[The following is an adaption to a rebuttal (what we call, “I Object”) that we issued on Facebook in response to the image shown above.]
There is no record that Jesus was born sick, diseased, or disabled. So I’m not sure how the comment about God wanting us to be healthy relates. Insofar as wealth, Mr. Benge left out the fact that Christ was visited by wise men who brought Him expensive gifts including gold (Mt 2:11).
We could continue to try to extrapolate conclusions for our own lives based on the events which surrounded Christ’s birth. But there’s going to be quite a bit of subjective guesswork involved. Or, we could just look at passages that actually speak to us directly concerning these matters.
James 5 promises the prayer of faith will heal the sick. Doesn’t say maybe. Doesn’t say sometimes. It says the prayer of faith shall heal the sick (vs 15, DBY).
1 Peter 2:24 says we were healed by His stripes.
Mark 16:17-19 says believers will lay hands on the sick and they will recover.
Romans 8:32 asks the question that if God didn’t spare Jesus, how will He not also give us all things along with Him?
1 Corinthians 3:21-22 then confirms that He did indeed give us all things—-not just in the future, but in the PRESENT as well.
2 Corinthians 8:9 says He was made poor so that through His poverty we could be abundantly supplied (AMP).
Even after two thousand years of attempting to adjust to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the Church still finds the literal life and ministry of Jesus Christ too extreme to follow (or even teach).
Initially, none sound too radical—so long as they stay on the pages of the Bible (you know . . . where they belong). But strip your mind of the fairy tale-type mentalities that surround them. Imagine these literally happening today—-in your church on a Sunday morning. What I think you will realize is that when we remove centuries of caked on commentary, and religious jargon, it quickly becomes apparent that there is little place for the Jesus of the Gospels in our churches. In many ways, He was and is everything the modern Christian disdains.
Don’t believe me?
Have a look 🙂
1. He both taught, and demonstrated speaking to inanimate objects to make them obey you (Matt 21:20-21).
Theologians can explain it away all day (and they do). If there were any doubt about what Jesus was referring to when He told His disciples to talk to mountains, the preceeding verses remove it. When read in context, we see Jesus had just spoken to a real tree, and says “not only will you be able to do what was done to the tree but if you say to this mountain . . . ”
2. He taught 100% success in prayer (Matt 7:7, Matt 21:22, John 16:24).
This was before the days of, “sometimes God says yes, sometimes He says no, sometimes He says wait a while.”
The idea of not receiving what you ask in prayer is completely foreign to the life and teachings of Jesus.
He also rejected weird religious idioms that still surround the concepts of prayer today. Such as the genie mentality that claims if you ask God for something, you can never truly be sure what to expect (Matt 7:8-11). He may give it to you . . .
. . . Or He may decide to kill you instead.
And if you think that is an exaggeration of what many mainstream churches are teaching—–I truly wish it were!
3. He made, “cruel and heartless” statements in times of tragedy that connected sin to physical calamity (Luke 13:4-5).
Jesus uses a recent accident in which 18 people were killed by a falling tower, and warned that unless there was repentance, more would perish. Young’s Literal Translation says they would perish in like manner. He also told a man who had been crippled for 38 years to stop sinning otherwise a worse thing would happen to him.
4. He scolded His disciples for not being able to perform a miracle (Matt 17:15-20)
A man’s son is suffering from seizures. The disciples try, but are unable to help him. Upon seeing this, Jesus could have said something like, “It’s okay guys, you’re only human. I shouldn’t expect so much from you. The reason it didn’t work was because it was all part of God’s sovereign plan. He has decided to use the suffering of this child for His glory.“—Let’s be honest—- if it were 21st century jesus, that’s what it would have sounded like.
Instead of such comforting strokes that we so often hear in times of hopelessness and unanswered prayers, Jesus straight-up rebukes His followers. “You perverse and twisted generation! How long do I have to put up with you!?” (punctuation added).
