Reproclaiming the Everlasting Gospel
If you listen to the language of professing Christians, a recurring phrase you will hear is "In Jesus' name," "In Christ's name," "In his name," or some other variant. I am not sure what they mean by the phrase, neither am I sure if they understand what those words really mean.
To do something or request something in Jesus' name is to act under his authority. "Have you been authorized by Jesus to act in his stead?" I have often wondered. From my perspective, I would have to conclude that the majority of people using the phrase have no authority to do so. Such authorization is more than reading certain words in scripture and claiming they apply to you.
In a similar vein, to believe in Jesus' name is to encounter his authority and to believe, to accept, and to live by that authority. The scriptures point to that authority and provide examples of people living under that authority. But you cannot hammer out a set of scripture based rules and claim to be living under Jesus' authority or to be believing in his name.
Let's look at a much loved passage from John 3.
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the [authority] of the only Son of God. (John 3:16-19 RSV)
What does it mean to believe in the authority of Jesus? Where do we encounter that authority? The passage continues, making clear the answers to those questions.
And this is the judgment that the light has come into the world, and man loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God. (John 3:20-21 RSV)
This is where we encounter Jesus' authority; in the light that exposes our deeds. To believe in his authority is to accept the reproof of the light of Christ Jesus, which has been given to all. To believe in his authority is to accept the correction and new direction for our life revealed in and by the light. For the light that shows us our evil also shows us how to come out of that evil.
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Hi, Ellis. Thank you for your thoughtful post. My first thought reading your blog was the obvious words of Jesus to the disciples: "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it." John 14:14. A disciple being a learner, I consider myself a disciple of Jesus, and He teaches me well. So I take Him at his word, praying for many things in His name. I don't and never thought of praying for something in His name as acting in His authority. In fact, in my latest blog at TheReligiousSocietyCafe.com I wrote in response to complaints against my message in Meeting for Worship three weeks ago. I began thus: Only Jesus has the authority to judge us. It is He, the light within, who is judging you . . . You want to transfer the responsibility for the judgment to another person. But another person, no matter who it is, doesn't have the authority to judge you.
When people ask in Jesus's name, they are following His teaching. The more they follow, the more they respect and understand His authority and power. It is impossible to disregard it and substitute one's self. For myself, I know the more intimate I become with Jesus, the deeper is my belief and trust in His supernatural power. This coming from a woman who found it difficult just a few years ago to comprehend God as a supernatural being, which isn't to say I didn't believe in God, but rather is to say I was unaware of the great influence the dominant worldview had on my thinking. It is hard to extricate oneself from the materialist worldview even if you don't hold to it.
I look forward to conversing with you. I wish I had kept a copy of a couple of emails I sent prior to being accepted into the Fellowship. I would send them to you for your comment or thoughts.
Rhonda, you bring up a very good point. Jesus' statement "You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it," has never worked for me as a way to receive my wish-list. Obviously there is something more to this than being given a magic incantation to get anything I want. I have become increasingly aware that I need Jesus' guidance to know what to pray for/about. I am often reminded of an incident that happened a few years ago. I sent my daughter on a semi-necessary errand while I headed off to cut firewood. Before she returned it began snowing hard. I was trudging up the ridge, feeling at liberty to pray for her safe return. The Lord spoke quite plainly saying, "Look behind you." When I turned around, there was my daughter pulling into the parking space in front of the house. I do not possess sufficient wisdom to decide what should or should not be done, which is why it is absolutely necessary to act under Christ's authority.
Thanks for bringing up this aspect.
Ellis, One of the emails I mentioned was about my experience in Meeting last 1st Day. I don't know whether you have access to the emails sent to the address provided when applying, but if you do, please read them, especially the second one, which describes what happened.
For some weeks I have been thinking about the supernatural. Actually my interest was piqued several years ago when I happened to hear Sid Roth's program on our local Christian radio station. Sid Roth's program is all about the supernatural. His guests tell their encounters with the supernatural.
I believe it's very difficult for Western cultures to consider the supernatural due to the dominating influence of Darwinian Evolution and its attendant materialist worldview. I read this morning the perfect description of Darwinian Evolution. Here, I copied it from Denyse O'Leary (Evolution News and Views) "Information can be created without intelligence. That is, natural selection acting on random mutation explains the order of life we see all around us. What can’t survive won’t, and that explains how very complex life forms and structures — including the human mind — get built up."
