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Friday, March 4, 2011

by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm,

I’ve always been blessed by a particular concept in the Bible. The Old Testament tells us repeatedly how God saved his people by His Highty hand and Outstretched Arm. The first scripture describing this is in Deut4:33-35: God assayed to go and take him a nation from the midst of another nation, by temptations, by signs, and by wonders, and by war, and by a mighty hand, and by a stretched out arm, and by great terrors. . .Unto thee it was shewed, that thou mightest know that the LORD he is God; there is none else beside him.And again in Deuteronomy 26:8 And the LORD brought us forth out of Egypt with a mighty hand, and with an outstretched arm, and with great terribleness, and with signs, and with wonders:

The image of the arm of God reaching down to intervene in my behalf thrills me to the depths of my being. And I think again, “What, who am I that God would intercede for ME?” But I know He does exactly that. I may never have seen a literal arm reaching out to work for me, but I have certainly seen the effects brought about by that Arm. Not just once but many times. And I rejoice that when I come to Him as a humble petitioner that His Mighty Hand and Outstretched Arm will be extended for me.
I pastor I once sat under preached that we must ‘claim the gifts” of the spirit. I’ve known others who encouraged their congregations to “claim the power, claim the authority to do wonders in Jesus’ name” but to me that is too arrogant for words. That is Satan taking gifts of the Spirit and corrupting them for his own purposes. I have no ‘claim’ to such gifts or power and wonders.
It becomes a matter of pride for men to say, ‘I am a Christian and I ‘claim’ this power and this authority!”  It is a matter of overwhelming hubris.
I remember the first time I heard the word ‘hubris’ used. It was by a professor of Comparative Literature who was discussing the attitude of some Greek or other. I gathered the word’s meaning from the context but later I went and looked it up. Hubris is defined as excessive pride or arrogance; in classical tragedy it usually leads to the hero’s downfall. We find a trend in modern religion for men rise up in arrogance, in hubris and ‘claim’ the gifts of the Spirit and ‘claim’ the authority God has for us and ‘claim’ the power over demons and sickness and all other matters of life.
But how can I ‘claim’ something that is already working in my behalf. That Mighty Hand and Outstretched Arm thrill me. I don’t need to ‘claim’ it. It is already Mine! The gifts are there as the Father distributes them and all the tantrums we may throw demanding them or 'claiming' them won’t get us a gift that the Father doesn’t have for us. The only ones who find it necessary to “claim” the gifts are those who don’t have them. And the only ones who don’t have them are those who aren’t truly born again. They may ‘claim’ to be but the gifts will quietly follow their salvation not be more obvious that their righteousness.  If the righteousness isn't there then the gifts being displayed are false.  They are not of God but of Satan.
When Jesus sent the apostles out to teach He told them; The harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few: pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would send forth labourers into his harvest. Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Carry neither purse, nor scrip, nor shoes: and salute no man by the way. And into whatsoever house ye enter, first say, Peace be to this house. And if the son of peace be there, your peace shall rest upon it: if not, it shall turn to you again. And in the same house remain, eating and drinking such things as they give . . . And heal the sick that are therein, and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.
But into whatsoever city ye enter, and they receive you not, go your ways out into the streets of the same, and say, Even the very dust of your city, which cleaveth on us, we do wipe off against you: notwithstanding be ye sure of this, that the kingdom of God is come nigh unto you. . .
Jesus didn't talk about giving prophecies or revelations.  He didn't instruct them to organize powerful events or miracle campaigns.  He sent them out to preach the Word. 
Some like to skip over that part and go right to the verses following it because those verses establish their right to ‘claim’ authority and is the source of their ‘power.’   17And the seventy returned again with joy, saying, Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name. Notice that they were rejoicing not in the message and the power of that Glorious Salvation, but in the more attention getting fact that they could cast out devils. Jesus said: Behold, I give unto you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means hurt you. Notwithstanding in this rejoice not, that the spirits are subject unto you; but rather rejoice, because your names are written in heaven (Luke 10:19-20). They had power over all things YET He said don’t rejoice in this, but rejoice because you name is written in heaven. Jesus simply gives us the power to do these things, but the most important aspect of our lives and ministry is the power of Salvation acting in the way we live from day to day.
