EXPANDED DISCUSSION OF INNER HEALING
So why write on “inner healing”? My main motive is because I have experienced a “healing” from God and I see so many people with deep problems that seem to need a similar experience. It took a great deal of experience and prayer to come to this conclusion. As you’ll see if you continue reading, part of the “healing” I have experienced is a purification of motive: from ambition to service. So now I can say that the main motive is in fact a fairly pure motive. So, since my life has been so greatly improved and since I have a desire to share with others in need, I am writing on inner healing. I have been a Christian for 39 years. About 15 years ago, I felt that I was coming to the end of my resources. Even though I was a “successful” Christian, I felt a hopelessness about my life. I sensed that I was losing the battle; that a fall from grace was imminent. I was afraid I would stop trying. Fortunately, God rescued me; and I want to share the details of this story.
Now the term inner healing is not a very good term. It has been used in a variety of ways and means different things to a large number of individuals and groups. Nevertheless it has good recognition function, and a lot of people are attracted to it. It is my hope that I can define and describe what I mean to the point that the reader can get past any false notions attached to the term and gain the benefit of the experience.
In the definition section we will take a detailed look at the concepts of “inner” and “healing”. For now though let me bypass these and paint an overview picture of the types of experiences and transformations involved. It all starts with the basic assumption that Jesus is indeed the incarnation of God and that we can be forgiven and made alive in Him and that the reader feels the pressure, then ,of wanting to please God and preparing to meet Him. I am also assuming that the reader sees the great need for purification in themselves and in the church. Given these assumptions, the big picture is that we all have areas of sin and weakness that we have not been able to remove through the basic steps of faith and repentance. We all find “besetting sins” (or “idols” , “strongholds”, “weaknesses”, “character flaws”, “generational sins”, “demonic oppressions”, “habits”, etc) that we cannot avoid just because we don’t want them or believe in them. Common areas of such persistent failure in Christians are lust, anger, envy, apathy, and the like. When we realize that the addiction to pornography and the divorce rate are equal or greater in the church as in the world then we see that there is a problem that will require some solution beyond normal Christianity. If we are honest we must admit that we have inside of us areas of struggle that can often bring a sense of defeat. It’s the freedom from these personal areas of persistent failure that are being referred to by the concept of inner healing. Since I have personally experienced this freedom and since I know others that also have moved into a new level of moral and emotional victory I desire to share what I have experienced with those in need so that they too can be benefited . This is why I am writing on “inner healing”.
DEFINITION OF INNER HEALING
It needs to be clear right from the start that inner healing is not going to be defined or used as a psychological concept. In fact, it is my desire to translate any term or concept that originated after the “enlightenment” (the scientific age we are in) into a pre-enlightenment (especially biblical) term or concept. The sciences, such as psychology, sociology, medicine and anthropology have helped us to see many things, However, they tend to stem from a material world view, and call upon the authority of observed human knowledge. In contrast, biblical terms and concepts come from God and the authority we appeal to is His. Now, a book written prior to the enlightenment could be true or false and a book written after the enlightenment could likewise be true or false, but I find it easier to attempt to run all scientific concepts through the test of whether or not I can show them as a biblical concept; this helps me to stay grounded in God’s truth. Sometimes a biblical truth is “found” by a generation, and added to the church. Most of the “advances” of the protestant church have been added “back” to the biblical truth. For example, justification by faith, believers baptism, speaking in tongues and the like. Now, however, we have concepts of inner healing that need to be added to our understanding and practice, but unlike previous generations the use of secular concepts and scientific terms is often at the heart of our new thinking. In order to protect my thinking from the secularization around me I have made a decision to ground all “inner healing” definitions in biblical terms and concepts.
So let’s start by defining “inner” . First, by inner we refer to a non-physical part of us. Whether we call this soul or spirit is for the moment not the issue. We just mean different from the body. Therefore, inner healing will be different than gall bladder surgery or than treating diabetes with insulin. Emotional realms qualify as inner, but inner is much more than emotions. A list of inner arenas would include: thought, emotions, volition (the will), motivation, moral choices, etc. Often the term “inner” carries with it the concept of depth. Thus some of the non-physical realms listed above are “deeper” than others. Like when someone says that a person is now speaking from the “heart”. They mean in a more honest fashion that normally is not accessed in conversation. Or, again, when we say that God spoke to us “deep in our spirit” we mean in a part of us that is normally more private and guarded than some other level of our “inner world”. For the moment all the above are defined as “inner” and all of them are the subject matter of “inner healing”. Likewise the use of the term “inner man” in the Bible is not the same as the use of “inner” here. The “inner man” in scripture refers to the new man. It is the inner part of us that has been formed by faith and the new birth. Of course, the biblical inner man is non-physical (see 2Cor4:16.…”So now we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day”….), but much of the biblical concept of the “old man” or “outer man” is actually non-physical. For example, Eph3:16, “I pray….you may be strengthened in the inner man….that Christ may dwell in your heart….” here inner man is the new man. The “old man” is carnal, sinful, etc. It can be called the “outer man” but it should not be confused with the physical body. The outer man or old man has (had) motives, thoughts, feelings, etc. These are non-material and thus “inner” for our purposes. So, any part of us that is non-physical, whether it is new or old, spiritual or carnal is referred to in this paper as “inner” and thus a part of the concept of inner healing.
Healing also needs to be defined. When it comes to physical healing most of us have a pretty good idea of what’s involved. It is helpful to use our understanding of physical healing to approach the use of the term “healing” in the inner realm. First, note that most of us believe that physical healing is a good thing. It is good to bring healing to the body; whether through medicine or through prayer. Secondly, most of us are willing to use both comfort measures and painful measures to bring about physical healing. Thus, for example, even if surgery or immunizations are painful they are worth it. They result in health and better function and life. Thirdly, note that physical healing can be slow and natural or fast and supernatural. All of these concepts apply to inner healing. First, it is a good thing. Even though suffering works for good and is in fact one of God’s methods of maturation and purification we believe that (eventually) He wants to bring deliverance and healing. Secondly, we believe that inner healing may involve comfort and may involve pain. Confrontation, conviction and repentance for example may bring relief to a person’s inner struggle and pain. Lastly, it needs to be realized that inner healing can be “natural” (counseling, listening, spiritual direction for example) or supernatural. An inner healing ministry must go beyond the natural and use all the giftings and ministries available to the church. This will include inner healing prayer, deliverance and supernatural discernment. It is important to realize though that inner healing is envisioned here as a long process that includes all the natural and supernatural tools that are commonly seen. Thus a person who wants to be involved in receiving or ministering “inner healing” must be prepared to dig in for a long process and not expect an easy or fast solution.
Now at this point someone might say that “ inner healing” is just another term for sanctification or perfection. There is a lot of truth to this; inner healing does have as its goal wholeness and spiritual health. The person who is “healed” is a mature, focused, dedicated and fruitful Christian. That is the goal. The reason for identifying inner healing as a separate subject is two fold: First, most of the tools commonly used to bring about sanctification revolve around the will and the mind. Repentance and transforming of the mind, for example, are the normal ways to advance in the abiding life. “Healing” becomes an important separate focus because it centers on the parts of us that are below our normal control and that require operations beyond the will. This will include coming to awareness about forces in us that we do not normally feel or think about . Coming to self awareness may occur through human agency, for example, counseling , or directed introspection. It may, however, occur through supernatural revelation. Secondly, inner healing will include the experiencing of prayer states that are non-verbal, deep and very comforting. When God reveals to us that He understands us and when we feel His love we experience a healing that advances our ability to resist sin and grow in grace. Experiencing the love of God (such as occurred at the Toronto renewal or which occur when gazing on the “beauty realm”) is an important element in inner healing.
To summarize, and to use concepts we are familiar with: inner healing will draw from all the spiritual tools and experiences we know about; from Bible study to monastic wisdom. With this base then, let’s begin our study of inner healing with a look at the concept of a spiritual stronghold.
A spiritual stronghold will be defined as an inner state that produces a persistent sin or sin tendency that cannot be removed by mere repentance. This definition and its development is a synthesis of many previous formulations. It draws from a variety of sources. It is of course not final truth; just the best I have at this time. First, I want you to imagine a table that has four legs. If you remove one leg it is unstable. If you remove 2 legs it is almost certainly going to fall. One leg is an impossible base. As we will see, many people try to bring deliverance from a stronghold, or bring inner healing, by addressing only 1 or 2 “legs” to a stronghold. So, here is our first declaration about strongholds: they all rest on 4 foundations. The four foundations are: 1). A wound, 2). A lie about the wound, 3). A sinful response(s) to the wound and the lie about the wound, 4). Unbelief about God’s view of the first 3 foundations. All 4 of these foundations must be addressed to accomplish inner healing. In brief, the 4 foundations have 4 different “wisdom strategies” to undo them. Inner healing as it is used in this paper requires all 4 strategies to succeed fully.
