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 fruit in real people’s lives.

Imagine a lovely lady with a husband who sometimes attends church.  It’s impossible to speak to him about Christ, because he just nods and agrees, and seems to really think he does, though there is absolutely no fruit of salvation to speak of.  Their three sons reflect his heart’s unaddressed spectrum of passivity, buried rage, and self-pity, and her day revolves around begging them to conform to basic commands in the home.  Her husband perceives none of their need or her exhaustion and can’t be bothered.  She doesn’t consider confronting this, because of the rage he exhibits if the sons cross his comfort.  Better to just do the impossible herself, confiscating the x-box and computer when she’s really had it, and letting them revel in movies and music when she needs a break.  Better to get her husband’s dinner and let him watch his shows… “Would you like to come this Sunday, dear?  The pastor is going to talk about his latest trip…it was somewhere in Florida.  You would love it.  The band has been so good, lately.  Really.”

Every week when she goes, she braces for the embarrassment of her sons’ behavior, the excited lady from her prayer group who will hug her husband and give him a “word,” and the self-conscious shuffle down the aisle knowing that she has put on another five pounds.  She carefully puts on her lipstick and does her hair, as if, if she could get it right, maybe she would fit in with the ladies who give announcements and converse easily with the pastor and his wife.

Imagine, if instead of the gospel of salvation, that confronts her husband in his passivity and clearly demonstrates to him his utter need for salvation, anchors her in truth that sets her free of her fear and insecurity, and extols the might and power of Christ to carry every burden of sin they throw on Him, change their hearts of stone into hearts of flesh, and renew their home through active repentance and practical obedience…what if instead, they sit through a service that he thinks he agrees with, her boys fight over the iPod, and she hears another sermon on being at peace in the midst of the storm?  On the happy God, living her best life, or the Father’s love for her?

Bad enough.

But what if, while the boys split the ear buds and peruse music videos, sheltering the shaking behinds from their mom’s view, what if she hears a different message…what if she’s told that she’s supposed to walk the earth like Jesus did?  What if she’s told that miracles are her new norm?  What if the smiling pastor is looking at her asking why shouldn’t she raise the dead?  Why shouldn’t limbs grow back?  He has a thousand just such stories.  Somehow none of them are from someone in the room, today or ever, and they mostly are secondhand, but still he confidently goes on.  She hears of glory dust at a conference, of a person who prophetically identified a stranger’s favorite color and left them struck by that proof of God’s existence, and finally heard a testimony of the feeling of warmth that overcame a woman when she received prayer at the front of the church last week.

Well, there she has it.  So that’s the spirit-filled life.  So that’s the power she’s looking for.  So that’s what God wants from her.

The pastor reads some accounts from the gospels, focusing on his text, “And Jesus healed them all.”  She imagines it for a moment, seeing someone raised from the dead, and her eyes well up with tears.  That would be amazing.  She’s interrupted by the boys’ fighting, and takes away the iPod, relieved that it’s time for them to stand up and sing.  Her embarrassed husband is watching while trying not to watch the 22 year old worship leader climb the steps in her skin-tight jeans and sequined tank top to moan a passionate love song to God.  The pastor begins to call out to the church for anyone who needs healing to stand up and receive miracle power.  She wishes she could experience miracle power, but can’t think of any ailment, so she prays for the people who raise their hands.  She had hoped the altar call might be something that would move her husband, because everyone agrees that what he needs is “a touch from God.”  But not today.  The pastor tells of the urgent financial needs associated with his travel itinerary, and into the offering, she puts as much as she is able without angering her husband.  As her sons complain of hunger, and her husband curses the rain and their faraway parking space, the family files out.  Just then, her prayer group leader runs up and excitedly informs her that this week, they will go on a “treasure hunt,” to share hope and encouragement with the lost.

And so she goes home, emptier than she came, and with a new assignment.  In addition to the loads she brought to church, and desperately needed lifted with truth, she came home with a bigger load than ever.  She’s not just trying to save her husband by pushing him into the right service at the right moment so he can get a “touch,” produce righteousness in her unfathered sons, and live as a serene model of peace and joy, unequipped by personal discipleship in the Word of God, now she’s also got to produce miracles.  When the pastor talked, it sounded exciting and easy.  In fact, the TALK is exciting and easy!

Can you cause limbs to grow out?  Can you raise the dead?  Can you restore vision to the sightless?  Can you heal the sick and cause cancer to disappear?  Neither can I.

But what if your pastor insists you can?  What if he carefully teaches you that it is ALWAYS God’s will to heal?  And that your job is always to bring heaven down to earth?

