Flowing with the Spirit
Flowing with the Spirit
flowing with his purpose, passion and power
In this chapter, we will discuss how a believer who loves God and who is baptized in water and in the Spirit can help establish God’s Kingdom and serve the church in a supernatural and effective manner. Anyone who desires to flow in the works of the Spirit must first be committed to the mission of Christ and be baptized into Christ’s life. There are many believers who pray for long hours, participate in numerous Bible studies, and pray in tongues but consistently underperform in their work and cannot influence their family for good. Some believers exhibit a form of religious devotion and talk but are lovers of money, arrogant, self-centered and gossips. The Bible said that these people exhibited a deceptive form of godliness, but having no power to change lives (2 Timothy 3:5). Those who desire to flow with the Spirit’s power must love God and lay down their lives for Him.
How does a believer learn to flow with the Spirit? A believer will experience the flow of the Spirit starting with his prayer life. Through the exercise of prayer, the believer learns to yield himself to God starting with his tongue as an instrument of the Spirit. As he matures in obedience and in wisdom, he will flow more creatively with the Spirit. In the next section, let us discuss the flow of the Spirit by learning to pray in Jesus’s name.
Praying in Jesus’s name
Yielding our tongue as an instrument of the Spirit. Whenever we pray in Jesus’s name, we yield ourselves to the Spirit as an instrument. To do God’s works, we start with our tongue. Our tongue is the most elementary instrument that God can use to do His work. An example of praying in Jesus’s name was when Peter said to the lame beggar, “In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazarene, walk!” (Acts 3:6). Immediately, the beggar was made well. The Spirit uses Peter’s tongue in prayer as an instrument to do His miraculous works. As the crowds gathered, Peter explained,
Men of Israel, why are you amazed at this, or why do you gaze at us, as if by our own power or piety we had made him walk? … it is the name of Jesus which has strengthened this man whom you see and know. (Acts 3:12,16)
Peter told the crowd that it was Jesus who healed the lame man and they were merely His ambassadors. They were instruments that God used to seek out the lame man and speak the word of faith. The source of the healing power is Jesus.
Jesus taught His disciples in John 14:13-14 that if they pray about anything in His name, He will do it. Jesus said,
“13 Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)
What does it mean by praying in Jesus’s name? It means standing in proxy of Jesus and exercising His authority on His behalf. If you nominate someone as your proxy, you have given him the authority to act on your behalf in specific matters. Countries nominate proxies or ambassadors as their official representation in foreign territories. In 2 Corinthians 5:20, Paul and Timothy addressed themselves as ambassadors of Christ making an appeal for all to be reconciled to God. In John 14:13-14, Jesus nominated His disciples as His ambassadors and gave them authority over all things on the earth. The disciples were nominated as ambassadors because they were fully committed to the mission of Christ. It is common wisdom that we would only nominate those whom we can trust to act on our behalf. Hence, the more we love God and obey Him, the more authority we have; the more we become like God in His mindset and attributes, and the more effective our prayers will be. The effectiveness of a prayer is not found in frequency so much as in the believer’s faithfulness towards God.
To be an ambassador for God the believer must yield himself to God in all areas of life, and allow the Spirit to do God’s works through him. Hence, by praying in Jesus’s name, the believer serves as a trustworthy ambassador, an instrument for the work of Christ. Who then is doing the miracle: Christ or the ambassador? It is the ambassador who serves as an instrument through whom Christ does the miracle. Jesus said, “If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” Hence, it is the Spirit of Christ within who is effecting the miracle through the ambassador. The believer’s role is to discern God’s will and yield himself as an instrument to initiate God’s work. The Spirit’s role is then to effect the miracle and glorify God. The believer becomes the ambassador and instrument, and the
Spirit being the Principal and Effector
The believer is the ambassador and instrument
The Spirit is the Principal and Effector. On the surface, it may appear that the believer is the principal, when in fact it is Christ who is the Principal effecting the miracle. Hence, Jesus before His ascension to the Father, appointed His disciples so that through their participation, the works of God may be done.
Figure 7.1 illustrates the principle that God uses to establish His Kingdom on earth. God is the Principal and Effector, and the believer plays the role of an agent and instrument through which mighty works are done. Jesus said,
“Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12)
As Jesus was about to return to the Father, He prepared His disciples to take on the work of establishing God’s Kingdom. God chose to do His work through the participation of believers. The phrase “he who believes in Me” refers to those who entrust themselves to God in complete confidence and those who love Him with all of their heart. Many do not love Him but are merely seeking to utilize His power. Hence, God has given believers (all who love God) the authority as His ambassadors to do His works. Believers should endeavor to pray bold prayers to establish righteousness in governments and Kingdom values in the mindset of every citizen.
The prayers and perseverance of believers directly affect the outcome of God’s work. Elijah, the Prophet sent by God to discipline Israel by a severe drought said, “As the Lord, the God of Israel lives, before whom I stand, surely there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” (1 Kings 17:1). Elijah prayed, and it never rained for three years until Elijah prayed again.
In the history of Israel during the time of Moses, when God’s people faced off with the Amelekites in a battle after fleeing Egypt, Moses had to raise his arms in constant petition throughout the battle. Whenever Moses raised his arms, Israel prevailed and when he let his arms down, the Amalekites prevailed. As Moses’ arms got tired, stones had to be put under his arms to prop them up (Exodus 17:11-13).
As seen in the examples of Elijah and Moses, the prayer of a single man could affect the whole nation. Such are mature believers who are faithful ambassadors and mightily used by God. However, there are also spiritual babies who suppose that by praying to God, He would fulfill their requests without their active participation and obedience. They suppose that their role is to “rest” and see God’s power working for their selfish agenda (figure 7.2).
Such are like babes though justified in Christ, but have never learned to take responsibilities as sons to participate in the Father’s business. Even as they pray in Jesus’s name, they are not actively seeking God’s will and putting their hands to work. Jesus travelled extensively across land and water, touring villages and preaching the gospel, putting Himself in danger and seeking out those who were lost. Jesus actively participated in the Father’s business, being an ambassador of God to the world.
Those who do not love God, do not possess the authority to pray in Jesus’s name. The sons of Sceva in Acts 19:13-16 tried to imitate Paul by invoking the name of Jesus. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” (Acts 19:15). The evil spirit did not recognize them because the Spirit of Christ was not in them and they were instead overpowered by the evil spirits. James 5:16-19 says that effectual prayers of believers demonstrate the presence of Christ within and through their exemplary and righteous lifestyle turn sinners back to the truth. James 5:16 says,
The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much. (James 5:16)
This explains why certain believers pray with greater effectiveness and power. Believers who love God and who are faithful in God’s work are in fact more effective in their prayers.
Therefore, faith in Jesus’s name is demonstrated through a lifestyle of obedience and power in His Spirit. In a nutshell: In all that we do, it is Jesus who is doing it in and through us! When I speak, I speak as Jesus, full of grace and truth. When I pray for someone, I imagine my hand as Jesus’s hand touching the broken and healing the sick. I imagine myself as Jesus preaching and giving hope and wisdom to hearers. Wherever I go, as His ambassador, I walk in the light of holiness and dignity. And where Jesus is, there the authority of God is present to do His work.
Understanding the will of God and praying according to it. Having understood the authority that is invested in us through the presence of the Spirit, we must also know His will and His timing. The secret to effective prayer is to first know the will of God, then pray according to it. Hence, before we pray, we must seek to know His plans. 1 John 5:14 says,
This is the confidence which we have before Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. (1 John 5:14)
Our confidence and faith come from the knowledge of His will. Many carried away by their ignorance asked God to answer their prayers according to their own carnal plans. However, Jesus at the tomb of Lazarus prayed, “Father, I thank You that You have heard Me. I knew that You always hear Me… so that they may believe that You sent Me.” (John 11:41-42). Jesus worked miracles without fail because He always knew and walked in the Father’s will; in everything He did, His one purpose was to reveal the Father’s love, and wisdom and power to the world. Hence, a believer’s effectiveness in prayer is an indication of his ability to yield his mind to God and to understand His will. Yet the ability to understand God’s will stems from his willingness to obey God in areas of his life which are shielded from the public eye. This ability is not found in technique but in posture of heart. For a believer who agrees with God in his private life, God reveals all things to him. Jesus said to the disciples, “He (the Holy Spirit) will disclose to you what is to come. … for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.” (John 16:13-14). Jesus knows all things and will freely disclose to us all things when we obey Him in all areas of our life.