I find it useful to think of a stronghold as an inner state formed over time by the person and by demonic forces. These are the parts of us that provide places of safety from pain. They are places we “go’ to cope and respond. They include inner thought patterns as well as behavioral (often sinful) responses to life challenges. However, it is important to realize that these are a spiritual part of us. Strongholds are more than habits. More than psychological refuges. More than imagination. They are spiritual formations in us where we can retreat for safety. A stronghold functions also to protect the demonic forces in our lives. Later we will look at the demonic realm in detail. This will include “generational spirits”, principalities, powers, and the satanic kingdom. I don’t believe that a person can be totally free without deliverance. If you, at this time, do not believe in the demonic realm as a real enemy in your life then it might be a good idea to jump ahead to the chapter on “the demonic realm” to gain a base to participate in this portion of your victory.
Are you ready to start? Let’s look first at “wounds” and the strategy to heal them.
WOUNDS There are as many wounds as there are people. Even though we share common human problems and experiences, wounding is a very personal affair. Some people are relatively unaware of the wounds in their life. Let me use myself and my wife as examples to begin to approach the complexity and depth of human wounding. I was born in the Midwest in 1944. My wife was born in Wisconsin in 1941. I was raised by my natural mother and father in a stable home. I have never experienced any of the (unfortunately) “normal” life wounds we are familiar with hearing told: abuse, abandonment, alcoholism, etc. My wife had a similar upbringing with the exception that her brother died accidentally and tragically when she was 12 years old, in a way that, as you will see, was wounding to her. Since we had such stable and benign childhoods why talk about wounds? The answer is because I have discovered that my adult problems relate to my childhood wounds. What adult problems? Nothing so terrible by the world’s standards, but still a problem compared to a victorious overcoming Christian life. For example, in my case, I had for years suffered from lustful thinking and temptations. This limited my confidence and fruitfulness. My wife suffered from being hyper-critical (both on herself and others). Only as we matured in prayer and service did we realize the extent of our bondage. Our ability to abide in Christ and walk in the Spirit was limited by these strongholds. Inner peace, contentment, communion with God, effectiveness in ministry, love for others, a good marriage, walking in newness of life…..etc. It all results, in part, as we experience deliverance from strongholds. And since strongholds rest, in part, on wounding we must deal with our wounds. So what wounds do “normal” people experience? Many. Legion. Secular culture has in fact so focused on the wounding side of psychology that we now have people blaming society and their parents for their poor choices. It has become so trite as to deserve this joke: “oh, well I killed that old lady and robbed her to buy cocaine because my mother didn’t breast feed me”. So what is the truth? The truth is that we get wounded and those experiences contribute to our adult problems. Can I put a percentage on the role that wounding plays? Well, let’s just say 25% or less. So, now, what wounds did my wife and I receive? Let me just share some facts about my natural family that will set the stage to allow me to describe a fragment of my own story. My father died at age 70 in a motel, in bed, in the act of committing adultery with his mistress. My brother is a pedophile that lived in a nudist colony in France for some time. Two of my sisters had multiple affairs, suffered divorce, and lived on the leading edge of the sexual revolution. In my childhood home there was little yelling or fighting, but a great deal of marital tension. After I got older I began to realize that my father was engaged in a series of affairs. As adults, my siblings and myself pieced together a picture of constant infidelity, betrayal and division between my parents. There was trouble in Beaver Cleaver’s house after all. The prevailing evil, the “generational curse” that came to me was sexual perversion, promiscuity and adultery. Some of my earliest memories are of childhood sexual behavior. Always with other children, usually at my initiation. By age 5 I had been caught so many times that my mother told me they were going to have to send me to a reform school. My father could not deal with my behavior; effective discipline, prayer and deliverance were not options. This problem followed me into adolescence where again there was series of encounters and traumatic legal consequences. By college, in the early 60’s , the die was cast; sex was one of my “problems”. Now, Susan’s family did not have this problem. Neither she nor her siblings had much sexual confusion or transgression . Her family, instead, was plagued by depression, control and guilt. She could never do right. As the first born she wanted to please but never could. Her brother and sister share with her a life of constant failure to do right. The depression and control in her childhood household were of pathologic proportions. It resulted in “adult children of Norwegians” who grew up paralyzed to act, never succeeding in any venture or activity; full of regret and guilt. Failures in career, education, relationships and inner strength. As in my situation, her siblings, to varying degrees, display the full fruits of her generational curse in their shattered lives. She and I in comparison to our siblings are healed, strong successful people. Only in the subtle areas of inner impurity can someone detect our past. When, however, the battleground is the soul, and the cost is Christian victory, then our strongholds are still real problems and the wounds must still be healed. How are wounds healed? The idea here is that unlike the sins that we gravitated towards in response to our wounds, the wound itself is not our fault. That is, none of us chose to be born into the families that we had. We did not choose which weaknesses we were exposed to. In some sense we really are all “victims”. In some cases this innocence is more obvious than in other cases. For example, when Susan was 12 years old her brother was killed while riding his bicycle. She was the last person to talk to him and she came to believe that she was responsible for his death and could have prevented it. Or take the case of the child who is sexually abused by an adult. The child of the alcoholic parent. The young girl whose dad dies when she is 8. There are countless examples of trauma to children that falls into the category of an innocent person being subjected to some wound that is undeserved. The reason to think of these as wounds is that comfort, understanding, tenderness, reassurance and the like are the needed remedy for these experiences. Much like a physical wound needs salve and gentle cleaning these parts of our experience respond best to the tender mercies of God. Thus I choose to call them wounds and to separate them from the parts of our stronghold that are more grounded in choice and sin. In the section on “remedies and cures” we will take a detailed looked a the 4 remedies for the 4 foundations to our strongholds. In that section the tender love of God as a healing for our wounds will be examined in more depth.
THE LIE. The second foundation to every stronghold is “the lie”. The lie about the wound is worse than the wound itself. There are countless examples of children who have suffered one form of trauma or another who then were lied to about why it occurred. This is a direct demonic attack. Sometimes the agent is a human, perhaps one of the parents, but many times it is a direct spiritual thought that grows into a firm conviction. Usually the person ends up feeling responsible for the wounding. Nearly all children whose parents divorce believe that it is their fault their parents are splitting up. I have seen one woman who resented her father because he died. She felt abandoned by him. Now as a rational adult she knew that she was being unreasonable, yet the feeling of abandonment was a dominant stronghold in her life. Why? Because she had received a lie that her father had abandoned her. Thus the trauma of his death was compounded and magnified by the lie that gave (false) meaning to the event. A lie is a deception of the enemy. These “interpretations” of our life events subject us to the power of the lying spirit as we accept them. As with wounds there is an element of victimization involved here. A child is not well equipped to detect and reject a lie of the devil. Without the operation of the Holy Spirit in the person’s life or in the parents’ life then twisted thinking is likely to result. The lie however has more elements of responsibility in it than the wound itself has. There is something about the perversity of the human nature that predisposes it to believe a lie about a wound rather than to believe the truth. Just like love and forgiveness are unnatural compared with hate and revenge, so it is that an understanding of our pain is usually false and distorted. Let me give you another example from my past. When I was still very young I started to feel unloved. My dad even began to call me “reject the robot”. This belief on my part that I was unloved was really not grounded in gross neglect or abuse. As mentioned above, I had a relatively stable upbringing. However, my father was so committed to his career that he did not spend much time with us children. The normal nightly routine was that as soon as my dad arrived home he would embark on one of two paths: either work around the house or have a couple of drinks and watch television. Weekends were similar. There was not much “bonding” activity or shared activities. Little if any communication or sharing of inner thoughts and experiences. Additionally, my mother, who had actual abuse and abandonment in her childhood (her parents divorced early and she had several step fathers; one of whom did emotionally and sexually abuse her) carried with her a strong sense of rejection. Between her rejection spirit and my father’s passive neglect I ended up at an early age feeling rejected and unloved. The lie that I received was that my father did not love me. Only much later, in my 30’s, did God bring a healing to this lie. The details of this revelation are covered in the section on “remedies”. Susan’s life reveals another common pattern of wound and lie. When her brother was killed she received the lie that she was responsible. This event and the lie attached to it reinforced the guilt and depression that ruled in her house. His death became a fixation to her that tethered her to the stronghold that was being built into her in the daily routine of her family. Often when you listen to a person’s life story you will hear this pattern: the “background” level of wounding is reinforced by large destructive trauma that comes at the worst time. How many times have you encountered a woman whose father left the home through divorce when she was just beginning puberty? Death. Divorce. Sexual predation. The list is long and sad; always there is wounds and lies, usually always the person is damaged for life. There are many other examples of childhood wounding and lie about the wound that I could mention. At this point, let it be enough to point out that being hurt and then lied to about the meaning of the painful experience is something that must be dealt with in 2 separate ways. Of course, just as the wound and lie about the wound are intimately connected, so the remedy for the wound (comfort) and the remedy for the lie (revelation of the truth) will be closely connected. The way that God reveals the truth to us and breaks the power of the lie will be covered in detail in the section entitled “remedies and cures”.