Too many ministers today are rejoicing in the attention-getting, self aggrandizing thing like casting out devils, healing the body, ‘ministering’ in all and sundry areas, taking authority unto themselves more than glorifying Christ.  I look at the TV preachers and the those who command ‘mega-churches.’ WHO is being glorified and lifted up?  What do we see when we look at their organizations? Surely not Jesus; oh they are claiming (there’s that word again) to be doing a work for Jesus, but WHO do we think about when we look at those great healing campaigns and revival campaigns and huge church buildings and all the ‘outreach’?   Who do we see? Jesus? No, we think first of the Man who is running the show. We admire him; He is supposedly doing it in the name of Jesus, but, more importantly or rather more noticeably, he is building his own reputation and wealth, and popularity. It isn’t Jesus who is being lifted up; it is the man who is the charismatic organizer of the whole thing. It is not the Mighty Hand and Outstretched Hand of God, it is the Flesh being put on display by the natural talents of a Human elevating himself.
I don’t need to ‘claim’ any authority. It was given to me and it is there for me to use. I need not ‘claim’ any power over demons or sickness; it is there for me to use. I don’t need to build myself up by telling everyone how many prayers I’ve had answered or how the Lord has worked by my hand to heal thesick and injured. I need not claim any great revelations of God’s Plan for Mankind. Those things are already laid out in the Word.
All I need do is look to the Lord and say, “Father, I’m you child and you have promised me all these things. Now I’m asking that you would do this thing for me.’ And then I can pray the prayer of faith; I can rebuke any demon; I can preach or teach any message that God lays on my heart; I can see miracles happen through my prayers; I can see storm winds turned aside; I can see nature do the Will of God through my asking.
And others will see it too--not because I have taken the initiative in accomplishing these things, but because I have put myself in the background and lifted up Christ.
I think of the multitudes who came to Jesus and after Him, to Paul and Peter and John and all the others.
They didn’t go around telling every one about the miracles they had done.
They didn’t go and brag about the messages they had preached or the things that had been ‘revealed’ to them. They didn’t tell people about the demons they had cast out of men and women.
All they did was preach Salvation and glorify God. And all the miracles and healings and exorcisms followed after them.
Jesus told his disciples gathered with Him on the hill before He ascended into Heaven: And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.
So then after the Lord had spoken unto them, he was received up into heaven, and sat on the right hand of God. 20And they went forth, and preached every where, the Lord working with them, and confirming the word with signs following. Mark 16:16-20 The signs followed the preaching of the Word, not after deep theological teachings, not after advertisements of great healing campaigns, not after self proclamation on the part of the disciples, but pure and simple preaching and teaching of the Word. 
The religious community today has the cart before the horse!  They are elevating the miracles and works above the preaching of the Word.   But that isn't the order that Christ established.
When Peter and John were preaching in Samaria a man named Simon was impressed by the miracles the performed that he came and asked that they Give me also this power, that on whomsoever I lay hands, he may receive the Holy Ghost.
But Peter said unto him, Thy money perish with thee, because thou hast thought that the gift of God may be purchased with money.Thou hast neither part nor lot in this matter: for thy heart is not right in the sight of God. Repent therefore of this thy wickedness, and pray God, if perhaps the thought of thine heart may be forgiven thee. For I perceive that thou art in the gall of bitterness, and in the bond of iniquity. After Peter’s rebuke the man did repent, but we aren’t told that he asked any more for that power. He didn’t have that pride that demanded the show.
I’m so thankful that God is faithful. And he cares for me with His Mighty Hand and Outstretched Arm. I only need to ask Him!
It isn’t by MY strength or MY power but by the power of God. Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit Zech 4:6   Amen! I need not ‘claim’ any authority or might or power, it is right there-- at the end of that Mighty Outstretched Arm. Thank you, Lord!

1 comment:

  1. Vondi, this is an excellent article! I have felt the same way about those who "name it and claim it" as it is so arrogant. We already have these promises and have only to call upon the Lord and pray His will for the situation. The promise will be all worked out as it was meant to be for a child of God! Good stuff.
    Julie in NC