5. He said the devil was behind disability (Lk 13:11-16, Mk 9:25).
In a world where God and Satan have apparently switched jobs (now a days God is blamed for sickness and disease) man, oh man would Christians get their panties in a bunch over such a claim. And it wouldn’t even need to happen on multiple occasions. Just once and someone would catch it on video or audio, and it would be thrown onto YouTube where it would then be devoured by ravenous Christians who confess to believe in the supernatural, so long as nobody actually takes it seriously.
6. He emphasized faith for miracles (Mark 11:23-24).
And no, it was not some general faith in God as sovereign, or that it’s, “all in His hands.”
No. It was purposeful, specific faith in the desired outcome. Contrary to popular opinion, Jesus very seldom (and one could argue—never) spoke about faith in God when it came to answered prayers. (We discussed this lie in a recent article.)
On another occasion He even said to a person, “your faith has healed you.”
“Blasphemy! Faith doesn’t heal anyone. God does!”
7. Most of His teachings on prayer were centered around how to get things (Mark 11:24 John 16:24)
He didn’t talk about how we are supposed to spend hours, “listening” for God’s voice in prayer (although I think we should). And He didn’t talk about how we should spend more time just thanking God in prayer (although I think we should.)
Now a days, all of us are trying to downplay asking God for things. Always coming up for reasons why prayers aren’t answered. How He isn’t a, “Cosmic Bellhop” etc etc. . . And yet—–When we actually read the accounts, we seethat time and time again, Jesus is teaching us how to get what we need, and even what we desire by prayer. And He does it unabashedly and with great frankness.
You often hear people ask, “Why aren’t the extraordinary things we read about in the Bible— the miracles, healings, etc, not happening today?”
Firstly, I believe the question is fallacious because these things are indeed happening (you probably just need to get out more).
But really, what we should be asking is, “Where are the type of people we read about in the Bible, who believed God in unrelenting faith for the miraculous and impossible?”
See, we’ve been trying to put the blame off on God for why these things don’t happen as much but the truth is, God doesn’t change. People, on the other hand, are a whole other story.
The Lies We’ve Embraced
I’ve found that for the most part, the Church has allowed herself to be robbed of the miraculous and answered prayers as a result of buying into two big lies.
We have substituted devotion for faith. Over time, we have equated these things as the same. You get people all the time saying things like, “Uncle so and so was a minister for 50 years and he loved the Lord more than anyone. Yet he died of cancer, and never saw his prayers answered. If anyone had faith, it was him!”
Think about that statement. Notice how the assumption was made that if you have devotion, you have faith.
Devotion and faith are not the same—hence the reason one is called faith, and the other devotion. As a result of accepting this falsehood, we have made God out to be a liar and impugned His character. How? Because He promised (it’s amazing how lightly we take that word now a days) that all things would be possible for the person who believes. Yet, we have people all over who are not seeing the impossible in their lives, though they are ministers. Though they are committed. Though they love the Lord.
No, faith for answered prayers is not the same as love or devotion for the Lord.
We took all the verses where Jesus spoke about the necessity of having faith in order to get answers to prayer, and we said He was referring to faith in God. So folks go around saying, “I have faith! I believe in God, I believe in Jesus.”
But . . .
When Jesus spoke about the object of faith which gets prayers answered, He did not say it was faith in God.
Shocked? I was too. Let’s take a look at a few instances in the Bible.
Mark 11:23, for instance, He does not say, “If you pray and tell God how much you believe in Him, the mountain will get up and fall into the sea.” What did He say? “Whosoever shall say unto this mountain be removed and be cast into the sea and shall not doubt in his heart but shall believe (believe what? In God? No. Then believe what? What should he believe?) that those things which he says will come to pass, he will have whatever he says.”
Again, Mark 11:24, “Therefore, whatever things you desire when you pray, believe (in God? Nope) that you receive them and you shall have them.”