SINFUL RESPONSES. the third foundation is the sinful choices we make in response to being hurt. This category has been underemphasized by the world and overemphasized by the church. In truth though it is at least 25% of the problem and must be addressed to find success. Psychology, being secular, and hence spiritually ignorant is always attempting to deny sin. The victim mentality has been given center stage in therapy because, in part, no one wants to face their own guilt. The world would gladly admit that people are wounded. Likewise, to say that I was made to feel guilt and shame for something that never was my fault is a “friendly” thought to the modern western mind. On the other hand, most of us do not want to believe that we actually are guilty; that we really have done shameful things. Furthermore, we were responsible for our choices. They were not inevitable or unavoidable. Jesus could have been wounded and lied to. He too may have needed comfort and love. But he would not have made evil, destructive, spiritually dead responses to his hurt. To make matters even worse, it is necessary to grasp the fact that I have a sin nature. Even after being forgiven though faith I still have to deal with my “old man”. Even after salvation, even given the finished work of Jesus on the cross; I have to crucify my flesh. All of this: accepting guilt, admitting fault, asking for forgiveness, changing my ways, seeing the enemy within, yielding to purification and sanctification; this is all very difficult and painful. Now, given that the world has minimized our responsibility in contributing to strongholds, how do we as Christians deal with the situation? First, we must recognize and admit our role in our problem. When I was exposed to sexual impurity at a young age I still had some sense that to engage in a sexual act was wrong. Certainly as I aged I had ample knowledge of what constituted a wrong act. Nevertheless I yielded to those acts. One might question whether a young child, uninstructed in the faith, poorly trained, inconsistently disciplined, besieged by invisible enemies and constantly surrounded by wrong example could really make a choice. This really goes to the heart of the gospel. Jesus died for our sins. Well, when did these sins begin? When I left home and started my own life? When I reached the age of accountability? It is important to see that it takes a long time to form a human. As a species we have an enormously long childhood. Just think of 12 years prior to puberty. This formation includes the formation of strongholds. And part of the formation of a stronghold is the wrong, sinful, ungodly responses that humans tend to make when hurt. It is natural, and that’s exactly the problem. When, as an adult, an individual hears the truth about salvation, and is drawn by the Spirit to Jesus then that person has a life changing experience. This experience includes repentance from sin. We all tend to think that what we must do is cease from sin in the present after renouncing our past sins. Usually, this centers on the remembered sins of our adult life prior to finding Christ. The point is that our adult patterns of sin were formed in childhood. That’s why different people have different weaknesses and proclivities. That’s why one is a lecher, another is a malicious gossip, a third is an addict, an alcoholic, ambitious and greedy, thief, liar, lazy, etc. The different manifestations of sin, the different patterns of sin behavior (that is, the different strongholds that people have) are formed by forces active in childhood. The point that the world cannot see is that we have a personal role in our formations by the choices we made. The point that the church has difficulty seeing is that these sinful choices began in childhood. Although wounding is not our fault, choosing sin is our fault. Until a person can see that the stronghold plaguing them is partly of their own making then they cannot address one of the foundations of that stronghold.
Now, we need to spend a little time here on the types of sin responses that children make. Usually they are rather small and “innocent” compared with the adult version that appears later. For example, a child may be “sneaky”, or “hot headed”, “stubborn”, “always getting in trouble at school”. While these may be the beginnings of large and destructive adult strongholds they start small and childlike. Furthermore, the child is learning patterns of coping. Learning how to get what they want while minimizing opposition. They may be forming thought patterns and emotional responses that are very unhealthy. The child may be opening the door to demonic forces that will help them in forming their stronghold. When an adult sees, by the power of God, that an evil spirit is in their life; then that adult needs to search for the childhood beginnings of their bondage. I believe that every person has one or more “friends” in their lives, from the spirit realm, that has helped them get through life. Only as a person advances in Christ does this “idol” get exposed and challenged by God. In the section on the demonic realm we will look at this in much more detail. For now the point is that sinful choices begin in childhood and contribute to the slow building of strongholds. We need to see our own personal sin history from God’s point of view. In the section on “remedies and cures” we will spend a great deal of time on seeing how God chooses to reveal to us our lower nature and our “old man”. We will in that section look at concepts such as “true self/false self”, purification, and deliverance as they relate to third foundation of strongholds: our sinful choices and responses.
UNBELIEF ABOUT THE WOUND, THE LIE AND THE SIN. The Bible has a great deal to say about unbelief. While we may see how unbelief is a sin when it is applied to theology, we usually don’t understand that unbelief is a major foundation in our strongholds. In short, we fail to see the wisdom and love of God in allowing our wounding, deceptions and sins. To understand the fullness of this problem, it is important to review the truth about evil. Certainly, as the Bible says, God is good; He cannot be tempted and He does not tempt anyone. All good gifts come from the Father of Lights. In contrast, Satan is the father of lies. He exists only to kill and destroy. He is the tempter. The obvious deeper question however revolves around the fact that God created Satan. It is clear that God created the angels and humans with the capacity to do evil. He planned the system we live in. He allowed evil to come into being and to continue to exist. He, thankfully, planned a solution and redemption through the incarnation and atonement. Eternity will not have evil mixed with good. Nevertheless, for now the two are mixed together and at war with each other; in the world and in us. Consequently we fail to see that we were placed into an evil world; with enemies around us and in us. Other humans, social institutions, demonic realms, our inner wrong desires, our dullness of spiritual perception, our attachments to the world: they are all allowed by God and were all part of a divine plan. The point is that our own individual story is part of this larger picture. The family we were born into, the events that happened to us, our response to these forces; they were all allowed and were all part of a plan. Unbelief now enters in to our story. Do we believe that Jesus has “all power in heaven and earth”? That not even a sparrow can fall to the ground without God’s permission? One of the important keys to inner healing is to understand and accept that the evil in our lives is part of a plan. Rather than regret we gain joy. When we move from unbelief to faith in the realm of strongholds we lose many of the negative emotions and beliefs about our life and gain a Godly perspective. In essence, when we see that it was a loving God that allowed our lives to form as they did, for a good purpose, then we gain the patience and joy needed to escape the bondage we are in. This process involves great comfort as we realize who we are. God will “re-interpret” our lives for us; and we will feel His love, not imagine His rejection. To realize that I am pleasing to Him, despite my strongholds, rests on seeing that He planned and allowed me to be subject to the evil that formed my strongholds. Now, this is a very large area. A major key to healing and deliverance. It involves fundamental issues such as forgiveness, shame, suffering and endurance. It also releases the power of God; for example, through this process we gain a revelation of who we are in Christ. In fact, the paradox of “rejoicing in our suffering” is understood only as we see that we have failed to believe that our lives have been directed by God towards a goal, and that the wounds, lies and sins have been part of His plan. We will take a detailed look at moving from unbelief to faith in the section on “remedies and cures”.
The four foundations to strongholds require 4 separate wisdom strategies to bring healing. I say separate, when actually, of course, they often function together. Furthermore, thinking of 4 foundations and 4 solutions should not mislead us into trying to force an actual healing process into a logical sequential format. Conceptually it is useful to see 4 foundations and 4 cures; in practice healing is individual, directed by God and consequently unpredictable and varied. Before looking at the 4 categories let’s take some time and examine “remedies and cures” in general. A remedy is the medicine or treatment that brings a cure. To cure is to restore to health. Have you ever been to a modern intensive care unit? There you will see a large variety of remedies: surgery, antibiotics, restorative fluids, nutrition, oxygen, etc. You will also see monitors. The person is monitored and watched. If something goes wrong then a new remedy is applied. It is an interactive situation. What is the goal of such treatment? To restore health. Physical health is somewhat obvious; physically healthy humans are obtained naturally when a population is given a healthy environment. It is natural. It is contained within the body at birth. Disease is a variation from normal health. As people age they lose heath, partly this is natural also, partly it is from unhealthy life styles. When these concepts are applied to the spiritual realm it is not so clear what is really meant by “healthy”. Certainly not a “normal” human. The best estimate of spiritual health is found in the Bible. Here we see what a Godly person is like. In Jesus we see ultimate spiritual “health”. So to talk about a remedy or a cure implies that the goal is a spiritually healthy person as revealed in the acts of God recorded in the word of God. So, when we say that strongholds have 4 foundations, and that we must apply 4 remedies and cures, we really mean that in order to become the people we are designed to be we must let the Holy Spirit “heal” us. This does not mean that humans are naturally pleasing to God if left alone and not assaulted by evil forces. No, part of the problem is within us: the lower nature is from within, it is not an external force that perverts an otherwise healthy person. “Healing” is really an abstraction,. It refers to the idea that my “real self”, my life “hidden in Christ”, the “real me” is something that must be formed by God after I come to Him through faith, as it says in Ephesians 2:10: “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them”. In this verse and in many others we can see that His plan for us, before we were born, was that was we would be a righteous people and a blessing to the world. A royal priesthood. Then why aren’t we? Part of the answer is that we don’t see who we are, that we don’t understand that there is a process involved in salvation, calling and sanctification. We must become who we already are!