There was a lady who was in her 50’s, who attended church for many years. She was knowledgeable in the things of God and was considered a seasoned Christian by those around her. She also worked as a missionary for a couple of years before returning to Singapore. However, she was frequently unsure of God’s plans for her life and constantly asked for “confirmation” and signs from God. Signs which caught her eye like a rainbow or an eagle became her auguries of things to come. Because she was always unsure of what she heard from God, she often relied on prophecies for guidance. Yet the Romans 8:14 says, “For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God.” The sons of God will be led by the Spirit who dwells within them. Isaiah 30:21 says, “Your ears will hear a word behind you. This is the way, walk in it, whenever you turn to the right or to the left.” The Spirit who dwells within will give you an inner assurance of peace in the ways of God. Perhaps the answer for her was not to seek for direction, but for the presence and mindset of God. Jesus said,
“I am the way, the truth and the life.” (John 14:6)
As we seek God, He dwells within us and we will begin to reason and discern with the mindset of God.
Now, we will briefly discuss the subject of praying in tongues. The gift of tongues is one of the manifestations of the whole spectrum of spiritual gifts. The gift of tongues is not the evidence of the baptism of the Spirit. But rather, it is a spiritual gift that facilitates a person in the filling of the Spirit.
However, a person may pray in tongues but possess little passion or vision for God’s Kingdom. Contrariwise, a person may not pray in tongues, but God uses him to heal and to prophesy the vision of the Kingdom. However, the gift of tongues remains an important tool and one of the most strategic gifts to edify believers.
What are the uses of the gift of tongues?
The gift of tongues facilitates a believer towards oneness with God. The purpose of this Spiritual gift is to help the believer yield himself to the guidance and flow of the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 6:17 says, “the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him.” In exercising the gift of tongues, man’s spirit becomes ONE with the Holy Spirit resulting in the impartation of divine qualities into him. Oneness starts with the tongue; as for a husband and a wife, the act of kissing is the beginning of oneness. The Bible says that our tongue functions as a proxy for our whole being. James 3:2 says, “If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.” Hence, we can change our life’s direction by first changing the words we speak. By yielding our tongue to the Spirit, we facilitate the yielding of our mind, heart and body to God.
In figure 7.3A we see a difference in the mechanism of regeneration between the Old and the New Covenant.
In the Old Covenant, the process of regeneration is brought on through the meditation of the Law alone. But because the heart (grayed out) is under bondage, using his moral determination (the mind) alone is ineffective in changing his heart and actions.
However, in the New Covenant, the mechanism of regeneration takes on a different flow. Without invalidating the regenerative mechanism in the Old Covenant, the Spirit is sent to help us by first regenerating our words, through the gift of tongues. The gift of tongues, when exercised, facilitates the regeneration of our body (by our tongue) and subsequently, our heart and mind. In figure 7.3B, we see the Spirit working in reverse direction starting with our tongue, then our heart, and lastly our mind.
In the New Covenant, we need to continue to meditate on the Law (God’s Word) and at the same time, allow the Spirit to regenerate us through the gift of tongues. In the Old Covenant, man depended solely on his natural understanding for the regeneration of his mind, heart and might (actions). Whereas in the New Covenant, the Spirit gives revelation and regenerates our being without our mind being directly involved.
When a believer yields himself to God, what are the qualities of the Spirit which are imparted to him? As illustrated in figure 7.4, the divine characteristics are a clear life purpose, passion and power to fulfill God’s Kingdom purposes. The process of acquiring oneness with God begins with man’s spirit; for the mind and heart are often deceitful and hinder the process.
That is why praying in the spirit is so important. Hence, Apostle Paul wrote, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful.” (1 Corinthians 14:14). When a believer prays in tongues, his spirit prays, and his mind is not involved in the process. Here is where a communion that transcends logic and natural senses occurs between his spirit and the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2 says, “For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God.” In fact, praying in tongues not only facilitates, it accelerates the process of achieving unity with God. Praying in tongues is a communion of the most intimate kind; it is the most advanced and glorious form of communion between God and man. Everything happen so fast in the spirit that the mind, the heart and the body can only do catch up to unpack and make sense of the mysteries that are imparted in the Spirit. 1 Corinthians 14:2 says, “but in his spirit he speaks mysteries.” Without the gift of tongues, a believer is left to edify himself through the discipline and wisdom of his natural abilities. In this case, the mind becomes a “bottleneck” limiting the impartations of the Spirit’s revelations and gifts into his being.
In my daily practice of praying in tongues, the feeling of emptiness and confusion dissipates into clarity and confidence. Thus, in acquiring divine purpose and wisdom, I am able to prioritize my tasks according to the mind of the Spirit. In the process, passion returns with thanksgiving and enthusiasm for the responsibilities at hand. I feel like I am in the rhythm of the Spirit, a momentum of confidence where no challenges can hinder me. The days when I have not prayed in tongues were usually less effective and I tend to become more uptight and caught up in a maze of problems and anxieties.
The gift of tongues facilitates oneness in the community. A community that prays together in the Spirit is united in love and power to do the mighty works of God. However, praying in the Spirit is not confined to praying in an unknown language; it involves praying with understanding and speaking positively to one another with songs and giving thanks to God (Ephesians 5:19-20). In the passage below, Apostle Paul encouraged believers not to be drunk with wine, but to be filled with the Spirit, and speaking to one another in psalms or scriptural songs.
And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, 19 speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; 20 always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father. (Ephesians 5:18-20)
The focus here is not the manifestation of the Spirit in an unknown language, but rather, a Spirit-filled attitude of love and thankfulness towards God. As the community prays in the Spirit, it destroys the works of the devil who sows discord and strife. The community must put on “humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one another in love, being diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4:2-3). Praying in the Spirit is the church’s weapon against the attacks of the devil which seek to cause divisions in the community.
God answers the prayers of a united community. There are many passages in the Bible which promise blessings for a people who are united in love and vision, such as Psalm 133, Matthew 19:18, 18:19, and Ephesians 3:17-20. The Bible taught in 1 Corinthians 12:26 concerning the attitude of members in a church that “if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.” Praying together in the Spirit creates a unity of love which releases the blessings of God.
The gift of tongues facilitates the reception of Spiritual revelations. Praying in tongues helps the believer grasp the Spirit’s revelations to receive them by faith. It prepares the believer to eventually pray with his mind and receive the Spirit’s blessings. In the process of praying in tongues, he envisages God’s Kingdom in the context of his environment and understands with greater clarity the issues surrounding his nation. Praying with the mind is important because only when believers pray with understanding can the mighty works God be established on the earth. Praying in tongues has no direct effect in changing our circumstances. Only by praying with the mind according to His will, can we establish God’s Kingdom on the earth. In the passage below, Paul explains the effective use of the gift of tongues to illuminate the mind to the will of God, through the gift of interpretation.
Therefore let one who speaks in a tongue pray that he may interpret… What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also. (1 Corinthians 14:13,15)
When a believer prays in tongues by himself, the gift of interpretation works in the background interpreting the things of Spirit as he prays. When the church prays together, the interpretation of tongues works simultaneously among believers revealing the things of the Spirit, giving them unity and direction in the plans of God. A church that does not pray in tongues lacks an effective tool to unite themselves in love and passion. At the same time, a church which does not pray with understanding lacks the unity for a specific direction. Churches should pray together in the spirit as often as possible resulting in peace and love. They should also pray with understanding resulting in unity in a common direction.
Praying in tongues edifies the spirit and illuminates the mind to grasp the will of God. It has no direct effect in changing our circumstances per se. Praying with the Spirit is synonymous with praying in tongues. Paul wrote, “For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays.” (1 Corinthians 14:14). At the same time he said, “I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the mind also.” The church too should pray with the Spirit and the mind.
Praying with the Spirit changes our mind
Praying with the mind changes our circumstances
Almost as always, the gift of interpretation works in the background when a believer prays in tongues (1 Corinthians 14:13). The interpretation of tongues in the form of “Spiritual thoughts” reveals to the believer the things of God. The revelations of God are amplified when the gift of tongues is exercised. But, how do we discern the revelations of the Spirit?