What did the woman with the issue of blood believe? Just in God? No. The Bible tells us what she believed. “If I may but touch the hem of his garment, I shall be made whole.” She did not say, “If I just believe in God, and trust that He is sovereign, I shall be made whole.”
Right before Jesus healed the blind men, what did He ask them?
“Do you believe in God?”
Nope. He never asked that.
“Do you believe I am the Christ?”
Wasn’t ever brought up.
“Do you believe that I’m sovereign and that one day, after you die, I will take you to heaven and open your eyes?”
He didn’t ask them any of those.
What did He ask? “Do you believe that I am able to do this?” (Matt 9:28).
Again and again we see that the object of the faith was connected to the desired outcome of the prayer. Not to some generic belief in God’s sovereignty, His existence, or Jesus as the Christ.
Lies Don’t Comfort
Don’t get me wrong, I understand there are things that we all wish were not the way they were. I wish that all God required of us in the area of prayer was to just believe in Him. To just believe that Jesus is the Son of God who died for us and rose again. But the fact is, He requires more than that. And I get that we feel compelled to comfort the afflicted in times of tragedy and crisis by any means possible. But lying to them isn’t the way to do it. Telling them the truth is. Giving them hope by sharing with them God’s Word is.
Of all people, Christians should be the ones to understand this the most. Lies do not comfort. It’s the truth that sets us free.
Instead of hiding the truth about prayer, we should be heralding it. This is Good News! It means we serve a real God who can and is still doing what we read about in the Bible.
Christians are touting that the greatest compromise of the Church today is a spineless, watered down Gospel. Instead of telling people about the dangers of sin and impending judgement, we talk about how to achieve success and happiness with the help of God. Instead of calling on the sinner to repent, we simply say, “Jesus loves you and has a plan for your life.”
There’s no lack of critics for ministers like Joel Osteen or, “seeker sensitive” churches that, “fail” to present the Word of God in it’s entirety. The great outcry has been for a return to a preaching as seen in the New Testament demonstrated by Jesus and the apostles.
Yet when we raise the question about another missing aspect in modern evangelism, the silence is deafening:
What about the signs and wonders?
The Church, by in large, has not earned the right to preach fire and brimstone like we see preached in the Bible. Why? Because we are not backing it up with the miraculous like we see in the Bible. We go on and on about how necessary it is that we stay biblically accurate in our preaching yet we ignore that the biblical presentation nearly always had signs following the message.
Think about it. Miracles and healings are what set the stage for the Gospel to be preached. It gave Christians a platform. It set them apart from other religions that only had words. This is what’s missing in our modern attempts to preach the same message they did. We have not shown ourselves to be an authority on the issue. We want people to listen but we don’t give them any reason to.
“Well, the Gospel itself is the power of God. We have the Holy Spirit as our authority.”
Cop-out. The early church had both the Holy Spirit and the Gospel too yet it didn’t stop there. Are we saying that we don’t need something that was so central in the ministry of Jesus and His apostles?
Drawing Attention to Ourselves
People want to criticize me for talking like this because they say we shouldn’t be focusing on signs. I’m not focusing on signs. I’m focusing on preaching the Gospel in the manner the Bible says it should be preached.
“Healings and miracles will only draw attention to yourself.”
Yes! That is EXACTLY what needs to happen.
F.F. Bosworth used to say that healing is the dinner bell. The sinner is no different today than he was 2000 years ago. He will be drawn to the extraordinary and consider the Message like never before when it is confirmed. Christians are the sign post that points to Christ. But people only pay attention to sign posts that are backed by authority.
Does the Bible Really Say It?
Some argue that the bottom line is we are commanded to preach the Gospel in it’s entirety and we have failed to do so.
I know this may throw a huge theological monkey wrench into our previously tidy doctrine but . . . Where does the Bible even tell the average Christian to preach the Gospel?
“In the Great Commission! Right before Jesus left He told us to go into all the world and preach it.”