One more thing. We will look at the 4 remedies in 4 different sections. For example, we will look at the remedy for wounding and see that it is comfort. Well, comfort will also be used by God when the other 3 foundations are dealt with; but it is the predominate remedy for woundedness. God is an infinite being. He uses prayer, the word, fellowship, conviction, trials, inner witness, human counsel, circumstances, wicked kings, and donkeys to bring about His will for us. There is no limiting God. Nevertheless, for conceptual purposes it is valuable to divide the works of God into bite size pieces in order to facilitate our understanding. Consequently, we will look at 4 categories of remedies: 1) comfort. 2) revelation. 3). repentance. 4) faith.
THE CURE FOR WOUNDING: COMFORT God will comfort us in our wounded state. I remember lying on my living room floor in the middle of the night. I was experiencing a deep pain related to rejection. I was seeing (and feeling) that my mother experienced a world of rejection. It had passed to me. As this penetrated me I felt intense pain and intense comfort. I’ll bet I used a whole role of paper towels! I experienced this because I had taken my pain to God in prayer. I did not at that time understand wounding or generational curses or healing. All I knew was that I felt unloved. As a Christian I understood that I should have felt loved, but I usually didn’t. I could hide most of my struggle from other people although it caused a measure of trouble in my marriage and in my church life. But inside, with God, there was loneliness, pain and a sense of rejection. Thank God I had the sense to go to Him with these issues. I knew I needed to pray to get an answer, I could see that from the Bible. In this particular instance God visited me with comfort. I felt His love. It was then too that I began to see how the stronghold of rejection had begun early in my life and had resided in my mother first. Now one night of prayer and tears did not bring a total healing. However, intense visitations of God, in a private inner state, full of comfort and light, play an important role in breaking strongholds. This comfort can occur in a variety of forms. It may be during the day and relatively mild. It may be during times of worship. Through the word. From the pulpit. In the song of a bird. Really, there is no limiting God. There is no formula for healing or for receiving comfort. Nevertheless we can ask for God to “send us the Comforter”. I recommend that you take your wounds to God and ask Him to heal them. It is true that we need to believe God and His word and stand on His promises. It is true that we don’t go by feelings but by faith. If you already have joy and peace in your life then you don’t need these experiences. If you are morally victorious, fruitful in ministry, laying down your will for His will; then you don’t need healing. However, don’t be robbed of experiences with God that can transform your life because you think you shouldn’t need His help any more. Seek healing. Ask for comfort. Receive His love.
Let me give you some guidelines for seeking comfort. Like the song says: “seeking love in all the wrong places” describes the normal human solution for being comforted. Legitimate options exist. Let me describe some. In general, comfort from God is spiritual, not carnal. These are comfort states that come from the Holy Spirit to our being. Usually, they will be to our spirit; that is, not to our senses or even to just our emotions. Therefore, it involves feelings like peace, joy, beauty, love, etc. Sometimes it may have a sensory element; like warmth or a vision, but most likely not. It needs to be clear, though, that just because these are spiritual doesn’t mean they are not real or not experienced. They are intensely real and experienced intensely enough to change a life. How do we get them? Usually they are connected to spiritual activities like prayer, worship, nature, alter ministry, gift ministries, etc. Let me describe 2 major events in my life that illustrate spiritual comfort. First, the Toronto blessing. In case you don’t know, the “Toronto blessing” refers to a move of God at a vineyard church in Toronto Canada in 1994. It lasted for years and hundreds of thousands of people were transformed through it. I was one of those people. I went there skeptical and guarded, determined not to be swept into an emotional experience. I was especially determined not to “fall under the power” or show any “manifestations” (movements or noises that people would make when touched by God). When I went to my first session I was sitting waiting for the meeting to begin. I was sitting off to the side, no one within 20 feet of me. A large invisible “force” swept towards me and stopped; surrounding me. This was a large, invisible, living “voice” that said to me: “you are my own dear son, with whom I am well pleased”. I was disoriented, nearly unable to sit in my chair, struggling to maintain composure, deeply moved, tearful and profoundly reassured. No human was near me and no one saw my reaction or even knew what was happening. Nor did I tell anyone about it. The next afternoon I went forward for prayer ministry. I was still guarded and determined to not be manipulated. The prayer team member asked me to extend my hands, palms up. He then lightly touched the palms of my hands with his fingers and said “more Lord”. I immediately fell to the ground. Still fighting, I “crawled” up his torso, at which time he repeated “more Lord”. This time I was down for the count. Physically, I was lying on the floor. Spiritually, I was in another state. Beautiful, lovely, full of the presence and revelation of God, internally active, dividing soul and spirit even to the marrow. In a word: comforting. I lay there until the meeting ended then crawled to a row of chairs and lay there in that state until the evening. It lasted for 3 days. As I went about “normal” activities everything was changed. Perceptions, understanding, discernments, prayer; all now filled with God. Even the way things looked changed, they had a new beauty. After coming home I now had a new ability to experience God. It lasted for years, in fact it is still present. Am I saying that you need some comfort experiences like this? Yes, I am. All people need to experience the presence and comfort of God. We need to experience the “peace that passes understanding” and to have “joy unspeakable”. The second major life event I want to describe revolves around the concepts found in the monastic literature. I heard from a friend about a hunting cabin that was for sale in a secluded wooded farm. Even though it sounded nice I didn’t even want to see it. I felt that it would be a selfish use of money and I was trying to move into more service and giving. So I ended up relating the “temptation” to buy this farm to a missionary friend who had given his life to the mission field in Asia. A few days later, to my utter surprise, this missionary told me that he believed that he was supposed to buy this farm; and that I was supposed to become a co-owner. With time this came to pass. Now my missionary friend went back to Asia and I was left to manage the farm. I came to value time alone at this cabin. Over 5 years time I was there for days at a time, every month of the year (it had a wood stove) all alone. I estimate over 1000 hours alone, in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nature. Rather like Walden 3. Through these experiences I learned to be alone. To experience silence and solitude. In silence and solitude I learned a new form of prayer. Between the Toronto experiences and the time in the cabin God taught me how to hear Him and see Him in my spirit. This type of prayer experience: internal, private, wordless, next to the heart of God; became a river of living water flowing through my life. Now am I saying that you need to have a similar prayer experience? Yes, I am. Learning to pray “contemplatively” (monastically), in silence and solitude; in our prayer closet, is part of receiving the comfort of God. Time alone with God, in communion and adoration , is comforting. Many wounds can be relived, re-examined, reinterpreted, released and healed through these types of experiences. I recognize that different individuals will have different ways of finding God inwardly. Not everyone needs to go to Toronto or buy a cabin. But everyone needs to gain the personal comfort of God. Church? Worship? Prayer closet? Nature? Other? Fine. But until you have experienced the comfort of God you need it. We all need it.
Note that comfort, as it is illustrated above, is spiritual. It is not carnal. “Sex, drugs and rock and roll” is a clever way of summing up the carnal approach to pain. Most people seek comfort from various sinful alternatives: pleasure, power, addictions. A person needs to renounce these activities and turn from them (eventually) in order to gain the full measure of God’s comfort. This is one of the paradoxes of God: until I embrace the pain I cannot receive comfort and healing. As long as I turn to an idol I cannot fully turn to God. Only when I come to Him fully stripped and desperate can I find Him. I need to seek Him with my whole heart. This process of moving from carnal to spiritual comfort takes time. One needs to be honest with themselves and with God about this. Admitting a sin is the best way to get rid of it. As we have experiences in Christ, we begin to see who we are in Him; and who we are outside of Him. When I see myself as He sees me, both the old me and the new me, then I have a chance to renounce the old and put on the new. This all takes time with Him. It is not a quick fix. Receiving the comfort and love of God; healing the wounds, is a long process. Nevertheless, it is an essential element in inner healing.
THE CURE FOR LIES: REVELATION In His light we see light. Jesus is the light of the world. He looks on the inside and discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart. There is nothing hidden. The Holy Spirit is not only the comforter, He is the Spirit of truth. The devil is the father of lies. A major element in healing is revelation of truth. God reverses the lies of the enemy. Our enemy.
When we believe a lie we are subject to the lie and the source of the lie. We are deceived. Blind. Snared. When we come to know the truth we are free indeed. Let’s apply these concepts to inner healing. First, note that this too is a long process. It is not a one time revelation. When we come to faith in Jesus we receive the truth and the Spirit of truth. But God also says He will send the Spirit of truth to lead us into all truth. This is not just theological truth, it is personal truth. Who am I? Why am I here? Why have I had the life that I have had? To see clearly requires revelation. This is a process that requires the Spirit of God. It is in His way and in His time. Revelation can be sought, and it can be released through a gift ministry, but it comes from God to us and it is personal and under God’s control. Typically, this is a long process. Secondly, healing revelation must be personal. It is specific to me, not a general revelation about human nature or God. The lies I received were personal, not general. This revelation may come slowly through thought and analysis. It may come supernaturally through a word from a gift ministry. It may come directly in prayer and it may come in a vision or a dream. In all cases though, it will be personal; directly from God to my case.