Receiving the revelations of God through “Spiritual thoughts” and words. 1 Corinthians 12:11 says, no one can know the revelations of God except through His Spirit. Paul wrote,
For to us God revealed through the Spirit,… so that we may know the things freely given to us by God,… not in words taught by human wisdom but by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words. (1 Corinthians 2:10-13)
The revelations of God contain the keys and principles to prosper in God’s Kingdom. The question: how do we discern and understand the revelations of God? How do we differentiate our natural thoughts from the Spirit’s thoughts? Paul wrote divine revelations do not come through natural human wisdom and expertise but by the Spirit. As it is written, “not in words taught by human wisdom but by the Spirit”. Instead, God’s revelations are received by combining “Spiritual thoughts” with “Spiritual words”. What are “Spiritual thoughts” and words? “Spiritual thoughts” are segments of conversations with the Spirit. They feel like an intuition of wisdom, peace and assurance. They are clear and distinct coming directly from God, not merely a mesh of maybe’s.
“Spiritual words” on the other hand, come from a mindset built on the unchanging principles of God. Meditation on God’s Word creates a mindset of “Spiritual words” important for the reception of “Spiritual thoughts”. Communication with the Spirit at a profound level requires a mindset of “Spiritual words”. The more our mind operates in the principles of God, the more we can appropriate the revelations of God. The more two people are alike in their mindset and life vision, the more profound their relationship will be.
There are many who spend much time conversing with the Spirit, but they are not able to receive the Spirit’s thoughts and be blessed. The reason is that they have not disciplined themselves in the meditation of God’s Word. They have a fleshly and natural mindset rejecting the things of the Spirit. Having a spiritual mindset (or a mindset of “Spiritual words”) enables believers to understand and receive the things of God. Paul wrote,
A natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because he does not possess the spiritual mindset to discern them. But he who is spiritual sees all things through the perspective of the Spirit, even though no one else may agree. (1 Corinthians 2:14-15, paraphrased)
We need to spend time meditating on God’s Word which contributes to the growth of our mindset and maturity. By combining “Spiritual thoughts” with “Spiritual words”, we take time to converse with the Spirit through thoughts and weigh each thought with a Spiritual mindset. When relating with the Spirit, we are not deceived by the pessimistic and corrupted values of this world.
The gift of tongues works in tandem with the gift of interpretation through which “Spiritual thoughts” are received. This enables the believer to know the will of God and pray with understanding. The gift of tongues facilitates the putting on of the attributes of God to do the works of Christ.
The gift of tongues when exercised in a community creates unity and direction for the church. The believers having understood the will of God through the gift of interpretation will begin to pray in love and in a united direction.
How do believers receive Spiritual gifts?
Found in the Holy Spirit are all the gifts of the Spirit. When believers are baptized in the Spirit, they are given a “starter kit” containing all the spiritual gifts. However, the strength of each gift as contained in the “starter kit” differs from believer to believer according to their calling and maturity. “Calling” is a term that refers to the role the Spirit has determined for a believer in the body of Christ. Hence, he needs to discover his gifts and to develop himself to function in his role. As the believer is being found faithful in using certain gifts to serve the church and to reach out to the world, the strength of those gifts increases. Apostle Paul encourages believers to desire spiritual gifts with the motive to serve others and to establish God’s Kingdom (1 Corinthians 14:1).
The gift of tongues facilitates the believer’s spirit, mind and heart to approach God and to edify himself. The gift also prepares the believer to serve the church. But, many believers want the gift thinking it might make them appear more “gifted” in church. Some think the gift can give them a “high” feeling. Others even supposed this gift can present a window or a springboard to other gifts. Perhaps, the most common draw is the need to belong to a group, in this case so called “spirit-filled” Christians.
The gift of tongues is a tool to make us more Christ-like, to empower us to do God’s work. If a believer desires the Holy Spirit for the right reasons, then spiritual gifts will be given. Although all the gifts are given to the believer at the baptism of the Spirit, God empowers each believer differently according to calling and purity of heart. Nevertheless, only God and the believer who is seeking the Spirit would know for sure the motives of his heart.
When exercising the gift of tongues, one should not be too hung up on acquiring the right technique, but in desiring and enjoying intimacy with the Holy Spirit. In the process, his spirit is united with God and his tongue will begin to vibrate with spiritual utterances. The gift of tongues is birthed out of a desire to be one with God and converse with Him.
The gift of tongues expresses the words of the Spirit either in a known language or in an unknown tongue. Many believers on the Day of Pentecost spoke the Gospel in a known language inspired by the Spirit. In the case of angelic tongue that is an unknown tongue; 1 Corinthians 13:1 says, “If I speak in tongues of men and of angels.” Here, the Spirit converses in a language that only God and our spirit understands. Hence, speaking in tongues merely means speaking words that are inspired by the Holy Spirit, and that includes known languages and unknown languages (tongues of angels).
When I speak in an unknown tongue, I express myself perfectly to God through the utterances of my spirit bypassing the language center of my mind. For babies, they communicate directly from their spirits. Babies’ words sound like, “bi bi ba ba wa wa wa da…” that which is unintelligible! But to babies, they have spoken volumes. Only later in life when they start to logicalize their thoughts and emotions, crystallizing them into a communicable form, they no longer express themselves from their spirits. Therefore, as it is not possible to use logical language alone to capture and communicate our entire range of thoughts and emotions, there remains a need for a channel of communication that bypasses the language center of the mind.
Many believers begin exercising the gift of tongues without being intentional about it. As they remain focused on communion with Christ and connecting with Him in a heart to heart manner, their tongues spontaneously curl and vibrate. There are also those who exercise the gift beginning with a deliberate string of vowels and consonants. By doing so, they intentionally disconnect their tongues from their language center, freeing them to express from their spirits.
Now for the question: how do I know that I am exercising the gift of tongues aided by the Spirit? The Bible very clearly states that “One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself” (1 Corinthians 14:4). While exercising the gift, the believer should feel edified with joy, with peace welling up his soul. He would also sense the security of God, being one with Him. If a believer does not feel anything, he ought to continue communing with God in a heart to heart manner. The gift of tongues helps the believer communicate at a level where known languages become inadequate. However, some believers find their communication with God using a known language sufficient. If this is the case, there is no need for the gift. As a believer becomes increasingly intimate with God, however realizing the inadequacy of known languages, his spirit will naturally seek out a more “advanced” and “direct” form of communication, which is the gift of tongues. Nevertheless, there are many gifted believers who love God, and yet do not exercise the gift of tongues. We should grant them liberty.
Why is the gift of tongues closely associated with the baptism of the Spirit? The reason is because the gift of tongues by observation almost always facilitates the baptism of the Spirit. However, there are also many who were baptized by the Spirit without the facilitation of this gift. In this context, the gift of tongues serves more as a facilitator rather than the evidence of the Spirit’s baptism. But, as we have earlier learned that the baptism of the Spirit is likened to the believer being “one flesh” with God. While the Spirit baptizes a believer, his tongue (being the proxy of the body) begins to yield itself to the flow and vibrations of the Spirit resulting in this physical phenomenon.
Strictly speaking the baptism of the Spirit is a spiritual phenomenon, and not a physical one. Similarly, Jesus said the Kingdom of God is a spiritual one, and not a physical one (Luke 17:21). However, what is spiritual eventually manifests itself physically in the works of love, power and righteousness. In the resurrection of Christ, what was once a corruptible body became incorruptible. One cannot objectively decipher if a person who spoke in tongues has been baptized in the Spirit, as Paul mentioned that he could just be one noisy gong (1 Corinthians 13:1). However, if a believer is doing works of love and displaying the power of God, then that becomes external evidence for a spirit-filled life.
Let us now look into the other gifts of the Spirit. The most important and useful gift for the edification of the church is the gift of prophecy.
Flowing in the gift of prophecy
The purpose of the prophetic ministry is to impart the vision of God’s Kingdom to the community as well as to preach the message of repentance so that they may enter into it. The gift of prophecy awakens God’s people to the abundance of God’s Kingdom and gives them hope in the midst of tribulation. The major prophets of the Bible, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Jesus and John who wrote the book of Revelations, all have one purpose: To preach the coming of God’s Kingdom and the message of repentance. The prophets of today will likewise carry the same mission.
The prophet’s mission is to preach the coming of God’s Kingdom and the message of repentance so that all may enter into it
The prophet of God carries in his message the hope of God’s Kingdom and the urgency for repentance. The prophet is one whom God entrust with His authority. God said in Isaiah’s words concerning the authority of the Prophet anointed with the Spirit, “And the government will rest on His shoulders” (Isaiah 9:5). Hence, the Prophet speaks with God’s voice, and possesses His authority over governments either to bless or to chastise. God also holds the prophet responsible for the acts of the people. If the wicked are not warned and if they die from their sins, God will hold the prophet responsible for their demise. Prophet Ezekiel said,
When I (God) say to the wicked, You will surely die, and you do not warn him or speak out to warn the wicked from his wicked way that he may live, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. (Ezekiel 3:18)
Modern day prophets must build their prophetic ministry on the vision of the Kingdom and the message of repentance. They must learn to prophesy at all levels: at the national level, at the community level and at the individual level. The prophetic message usually includes the reward for obedience or chastisement if the people stick to their evil ways.