No, He told His apostles that. If we want to take what He told them and apply it to us, I’m all for it—as long as we are consistent.
Matthew 10:5-8 “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying . . . go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.”
See, if you want to run with the big boys and wear the big boy pants, you better have the underwear.
Otherwise, maybe we should stop criticizing Christians for spreading the message about Jesus in their own way. The, “watered down” and, “compromised” Gospel is often just an unconscious recognition that we’re missing something. I don’t think most of us are even able to pinpoint what it is, but we notice it’s missing and we’re trying to compensate for it.
Then there are those who ignore this aspect of the Bible, go out anyway and try to preach like the apostles—And fall flat on their faces. They can’t grab the attention of the sinner like the men of God in the Bible did and instead end up sounding like raving lunatics that people avoid. Then they blame the unbeliever and say, “these people have closed their ears and hardened their hearts just like they did in Jesus’ time . . .” Here’s another thought– maybe they haven’t closed their ears or hardened their hearts. Maybe they’re just tired of hearing a bunch of talk and are wondering what sets our message apart from any other religion.
Be Ready to Give an Answer, Not Necessarily a Sermon
Does that mean we are not supposed to tell people about Jesus? Of course not. Christians are exhorted to always be ready to give an answer for the hope that is in them. That is a broad statement though. It does not say, “be ready to tell people about how sinful they are, the wrath of God, and genuine repentance.” Don’t get me wrong, that may be the answer some Christians have to the question (although it seems a bit forced), but it is definitely not a command to lay it out that way. We are demanding things of one another that God does not demand.
There is definitely a place and time that the sinner should know the whole truth, but since the Scriptures do not specifically tell us WHEN or WHERE then we all individually must rely on the Holy Spirit to guide us in this area.
As for the fire and brimstone preaching, I believe it is needed. But it must be presented in a manner of power and authority as we see in the Scriptures otherwise people will just tune you out. Unfortunately, the spiritual nursery is running at full capacity in this area and no one wants to give up their bottle.
So until we are willing to look in the mirror and admit we have already compromised the biblical presentation of the Gospel, then we’ll just have to make due with a watered down one.
When Bill Wiese released his book that recollected a vision he claimed to have had of hell, a wild fire of criticism from the Christian community erupted.
When the film, “Heaven is For Real” hit theaters last Easter it was met with much the same reaction.
These are only two recent examples of what has been a long standing tradition of the Church to be critical of supernatural experiences.
We could go back further naming some of the early charismatic leaders such as Kenneth E. Hagin, John G. Lake, or Smith Wigglesworth, who claimed to have witnessed many miracles and the onslaught of criticism they were met with.
When asked the reason for such critical attitudes, Christians will usually respond with something along the lines of, “well, the experiences were unbiblical. What these people claim to have witnessed can’t be found in the Bible.”
One person I talked to concerning Bill Wiese’s story said they doubted it because, though much of his description did seem to match the biblical hell, Mr. Wiese claimed to have seen demons torturing humans. And since the Bible does not say anything about this (at least we think it doesn’t), the experience was highly suspect.
Others said, “nowhere in the Bible does it say God would show people visions of hell.” And this, they felt, justified them rejecting the claim.
When someone purports to have been supernaturally healed by prayer, there is a large portion of the Body of Christ that comes forward demanding documented, medical proof. When proof is not forthcoming, they declare the whole thing to be a sham.
Two Noteworthy Observations
Having spent the greater part of my Christian life witnessing the Church do this time and again, I have made two observations:
Firstly, the logic surrounding the rejection of these accounts seems, for lack of a better word, a bit odd.
For example, we start by saying the experience is unbiblical. When probed for why, the answer is, “The Bible does not ever record anyone getting sick, being taken to heaven, then coming back to tell about it.”
. . . Well, it doesn’t.
So I guess, the rule here is that the experience has to be in the Bible? I mean, it’s not enough that it says in the last days people would have dreams and visions. It has to be a specific kind of vision?
