Spiritual warfare, following after Jesus

The Lord has given me two directives for this summer.  One is more about studying and equipping, and the other is about loving and shepherding.  The studying directive is to read the works of Charles Kraft and become more knowledgeable in the area of spiritual warfare.  So I ordered a bunch of Kraft books from Amazon, and they arrived a couple days ago.  I grabbed the shortest one (hey, I want to start out successful!), called The Rules of Engagement.

One of the first points he makes is one I have learned in recent years that has been revolutionary for me.  I used to not get as much out of reading the gospel accounts of Jesus’ life because of what I thought about Jesus.  Jesus healed a blind guy. Jesus turned a small lunch into food for 5,000.  Jesus walked on water, yada yada yada. Well, of course he could do these things, he is divine.  (side note, I’ve been enjoying this video.)  It is not surprising that the second person of the Trinity, God himself, would do these things. But how do they relate to me?  I can’t do those things.

But more study has revealed something else.  Something that changes everything.  It starts with a question.  Could God be tired?  Could God be hungry?  Could God not know certain things?  No, of course not, as he is all-powerful, all-knowing, fully self-sufficient, etc.  And yet Jesus experienced these things during his time among us.  He didn’t know certain things.  Jesus was tired.  Jesus was hungry.  Jesus clearly experienced many of the same limitations that are common to man.  And to be our redeemer, our sacrifice, our high priest, he had to.  He had to be fully man to pay the price for our sins and to experience our sufferings.

So how does God do this?  Scholars call this the “kenosis” or “emptying” of Christ, based on Philippians 2:1-11.  The idea is that Jesus voluntarily set aside (but did not lose them) the use of his divine attributes so that he could experience full humanity during the time of his incarnation on earth.

And there is lot of evidence for this view.  Consider, there are no recorded miracles of Jesus prior to one of the key events in his life: his baptism. During his baptism, the Holy Spirit came down upon Jesus.  Why would the son of God, the second person of the Trinity, need the Holy Spirit?  Because he had “emptied” himself.  After his baptism, he not only does miracles, but is described by Luke shortly afterwards as being “full of the Holy Spirit,” and in the “power of the [Holy] Spirit.” And Jesus often went away from others to pray.  Why would he need to pray if he was using his divine attributes?

So what does this all mean?  It means everything!  It means that we can do the works of Jesus because we can be full of the same Holy Spirit!  “I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12).  When Jesus turned to the woman at the well, and said, “You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband” (John 4:17), how did he know that?  I believe he had what the apostle Paul calls a “word of knowledge” from the Holy Spirit.  And we can have them to!  We can see people healed by the Holy Spirit’s power.  We can cast out demons by the Holy Spirit’s power.

But this is not automatic.  The Holy Spirit cannot be manipulated or controlled.  Just by wanting to see the Holy Spirit do these things doesn’t mean we will see them.  As Paul says, the gifts must be earnestly desired.  They take practice, and proficiency in the use of the gifts emerge over time, and even with much experience, the Holy Spirit is still in control.

I am an infant in terms of understanding the practice of these gifts.  But I am in community with those who know much more and am trying to learn all I can.  If the church is going to “preach good news to the poor…proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind [and] release the oppressed” (Luke 4:18), we must rely on the Holy Spirit, just like Jesus did.

But it’s ultimately not about power, but love.  After all, God could scare us all into heaven by a demonstration of his power.  But he is after something greater.  The use of power is governed by the constraints of love.  Sounds like a future post!  =)

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