Let me give you some examples from my life. As I mentioned in the section above on strongholds, I early on came to believe that my father did not love me. I carried a sense of rejection for most of my life. In part this was a reasonable human conclusion to be drawn from the facts of my family life. In part it was a direct demonic lie. I have had healing revelation about this in a variety of ways. First, my wife and friends have seen the problem and addressed the falseness of my perceptions. Second, I have had the Lord draw my mind to the biblical truths about God’s love and challenge my false feelings. These are good, but they were not good enough. Thirdly, I had a healing dream. I dreamt I was at my old childhood home. It was a very clear dream, the kind that wakes you up and sticks with you. In the dream, I was walking down the stairs to the basement. At the foot of the stairs there was room (in the dream) that was not present in my real house; the remainder of the house was accurate. I went into this room and found my father inside. It was a workroom; a shop. Now, in reality my father was not a handyman type; there was no work room, but in the dream he was standing working on a project of some sort. Jesus then appeared and stood next to me. I could see Jesus and hear Him, but my father could not. My father was absorbed in the work and was ignoring me. Jesus then would point out things to me. He explained that my father was not ignoring me because he did not love me, rather it was because of his own emotional constriction and agitation. I could “see” my father’s pain. The work was his way of sorting through his past; he was thinking as he was working. It was clear that he did not have the resources to pay attention to me or deal with my problems. Jesus not only could show these things to me and point to them but He would verbalize them as they were revealed. I was “enlightened”. Truly, from that moment on I had a new compassion for my father and a new source of Love. Rejection took a big hit that night.
Fourth, I had a healing vision. This is how it happened. My wife and I in those days were in a Four-Square full gospel Pentecostal church. That evening, at the Wednesday mid-week service there was a guest speaker, one of the old line woman preachers in that denomination. She had a powerful preaching style and a dramatic alter ministry. I “went forward” for prayer and she prayed something along the lines that I would be “healed”. That night, at about 3am I woke up with a bad ear ache. That was very odd since I had not been sick with a cold, nor do I normally have ear aches. Nevertheless, it was so bad that I could not sleep, so I got up and went downstairs. Sitting on the couch, holding my ear and rocking in pain, I suddenly saw a vision. It was like movies screen in front of me. Very vivid, arresting. I watched and the “movie” began right there and showed me sitting there. Then it started to go back in time. When it came to a (real) event that had occurred that had (recently) hurt me, it stopped. I had a strong realization that I had to forgive the person and event (relived on the screen, but a real recent event) that I was seeing. When I did so the vision started again, going back in time. It stopped again at another recent painful event. Again I had to forgive the person; again the vision continued. With time I got pretty quick at forgiving and the “movie” could run faster and faster, with only brief stops while I forgave the person. After a while it was nearly a blur of my whole life, going back into childhood. The incidents were far too numerous to count, well into the thousands, going far back in my life to early childhood. Suddenly, it slowed down; I could see myself on the floor, at about 2 years of age. This is younger than my natural memory can go back. I saw my father across the room; he was hugely tall. There was a menacing about him, I could “feel” a force come across the room and I could “see” that my father did not love me. At that moment I had come to believe that my father did not love me. I tried to forgive him but could not. At that very moment my wife came downstairs (in reality) and asked what was going on. I told her I was having a vision and that I had an earache. She sat next to me on the couch and reached out an put her hand on my ear and said “in the name of Jesus I command you to leave”. I felt a “pop” and the pain was gone Now, if you know my wife you realize that she does not normally pray that way. We were not used to instant healing in our house either! She then asked me about the vision and found out what was happening. She helped me forgive my father. At that point a rather unusual thing happened. I felt that I needed to forgive God. That was such an odd idea at the time. Forgive God? He is perfect. But I could see that the whole vision was about forgiving those that hurt me; and that it went back to my natural father. However, I could also see that God was responsible for the whole series of life events that composed my life. I was able to “forgive” God, and thank Him for my life. The whole thing. At that point the vision ended. Now, do I believe that I really “saw” an event that occurred to me at age two? A spiritual attack and reception of a lie? Yes, given the circumstances of the whole evening and the accuracy of the events seen in the vision I do think it was an actual memory. However, for our purposes in explaining healing this is not an important point. Even if what I “saw” was not a real memory, it was at least a good visual summation of a series of events that somehow convinced me that I was not loved by my father. The perception that my father did not love me was false; it was a lie. By forgiving him I was releasing him for his part in my being wounded. This brought a great deliverance and healing to me. Rejection took another hit that night.
This is a good place to talk about “healing of memories”. This phrase has been around for a long time in a large number of Christian circles. Usually it refers to the idea that people often have certain memories that cause them pain. Painful memories from their past that, when recalled, bring a sense of shame or wounding. Usually these are important events that the person remembers, perhaps a traumatic time, or a major life event. Sexual abuse, death, rejection, betrayal, sin, exposure of wrongdoing, etc. Occasionally, though, the memory is a minor event but is invested with significance. For example, a friend of mine tells the story where once, as a young boy, he was helping his father barbeque outdoors. He took the grill top off the grill and laid it on the ground. For some reason this was the wrong thing to do and his father said to him in a disgusted voice: “you are never going to amount to anything”. This hurt my friend and stuck with him for life. Now, in fact, my friend was the second born male and like so many second-borns he felt inadequate compared to his older brother. He felt that his brother was his dad’s favorite and that he himself was in fact “never going to amount to anything”. What ever the actual reason, this memory carried a particular significance to my friend. I recall once helping my brother repair his motorcycle. I was supposed to hold this one ball bearing in place. Well, it slipped and was propelled through the air by a spring. I felt at the time like an utter failure as a mechanic and as a peer. Now, why does that memory, out of the hundreds of thousands of childhood events stick in my mind? An insignificant event can represent a whole world of hurt and lie. Ok, so the “healing of memories” refers to the healing method whereby our painful memories are examined and “healed”. Now it is clear, isn’t it, that a memory cannot be healed? “Memories” are recollections of past events. They can elicit emotions, and their existence can bring a sense of torment. A person can be driven to unhealthy states by the insistence of certain memories. But it is the person who needs to be healed (or delivered), not the memory. Usually the healing of memories involves the person forgiving those (in the remembered events) who wronged them. The forgiving process “heals” the person. This is a legitimate and biblical concept. Naturally, if we forgive those who transgressed against us then we have peace with God, we experience His forgiveness and grace and we are a lot better off than before we went through the “healing of memories”. The experience related above, with the earache vision, is a good example of the healing of memories. Unfortunately, there are other, less advisable forms of healing of memories that are promulgated and practiced in the church. For example, some groups advise “finding” unconscious and suppressed memories. Events that were not previous (to the operation of the healing ministry) recalled. Now, I think that is a very bad idea. It has led to “implanting” of memories that brought accusation to families and individuals and terrible wrong. I don’t think that one should trust a “memory” that is “discovered” through the intervention of others. This includes hypnotism. If you can’t be sure that an event took place then investigate it: family, friends, prayer. Another form of dangerous “healing of memories” involves the “memories” that involve intrauterine (before birth) events. For example, the “perception” that the fetus feels when not wanted by the mother. Possible, but unlikely. I’m not saying it can’t happen. I know one person who was shown a vision, by God, that involved him looking out through the bars of his baby crib. He “saw” his real parents. Now this individual was adopted, and the “memory” given him brought a real healing to him. It’s possible; just not an advisable ministry method. Not a very good foundation to rest an inner healing ministry upon. Additionally, some people practice a form of “sanctified imagination”. That is, they take a person and advise the person to recall a painful event. They then help the person to “relive” the memory, but this time with Jesus present. They may also advise the person to “dialogue” with the people in the memory. They may, for example, talk to a person who has died. Not as an occult practice, but within the imagination. I don’t think this is a really terrible idea. I think it has some merit and, if done properly, some potential for good. If you, however, object to such activity as psychological and potentially opening the person to imposter spirits (pretending to be departed loved ones) then you won’t get a fight from me. I don’t practice such methods, and I don’t advise them. Ok, so where are we? Just here: God reveals truth to people who have been wounded and lied to about the events. He will use memory as a tool to bring truth to the person. This truth will help the person reprocess the past. Painful memories may need to be reviewed. Remembered people and transgressions may need to be forgiven. Beyond this, however, caution is in order. A good way to summarize this is to realize that the truth about God’s love and His loving presence in our past is healing. “God reinterprets the past in order that we do not mis-interpret His hand” That is, we can endure trials without falling when we see that God loves us and the wounds He allowed were for our good. In order to see this we need Him to reveal truth to us; to reverse the lies we received and believed.
