Christianity without power does not exist in the New Testament. Unfortunately, for the most part we have so accepted it as the norm today that anyone operating in the power of God is seen as extreme. There are several obstacles that can hinder a person or church from pursuing a ministry of power. The following is an excerpt from my book Restoring the Ministry of Jesus which highlights five major barriers that inhibit believers from walking in God’s power.
Some are afraid that if they begin to pursue miraculous ministry, they or their church will take it too far and become unbalanced. The truth is, those who subscribe to this type of thinking are already unbalanced, extremely unbalanced. Jesus spent at least as much time and energy healing the sick and casting out demons as He did teaching and preaching. If we are to be truly biblically balanced in our churches, we will do the same.
You would be hard pressed to find a church today that is exclusively given to healing and deliverance ministry without making any room for teaching or preaching. I highly doubt that such a church exists. On the other hand, there are multitudes of churches that have an abundance of teaching without any time given at all to healing or freeing captives. If balance is what we are looking for (and true, biblical balance is a good thing), then let’s be honest with ourselves and realize that much of what we call balanced is terribly lopsided according to the example of Jesus.
As I have discussed the topic of healing and deliverance with others, I have been amazed that many people ignore the example and commands of Jesus to heal the sick and cast out demons based on the passage where Jesus warns about deception and false prophets in Matthew 7:15-23. Using this logic, Moses would have refused to perform the signs that God com-manded him, because the Egyptian sorcerers were doing the same things (see Exodus 7:8-12). As ridiculous as that may sound, that is exactly what many are doing today.
It is no secret that counterfeits exist, and this fact should not alarm us. The devil will always imitate and pervert the power of God. Sadly, many people who are involved in the occult and Satanism are operating in more spiritual power than many Christians. Not only that, but countless churches would not have the capability to help such people out of their bondage should they desire freedom. A problem occurs when we react in fear instead of responding to truth. It is amazing how the devil can use our fear of a bad thing to keep us from pursuing a good thing.
Discernment is extremely important, and we must certainly take the commands of Scripture that warn us to be aware of deception seriously. But we cannot afford to build a theology that opposes the work of the Spirit, because we are afraid of being deceived. True discernment is not based on a fear of deception but on a love of the truth. And according to Jesus, true discernment requires us to not only know the Scriptures but to also know the power of God (see Matthew 22:29).
Another objection to the power of God is the false idea that we are somehow forced to choose between character or power; fruit of the Spirit or gifts of the Spirit. Some say, “Well, love is the most important thing, so I am going to just love people.” Or “Paul said that without love the gifts of the Spirit are meaning-less” (see 1 Corinthians 13). Or “Who cares about having power if we are not living in holiness.” While I understand the sentiment behind these statements, nowhere in the Bible does it say that we must choose between fruit and gifts or between love and power. What it does say however is “Pursue love, and desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1, emphasis added). We do not have the right to put an or where God has put an and. Both character and power are essential to the ministry of Jesus. They are not in opposition to each other and nor do we have to choose between the two.
One possible reason for this misunderstanding is the difference between how fruit and gifts function. Fruit must be cultivated over time while gifts can be received in an instant. This makes it possible to walk in great power and gifting without exhibiting mature character. We have seen examples of this in our times and there are also biblical examples. While some will stumble over this seeming dissonance, we must simply accept it as reality and learn to walk in gifting while continuing to grow in love and character.
God wants to express Himself to the world, and that’s why He has given us the fruit and gifts of the Spirit. The fruit express His nature and the gifts His power. Don’t choose between the two—God never said you had to.
The church I grew up in held to what is called cessationist theology. This type of theology states that the sign gifts of the Holy Spirit such as tongues, healings, miracles, and prophecy have ceased and are no longer to be a part of the Christian experience or church life. As the story goes, now that we have the completed Bible, we no longer need such demonstrations of power. If your only Christian experience was in such a church setting, you might come to the conclusion that cessationist theology is correct, because typically the Holy Spirit does not manifest Himself and move in power where He is not welcomed.
As I began my pursuit of God at age 19, I began to wonder about these things called the gifts of the Spirit. I immediately came to the conclusion that if they were for today, we were missing something very important in our church. And based on the Scriptures, I had to conclude that they were for today, and I began to “eagerly desire spiritual gifts” (1 Corinthians 14:1). It would have been more comfortable for me to just sweep the gifts under the proverbial rug and carry on with life as before. Then I wouldn’t have to wonder why I hadn’t experienced such manifestations of power or why my church had failed to inform me about them. It would have been an easy answer to my questions about why things seemed so different compared to the Bible.
If you ever have to choose between comfort and truth, choose truth every time. The truth is, there is not a single shred of biblical evidence to back up a Christianity without supernatural power, however uncomfortable that may make us. There is no true biblical basis for cessationist doctrine.
A naturalistic mindset, or world-view, is one that explains everything in natural terms and is extremely skeptical of any-thing supernatural. This is the pervasive mindset of the Western culture and it has no doubt influenced the church greatly. As a result, the supernatural elements of Christianity are largely considered to be irrelevant for us today. While those of a liberal the-ology would deny both the miracles of the Bible and miracles for today, most evangelicals will affirm strongly the miracles of the Bible. But they tend to spiritualize them so that their application for us today doesn’t encourage us to expect such things to hap-pen here and now.
Because of this naturalistic mindset, secular techniques are often employed for ministry. A clear example is in the area of counseling those with mental or emotional problems. If we only view these issues from a natural perspective, we will end up using psychological tactics to deal with problems that have spiritual roots. While not every problem is caused by demons, if a demon is the problem, deliverance is the answer. You can’t counsel away a demon!
Everywhere Jesus went, people were miraculously healed, set free from evil spirits, and transformed by powerful teaching and preaching. Restoring the Ministry of Jesus calls us back to the foundation of walking like Jesus walked and doing what Jesus did. It shows how to bridge the gap from our current condition to walking in our inheritance in Christ. As you read, your heart will be stirred to seek God’s face and go after all that He has for you and the church today!