Shortly after the USSR fell apart, I led a team to the city of Ekaterinburg, a city of over 1 million people sitting astride the Ural Mountains over 1,000 miles (1600km) east of Moscow, to help start a church. Over the course of the week we went to the main train and bus station to hand out advertisement about the meetings where I would be sharing the gospel. Those were innocent days that were too short-lived.
Their sudden exposure to the west brought confusion concerning fashions and a desperate effort to catch up. Having no context to set the decades of western styles in proper order, people would often wear clothing from various decades all at once: One man was wearing bell bottom jeans from the late 1960′s with a pastel linen jacket from the early 1980′s “Miami Vice” era (US TV show) topped by a baseball cap with an American team’s emblem on it. One young woman was wearing a 1960′s mini-skirt with old work boots and a woman’s jacket from a polyester pants suit and had the big hair style of the 1980′s.
It was all very sweet and innocent, and I was deeply touched by the hearts of the Russian people and their rich culture. I baptized about 400 people who had believed on the Lord that week and cherish those days.
I’ve been talking about the Jewish understanding of righteousness, tzedakah in Hebrew, because tzedakah says if a person has right standing before God they will live that rightness in a flow outward to their fellow man. Church culture teaches right standing with God, while leaving off the (horizontal) flow to our neighbor.
But, if all we understand is the vertical, we can be like the crowd at the bus station where no one had the context to understand how each decade of style fit together. They could not be sure what to identify themselves with, and I see many Christians like that. Whe have Christians wearing ‘streams of the faith’ styles from many decades all together, having no context to establish to Whom they belong, therefore they seek an identity with some movement to prove their walk with God.
Someone may clothe themselves with the intercessor movement of the 1990′s like a jacket, while wearing doctrinal shoes ready to walk through the Tribulation, with spiritual pants trying to relive the Toronto blessing. Or, they can wear the ‘pre-tribulation rapture’ hat with the inner healing coat and have their feet shod with the cowboy boots of simple church. But no matter the ‘spiritual clothing’ they cover themselves with for others to see, it is still all about them and their lives in a self-centered faith.
Why Jesus healed
Jesus’ life in the gospels was living tzedakah as a flow of being right before the Father, and therefore He did healings and miracles as evidence of His righteousness – not just to prove who He was, - but as evidence His life was righteous and what He said about the Father was right and people could therefore believe in Him.
Acts 10:38 says “…How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power
(vertical), who went about doing good and healing (horizontal) all that were oppressed of the devil.”
Today the fact Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and power and went about doing good is lost on us. Many want to have a greater anointing which they equate with a personal breakthrough or answered prayer or bigger ministry, but no one ever says they wanted to be anointed as Jesus was, to go about doing good.
Jesus did not go about ‘doing good’ trying to brand Himself as the newest product from heaven, He went about doing good because He IS good. And so is the Father. When He said He is meek and lowly in heart, He was telling the truth. He is meek and lowly because the Father is first meek and lowly.
When He turned water into wine He didn’t advertise the fact but let the groom and bride receive the honor. Did you get that? Jesus though the Son of God in the flesh, allowed an unamed bride & groom receive the credit and honor for the wine. Sometimes He would tell people not to tell anyone when He healed them. Those are His values. That is His humility. That is how He expressed tzedakah – righteousness.
In John 9 we have the healing of a man born blind that illustrates the Jewish understanding of righteousness being vertical AND horizontal. The man is brought before the rulers who had already stated in v24 they believed Jesus was a sinner. The blind man answered in v30-33 with his statement of tzedakah:
“Now we know that God doesn’t hear sinners, but if any man is a worshipper of God AND does His will, him will He hear. Since the beginning of the world it has not been heard that any man has opened the eyes of one born blind. So if this man were not of God, He could do nothing.”
Why have we been given the name of Jesus?
Healing and the things of the Spirit therefore aren’t side-show attractions at the Christian Carnival, with people gathering to see a leg grow out or go to a meeting to see the latest ‘manifestation’ where God allegedly turns people into blathering idiots, causes them to bark like a dog, or shake like a leaf in the wind.
NO! Healing is part of God the Father’s own tzedakah (right-ness), that He pours out to us because He is righteous. And in the flow of living water from the throne from Him through us*, that righteousness is to be demonstrated and proven by healing acts of love towards our fellow man! *Revelation 22:1; John 7:38-39
Last week I was on a flight after visiting the Seattle/Vancouver Island/Vancouver areas. When I was seated I noticed the flight attendant holding her finger to her left ear. She kept rubbing her left ear, and I asked the Father if He wanted to heal her as clearly something was wrong. When I got the chance I asked if she was okay, and she said when the cabin door had opened after the previous flight there was a jet next to them that started its engines at that moment, and the sudden loud noise made her deaf in that ear.
I started to offer to lay hands on her but she dismissed my concern before I could ask outright to lay hands on her, quickly turning away to attend to preparations for take off. So I prayed this, “Father, I know every good and perfect gift comes down from you to us, and she is just doing her job and sustained this injury, would you touch her and heal her out of your mercy and because I’m asking you to?”
About 10 minutes later she walked down the aisle past me and I asked how she was doing, and she said, “It went back to normal just like that! Thanks for asking”…and I smiled in my heart at the Father’s goodness, and the expression of tzedakah I was able to be part of.
Today we have ‘healing evangelists’ who make a great show of what they do. Today we have people who run to this meeting and that looking for the spectacular, thinking that is supernatural. Today we have people flocking to ‘revival centers’ where they think God is concentrating His presence, so they pick up their ear plugs at the door for what is called ‘worship’, and wait to see who will flop, shake, rattle and roll as a sign God is in their midst. And He graciously does what He can to meet people where they are, but there is a better and higher way…
We have been given the name of Jesus not to make a show, but to change people’s lives where
they live, as discreetly as Jesus turned water into wine and kept quiet*, as nonchalantly as miraculously reattaching Malchus’ ear* after Peter had cut it off, as graciously as healing Peter’s mother in law so she could attend to her guests.* What we find in house church is that most of the gifts of the Spirit operate outside the meetings, in day-to-day life, just as we see in Matthew through Acts. It is a Biblical understanding – God lives in people, not in temples made with hands* and it is within those relationships tzedakah is best demonstrated. (John 2, Luke 22:50-51, Mark 1:30-31, Acts 17:24)
Let us remove the ‘spiritual clothing’ from the various streams which cause us to be self-focused, and start living our right-standing with the Father as He intended, in a flow outward in tzedakah (righteousness) alleging and proving He is good and Jesus is His Son, with evidence to support those claims by our own lives, and the good He does through us.
Next week; Understanding marriage/divorce/adultery/remarriage in tzedakah