Tag Archives: God

Freedom From Guilt

‘I can never forgive myself for killing my own child!’

The woman who said this was a member of the community in which I was serving as a Methodist minister. It transpired that she had had an abortion some years previously.  As gently as possible, I asked her: ‘Would you if you could?’ The silence that followed seemed interminable.  Eventually she whispered ‘Yes, I suppose so… BUT I CAN’T!’   ‘Good, in that case I can ask the Lord to help you’.  I have never known the Lord to fail to answer this prayer.

It is important to recognize that she had the freedom to choose. If she had said ‘no’ there is nothing further I could have done.  Having expressed her willingness to forgive herself, I could then ask the Lord to help her. Having received the Lord’s forgiveness and choosing to forgive herself, she was freed from a burden of guilt that she had been carrying for a number of years.

We can be guilty without knowing it.  I did not realise that I was a sinner needing a saviour until after I had become a Christian.  We can feel guilty for no good reason.  There is such a thing as false guilt.

Part of what God has done for us through His coming in the person of Jesus Christ is to make provision for us to enjoy freedom from guilt and the forgiveness of our sins: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures’ (1 Corinthians 15:3).

The prophet Isaiah foresaw what Jesus achieved for us through his death on the Cross: ‘He endured the suffering that should have been ours, the pain that we should have borne.  All the while we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God.  But because of our sins he was wounded, beaten because of the evil we did.  We are healed by the punishment he suffered, made whole by the blows he received’ (Isaiah 53:4-5).

John, one of the disciples of Jesus, expresses it like this:  ‘(Jesus Christ) is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world’ (1 John 2:2).  Through his death on the Cross Jesus paid the price for all our sins.  John also tells us that the blood of Jesus, God’s Son, purifies us from all sins (1 John 1:7).

The blood of Jesus washes away our guilt. An old chorus expresses it: ‘There is power in the blood’.   This is a mystery that I do not understand but nevertheless believe.

In the Catholic tradition it is customary to go to the Confessional in order to confess our sins to a priest and hear him pronounce absolution.  For those of us who are not Catholics it can be very helpful to acknowledge the truth of what has happened to a minister or another Christian who will listen to what we have to say and remind us of the truth expressed in the Bible that if we confess our sins, he will keep his promise and do what he has said he will do: he will forgive us and purify us. (1 John 1:9)   Our part is to choose to accept God’s forgiveness.

If we have difficulty doing this we may need to consider whether we have forgiven ourselves.

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The Continuing Ministry of Jesus

I have long been convinced that the Church, as the Body of Christ, is meant to be continuing the ministry of Christ through the person and work of the Holy Spirit.

Something to notice is the way in which Jesus shared his ministry with his disciples:

“When Jesus called the twelve together, he gave them power and authority to drive out all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick…so they set out and went from village to village, preaching the gospel and healing people everywhere” Luke 9:1-6

And also 72 others:

“After this the Lord appointed 72 others and sent them two by two ahead of him to every town and place where he was about to go…When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.  Heal the sick who are there and tell them, ‘The kingdom of God has come upon you’.  Later the 72 returned with joy and said  “Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name.” Luke 10:1,8-9,17.

During the high priestly prayer, Jesus said to his Father: ‘Just as you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world’. (John 17:18).  Then, in one of his resurrection appearances he said to his disciples: ‘Just as the Father has sent me, I am sending you’. (John 20:21).

Jesus was sending them out to continue his ministry but they were not to do so in their own strength.  They were to wait until they had received the power of the Holy Spirit. (Acts 1:4-5,8).  Then they would realize that Jesus was back with them in a new way. (John 14:15-21,23)

This became their experience.  Mark concludes his gospel like this: ‘After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it’.

Paul testifies:

“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me in leading the Gentiles to obey God by what I have said and done by the power of signs and miracles, through the power of the Spirit.  So from Jerusalem all the way around to Illyricum, I have fully proclaimed the gospel of Christ” Romans 15:18-19.

I believe that this is how it is meant to be today.

Concerning Evil Spirits

C.S. Lewis says this in his introduction to ‘The Screwtape Letters’:

‘There are two equal and opposite errors into which our race can fall about devils. One is to disbelieve in their existence. The other is to believe, and to feel an unhealthy interest in them. They themselves are equally pleased by both errors’.

