A Theological Framwork for Pursuing a Spirit Empowered Lifestyle

[The following series of entries is an expanded version of my notes from a conference on Revival held in Springville, IA from April 26 to April 29, 2015.]

What is a “Spirit Empowered Lifestyle?”

I take the term “Spirit Empowered Lifestyle” from Luke 4:14, “Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit.” Jesus begins ministering at this point and it quickly becomes apparent that he was far superior to the other teachers of his day, for his words carried authority and he had power to back them up (4:36). For the rest of his time on the earth, Jesus’s ministry was marked by manifestations of God’s power which provoked a change of heart and mind within multitudes of people. Jesus didn’t live this kind of life simply to display his own virtue, he offered himself as the model of what humanity was supposed to have been, and what humanity would once again be after he finished his work on the cross.

It is important to realize that every miracle Jesus performed he performed as a man dependant on God. Jesus performed no miracles out of his divine nature. While Jesus was never less than God, he never lived as more than a man. This is essential to understand, for if Jesus performed miracles as God, then that is a model unattainable for us. BUT, if Jesus performed miracles as a regular human being dependant on the Holy Spirit… then that changes everything; and we are responsible to pursue his lifestyle.

Two Examples of Revival

I define revival as: “A Holy Spirit inspired event where people are convicted of the Goodness of God or their own sinfulness, which results in mass conversion to the cause of Christ and conformity to his character.” Central to the idea of revival is the Spirit Empowered Lifestyle, God manifesting himself through a willing and obedient servant. The four Gospels contain dozens of stories of Jesus healing the sick, raising the dead, cleansing lepers, expelling demons, taking authority over storms and natural order, multiplying food and other such things which resulted in revival or revival like situations. I’d like to focus on two: Jesus expelling the Legion (Mark 5) and Jesus ministering to the woman at the well (John 4) because they stake out two extremes of God’s manifestation.

Mark 5

Jesus has just crossed over the Lake of Galilee to the region of the Ten Towns. Upon his arrival, Jesus is greeted by a demoniac, a man infested with a mob of demons who is notorious in the area for his violent outbursts, madness and strange behavior. This man runs to Jesus for healing and is delivered from his torment after a brief struggle. The people of the area are so freaked out by Jesus’s obvious power and authority that they ask him to leave the area. As Jesus packs up to go, the now delivered man begs to follow Jesus. Instead, Jesus sends him away with these words, “Go to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (v 19). Obviously the man did so because when Jesus returns to the region in Mark 6:53 the people recognize him and bring to him everyone in need of healing. 

John 4

In this instance, Jesus is waiting beside a well while his disciples went into town to get lunch. While Jesus is sitting there, a woman comes to draw water. This woman had a reputation for sexual immorality and was obviously trying to avoid conversation by coming out to draw water at the hottest part of the day. Jesus strikes up a conversation with her and gets a Holy Spirit inspired glimpse into this her life. Jesus gently confronts her with her sin and she is astonished. She quickly goes back into town to round up the people saying, “Come see a man who told me everything I ever did” (v 29). The people come and are equally astonished by God’s work through Jesus. They beg him to stay a little longer to teach them and heal them. At the end of Jesus’s ministry tour, the people say to the woman, “We no longer believe just because of what you said; now we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this man really is the Savior of the world” (v 42).

The Two Extremes

Both of these stories of revival and heart transformation were provoked by God’s decision to move powerfully through Jesus (demonic expulsion and words of knowledge respectively). Both of these stories resulted in massive amounts of people putting their faith in Jesus as the Savior of the world. Where the stories differ is the means by which this heart transformation occured. The “Ten Towns Revival” was based on a revelation of God’s goodness – there is no conviction of sin presented in the story.  Conversely, the “Samariitan Revival” happened because the people were convicted of their own sinfulness and need of a Savior. These represent two extremes in revival history, most revivals are a blending of the two.

Jesus Lived an Intentionally Average Life

I believe Jesus lived an intentionally average life, that he established “par for the course” in the Kingdom of God. And maybe that is being generous, because in John 14:12 Jesus clearly expects his disciples to surpass him in the scope, magnitude, frequency and efficacy of their miracle ministry. “Great things” implies greater in ever way. Again, everything Jesus did he did as a human being dependant on God and empowered by the Spirit… just like us.