. . . Alllllllllright.
So what do we do with the other testimonies that are not found in the Bible? . . . You know, the every day kind like the bum who stumbles into a church service and finds Jesus. Shouldn’t we scrutinize that story just as much, demanding evidence that it went down the way he says it did?
Or how about the person who tells us God completely delivered them from drug abuse? I don’t know of any Scripture that says God did that for someone.
I know people who say they got saved when they raised their hand in a church service and said a prayer. There is no Scripture that records this practice.
Where is the outcry from the Christian community over these kinds of testimonies? Why are we not demanding proof or additional evidence to support the claims being made? If it isn’t enough that the Bible mentions signs, wonders, and visions, in order for us to accept those other accounts, then should it be enough for the Bible to mention people being saved, for us to accept these?
. . . A little weird, right?
The other phenomena I’ve observed over the years is that no matter what the claim is, evenif it sounds like it came right out of the Gospels or Book of Acts, the majority of the Body of Christ still seem to reject it. If it isn’t rejected, every aspect of it is meticulously critiqued, rigorously questioned and at best labeled, “suspicious.” In addition, whoever makes the claim is subject to a thorough (and often unfair) investigation into their character, what kind of doctrines they believe, and if there is any sin in their life.
Because, . . . You know, . . . God only does supernatural things for good Christians with the right denominational beliefs . . . Like those folks in Corinth who were getting drunk at communion and boasting about the incest among them . . . wait . . . I meant Galatia where they were falling for a different gospel . . . or, uh . . . Peter who had to be rebuked by Paul—hold on, hold on . . .
. . . eh, I got nothing.
Say It Ain’t So . . .
I’ve thought long and hard on this and when considering all the factors, there really is no explanation for the bizarre and seemingly contradicting behavior among Christians.
None of it makes sense.
Until we introduce the unthinkable.
Is it possible that even though we claim to believe in the supernatural, deep down, we kind of, sort of, in all actuality, don’t?
People may object insisting they believe in the creation account, Jesus as the Son of God, the hope of heaven, and everything else in the Bible.
All of these have one thing in common–none are tangible in the here and now. You know as well as I do that when it comes to things past, future, or unseen, they’re just easier to believe. Or at least easier to convince ourselves that we believe.
Intangible things don’t quite put the same stretch on our natural reasoning that an extraordinary, observable claim does. When someone says, “Aren’t you glad you’re going to heaven when you die?” We can say, “Amen!” without skipping a beat. But if the same person says, “I just raised my grandma from the dead” All of a sudden things change, don’t they?
We go from church cliche’s to . . . .
And so while no one seems to want to admit it, this is where I have found we have drawn the unspoken line.
If the extraordinary is to be believed among the majority of Christians today, it must fall under one of these categories:
a. Something that happened in the distant past
b. Something that will happen at an unknown date in the future
c. Something that is spiritual in nature, thus abstract and cannot be quantified.
In other words, if it can’t effect us in any measurable way, Christians are more prone to be accepting of it. If, on the other hand, it has sensational overtones and wreaks of something out of the Book of Acts, it’s suspicious.
Over the years I have quietly kept this criteria in mind and observed that I can actually make predictions with it as to whether an idea will be accepted or rejected by a majority of Christians.
This is by no means an open and shut case. In science, a phenomena is referred to as a theory if you can use it to make predictions. So that’s what I would call this—a theory for consideration.
It isn’t meant to condemn anyone. Lets not forget all of Jesus’ disciples were unwilling to believe He had been raised when they first heard it. It’s natural to be skeptical of things and I am not at all suggesting we should be gullible. That being said, I think we need to be willing to consider the possibility that we have, in some areas, allowed unbelief to creep in and become a driving force in our Christian lives.
Lets not forget, everything in Christianity from start to finish is amazing.
It’s freaking extraordinary!
All I’m saying is maybe it’s time we start expecting a little something extra in our ordinary.