The prophetic gift could be seen as having two parts; the thermometer and the thermostat. Thermometer is the sensing or discerning part of the gift. Thermometers measure the temperature of the body. Likewise, the prophet senses and discerns the spiritual condition of the people according to the righteous standards of God. He does not call evil as good, or good as evil. He does not substitute darkness for light or light for darkness. He does not substitute bitter for sweet or sweet for bitter (Isaiah 5:20). He judges not according to the mindset of this world, but with the fear of God. Prophet Isaiah said,
“And He will delight in the fear of the Lord. And He will not judge by what His eyes see, nor make a decision by what His ears hear.” (Isaiah 11:3)
Through the Spirit of God, the prophet sees everything as it is written, “And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him” (Hebrew 4:13).
The thermostat is that part that releases God’s Word to influence the hearers towards a change of heart. Just like a thermostat radiating its heat to warm up every nook and corner of the room. The prophet’s words are like a double-edged sword piercing the soul and exposing the hidden spirit of darkness, so much so the hearers could no longer hide behind the cloak of deception (Hebrews 4:12). A true prophet speaks to the heart with the urgency to repent and respond to God. God said to Prophet Jeremiah, “behold, I am making my words in your mouth a fire, and this people wood, and the fire shall consume them.” (Jeremiah 5:14).
Hence, the prophetic ministry is primarily to first discern the spiritual condition of the heart and thereafter, to speak the message of repentance and hope of the Kingdom.
Guidelines for discerning the spiritual condition. The process of discernment should begin with the spiritual identity of the person and then go deeper into his spiritual condition and eventually his spiritual calling. The following checklist may be used:
– Is he a born-again child of God? Here, the prophetic thermometer discerns if he has encountered God and made a decision to accept Him as his Father and Lord. The prophetic thermostat influences the hearer towards repentance through his need for salvation and to make Jesus as Lord of his life. As the minister discerns and verbalizes the hearer’s needs, fears and emptiness, the hearer is moved to repentance by the Spirit’s empathy and love.
– What is his state of sanctification and obedience towards God? The prophetic thermometer identifies the issues or bondages which hinder his growth towards Christ-likeness. The prophetic thermostat speaks the truth and encourages the believer towards obedience and righteous living. The believer enters the Kingdom through an inaugural commitment to walk in the ways of God. But as he begins to confront his sinful nature and do battle with his “old self”, the minister identifies his state of struggle, affirms God’s truths and the believer’s eventual victory over sin. Through the prophetic ministry, the believer is encouraged by God’s faithfulness and in empathy with Christ’s very own struggles and earthly temptations.
– What are his present difficulties and struggles? The prophetic thermometer discerns what God is doing in his current trials (e.g. Difficulties at work, relationship problems in the family or sickness etc.) The prophetic thermostat reveals God’s purposes in his current trial and speaks strength and anointing into his life. Here, the prophet prophesies to the hearer divine wisdom and specific instructions which leads to his eventual victory over his circumstances.
– What are his present strengths and his role in serving the church and the community? The prophetic thermometer discerns strengths that are resident in the spirit. The prophetic thermometer encourages the hearer to serve God effectively according to calling. The prophetic minister senses the qualities of the hearer’s personality and his inherent strengths. A person’s strengths or personality traits can be categorized into the following: wisdom (teaching), authority (leadership) and love (helps and service). As the gifts of the Spirit works in tandem with the believer’s personality, understanding the hearer’s personality is one way to discern his role in God’s Kingdom. Having insight into the hearer’s strengths, the prophetic minister prays to facilitate the impartation of Spiritual gifts to him.
It is common for people to inquire of the prophetic minister and seek an answer to their personal issues. Hence, it is important that those who desire to operate in the prophetic ministry to NOT be too quick to give solutions to problems or comment on specific timings and outcomes, but to speak from the principles of the Word. The following section discusses the prevalent mentalities of people receiving the word of prophecy:
a. People often seek solutions rather than the divine purpose for their tribulation. Instead of putting their confidence in Jesus, they seek to minimize their pain and escape from their tribulation. Although painful tribulations are for the purpose of sanctifying the soul towards Christ-likeness. The well-intended prophetic minister may very well play into the wayward desires of people seeking prophetic guidance or power for deliverance. People often come to church seeking direction, but fail to understand the divine purpose and the wisdom required for breakthrough.
b. People who are immature in understanding, in wisdom and in the ways of God may hear the prophecy jump into working out a solution. This is especially true in the drama of visions. Even though the prophecy may be veritable, they did not prepare themselves adequately and ignored God’s timing. They committed themselves prematurely. Instead of seeking to understand what has gone wrong with themselves, they often lay blame onto the person who gave the prophecy. The fulfillment of every prophecy requires personal preparation and perseverance in order to prosper.
Moses brought the people out of Egypt with a vivid vision of a land flowing with milk and honey, a land to call their own. However, the people were not ready to leave the culture of Egypt and the mentality of slavery. Hence, their bodies were buried in the wilderness. The prophecy, although true, still did not prosper them.
People need to understand their mistakes and renew their minds. They also need to be reminded of God’s purposes for their suffering and to live life with positive attitude. The prophetic operation must focus on restoring the vision and wisdom of God’s Kingdom. Jesus showed us how he spoke the prophetic word in revealing life issues and instilling wisdom towards abundant living. In John 4, Jesus talked about a new lifestyle in God’s Kingdom – the attitude of worshiping God in spirit and truth. He also revealed the woman’s broken love life and gave her hope in reconciliation with God. In Luke 6, Jesus revealed the self-righteous nature of Simon the Pharisee and taught Him salvation by grace. Ministers who use mental images to prophesy, need to consciously package their messages into workable wisdom for the hearers. Many of their messages come across as being excessively poetic and rhetorical leaving too much to the personal interpretation of their hearers. All ministers must learn to strike a balance between inspiration and instruction, so that hearers remain focused on wisdom and the vision of God’s Kingdom.
The prophet must prophesy and minister first to himself. God will first deal with the minister before commissioning him to minister to others. The great men of the Old and the New Testament: Abraham, Moses, Joseph and the Paul, were all molded by God before they were sent out.
One cannot look out for the speck in another person’s eye when he has a log in his own eye (Matthew 7:3). Only by walking in the light, will I be able to see clearly and bring others in. I must first experience victory in my private life before I can have public victory and lead others into righteousness. The prophetic gifts belong with the wise and the righteous. A person who walks in his own fleshly desires can never discern light and darkness for he himself is blinded (Matthew 15:14). A person living in habitual sins would most definitely project false doctrines and deceptions into his teachings. A prophetic minister must walk in righteousness and love God wholeheartedly. A false prophet is one who lives in a world of sin but tries to present himself as a messenger of righteousness. Therefore, a prophetic minister must begin by discerning the spiritual condition of his own heart, and prophesy to himself righteousness and wholehearted love for God.
The elements of the prophetic ministry are truth, grace and vision of the Kingdom. Jesus is the Messiah sent from heaven who is full of truth and grace (John 1:14). Jesus’s role as written in the Prophetic book of Revelation is that of a Prophet; “For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy” (Revelation 19:10). He is also the Prophet who proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom (Luke 24:19, Deuteronomy 18:18-20, Matthew 4:17). The prophetic ministry as seen in Jesus consists of three elements: truth, grace and vision for the Kingdom.
The first element is the revelation of God’s truth. Truth sets the standard to which our heart and mind must conform to. The prophetic ministry reveals the message of truth to the hearer, giving him direction towards righteous living. The prophetic message must be clear and relevant to culture; it must uncover hypocrisy and deception. The hearer needs to understand in a concrete way where he has gone wrong, and how to make it right. The message must be spoken with authority as coming from God. The hearers must be challenged to walk in the truth resulting in blessings or painful discipline if he disobeys.
In the ministry of Ezekiel, God gave him a message of lamentations, mourning and woe for the people of Israel who continually rebelled against God. The message is considered inappropriate, condemning and unacceptable in today’s culture of self-absorbed grace. Even so, the message of God whether it be in the form of woes or blessings, is meant to save and to bring lasting prosperity to God’s people. In whatever form, the prophetic message is wholly salvific in its intent. God told Ezekiel to eat of the scroll that contained the woes, and it became as sweet as honey in his mouth.