Well, then what are you waiting for?  Don’t you have any compassion?  Go empty the hospitals, you dork!  God’s will is ALWAYS to heal, and your job is to live the same life Jesus did…when you do something cool, we’ll put you at the front of the church to testify about it, no matter how big of a train wreck your life is!

Can you imagine our lovely lady, so lost in real life, so desperately in need of truth and help and freedom and discipleship and the gospel?  The urgent need is for her husband to encounter the fear of God and realize he has none, and her sons to see faithful men with the fire of holiness in their eyes.  But imagine her instead exhausted from navigating a world devoid of the judgments of God, without preaching unto repentance, but dripping with the high-fructose-corn-syrup talk of His love.  She’s growing tired and impatient with God…why He hasn’t “touched” her totally disinterested husband, like He’s doing in all the stories she hears from the front?  If only someone would “treasure hunt” him, she thinks.  Then he would really catch fire.

If she buys in, as many do, she will have to just set her wayward sons out of her mind.  She’ll have to spout off false faith catch-phrases and words about how this year will be the one in which her husband will have an angelic encounter (she got a prophecy that he would).  She’ll have to go “drink at the bar” of soaking prayer after church over and over till she can’t feel her real pain and loss anymore, and go out on the town exercising her new form of Christianity until it doesn’t feel like pretending anymore.  And when she’s prayed for fifty people and none of them are healed, but she still comes back to “soak” and testify, she’ll be fully in, past the point where reality matters, drawing others into a salvation that does not exist.  She’ll be shouting about the joy and peace and “the Presence,” like a drug addict who feels high as a kite, though every person that walks by aches just at the sight of them.

But this is a people robbed and plundered;

All of them are snared in holes,

And they are hidden in prison houses;

They are for prey, and no one delivers;

For plunder, and no one says, “Restore!”  Is. 42:22

****This post is not about physical healing, signs and wonders, or the gifts of the Spirit.****

I know that physical healing is of the Lord.  I have experienced it profoundly, saving my daughter’s life from the verge of death and restoring mine.  The debate and tension in charismatic circles is not over the gifts of the Spirit or miracles.  The tension is over what GOSPEL is being preached.

In the world and in the Church, there is NO NEED greater than the need for the gospel of salvation from sin.  There is no sickness or limbs lost or deformity apart from a world diseased with sin, and while Jesus was able to heal and deliver through His power as He walked, what REQUIRED THE ATONEMENT OF HIS DEATH was the sinful state of our souls.  There was no reconciliation apart from His blood for our TRUE NEED, OUR REAL PROBLEM, OUR ACTUAL STATE.  Which is sinful to the uttermost.

Our marriages, our families, our children, our tattered hearts and relationships are perverted and stained, not by lack of miracle power, not by lack of “touches of the Spirit” or prophetic words, but by sin.  It was for this that He died.  Jesus died on the cross to save us from our sin.  The penalty of sin.  The power of sin.   It was for this, to resurrect us in newness of life, that He rose again.  It is for this that we remain here on earth as ambassadors for Christ, sent to proclaim a true message of hope and salvation, and made worthy to do so by our own ownership of this gift of repentance and the blood-bought grace to obey which SAVES and HEALS our REAL lives, our REAL marriages, our REAL children.  This is His easy yoke:  that our stained and foolish flesh can finally be crucified with Him, so that He can rule in its stead as KING.  Rule by His ways, His statutes, His truth, His perfect wisdom found in His word.

A lifetime is insufficient to plumb the depths of His wisdom to restore one marriage, one family, one soul.  There is not time enough to discover how healing His statutes and commands are.  There is no limit to the power of his real salvation in one who will obey.

There will be a Judgment Seat, at which every shepherd who had the opportunity “to teach them [God’s people] all that I [Jesus] have commanded you” (Mat. 28:20), and steward the house of God to “obey the gospel” (1 Peter 4:17) but instead taught them a new and different gospel of “faith” not in God’s Word, but in their own interactions with the spirit realm and the voices that speak to them from there…there will be a Judgment Seat, and they will answer.  They will answer for the aching hearts and broken marriages and destroyed children who needed the Word of God steadily fed to their souls and applied to their wounds, and needed to be taught over…and over…and over…and over…that those who have faith OBEY the Word of God.

7 thoughts on “Fruit 2: Preaching that does not save

    • Thank you, M’Kayla. I listened to your radio interview the other day and just loved the gentleness in your voice, even though you speak with full conviction. Hope we can meet someday! Every blessing, courage and peace to you in Christ! The Lord has used your loaves and fishes humility in the most profound way to feed five thousand hungry hearts, searching for a genuine way out, including mine. 🙂

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