Corrie Ten Boom, who had a significant international ministry after the second world war, says this in her booklet ‘Defeated Enemies’:

‘Having faced fights “not with flesh and blood, but with spiritual agents from the very headquarters of evil” (Eph 6:12 Phillips) in prisons during the war and, later when travelling all over the world; and having met so many people – even dear servants of the Lord – who, though surrounded by the powers of darkness, the devil and the demons, do not recognise them, and do not know how to deal with them, I decided, at the request of a missionary friend, to write down what I have learned, as a help for other children of God’.

We do have an enemy to contend with. The apostle Peter warns us that we need to be self-controlled and alert because “Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” 1 Peter 5:8,9.The apostle Paul tells us:


“Our struggle is not against flesh and blood but against the rulers, the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.” Ephesians 6:12

Demons have a real personality.

  • They have knowledge Mark 1:23,24

  • They can feel James 2:19

  • They have a will Matthew 12:44

  • They can speak Acts 19:15

These are some of the things they can do:

  • Entice James 1:14

  • Deceive 1 Timothy 4:1,2

  • Enslave Romans 8:15

  • Drive, compel Luke 8:29

  • Defile Titus 1:15

They can attack:

  1. Through the mind – e.g. unbelief, indecision, false teaching
  2. Through the will – e.g. pride, stubbornness
  3. Through the emotions – e.g. resentment, anger, hatred, fear
  4. From the outside  – when we must resist them James 4:7, 1 Peter 5,8,9
  5. From the inside – when they need casting out Matthew 8:16, Mark 1:39

Worldview

How are we to understand the world in which we live?

Francis MacNutt, a leading Catholic authority on the Church’s Ministry of Healing, asks:

‘Do we believe in the existence of a spirit world, populated with angels and evil spirits?  Or would we rather not think about it?  How do we see the world in which we live?  The predominant world-view of the West since the so-called Enlightenment of 200 years ago has been scientific rationalism – if something cannot be seen,      measured or proved through reason, it simply does not exist – or at the very least should be doubted.  However this has been changing with the advent of New Age spirituality and a rising interest in the occult. Jesus assumed the existence of a spirit world – so much so that a major theme of his preaching highlighted the clash between two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of Satan.  The question is, which world view is the correct one – the world view of Jesus or the world of the society into which we were born?’

Deliverance from Evil Spirits published by Hodder and Stoughton.

Angels

This is what the writer to the Hebrews says about angels:

‘Are not all angels ministering spirits sent to serve those who will inherit salvation?’ Hebrews 1:12

The psalmist says this: ‘If you make the Most High your dwelling – even the Lord, who is my refuge – then no harm will befall you, no disaster will come near your tent.   For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways.’ Psalm 91: 9-11

My daughter Clare contributes the following:

‘I was about 18 years old and on a walking holiday in the Lake District with a friend.  This particular day, we were walking up Coniston Old Man.  As we headed towards the summit the mountain became enveloped in a thick mist.  We couldn’t see a thing, perhaps only 3-5 metres ahead.  We lost our way and had no idea which way to go.  We sat on a rock and prayed for God’s angels to look after us.  Soon afterwards, while we were still sitting there, and trying to decipher where we were on the map, a man walked towards us, a hiker, and asked us if we were OK and needed any help.  We told him we were lost.  He gave us some directions and then went back the way he had come.  We followed his directions the best we could and ended up going down a scree slope towards the bottom.  We eventually came to a country lane that had a house on it with a cross on the wall next to the door.  We decided to knock and see if we could get a lift back to the car.  They were very welcoming and gave us cups of tea and some cake/biscuits and got us back to the car.

It was an interesting series of events because, although we weren’t sure that we followed the hiker’s instructions accurately, we were led to safety and a means of getting back to the car in one piece.

Maybe the hiker was an angel.