There is one more important type of revelation that heals us where we have believed lies. I think that in many ways this is the most important revelation of all. This revelation is the main topic of Romans 6. There we see that our “old man” was crucified with Christ and that we are in Him made into a “new man”. The “real me” is the new man, not the old man. There are multiple amazing statements connected with this concept. For example, I am “dead to sin”. “Sin shall not have dominion over me“ . “I am not a debtor to the flesh“. “The life of the spirit in Christ has set me free from the law of sin and death“. In short, I don’t need to sin or fail. I can resist temptation and God is pleased with me as I do this. When this truth is made personal to me as a revelation from God then I undergo a major healing. For example, the fact that I may be plagued with a certain weakness, with constant inclination to do wrong in one area (i.e., a stronghold), does not condemn me. The “real me” is not really wanting to sin. It is the “old me”. When I further receive the revelation that I don’t need to do what the old man desires then I become behaviorally free as well. It is possible to walk in victory, and being given a revelation of my true state in Christ is an important step in this sanctification. Now this is a long process, not something that is accomplished by one event or by a mental understanding of solid doctrine. To really walk in newness of life involves difficult decisions and difficult life events. God often uses trials, breaking, suffering, and desperation to bring us to surrender and “strength through weakness”. In the section on repentance we will see just how deep this goes. In the section that examines the remedy for unbelief we will look at the biblical references that support this revelation as well as the “case studies” illustrated in the lives of Paul, Peter, Moses, Joseph and David. At this point, though, it is important to realize that understanding who I really am and being transformed by the Holy Spirit comes, in part, through revelation.
THE CURE FOR SIN: REPENTANCE Repentance is the wisdom strategy to heal the stronghold foundation made by our sinful responses to wounds and lies. We all have a life time of carnal, demonic choices we have made in response to life’s challenges and pains. If you can’t see your own sinful pattern right at this moment then consider the people around you. Isn’t everyone’s life marked by some moral or relational weakness? Sexual impurity? Alcohol? Other addictions? Gossip and malice? Envy? Status? If we read the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21, we get a fairly comprehensive list of sinful responses that humans make in their lives. Now, God’s answer to sin is confession and repentance. Repentance is more than sorrow for sin, being ashamed, feeling contrition, doing penance or anything else short of really changing. True repentance brings change. We stop doing wrong. This will hurt; crucifixion hurts. “Those that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh.” There is no getting around the mass of scripture that deals with repentance and obedience. No amount of comfort, revelation or faith can replace the need to repent and cease from sin. I am talking about behavioral moral sins. Again, Galatians 5:19-21 ends with this phrase: “know that they who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God“.
Many people fail to believe that they can repent because they are confusing sin with temptation. If you think that you need to be free from temptation in order to show true repentance then you will never get free. Some people at this point in their thinking then cite verses such as “if you even look at a woman to lust after her, then you have already committed adultery”. Well, if you are intentionally looking at a woman in order to lust after her, if you are indulging an appetite with your eyes, then yes; you are sinning and you need to stop. But if you do not want to commit a sin with a woman, and if you don’t let your lust rise up, then it is not a sin to be tempted by her looks. Turn away! Likewise, “if you are angry with your brother you have already committed murder in your heart“. Yes, here again we must set our intention on good; we must forgive and pray for the person’s well being. We must love them and not hate them; even if they have done us wrong. But to think that every evil feeling, every wrong thought, every black mood is sin; that is a mistake. Look at James 1:14 : “every man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust has conceived it brings forth sin”. It is not sin until it conceives.
So, any true sin, internal or behavioral must be repented of. I have to stop sinning in order to have peace with God. As Jesus said in the gospel of John, “if you obey my commandments I will love you and manifest myself to you”. Peace. Joy. Communion. Confidence. Abiding. Healing. None of these states can be fully realized as long as we continue in deliberate, unrepentant sinful behavior or thoughts. Although repentance is a change of mind it is also a change of heart. It is more than will power, and requires help from God. A person can’t repent without God’s help. We don’t repent in order to please God and get His help. We find God first, we come to faith and receive grace, before we can even have the option of repentance. So what if you find yourself with a stronghold; what if you find a besetting sin that you can’t stop doing? You do lots of things. First, you admit it. To yourself and to God. Like an alcoholic at an AA meeting, you identify yourself as a Christian with a need. You go to God in humility and brokenness; drawing near to Him so He will draw near to you. Then, we need to get tough on ourselves. “There is no try, only do” has a lot of truth in it. What else does it mean to say that “sin shall not have dominion over you” other than that we can master it? It is part of the plan. To get tough on sin involves a variety of life style changes. For example, we “avoid the occasions of sin”. That means that you must take control of your life and avoid those settings that lead towards your weakness. You don’t expose yourself to temptation. You avoid it, even if this means you can’t do things that other people can do. They have their own stronghold and their own limitations. Another concept is the fasted lifestyle. That is, we become people of self control, not of self indulgence. Actual fasting from food in itself is an excellent way to “get the victory” over a sin. Another related method that God has given us is accountability. That is, I select a pastor or a mentor and I let them get to know me and my stronghold. Then when I sin or am struggling I tell them about it. Have you ever noticed how much more difficult it is to confess a sin to a human than to God? Go to confession. When we take these steps we will find that “we are not debtors to the flesh”. We are free from the law of sin and death. Try it for yourself.
Now, repentance even goes beyond repenting from sinning. It involves seeing that I am a sinner at heart. That is, I have two natures once I am born again. An old nature and a new nature. The old man is from Adam the new nature is from Christ. “In me, that is in my flesh, dwells no good thing”. “The heart is desperately wicked, who can know it”. Until I really see that these are true and that I am inherently weak then I cannot be strong. Pride must be replaced by humility. God has a way of bringing us to our knees. Fortunately, “if we would judge ourselves we would not be judged”. Or, as one pastor puts it: “we can fall on the rock or let the rock fall on us and crush us”. That is very true. Repentance done fully carries with it a recognition of our true debt and need. Jesus died for me, me alone. My sin resulted in His death. Not just my sins, my sin nature. I need Him. I need the Holy Spirit. “Lead me not into temptation, but deliver me from evil”. Amen brother. When we gain a truly repentant heart we are a less judgmental, more loving, more content people. The best way to obtain this state is to see Jesus. When we see Him in His beauty and holiness we automatically see ourselves in our ugliness and sinfulness. Like job we say “I have heard of you, but now I see you; and I repent in dust and ashes”. Now, lest you misunderstand, I don’t mean that Christians should live their whole lives in a self deprecating attitude. Fortunately, when a Christian goes through repentance they are transformed into friends of God. We have fellowship and communion with Him and we feel very confident and loved. We have fellowship with one another and with the Father. Look at the new testament example if you want to see what a real Christian looks like; but note that they were a repentant people.
THE CURE FOR UNBELIEF: FAITH To be healed requires, finally, a movement from unbelief to faith. This is probably the most under recognized of the 4 foundations. It is easier for most Christians to see immorality or relational transgressions than to see “an evil heart of unbelief”. By unbelief I refer to both emotional and mental states whereby a person believes something contrary to the truth of God. In the realm of inner healing this means principally that a person believes that the wounds, lies and sins that formed his/her strongholds were outside of God’s providence, kindness and love. That is, we don’t believe that God allowed and even planned our strongholds. This difficulty revolves around the core issues of good and evil. Here we find paradox and mystery. God created all things. He has all power, and knows all things. Nothing can happen without His plan and permission. Even when we accept these core truths we find that we need to balance them with another held truth: God is good and does not do evil. I don’t hope to resolve this paradox, but we do need to see its role in inner healing. Basically, the tension we need to hold is that God created some beings with free will. Both humans and angels can (could) choose. The reason for this option being given is that through free will God ends up with some humans and angels who love Him and freely choose Him. These beings will eventually live and rule with Him. In order to gain those that love Him, He must allow some to hate Him. Thus He allows evil to enter the universe. So we have devils and humans who are free to do evil. So does God wound us and lie to us? No. But did He create beings who are allowed to wound us and lie to us? Yes. So did God “want” us to be wounded and lied to? Well, yes; for a higher good He did plan and allow for evil in our lives. Even our sin nature, our tendency outside of Him to do wrong and respond sinfully to wounding and deception, was allowed and planned. We all know the end to this story: through redemption we can enter into life. Our sins can be forgiven. We can be born again into a new life, with a new nature and a power over sin. Our brokenness can be healed. We can become children of God. The point is that we need to see that our strongholds were allowed by God. They are part of a plan; part of who we are and who we are becoming. They are a “gift” from God. Now most people do not believe that the strongholds in their life are a gift from God. Think of all the reasons to reject this thought. First, part of the formation of a stronghold is our fault. We bought the lie. We responded carnally and sinfully. It’s hard to believe that God is pleased with anything that involves our sin. We tend to inventory our life and conclude that we are disqualified from “approved” states such as calling or ministry. Now, without repentance this is ultimately true. But in fact, God puts all humans in the same situation: wound, lie, sin. Is there any exception to this pattern? Are we not all “of like passion”? Didn’t all the people in the Bible go through difficult times and didn’t all of them show weakness and sin to some extent? Why then do we think we are different? The reason is unbelief; we don’t believe the truth of God in our own case. At some point we must add to comfort, revelation and repentance the fact that God allowed and planned our lives. Of course, we could have done better, and of course we need to do better; but He allowed for our choices and He planned the outcome. He has been with us the whole time. That’s why we’re saved! That’s how we ended up as Christians. That’s why we’re here; “He works all things for good to those that love Him, that are called according to His purpose”.