Then He said to me, “Son of man, eat what you find; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.” 2 So I opened my mouth, and He fed me this scroll. 3 He said to me, “Son of man, feed your stomach and fill your body with this scroll which I am giving you.” Then I ate it, and it was sweet as honey in my mouth. (Ezekiel 3:1-3)
The word of prophecy is sweet and is able save if received through repentance. Jesus warned the members of the Jewish community, who did not practice the truth, the consequence of being thrown out of God’s Kingdom. Jesus taught,
“24 Strive to enter through the narrow door; for many, I tell you, will seek to enter and will not be able. 25 Once the head of the house gets up and shuts the door, and you begin to stand outside and knock on the door, saying, Lord, open up to us! then He will answer and say to you, I do not know where you are from; depart from ME, all you evildoers. 28 In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth when you see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the kingdom of God, but yourselves being thrown out.” (Luke 13:24-28)
In the passage above, Jesus warned the hearers of the consequence of disobedience; He explicitly described that place of weeping and gnashing of teeth. The Jews were under a deception thinking they were immune to the judgment of God.
The second element of the prophetic ministry is grace. Truth provides a clear direction towards abundant living, but it is grace which empowers the believer to live out the truth. Grace breaks the bondage of sin resulting in forgiveness and hope for a blessed future. Jesus’s messages carry uncompromising themes of honesty and justice. Yet Luke 15:1 says, “Tax collectors and the sinners were coming near to Jesus to listen to Him.” The Pharisees and the Scribes grumbled and said, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” (Luke 15:2). Jesus did not condemn sinners but forgave their sins and taught them the way of the truth.
Jesus said to the paralytic upon seeing their faith, “Your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Without enquiring into her background, Jesus, said to the woman who was known as a sinner, “Your sins have been forgiven.” People must ultimately be motivated by love and not by fear. Fear of punishment can change a person’s decision momentarily, but it is grace which causes him to persevere in the right direction. The invitation of love far surpasses the threat of punishment. Punishment is meant for those whose hearts are bent on evil. For those who desire to live a righteous life, but were struggle against their sinful nature, God reaches out with love.
The third element is vision of the Kingdom. The prophet must first possess the vision of the Kingdom, without which he cannot fulfill his role as a prophet of God. He must first receive the vision from God concerning the nation(s). As seen in figure 7.5, the vision concerning the nation(s) is the prophecy that drives all prophecies at the community level and the individual level.
The prophetic word concerning the nation(s) forms the foundation of his entire prophetic ministry. It is through the prophetic word to the nation(s) that the prophet unites communities and individuals towards repentance. For example, in Jeremiah 27:12-15, Jeremiah prophesied that Judah would be chastised by God for a period of time. All communities and individuals needed to submit themselves under Nebuchadnezzar the King of Babylon and serve him. However, there were many false prophets during that time who prophesied peace and prosperity misleading communities and individuals. As a sign of disapproval God even put Hananiah the false prophet to death. In a later incident, Jeremiah was put into prison because he refused to prophesy peace as directed by Zedekiah, the King of Judah. Ironically, while in prison, he received the prophecy from God concerning the future restoration of Judah. That vision at the national level led him to a personal decision to purchase land while Judah was being besieged by Babylon. The vision of the prosperous Judah led Jeremiah to purchase land while the rest of Judah was in a sell-off frenzy (Jeremiah 32:6-15). Without the prophetic word at the national level, there can be no prophetic word and guidance to the individual. The prophetic minister must seek to understand God’s plans and vision for the nation(s) before he can minister to the individual!
As recorded in Matthew 4:17, Jesus called the people to repentance, “From that time Jesus began to proclaim, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.’” Jesus’s primary mission on earth was to establish the Father’s Kingdom by preaching repentance and hope. The Old Testament prophets, Moses, Isaiah and Micah possessed a clear and compelling vision of the Kingdom and communicate it graphically to the people. Moses spoke of a land flowing with milk and honey (Exodus 3:8). Isaiah spoke of peace and prosperity, “They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat their fruit.” (Isaiah 65:21). Micah too spoke of the peace of the nations, “they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.” (Micah 4:3). The prophet must be able to paint the vision of the Kingdom to the people and to call them to repentance. Many self-proclaimed prophets tried to prophesy to individuals when they have no idea what God is about to do at the national level. As God conceives His salvation plans for the Kingdom, He reveals them to His prophets. Amos 3:7 says, “Surely the Lord God does nothing, without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets.” Based on this over arching vision, the vision and prophecy of the individual is derived.
In order to guide the people, the prophet must carry the hope of the Kingdom, and live a life characterized by truth and grace. Neither should the prophet’s message be sidelined by the popular agenda of the people. He must do everything possible to speak God’s truth in love so as to regenerate hearts in preparation for them to enter God’s Kingdom.
The prophetic gift in the ministry of inner healing. Inner healing is the process of healing the emotional wounds of hurt that have been left to fester. Emotional wounds if left unattended produce a malodor of bitterness and pessimism. These wounds manifest themselves in the form of painful memories which hinder a person from moving forward to acquire new experiences. In fact, it is not so much the hurts but the interpretation of the fateful events which needed healing and correction. When a child was given away for adoption, he harbored in his heart an interpretation that no one, not even his own mother, loves him. His interpretation of the event led him to the belief that he is an orphan for life. Hence, the healing process involves reinterpreting the hurtful event in the light of God’s purpose. Through the ministry of inner healing, the hurting person releases the debts of those who have hurt him. Through the love of God, he receives closure and regains hope and passion for life.
The prophetic gift awakens the hurting person to God’s call in his life and refocuses his energy to fulfill it. In the process of inner healing, the emotions and memories of hurts are brought to the surface by action of the Holy Spirit. Healing begins when past events and bitter roots are shared and received by the community. The hurts of childhood abuse, unequal treatment among siblings or adoption leave scars of hurts which must be unearthed, verbalized and empathized. During the healing process, the Spirit of Christ empathizes with the hurting person and takes the emotional journey back to that fateful event. When the hurting person finds empathy with Christ and the community, the Holy Spirit heals his wounds and restores his identity as God’s son. At the same time, the Spirit helps the person see the unfortunate event with God’s perspective resulting in sanctification. The gift of prophecy functions in an atmosphere of empathy where the emotions of hurts were verbalized. The person begins to heal when the prophetic words of hope and restoration are given.
In July, 2011, an Indian nurse was brought to me by her husband who insisted that she was demon possessed. She had a strange habit of eating uncooked rice and she would bring with her a small pouch containing the rice everywhere she went. She also exhibited an obsessive and compulsive urge to clean the floor every time she stepped into her house.
Ministering to her was quite an eye opening experience for never have I seen such intense demonic manifestations. The demon actually tried to pull her limbs apart while she yelled in pain. At one stage, the demon even pretended as if it has already been cast out for she lay motionless for 15 minutes. After about an hour, she was able regain control of herself and sat up. Thinking the Spirit had done His work, I began to pack my things. That was when she started laughing and never had her face looked so much like an angel. She kept repeating, “I never knew Jesus loved me so much!” She felt a tangible sensation of running water over her face and her whole body that lasted for about 20 minutes.
Then she shared about how she was raped repeatedly by her cousins when she was seven years old. She did not know what happened then, but came to realize it much later. For years, she hated her cousins for violating her and she felt anger towards her parents for failing to protect her. However, all those emotions disappeared when the Holy Spirit came over her. For once, she felt God was real, and in the depth of her helplessness, God had never left her. She was released from the bondage of hatred and sorrow to embrace a new life of freedom in the Spirit.
Another essential gift that is much needed to display God’s love and power is the gift of healing.
Flowing in the gifts of healing
Unlike the prophetic gift that could be used to minister to all individuals at all times, the healing gift ministers to those who are sick. As God is always ready to heal, it is important to first understand the cause of the infirmity from God’s perspective. Is the sickness due to a curse or does God allow it for personal sanctification? God allowed the book of Job to remain as part of the Bible so that we could learn and be comforted by Job’s experiences. The message of Job affirms to us that the sicknesses of believers would eventually lead to a glorious and sanctified life. Even if the believer has to leave this world, his fight of faith will sanctify him towards the glory of God. Nevertheless, believers should continue to believe and pray for healing and at the same time release himself into God’s perfect plans.