Another incident took place more recently.  One day I was driving up Ecclesall Road in Sheffield.  This road splits into two lanes as it heads towards Ecclesall Road South.  I was in the right hand lane getting ready to turn up Ringinglow Road.  As I was driving, I was feeling very heavily tired and was fighting sleep.  I kept telling myself not to fall asleep and that I would be at my parents very soon anyway.  However, that heavy half-conscious state started to fall over me and I would probably have gone out completely if I hadn’t heard a voice from the back seat shouting ‘CLARE!’.  It was loud enough to give me a start and make me turn round quickly to see who it was.  There was no one there. What I saw instead was a car coming up towards me in the left hand lane, with me veering towards it.  I quickly regained control of the car by steering it back towards the right.  The other car carried on past me in the left hand lane.

All I can say is that if I hadn’t been woken up at that point, I would have swerved into the car coming up on the left hand side.  I definitely heard a voice, and I can remember thinking that it must have been an angel.’

Praise the Lord for the ministry of angels!

Healing Defined

Healing is defined as wholeness of spirit, soul and body (1Thessalonians 5:23-24).  Healing of the spirit is concerned with the healing of our relationship with God and release from oppression by the spiritual powers of darkness.  Healing of the soul is concerned with the healing of the mind, will and emotions.  It is concerned with healing the hurts of the past and becoming released from the effects of trauma.  Healing of the body is concerned with physical healing.

Healing begins when we put our trust in Jesus Christ.  He is the Lord our Healer.  He has made provision for our healing through his death on the Cross (1 Peter 2:24).  As a result of his resurrection, he lives to be our Lord. Jesus ministers to people today through the person and work of the Holy Spirit who is described as ‘the Spirit of Jesus’ (Acts 16:7) and ‘the Spirit of Jesus Christ’ (Philippians 1:19).

Healed by the Word of God

“He sent forth his word and healed them”. Psalm 107:19

One day, driving past a hospital, I recognized a familiar symptom.  Discomfort in my left tonsil told me that I was about to have another dose of tonsillitis. Infections had tended to go straight for my tonsils ever since I had had acute tonsillitis when I was a boy.

This time, almost simultaneously, another message dropped into mind: ‘By his wounds you have been healed’. It was unbidden and unexpected.  My unthinking response was ‘Thank you, Lord’.  The symptom faded.  I did not get tonsillitis.  This happened about forty years ago and I have not had it since, though from time to time the symptom has tried to return.  When this has happened, in order to stay healed, I have found it necessary to stand on the truth of the word of God rather than accept what the symptom was trying to tell me.

The words that dropped into mind that day were a quotation from the first letter of Peter chapter 2 verse 24: ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.’

Peter, the apostle, is saying that when Jesus died on the Cross he made provision both for the forgiveness of our sins and the healing of our sicknesses.  In claiming this he was echoing what the prophet Isaiah said: ‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted.  But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.  We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.’

Isaiah 53:4-6.

Something to notice is that whereas Isaiah said ‘By his wounds we are healed’ Peter, looking back to the Cross, says ‘By his wounds you have been healed’.

In 1980 I was diagnosed with a skin cancer (malignant melanoma) when a mole on my face started to grow.  It was removed by surgery but returned a year later.  It was removed by surgery again. Then a black spot appeared on my leg.  By then I had met a lovely Christian woman who had a strong conviction about the Lord’s willingness to heal so I asked her to pray for me.  I did not have any faith of my own, but I did have faith in her faith.  The spot was removed by surgery and declared to be benign.

Someone who played a significant role in my healing was John Wimber, an American who made a significant impact on sections of the Church in the 1980s and 90s.  During his last visit to this country he led a conference at the Free Trade Hall in Manchester.  By then he was seriously ill with cancer himself and confined to a wheelchair, but was still ministering powerfully.  As the Holy Spirit came upon him, he rattled off at high speed a list of things the Lord was doing including ‘Someone with a cancer on the left cheek has been healed’. This is where my cancer had started and my response was to throw my hands in the air exclaiming  ‘Thank you, Lord’.

The practice of the Christian ministry of healing arises from a biblical world-view, the conviction that the bible tells it like it is and that it is the Word of God, authoritative for faith and practice.  However this is not to make a god of the bible and we need to be aware of the warning of Jesus:

‘You diligently study the scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life, yet you refuse to come to me to have life’ (John 5:39-40).