Jesus’s Strategy for Kingdom Advancement

Luke does the Church an invaluable favor by tracing for us the systematic expansion of Jesus’s ministry through the empowerment of his disciples in his Gospel and the book of Acts. Luke begins his Gospel by depicting Jesus as a single messenger of God, almost overwhelmed by the pressing needs of humanity. Jesus is seen ministering late into the night and then waking up early to try to have some alone time and escape the clinging demands of the people who want to make his their prophet on tap. 

After a year or so of modeling the proclamation and demonstration of the Kingdom to his disciples, Jesus commissions them to “Proclaim this message: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven has come near.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those with leprosy and drive out demons [to demonstrate the truth of this message]” (Matt. 10:7-8). When Jesus commissions the twelve disciples, he delegates to the authority over every demon (Luke 9:1) and power over every sickness and disease (Matt. 10:1).

The Twelve returned after several months of ministry to report complete and total success. Seeing this phase of his plan accomplished, Jesus (in conjunction with the Twelve, I’m sure) trains another 72 disciples to do the same (Luke 10). He commissions them with the same power and authority and they have equally dramatic success. Seeing the effectiveness of this model-equip-empower-deploy method, Jesus prophesies that Satan’s kingdom will fall faster than lightening from heaven if they will keep it up (v 18). Jesus’s plans don’t stop here with 84 trained evangelists. We see Jesus continuing to equip, empower and commission the 120 believers at Pentecost (Acts 2) and the whole Church in Matthew 28:18-20, what we call “The Great Commission.”

Commission

When a nation is at war, it is often necessary to expand the army, promoting those already in service by issuing them a commission. When an officer in the army receives a commission it comes with additional powers and responsibilities. The promotion comes with an increased measure of authority as well as greater access to necessary resources. The commission also comes with an objective, a goal, which is the reason for the increased power and authority.

When Jesus says in Matt. 28:18, “All power and authority has been given to me, therefore go and make disciples… Jesus is commanding us by his authority and commissioning us to advance the Kingdom of God by freeing people from their bondage to Satan’s kingdom, specifically the areas of sin, sickness, demons and death. As we’ve already seen, the power and authority Jesus gave his disciples to fulfill this mission was absolute. There is only one instance recorded for us in the Gospels where the disciples were unable to cast out a demon (Mark 9:14-29) and hounded by this failure they question Jesus as to the cause. He told them that this particular kind of demon only comes out when fasting and prayer are a regular part of your lifestyle. Presumably the disciples started fasting and praying at this point because they never have issues with demons again, though Paul does record some failures to heal in his letters.

The point is, the disciples knew the power and authority that had been entrusted to them and were troubled when their experience failed to measure up to God’s promise. Rather than excuse their impotence they sought out Jesus for the reason – and they got an answer! I find it fascinating that Jesus NEVER taught his disciples a theology that accounted for unanswered prayer. Delayed prayer? Yes. Spiritual warfare? Yes. Prayer needing great persistance and faith? Yes. But never unanswered prayer.

Our Takeaways

1) By studying the life and ministry of Jesus we see that it is God’s desire to regularly work through his servants to provoke a radical change in the way people think about God and themselves.

2) Every time Jesus did a miracle, it was as a man dependant on the Holy Spirit. Jesus modeled for us what it looks like to be a disciple. Because Jesus has empowered us with his Spirit, we are responsible to persue his lifestyle.

3) We have been commissioned to serve in God’s army, liberating people from the power of sin, sickness, demons and death and proclaming to them the Good News of God’s Kingdom and eternal life in Jesus Christ. We have been given power and authority over every sickness and disease and authority over every demon we will encounter.

4) If our experience fails to live up to the Reality promised to us in Scripture, then it is our responsibility to find out why and to make the necessary adjustments to our beliefs, expectations and lifestyle.
Thanks for reading this first installment. There will be several more to follow in the next couple days. Stay tuned.

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