God’s sanctifying breath
I have had the joy of seeing thousands impacted in their soul by the direct work of God’s Spirit. Traumas have been healed, addictions broken, and orphaned spirits brought home. However, speaking to pastors broadly, this seems to be a rare phenomenon in church life.
Work of the Holy Spirit is usually compartmentalised into the “charismatic” box, and focused more on spiritual gifts and overt demonstration of power (for better or worse).
But we have far less understanding and value placed on the restoritive and transformational work the Lord is able to do in the depths of our being.
A.W.Tozer famously said:
“If the Holy Spirit was withdrawn from the church today, 95 percent of what we do would go on and no one would know the difference. If the Holy Spirit had been withdrawn from the New Testament church, 95 percent of what they did would stop, and everybody would know the difference.”
In regard to discipleship, we church leaders are guilty of malpractice if we train disciples to behave like Christians without teaching them how to draw from and experience God’s grace daily.
If we expect people to be better human beings in their own strength, then we are little different to a self-help program albeit with a good moral compass. But when God gets involved in powerfully transforming a soul – anything is truly possible.
I once had a young father participate in one of our courses. He had walked away from church life disillusioned with the ratio of talk verses transformation. He was hard of heart as well as wounded in spirit from family history.
Over the weeks as we prayed for him, things changed. God began dealing with attitudes and insecurities, and without condemnation began exposing the lies he had been telling himself about God, family and the church.
While his rationale was changing, so was his spirit. It was a combined sanctification process of mind and heart that culminated in a powerful experience at one of our retreats. He received an Ephesians 3:16-19 revelation of God’s love and fullness. Suddenly he could see how much He was loved by God, and palpably experience that.
The Romans 8:15 promise of spiritual adoption was now real to him, compelling him to cry out to his “Abba” Father with all his heart. But this was not some emotionalist experience that came and went. He was deeply transformed in that moment, and experienced first hand the compassion of Jesus for the people around him at work, home and church.
This tough and crusty “tradie” was now a loving and caring boss who looked for ways to serve the lowest of the low. And years later he continues to be that way.
There are some things that only God can do in our hearts. As leaders we can become skilled at understanding the scope of what those things are, and create moments and environments where it is free to happen.
Counselling is good, but inadequate. Spiritual disciplines are indispensable, but not enough. Community is a requirement but people cant reach into your soul and save it.
The Spirit Himself is the One who transforms and sanctifies us (2 Thes. 2:13; 1 Pet. 1:2). There is simply no legitimate way to do discipleship without working with God in the process.
However, I could give you a long string stories about lives changed through a broad spectrum of inner transformation. The incredible testimonies we have seen year after year through re:FORM and re:FOCUS are entirely the result of God working deeply to restore love, passion, gifts and power to His people.
By creating environments and times for God to do what only He can, we see Him faithfully and powerfully move on a consistent basis. Leaders can’t do God’s job for Him, but we are responsible to leave room for Him to do it.
The paradigm shift required for leaders to embrace is that of partnership.
We are co-workers with Christ. We have our role in discipleship and God has His. And whilst God is sovereign, able to do what and when He pleases, He invites us to work with Him through the dynamic of “facilitated engagement”.
Now, the theology of the priesthood of all believers dictates that each person has direct access to God through Christ – we need no other intermediary. And of course that is without condition in the sense of soteriology.
In a practical sense, however, many struggle to find that deep and ongoing connection which is available and so transformative. Personality variance; family history; spiritual neglect; mindsets and myriad of issues can affect the available connection.
However, we can create opportunities and ministry environments that help open that connection for those who are hungry. God will seldom impose where He isn’t invited, but He will break through barriers to get to the hearts of those who cry out to Him.
Of all the principles and resources that have made a difference in the spiritual development of those I minister too, it is this dynamic that has sparked the greatest impact. Amazing and miraculous things simply happen more often when you intentionally make room for them, and understand the various ways God can speak and minister to a heart.
The teaching, groups and worship are important in the process too. They lead the person into God’s presence in heart soul and strength – but it is God who does the actual transformation.
Look out for more training and resources on this site to help you do that.