Now, when a person moves from unbelief to faith in these areas then a great liberation and healing occurs. I am no longer a failure, I am chosen. No longer do I believe that the evil in my life is evidence of God’s rejection. I can rejoice in my sufferings. I can see that Satan has used a stronghold in order to thwart the calling and gift of God in my life; that it reveals that I have been chosen by God. I can endure trial and failure while trusting for deliverance and victory. I can expect God’s help and rescue. I am loved, and always have been loved. He has been with me all along and will be with me until the end. If you see this then begin to act on it. Renounce unbelief and don’t allow yourself the luxury of thinking and saying wrong things about yourself and your life. If you can’t yet do this then admit to God that you have unbelief and ask Him to help you with this problem. Make it a matter of daily prayer; pressing in until your thinking, speech and behavior line up with the truth of God.
I have heard it suggested that we “re-write our life story”. That is, as an exercise in inner healing one can revisit their entire life story and reinterpret it from a faith perspective. We can take an active role in “seeing” that God has been with us our entire life and that He has allowed our wounds and our failures for a reason. That is, we can take an active role against unbelief by looking at every place in our past where we feel regret, shame, anger, fear, etc., and make the “confession” that our God is good and our life, in him, is consequently a good life. In order to gain the remedy of faith it is useful to survey the bible for the foundation of unbelief and the remedy of faith. Obviously, this is going to cover a lot of ground. We will start by looking at the process of purification through suffering. The Bible calls it several things: Trials. Testing. Purification. Sifting. Chastening. Temptations. Suffering. In a word: Breaking. Now this is an unpleasant side of the Gospel. It is not under our control. It is not a function of our will or our mind. It is not something that we ask for; in fact we should instead ask that, if possible this cup may pass. Nevertheless, the concept of being broken by God is clearly taught in the Bible. Please use this study to see how unbelief about wounding/lie/sin is answered in the Word. We will look for an understanding of this in three places: first in the letters of the apostles. Second, in the examples shown in the life of the new testament figures of Peter and Paul. Third, in the examples shown in the lives of the old testament figures of David, Joseph and Moses.
LETTERS OF THE APOSTLES. The same letters of the apostles that tell us of our victory in Christ also tell us of our need for purification. In these passages we find instruction on the purification process. Below are listed the principle passages dealing with breaking and reforming. Following this listing is a discussion of the main points related to inner healing.
James 1:2-4 consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. Let endurance have its perfect work that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
James 1:12-15 Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and He tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.
1 Peter 1:6-7 We rejoice in our salvation, even though now for a little while we may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 1:18-21 Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to the kind and gentle but also to the overbearing. For one is approved if, mindful of God, he endures pain while suffering unjustly. For what credit is it, if when you do wrong and are beaten for it you take it patiently? But if when you do right and suffer for it you take it patiently, you have God’s approval. For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving an example, that you should follow in His steps.
1 Peter 4:1-2 Since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same thought, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live the rest of the time in the flesh no longer by human passions but by the will of God.
1 Peter 4:12-13 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also be glad when His glory is revealed.
1 Peter 4:14-19 If you suffer for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory rests upon you. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or a thief, or a wrongdoer, or a mischief-maker; yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but under that name let him glorify God. For the time has come for judgment to begin with the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the end of those who do not obey the gospel of God? And “if the righteous man is scarcely saved, where will the impious and sinner appear?” Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will do right and entrust their souls to a faithful Creator.
1 Peter 5:6-10 Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that in due time He may exalt you. Cast all your care upon Him, for He cares about you. Be sober, be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking some one to devour. Resist him firm in your faith, knowing that the same experience of suffering is required of your brethren throughout the world. And after a little while, the God of all grace will Himself restore, establish, and strengthen you.
Hebrews 12:3-11 Consider Him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted. In your struggle against sin. You have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?: “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor lose courage when you are punished by Him. For the Lord disciplines him whom he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives”. It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you illegitimate children and not sons. Besides this, we have had earthly fathers to discipline us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? For they disciplined us for a short time at their pleasure, but He disciplines us for our good, that we may share in His holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.
Romans 8:15-17 We have received the spirit of son ship and when we cry, “abba! Father!” it is the Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are the children of God, and if children then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with Him.
1 Corinthians 10:11-13 The dealings of God to Israel in the old testament were written as warnings for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and He will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
2 Corinthians1: 3-10 Blessed be the God and Father of Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all of our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God . For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. If we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which you experience when you patiently endure the same sufferings that we suffer. Our hope for you is unshaken; for we know that as you share in our sufferings, you will also share in our comfort.
For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on the God who raises the dead; he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and He will deliver us; on Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again.
2 Corinthians12:7-12 To keep me from being too elated by the abundance of revelations I had received, a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan, to harass me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I besought the Lord about this, that it should leave me; but He said to me, “my grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” I will all the more gladly boast of my weakness, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ then, I am content with weakness, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities; for when I am weak then I am strong.
The passages listed above tell us a lot about the process of breaking. Let’s see how they can be applied to the concepts involved in inner healing. Note that the purification of God is targeted to those whom He loves. It is for the Peters and Pauls, not for the Judases and Pharisees. When we experience trials, temptations, fiery ordeals, judgment, attacks of the enemy, chastening, punishments, afflictions, harassment thorns and arrows, we are supposed to rejoice, “knowing” that it is for our perfection, our completion, our preparation and our good. Breaking is from God to those that please Him. It is not for those that He is angry at. It is not for the world, but for the household of God. It positions us for advancement, usefulness, power and reward. We can share in His holiness and rejoice when His glory is revealed. Now, most Christians in our culture don’t apply these verses to themselves, because most Christians do not see themselves as suffering for the sake of the Gospel. A commonly held belief in our churches is that American Christians are soft and lack dedication. Since they are not suffering persecution they think they are not suffering in a redemptive fashion; unlike the surrendered and persecuted Christians overseas. Most Christians in our culture, instead, interpret a trial in their lives as evidence of their sin; as an indictment from God. Now let’s just think about this for a minute. The passages above clearly indicate that the purification process they describe is for all Christians and is required for “your brethren throughout the world”. There is no hint of cultures where the Christians aren’t purified by trials. A few of the verses above make reference to sins being purified. That is, that a Christian can sin and God will send a trial if they don’t repent. In that case trials do need to be interpreted as evidence of sin. The point is that the vast majority of these passages refer to trials that are not in response to sin but to obedience. “Consider it all joy….let endurance have its perfect work”. Endurance, not repentance. A faithful saint, not an apathetic American Christian. How about this one?: “We rejoice in our salvation, even though now for a little while we may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”. Is that describing someone who is being punished for their lukewarm faith, or someone who is genuine and pleasing to God? Go back and read those passages again; the majority of their content is directed to strong, chosen, obedient Christians who God is purifying further so that they can be more useful to the kingdom. Now the point isn’t that American Christians are as strong and pleasing to God as persecuted Christians overseas. The point is that when an American Christian dedicates himself to God that person will “suffer persecution”, but not like the Christian overseas. Instead an American Christian will suffer in other ways. Let’s start with some obvious and easily understood examples. Take a pastor in an American city for example. Imagine a person who is called by God, who gives up worldly opportunity and pursues the pastorate; dedicated to prayer, to church building, to shepherding, teaching, preaching, counseling, etc. Is that person going to be thrown into prison for his efforts? No, but will that person have trouble? Haven’t you ever met people in ministry who are struggling? Perhaps small numbers respond and join them, most ignore them. Often times, the more challenging the level of gospel being preached the harder it becomes to draw people to it. Or, take the example of a saintly church woman who prays faithfully and fervently for the work of God. Might not her own son cause her heartache and testing by rebelling against God and living a worldly life? What about a young child being raised by Christian parents in America? Won’t that young person face a great trial from a hostile culture, especially as they enter puberty? They may not be persecuted by imprisonment, but the pressure that an immoral and spiritually dead culture like ours will exert on their desire to live a godly life will be intense.
The point is that even though Americans don’t get persecuted they do get purified. This is not to minimize the immense problem of a lukewarm, compromising church. Nor does it guarantee that our churches may not undergo an intense form of cultural shaking that results in widespread persecution of Christians. Such a shaking is actually likely to occur; and widespread purification will probably result in a smaller number of Christians; but with a greater purity and zeal. But in the meantime, there are Christians in America who are pleasing to God, and who fit the purification process above. So what is the relationship between redemptive suffering and inner healing? The fact is that anyone trying to live for God in our culture is going to have to swim upstream against a powerful current; a current that can flow from the white house, the courts, media, schools, and , unfortunately, our churches. Being raised in this environment deepens the challenge.