The healing gift motivates the WHOLE person towards Christ-likeness. We must bear in mind the Spirit’s mission and not become fixated on the physical needs of the body. We must administer healing with the wisdom of God and not with blind compassion. The healing gift is one part of the ministry of the Spirit which ultimately results in the sanctification of the whole person, his spirit, mind, heart and body. A person who does not love God or His laws may experience physical healing, but will again fall into disobedience and sickness. When operating in the Spiritual gifts, the goal is to regenerate the mind according to the mind of Christ. Healing the physical body is an important part of Christ’s ministry. However, healing the inner man and repentance is the key that will bring permanent healing and eternal life. The physical body will eventually waste away, but the spirit of man remains forever.
It is my observation that most sicknesses in third world countries stem from sins and curses passed down from their ancestors. However, a high percentage of sicknesses in Christianized nations are for the purpose of sanctifying believers resulting in Christ-likeness.
In November, 2006. A man stumbled into my office with fourth stage cancer of the liver. By then, the doctors said that he had only four weeks to live and had exhausted all medical options. He could walk no more than 5 steps at a time or sit unassisted. He suffered so much that it often crossed his mind to jump from his high rise apartment. I laid my hands on his body and prayed that God would heal him. He got better the next day and could walk unassisted and his stamina started to return. He went for a hospital scan and blood test two weeks later. To the doctors’ amazement, the scan results and the blood tests showed no signs of cancer in his body. The doctors could not provide an explanation as it was unprecedented for a patient at the fourth stage to recover within such a short time frame.
Despite God’s mercies, he did not give God the glory but insisted that his recovery was due to some health supplements that he had been taking. He spent his insurance claims on a careless and lavish lifestyle. He continued to worship the four-face Buddha (an idol) in Thailand and cheated on his girlfriend of 15 years. One fateful day, he felt some pain on his lower back. His life was taken within 3 weeks. He pleaded with God for forgiveness with tears but it was all too late. On the final week of his life, he asked to be baptized. God did hear his prayers to heal his physical body, but he was unwilling to sanctify his heart. I believe his soul is saved, but he lost the opportunity to experience abundant life.
How to instill faith to receive healing? The approach to an effective healing ministry is not to be fixated on healing itself, which could be counterproductive, but rather, to focus on who Jesus is, His mission on earth and the believers’ position in Christ. The cornerstone to healing faith lies in the revelation of Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. The reason why a person may not have faith is because he does not understand how Jesus’s death and resurrection affect his life today. Only a clear teaching of Jesus’s work on the cross can produce the faith that heals. Unless the Gospel of Jesus (pertaining to His death and resurrection) is clearly taught, no amount of prayer and repetition of the passages: 1 Peter 2:24, Psalms 103:3 or Isaiah 53:5 will help. In other words, healing is one expression of faith which is rooted in the revelation of Jesus’s work on the cross. Hence, we must first build the foundation of faith itself, and then the expressions of faith (healing) can come forth.
I often ask a sick person this question: What has Jesus done to insure your healing? What made you so sure that you would be healed today? If he replies, “Because Jesus loves me” or “Because I saw so many people have gotten healed.” Then, I would press in further to ask, “What made you think that Jesus loves you enough to heal you?” Or “What made you think that Jesus’s power is sufficient to heal you?” If he is able to connect the love and the power of Jesus to His death and resurrection, then I would say that he has the revelation needed to exercise faith.
I encourage all who desire to serve in the healing ministry to focus on preaching the work of Jesus on the cross and the message of repentance and justification. Only when people start to de-focus from their sickness and refocus on reconciliation with God, will they receive true and permanent healing. The cross displays the love and the power of God to heal and to break the bondage of sin. The mission of the Messiah is to usher in a new world order – the Kingdom of God. Isaiah 65:17-25 detailed a new world order where people will live well beyond a hundred years.
Many of Christ’s teachings were also focused on repentance and kingdom’s lifestyle. The healing crusades where I see most results are those where justification by faith and God’s Kingdom lifestyle are taught. Many who do not experience immediate healing are usually found to be inadequate in their understanding of God’s finished work on the cross. At the same time, many are not ready to walk in God’s ways. They only want His healing, not a relationship with Him.
How to increase the faith of believers to pray for the sick? The approach to training believers to operate in the healing gift is to first help them understand their identity and authority as sons of God. At the start of Jesus’s ministry, He taught about His identity as the Son of God and His mission. Jesus preached,
“The Spirit of the Lord is upon ME, because HE anointed ME to preach the gospel to the poor. HE has sent ME to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind. To set free those who are oppressed. To proclaim the favorable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18-19)
In the passage above, Jesus proclaimed Himself as the Messiah sent by God to do the following:
1. To preach the gospel of repentance
2. To heal the sick
3. To release those entrapped by sin and darkness
4. To preach the gospel of blessings and prosperity
After making known His identity and mission, Jesus proved His identity as the Savior by simply healing those who came to Him. Jesus at Lazarus’ funeral said to Martha,
“Your brother will rise again.” … “ I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” John 11:23-26)
Jesus did not focus on the technique of healing, but on who He is! Jesus said in John 10:25, “the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.” Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life… and he who believes in Me!” The miraculous works testify that Jesus is the Son of God. Similarly, our works can speak for us, to testify that we are sons of God. So the focus of our faith should be on our identity as sons of God, sent to bring healing to the world! We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ who represent Him and the authority of His name! Our faith is in God, so we believe in the authority given to us as His sons! True sons will demonstrate a life of faith and obedience towards God. It is our life of obedience and His grace which give us assurance that He is with us to work miraculous wonders. Jesus, before He ascended into heaven said,
“17 These signs will accompany those who have believed: in My name they will cast out demons, they will speak with new tongues; 18 they will pick up serpents, and if they drink any deadly poison, it will not hurt them; they will lay hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16:17-18)
When we speak in the authority as sons, the Father hears and the earth obeys. We will briefly discuss how believers can flow in the healing gift. A more comprehensive treatment on this subject is found in the book: “The Gospel of Divine Health”.
Declare healing in Jesus’s name and give the Spirit ample time and space to do His work. The power of God is released by a firm and succinct declaration of restoration in Jesus’s name. Jesus taught that the power to move mountains is released through the tongue (Matthew 21:21). In Mark 5:41, Jesus declared to the daughter of Jairus (a synagogue official), “Little girl, I say to you, get up!” Peter said to the lame man at Gate Beautiful, “In the name of Jesus Christ the Nazarene, walk!” (Acts 3:6). After the declaration is made, give the Spirit time and space to do His work. Do not hurry the Spirit, instead be led by the Spirit. Test the result by checking the pain level and have the person do something he could not normally do. If there is partial improvement, repeat the process of praying in Jesus’s name. In Mark 8:22-26, Jesus inspected the result after putting spit on the blind man’s eyes and laying hands on him. Jesus asked, “Do you see anything?” The man said that he saw men like trees walking around. Then, Jesus laid hands on his eyes again, only this time the man saw everything clearly.
Sense and understand the flow of the Spirit and move with Him. Jesus sensed the flow of the Spirit’s power on several occasions and He talked openly about it. By sensing the tangible flow of the Spirit, we may understand the Spirit’s ways and cooperate with Him. During the incident when Jesus healed the hemophiliac woman, Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” (Luke 8:46). In another occasion while Jesus was teaching, and He sensed “…the power of the Lord was present for Him to perform healing.” (Luke 5:17). In Luke 6:19, it is recorded, “And all the people were trying to touch Him, for power was coming from Him and healing them all.” Sensing the tangible power of the Spirit was a commonly accepted phenomenon during those days. This is an acceptable way to monitor what the Spirit is doing at a certain moment so that we can flow with Him.
The flow of the Spirit feels like electricity, heat or running water. Some believers experience an increase in the rate of heart beat. When power is still flowing and the atmosphere is charged up, we know for sure that the Spirit is still doing His work. We should continue to minister and not stop. If the tangible sensation disappears, it is an indication that the Spirit’s work is done for that moment. If the power felt stagnant, then the adequacy of faith of the sick person is called into question. The Gospel and Jesus’s work on the cross needs to be heard to exercise faith. The flow of power is an indication of the presence of faith or the lack of it. It is sometimes wise to pause and test if there is any improvement to the condition. If there is a partial improvement, the healing session should continue. But, if there is no improvement, then he should re-examine his faith. However, there were also instances where evil spirits hinder the healing process and they have to be cast out.
Now, we will briefly look at the subject of demon possession. Exorcism is an important step towards freeing people from the bondage of darkness so that they may walk in righteousness.