I say accepting the supernatural is very difficult because I found it to be so, though that might be the case for everyone. It has taken me a couple of years to begin to know and accept God/Jesus's supernatural power. A few things converged to change my thinking: reading the Old Testament; reading the Journal of George Fox, especially his trip to America; and contemplating on the idea, the Holy Spirit, Christ speaking to me. In contemplating I realized we don't attribute an event or action to the intervention of God/Jesus/Holy Spirit; rather we attribute it to luck or weather, or coincidence, or something of a materialist nature. My question was why? Why did such a materialist explanation seem more plausible than God or Jesus or the Holy Spirit intervening? The only answer seemed to me to be the heavy influence of the materialist culture.
The change in mindset, as I said before, is not an easy one to come to, but it opens one up to the power available to us and around us from, through, Jesus Christ. All things are possible with God you begin to realize as truth.
Rhonda, I do have access to those emails, but there is only one short one from you in that webmail box and it has nothing in it about your experience in meeting. If you want to write a short summary of that event and post it so that everyone could read and possibly comment, that would be fine.
Rhonda, I have been thinking about your comment concerning recognizing the supernatural. Several things occur to me. First, the word "supernatural" is quite misleading and stems from our provincial view of what is natural. God, who sends rain upon the just and unjust is not acting outside the bounds of nature in doing so. Second, it is not sufficient to recognize God's hand acting around us, we are called to be a deliberate participant in that process. This is part of acting under Jesus' authority. I say deliberate participant to distinguish this process from one who is what you might say an accidental participant. Third, "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God..." There are more powers at work than the power of God, all of which would fall under society's definition of supernatural or spiritual. Those we are to follow are the ones that confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, according to John's doctrine. Now, this confession is more than saying the words, "Jesus Christ is come in the flesh." The true confession that Jesus, the messiah of God, is come is to williingly place our lives under his authority, to live by all that he tells us, for he is the Word proceeding out of the mouth of God.
I don't think I am saying anything you would argue with. But it seemed necessary to make this as clear as possible.
Ellis, I don't think I disagree with you. If I remember correctly what I was getting at is that our materialist world has so penetrated our thinking that we discount that God, Himself, is Supernatural; that He (and His agents) does intervene in our affairs. It took me some time to actually realize how much the materialist world view had influenced my thinking. I discovered I was attributing events, wars, strife, advancements, etc. to chance or man, when there is only one source of all things. I don't know if that makes sense but that's where my thinking on the supernatural has developed from my first hearing Sid Roth.
I searched for the word "supernatural" in the new CD Rom of Fox's Journal. In the two volumes the word was used only once: volume two, page 434 on the CD (page 375 in the book). Here's the passage:
Therefore, every man and woman, shut your hearts against all manner of evil whatsoever, and trade not with Babylon’s merchants of confusion; but keep the supernatural day of Christ, that is sprung from on high, that is kept by believing and walking in the light of Christ, and being grafted into him. This will bring you to the true fast, from feeding upon any evil, and to the true praying in the spirit, as Christ and the apostles have taught.
Fox is urging people to keep to the true fast of the Lord "by believing and walking in the light of Christ." It is here that we meet our responsibility and are given whatever insights we need into the workings of God. These we can rely upon in a way that we can't rely upon those theories that we derive in other ways. And as Fox affirms at another point of the same passage:
Everyone that keeps this true fast, their health shall grow, and when they call, the Lord will hear them; "he will be their guide continually, satisfy their souls in drought, make their bones fat, and they shall be a watered garden, and like a spring of water, whose waters fail not."
One doesn't have to see the word supernatural in Fox's Journal. Fox refers to it all the time. Let me provide examples.
". . . I was moved to pray to the Lord, and the Lord's power was over all and he caused the wind to cease as well as could be desired, praised be his name for ever."
"And in the midst of it I prayed to the Lord and the wind immediately stopped. . ." p 614
". . . and we saw him no more, which was the almighty had of God that delivered us."
"we had a meeting and the Lord's presence was amongst us." P. 593
In fact, one can hardly read George Fox without encountering his reference to the supernatural. One can hardly read the Holy Bible without encountering the supernatural. The difference between George Fox, the Bible and Christians now is that they accepted the supernatural as normal, whereas we don't. We instead attribute all things to luck, chance, weather, medical advancements, forces of nature, whatever.
Fox is not talking about something that is supernatural, i.e. above the natural. He is talking about the power of God that undergirds and upholds all of nature. The power of God is the vital component of all we call "natural." Fox and the early Friends lived in this power of God, they were actuated and sustained by this power of God. We, today, are called to take up the same daily cross of Christ, which is the power of God because by it we are crucified to the state of Adam in the fall and come to be made alive to the state of the 2nd Adam who never fell. Only in coming to this life of Christ are we made partakers of the power of God. Without this, we may have a vague awareness of something happening beyond our ken, but we are not participants in God's ongoing work, we are not living under Christ's authority.