Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Having Jesus In Your Heart 9

“And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen. Then He said to them, ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.’ They immediately left their nets and followed Him. Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them, and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

“And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people. Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them. Great multitudes followed Him from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan. Matthew 4:18-25

Everybody has a part of their consciousness that is tied intimately and irrevocably to their five senses. I have some confidence, then, when I believe that you are just like me in wanting a miracle to happen. This is especially true when I am afraid. I don’t mean afraid of the unleashed dog in the park. I mean afraid of hell. Now, when I catch myself praying for a miracle of an empty parking space, I easily dismiss it as a light kind of reliance upon the Lord. But when I am anguished with guilt and even shame at what I have done, it is very dangerous to ask the Lord to miraculously take away the mistake and so my guilt. If that happened, my repentance would be empty, my regeneration halted, and my journey to hell unimpeded.

So think about the people Jesus was trying to reach. How would we feel if a small group came along saying they had the answer to all the world’s ills and prophesied that the cure is here! That’s what the newly chosen Apostles were telling people. And Jesus was not only saying it (“Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand”), but also doing miracles that convinced all who saw it or were healed.

We are certainly more spiritually mature than those people before the Glorification and the second coming. So miracles, which impact change only on that lowest, natural part of our being, cannot advance our salvation. But in Jesus’ day, miracles actually made a difference. No wonder there were many church leaders who were very skeptical of Jesus and His followers. Jesus seemed to have an unusually powerful influence on people, getting them to follow Him and then so impressing the ordinary people when they heard Him in a synagogue that they considered Him a celebrity. When it became known that He was reading the Torah in the local synagogue on the Sabbath, and then teaching about it, crowds would come from all around to hear His teaching.

According to this pattern, then, it seems that our best course of action is to get excited when we hear an idea from the Word and believe it despite our feelings. Whenever we are afraid of something, we can go hear the Lord speak. Whenever we feel forced to do something, or catch ourselves doing something we don’t want to do, or are stopped from doing something, we can read the Word looking for the ways the Lord encourages and leads us. The Lord has many helpers in the world still! We can listen to Jesus’ words and allow them to help us ask the Lord for help.

The hells wish to redirect our attention away from the healing the Lord offers. It is significant that Jesus taught before He did miracles. Today, because miracles have limited impact and do not carry us on the journey of salvation, it is vital that we first listen to the Lord through His Word. When His teaching is settled in our lives – when we as it were go to the synagogue for the purpose of hearing Him – and we thus reject the message of the evil spirits, we will experience a miracle, a healing of our spirit.

To test this, I suggest you make a list. First, list the ways you have felt forced to do something you knew wasn’t right. Maybe you lied to cover for a mistake. The hells were then compelling you to lie! Add the times you have caught yourself doing something you knew was wrong, like yelling at your spouse or being selfish. Again, evil spirits love to control you in those moments. And add the times you now realize you could have acted but didn’t, like the time a friend did something wrong, or you didn’t say sorry, or thank you. After making such a list, open the Word in a favorite place - Joshua, the Psalms, a Gospel or Revelation or Heaven and Hell – and spend a few minutes reading, looking for some advice from the Lord.

I have some confidence, since you are a lot like me in this regard, that the natural part of your being that is being attracted by the hells will become quieter than your spirit. Your unhelpful desire for a miracle will be replaced with a renewed power to repent and move on to doing what is good. You then have Jesus in your heart.


Nancy said...

I don't think I agree that miracles cannot advance our salvation. Those who experience miracles in their lives sometimes see this very differently.

Over the years I have talked to a number of people who have experienced Old Testament-style miracles, in the sense of divine intervention. The old prayer books even included requests for miracles (not sure I have seen anything like that in the New Church). Those events may have a profound impact upon the individual's conviction that life is more than what they see and are aware of on a daily basis, connecting them with a stream of new understanding.

Many people have experienced more New Testament-ish miracles, too. When a healthy child is born after a number of earlier miscarriages, a drowned man is brought back to life at the hospital, a cure is found, depression lifts, or an unexpected friend arrives to help us walk a difficult path, prayers are answered and we see God's love acting in the world. These miracles can open our hearts to many truths and a better understanding about what is good in life.

That's my belief, anyway...

Nancy said...

Maybe it is not that people experience miracles that is the issue, it is how they perceive and define miracles?

Clark said...

I too have seen miracles happen, and see them impact people's lives. But, being strict here, the miracle doesn't change my heart. The Lord does as He is able in accordance with my preparing for that spiritual miracle. An external miracle, as I am sure you have experienced (and read about in the Word) will produce a wide variety of reactions. And it is sad when a person so completely rejects the Lord's influence because he or she judges a miracle to be a fake, that the hells are able to lead that person toward hell. It is our spiritual maturity since the first and second comings that make miracles unhelpful to our salvation. But they sure do give believers great hope and energy!