Casting out demons and demonic possession
The goal of demonic activity is to dominate the person starting with his mind, followed by his heart, and finally his body. The devil’s ultimate goal is to dominate people and use them as instruments to destroy individuals, families and nations. For some people, demonic activities extend into the core of their spirit making them a slave to the devil and a rebel against God. In such cases, the demons have direct and complete control over speech and actions, much like a puppet is to the puppet master. However, it is not possible for the devil to dominate and possess the spirit of believers. Nevertheless, demons can still exert control over the believers’ mind and passions or attack their physical body.
Generally, demonic activity seek to do the following:
1. To deceive us and detract us from the truth of God. The devil wants to possess our mind, which is the beachhead of the body.
2. To entrap us in passions of hatred, envy, lust and sorrow leading to death (Romans 7:5).
3. To enslave our physical body as instruments of unrighteousness and to destroy it (Romans 6:13).
The main goal in casting out demons is to free the demonized person to live in the righteousness of God. The strategy here is to employ a two-prong method.
a. Regeneration of the heart through meditation of the Word and accountability through discipleship.
b. Casting out demons which hinder the receiving of truth.
A demonized person will find it hard to understand the truth or to live it out. He will be fighting the floods of confusion and streams of objections in his mind. Especially during worship or prayer, he will feel doubt, anger and an overwhelming urge to get away. In more severe cases, the devil controls the person’s soul and body causing him to take on different personas. There was a case I encountered where an evil spirit caused her to dance like a stripper and perform lewd acts. The evil spirit had gained total control over her thoughts, emotions and body. In less severe cases, evil spirits harbor in certain parts of the body causing pain and disease. The most obvious indication of demonic activity is usually through the eyes. The eyes of a demonized person take on a different persona. Hatred, fear, desperation, and loss of focus are often seen through the person’s eyes.
In preparation for ministry, he has to spend time alone to set his heart right before God and man. Most importantly, he has to understand the goal is to free him to walk in the ways of God. Many want to be freed from the torture of the devil but are not ready to submit themselves to God’s rule.
Firstly, he must come to acknowledge God as the highest authority and submit to Him.
Secondly, he has to repent of the sins particularly those relating to the 10 commandments. Unfaithfulness towards his/her spouse, the sin of dishonoring his/her parents, idolatry, neglect of corporate church worship, covetousness and pleasures of darkness. He has to make a commitment to cut off all ties with the things of darkness. The root of demonic activity is disobedience and idolatry, which are the pleasures of darkness and lust.
Thirdly, he has to come before God knowing that Jesus has paid the penalty for all his sins through the cross. He also has to commit himself to a church holding himself accoutable to a godly community.
Ultimately, true deliverance comes from a personal decision to turn from evil, to love God wholeheartedly and to love others as himself. Otherwise, demons will re-enter the unrepentant person in greater numbers resulting in detrimental consequences.
In November, 2010, Lashio Myanmar, a man slowly walked towards me dragging his feet. It was apparent that he was in a critical condition and his face looked like death. The interpreter told me that he had been drinking and according to the doctors, most of his internal organs had only 20% of their functionality. He sold his houses in order to fund his alcohol and drug addictions. The doctors said his internal organs had begun hardening and they could not do anything to help him. When he opened his mouth to speak, his breathe smelled of decay and I could barely make out his words. I told him that his physical condition is not the problem, but breaking the addiction is the only way for him.
I sent him away insisting that if he could abstain from alcohol just for that afternoon, I would pray for him in the evening. When he came back that evening, I could still smell the alcohol in his breathe. Then, I offered to pray for him, but only to cast out the spirit of addiction. As I laid my hand on his chest, I could immediately sense heat and electricity coming out of my fingers and circling his upper body (which is to me a sign of physical healing). Suddenly, he started touching his chest and stomach with both his hands and whispered in Burmese, “Something is gone! Something is gone!” Seeing the way he got up from the ground (for he was lying down), I could see that the Spirit has healed him.
Then, I asked him to leave town immediately so that he could get away from his friends and start life anew in another state. What I initially intended was to break his addictions and nothing more. But, God saw his heart and decided to heal him instead.
Guidelines to casting out demons
1. Engage the demon.
The gift of discerning of spirits is at work here. A minister with the gift will cause the demon to manifest itself in a visible way. The manifestations range from the person “falling asleep”, to losing full control to the demon. In engaging the demon, you get to understand the extent of demonization, the history and the category of the demons you are dealing with.
2. Break the demonic authority over the believer.
The first step to deliverance is to break the demonic stronghold over the believer. After a person has acknowledged Jesus as Lord and Savior, the minister must proclaim to him, “Your sins are forgiven!” In doing so, the devil’s stronghold and right to dwell in the believer is forever broken. The demons tremble because they fear the consequences of staying in a body that is redeemed by Christ. Hence, the more they resist the command to come out of the believer’s body, the greater their punishment will be.
3. Strike fear in the demons by reminding them of the finished work of Christ on the cross and its saving power over the believer.
1 Peter 3:18 is a passage that reminds the demons of their defeat,
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit. 1 Peter 3:18
Jesus’s death and resurrection has once for all acquitted the sins of humanity. The records of sin are like title deeds which allow demons to lay claim on the lives of people who committed the sins. Jesus by His death bore the punishment on behalf of sinners. Christ’s resurrection is God’s sign of approval and acceptance of His sacrifice through which God forgave the sins of the world.
Revelations 20:10,15 is a passage that reminds the demons of their destiny in hell,
And the devil who deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and brimstone, where the beast and the false prophet are also; and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever… And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Revelations 20:10,15
Satan, the devil was forever defeated and given a place of torment in hell. This passage destroys all hopes that demons may have of ever staying in a human body. By snuffing out their hopes by the word of God, we dampen their resolve to resist expulsion.
4. Strategize your approach to cast out the demons.
Demons are by nature rebellious. However, they respond to commands spoken in the name of Jesus for fear of being punished should they disobey. Therefore, the strategy to cast out demons involve the following:
a. Understand the demon’s mission and the means through which they enter. Some demons carry a mission from a higher authority to destroy certain individuals that pose a threat to their work. Such demons are more dangerous and must be cast out. Understanding the means through which they enter is critical in preventing more demons from entering. The usual doors of entry are at birth, idolatry, unforgiveness, a traumatic experience, sexual intercourse with another demonized person and through the intake of food. You can get access to information either from the person’s background or by interrogating the demon. After you have counselled the person to agreeing to cut off the avenues of sin, you can shut the door by declaring aloud, “I shut the doors of unforgiveness and hatred.”
b. Instill fear of greater punishment if they disobey orders to come out. You can instill fear by showing the demon what it is like in hell. You can declare aloud, “I command hell to open up and surround the demon.” Then, speak to the demon, “You will enter into greater torment if you do not obey.” Some demons may leave for fear of greater punishment. Many will stay hoping that you may give up in the fight to cast them out. By constantly reminding the demons of their defeat by using 1 Peter 3:18, and Revelations 20:10 is effective in instilling fear.
c. Traumatize the demons by torment. Many demons will take the option of riding it out hoping to out last the minister. The usual way is to try casting out the demon in Jesus’s name. However, the problem with this method is that it is energy draining for the minister. Having to rebuke the demon, “I command you to come out in Jesus’s name” in successions continually for 15 minutes is energy sapping. While lower order of demons may give up and come out, the higher ones need more patience and strategizing. Tormenting the demons is one way that will cause them to come out of the body hoping to get some respite. How do we torment the demons?
As this book is not a comprehensive treatment on demonology, I will highlight a few methods that you could consider.
– Calling on God to send fire to consume the demons.
– Calling angels from heaven to attack them.
– Create a bottomless pit and throw them in.
d. Give direct commands to the demons to leave in successive order. When you see the person vomiting, or burping, it is a sign that demons are trying to get some respite. It is here that you start commanding the demons to come out. By commanding with a firm voice and in successive order, you give demons no breathing space but to leave immediately. The demons usually leave the body through the mouth in the form of breath or vomit.
The question: how do I know what the Spirit is doing and whether all the demons have left? Remember, the goal is not only to cast out the demons, but to fill the person with the Holy Spirit. It is hard not to notice a Spirit-filled person, as he is filled with joy, peace and passion for life. Nevertheless, as the demon-possessed person is under the control of the demons, do not believe what he says. Trust only what the Spirit reveals to you. Sometimes, it may take up to a few months of ministry for the person to regain control of his thoughts and actions.
Be mindful that the demons’ main activity is to shield the person’s mind from the truth and to confuse him. Hence, our priority is always to retake the beachhead, which is the mind. The demonized person must enter a Bible study programme so that he may know truth from deception. Sinful passions and deceptions are the weapons of the devil to lead a person away from the truth. The person will be confronted with the decision to either walk in the truth or in the pleasures of sin and deception. He will have to make the choice between life or death. Until the person makes a commitment to Christ, there will be no deliverance from demonic oppression.
Much time and effort has been wasted on people who wanted relief from the torment of demons but have no commitment towards a sanctified life. We must assist in helping the person to realize his sins and to feel God’s love. The love of God compels us to repent and to walk in His ways. Apart from God’s grace, no one could repent nor do good.
If we cannot be sure whether a person is demonized, we invite the Holy Spirit to minister to him directly. What people usually do is to assume that there is a demon and try to cast it out by rebuking. After a while, if there were no manifestations, they would declare him as free. The problem with this approach is: if there are no demonic manifestations, then you may be seen as lacking in discernment. Or people may be offended at your misdiagnosis. What we should do is to invite the person to give his life to God and to receive the Holy Spirit. If evil spirits are present, they will manifest and be exposed. Hence, the goal here is not deliverance or casting out demons, but the filling of the Holy Spirit. This is a definitely a more holistic approach! In fact, God commands all Christians to be filled with the Spirit! (Ephesians 5:18).
Have the person sit down comfortably on a sofa. It is preferable that no relatives or friends be present during the ministry. Request them politely to leave the room for a while. Invite the person to cast his cares and anxieties to God. Encourage him to open all the doors of his heart and let Jesus enter into each room. Invite Jesus to feel his hurts, disappointments and fears. At this point, the minister could begin speaking the truths of God into his heart affirming the forgiveness of God and his identity as God’s son. If demons are present, they will manifest and be dealt with. The point here is to let the Spirit of Christ minister to him personally. However, if you sense the presence of demonic activities, speak to the demon(s) in a firm voice, “In Jesus’s name, I command you to come out of him!” The person may sense something leaving him, he may feel freedom in his heart, and a certain lightness in his body. In more extreme situations, there could be a physical manifestation.
Another mistake that people often make is praying long prayers or holding long counseling sessions. Many people are excessively counseled and prayed over without getting a personal touch from the Spirit of Christ. In fact, the whole village in Samaria was transformed not because of the testimony of the woman, but because they saw and heard Christ for themselves. The villagers said, “It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world.” (John 4:42). We have to create an environment for people to encounter Christ in person.
In October, 2012. A nurse in her 30’s came to me saying that she had been bleeding in her womb for a year, which was a sign of cancer according to the doctors. I did not know whether her sickness was due to an evil spirit or not, but as I invited her to worship God, the Holy Spirit started to come gently upon us. I could sense the power of God going in and out of her body continually like a cycle. I sensed the air was supercharged with the Spirit’s power. I did not lay my hands on her or rebuke the demons, for I decided to allow the Spirit total freedom to do His work.
After about 20 minutes, she later recounted that she felt very light as if being enveloped in a cloud of peace and love. She felt something jumped out of her abdomen and the bleeding stopped immediately. She sensed relief in her womb area as if a stone had been removed. Two weeks later, I received a call from her saying the doctors had confirmed that there was no cancer.
In the practice of ministry, some times we feel insecure thinking we need to know everything and to be in control. However, let us be comforted that God is in control and knows all things. When we are in doubt, let the all-knowing Spirit minister directly. Do not be impatient, but observe and learn what the Spirit is doing and we will see unprecedented results.
The Holy Spirit empowers us to forgive sins and break bondages
Yes, without a doubt! Jesus has entrusted His disciples with His power to forgive sins. In John 20:23, after Jesus’s resurrection, He came and stood in their midst. He breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.” (John 20:23). He gave them the power to forgive sins and break its curses. The Greek word for forgive is “aphiemi”, which means to abandon and to send away. This declaration of forgiveness is based on Christ’s finished work on the cross. If the person is willing to repent of his sins and make Jesus the Lord of His life. This declaration of forgiveness immediately breaks the authority of the devil and frees him to be healed of his diseases. He is loosed from the curses of poverty and all kinds of evil to receive the Holy Spirit.
In Mark 2:1-12, a paralytic who was carried by four men was presented to Jesus. Jesus saw their faith and said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Some of the Jews who did not believe Jesus, they accused Him of making Himself as God when He was just a man, for only God can forgive sins. Today, Jesus entrusted us with the power to forgive sins and to break the authority of Satan over people’s lives.
The gift of the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit
The gift of the New Covenant is the Holy Spirit through which the blessings of God become immanent. The Holy Spirit radically transforms the way we receive the Law, encounter God and establish His Kingdom. Even angels long to look at the immensity of the blessing which comes upon the people of the New Covenant (1 Peter 1:12b).
In the days of the Old Testament, God’s people memorized and meditated on the Law, but they could not understand the mysteries of God and His kingdom. But in the New Covenant (as illustrated in figure 7.6), the Spirit illuminates God’s Law in a way that it reveals truth for righteous living leading to a purpose-filled life.
It is through the Spirit that man’s rebellious nature is broken and a new righteous nature is imputed to him. The gift of the Spirit in the New Covenant include divine wisdom and purpose.
The Holy Spirit also transformed the way God delivers man out of poverty and slavery and into His Kingdom. The people of the Old Testament could not save themselves from the oppression of their enemies. They sought a Savior. Today, in the New Covenant, God puts the Spirit of Christ the Savior within man and he no longer needs to wait for salvation to come upon him. Man is now given the gifts and power to establish God’s Kingdom of peace and prosperity which comes from the indwelling Spirit within him (Luke 17:21). Paul wrote, “for today is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2). The Spirit regenerates our tongue to speak creatively and positively resulting in power and confidence. It is God’s desire to empower believers with all the gifts of the Spirit when we ask with the right motives. Keep on exercising the Spiritual gifts in love and faithfulness. As believers mature in the likeness Christ, we will be given greater power and authority to do God’s work. In the New Covenant, the Spirit gives divine power and authority to all believers to fulfill the vision of God’s Kingdom.
Lastly, the Holy Spirit transforms the way we encounter God. In the Old Testament, God was transcendent and Moses sought to encounter Him in the mountains. Moses wanted to see God and His glory face-to-face, but was only allowed to see His back. Many people in the days of the Gospels sought in vain to be near Jesus as only a few had the privilege to come near. Today, the fellowship and the tangible presence of God is with us continually through the Holy Spirit. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9, that what man had not seen with their own eyes and heard with their ears, was brought near through the Holy Spirit.
Things which eye has not seen and ear has not heard, and which have not entered the heart of man, all that God has prepared for those who love Him. For to us God revealed them through the Spirit. (1 Corinthians 2:9)
Believers can now commune with God in perfect and personal fellowship through the indwelling Spirit. The gift of the Spirit is Emmanuel, “God with us” where God became personable and available at all times. The ever-present Spirit causes us to sense His grace and increase our faith to persevere towards success. The Spirit imparts grace into our hearts and causes us to live life with passion and hope. Hebrews 4:15 says,
Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15)
The ever-present Spirit gives us continual access to the throne of grace in times of need.
The Holy Spirit is the immanent throne of grace, the wisdom and the power of God. God’s people today have the privilege to gain immediate access to God anywhere and any time. Through the New Covenant, God’s presence, righteousness and salvation are immanently available to every believer through the Holy Spirit.
Issues to ponder…
1. Which do you desire more: the Spirit’s intimacy or His power? Why?
2. The gifts of the Spirit ultimately result in the benefit of the church. What hinders you from using your gifts to build your church? How do you overcome these hindrances?
3. Do you observe that a person who does not pray and sing aloud in understanding usually does not pray and sing in the Spirit as well? Why is that so?
4. Describe how you have been edified by the gift of tongues.
5. Concerning the prophetic gift, many believers claimed to have seen mental images and used them to prophesy to others. How do you judge the validity of these “visions” or “prophecies”? In what way do these prophecies edify you?
6. (For ministers) How do believers exercise the prophetic gift with minimum error? What checks and balances should be in place?
7. (For ministers) When a sick person who is an unbeliever comes, should the Gospel be preached to him first? Or should you pray for his healing, then explain the Gospel later? Why?
8. (For ministers) Concerning the casting out of demons, what should the church do if a demonized person keeps getting “attacks” and coming back for more prayers? How should you minister to such a person?