Now merely suffering is not redemptive suffering. If a child is sexually abused, or if their parents divorce right at a delicate stage of development, or if they are raised in a home and culture that is spiritually dark then they will suffer, but it is not redemptive until they decide to follow God. “Take up your cross and follow Me”, involves decision and intention, not just pain. To follow Jesus requires a complete commitment to Him. However, when a person from our culture does make this decision and have this commitment, then that person is going to find a lot of suffering as they are purified. When nearly half the adults in a culture are on antidepressants then many of the Christians in that culture are going to have to battle depression. When the schools, the movies, the TV shows, the courts, the corporate leaders and the role models are immoral then the Christian individual is going to feel very out of place when they start trying to live according to Bible. A sincere Christian individual is going to have many enemies, and most of them are inside of him; formed there over the years preceding their conversion. These we are calling strongholds, and the purification process will involve undoing these strongholds. The purification process goes beyond the person’s conscious decisions and involves breaking. To sort through this process, to understand it, to co-operate with it, this we are calling “inner healing”. The inner healing message ,then, is for those who want to be dedicated but are still under the bondage of strongholds. What we are saying is that such people cannot just “repent” and gain the peace and confidence they seek. The point is that wounds, lies, sins and unbelief are hindering them from moving into a place where they can maintain a focused dedicated walk. By seeking God for healing they will receive the remedies and cures: comfort, revelation, repentance and faith. Many people are moving into such a healed state. Some of the people who experienced renewal through the Toronto movement had such a powerful encounter with God that they came away knowing that they were loved. They could no longer interpret their trials as evidence of God’s disapproval. Likewise, those that have entered into the “bridal paradigm” (a movement out of Kansas City, called “Friends of the Bridegroom” shows people how much God loves them and sees them as a beautiful bride of Christ) also are coming to know the love of God experientially to the point where they can reinterpret their lives and see that the trials of their past were from a loving and passionate Savior who is drawing them into a life of intimate communion. In short, the love of God brings people to a surrendered life. “Healing” is a short cut term for the process whereby a person receives the love of God with such comfort and revelation that they can then purge out of their lives the sinful patterns they have been holding. These people can then accept the purifying, chastening, testing hand of God. They reinterpret their past so that they no longer misinterpret the hand of God in their lives. To move out of luke warmness and double mindedness into whole hearted devotion and service will require, for many people, an inner healing.
Let me remind you of some ways you can use to recognize a stronghold, and a need for inner healing, in your life. First, areas of persistent sins. Areas where you “fall” again and again. That is, repeated sins that you don’t want in your life; where you feel remorse and shame and where you admit it is wrong to do these things. That is a clear indication of a stronghold. “Repentance” alone will not work; you need the other remedies too. Another sign of a stronghold is a pattern of responding to something with a response that is disproportionate to the situation. For example, you just can’t stand what a certain person does. You realize it is a small annoyance to most people but a major disturbance to you. Why? Look for the stronghold in a case like this. Patterns of behavior are also important indicators of strongholds. For example, every job you hold ends in a conflict with the authority over you. Let the patterns of problems in your life lead you to the root. Addictions and compulsions are also important “messages” from your inner realm. Why do you like food so much that it is causing physical and relational problems for you? Where does your need for alcohol or drugs come from? Lastly, just being unable to be the Christian you want to be is an indication of a stronghold in your life that needs to be healed. Let the presence of a stronghold motivate you to study the biblical truths outlined above until you gain the remedy of faith relative to your situation.
THE NEW TESTAMENT EXAMPLE OF PETER. Peter was a person who was called by God, who loved Jesus, who walked with Him and learned from Him, but who needed “formation” before being able to minister for Him. From the very beginning he displayed a tender, broken nature. “He fell at His feet, saying ‘depart from me Lord, for I am a sinful man’”. However, right from the beginning Peter also displayed his weakness: overconfidence in his abilities and perceptions. This mixture in him runs through his entire life. We are allowed to see his transformation; from the fisherman to the apostle. The man who would be a leader of the church was “seen” by Jesus on the beach that first day. It took some time to form him however. When Peter says to not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that comes upon you to test you, he knows what he is talking about. We can see a pattern of healing in how Jesus dealt with him. Note that Jesus would both encourage him and correct him. He accepted him, but saw things that needed to change. Furthermore, the things that needed to be changed were not always under Peter’s direct control. I suppose when Jesus told him to “get behind me Satan” that he learned a lot about what voices he was listening to, and in this instance and others I am sure that Peter learned to change things that were in his power to change. But we don’t see Jesus merely telling him he needs to change. We see that God used a variety of methods to change Peter.
I especially like the incident of Peter’s denial. Here Jesus first uses prophecy; “Satan has asked to have you, to sift you like wheat”. Along with this announcement, however, comes comfort and faith; “but I have prayed for you that your faith won’t fail, and after you are converted, strengthen your brethren”. So why does Peter need to go through this “ordeal”? Well, one could say that it was because of his stronghold, to break his self confidence. Like Paul said: For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of the affliction we experienced in Asia; for we were so utterly, unbearably crushed that we despaired of life itself. Why, we felt that we had received the sentence of death; but that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on the God who raises the dead; he delivered us from so deadly a peril, and He will deliver us; on Him we have set our hope that He will deliver us again. Peter could not change his personality and undo a lifetime of unredeemed formation just by being told that he was relying on himself and too confident in himself. He had to be broken and reformed. Next, Peter makes one of his rash boasts at the wrong place: the last supper. “Even if everyone else denies you, I won’t”. Jesus had just told them that He would have to face a trial that they would not be able to face. Peter though is confident that he can pass any test even if Jesus says he can’t. He is not really tracking spiritually here. So, he denies the lord 3 times; finally to be broken by a knowing look from Him. He wept bitterly. After Jesus is resurrected He comes to Peter in tenderness and comfort. Three times He asks “Peter, do you love me?”. Finally, it is finished, and Peter has seen the light: “Lord you know all things”. He now sees who He is and who he is.
When we come to Jesus He also “sees” us as we are in Him; what we will be when the purification process is complete. With us too He uses a variety of methods to teach us and break us. What we need to appreciate is that all of our past is included in the deal. The suffering that we experience as a result of the strongholds that are in us is part of purification. This sort of cycle of breaking and reforming is part of the Gospel. One time we need comfort, another we need reproof and repentance. Sometimes it is a matter of needing more understanding, sometimes it is a crucible of fire that leads to a decision born of crisis. But at all times it is directed by a loving and kind God who has our good as the goal. Just decide now that you will believe that God loves you as you are, and seek healing that will transform you into what you want to be.
THE NEW TESTATMENT EXAMPLE OF PAUL. Paul shares with us his secret for success. We have already looked at 2 of the passages. Let’s look at some more. 2 Corinthians 6:4-10 says “As servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, tumults, labors, watching, hunger; by purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love, truthful speech, and the power of God; with the weapons of righteousness for the right hand and the left; in honor and dishonor, in ill repute and good repute. We are treated as imposters, and yet are true; as unknown and yet well known; as dying and behold we live; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything.” Now, what American Christian can even hope to compare themselves to Paul? There are no beatings, imprisonments or persecution. But is that really the list? What about a Christian who lives a life surrendered to God, pouring out their life in service to His people and to the kingdom; exercising self imposed hardships and disciplines of a fasted life style, walking in purity, knowledge, forbearance, kindness and the Holy Spirit, genuine love and truthful speech? There may not be miracle power for signs, but they might have the power of the Holy Spirit to live a life of genuine righteousness, whether honored or not by the culture, whether having a good reputation in the eyes of the world or not. Such a person will end up before the throne of God with His approval for making many rich in eternal life. An American Christian who comes into this sort of faith walk is going to have to fight his/her strongholds and go through a healing. The enemies to fight may be depression, lust, a desire for approval, hunger for power, vanity, rebellion or any combination of cultural idols prevalent in our society. The battle will be internal as they shed the darkness within them that they developed by growing up in our country. Naturally, this involves repentance and self mortification, but it will require receiving the love of God, revelation about the deceptions they have believed, and the encouragement of faith as they see that God loves them and has chosen them; allowing them to experience the darkness that twisted them and formed the strongholds that they now labor against.
2 Corinthians 11:24-29 is even worse “Five times I have received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I have been beaten with rods; once I was stoned. Three times I have been shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been I have been adrift on the sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from the gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brethren; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure upon me of the churches. Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?” When was the last time you were in danger from a river? About the only river we are in danger from is the river of God that we are failing to enter into. If physical hardship is the criteria for sincerity then we in this culture certainly are disqualified. But here, again, is that really the point in this passage? If Paul was born in America, couldn’t God lead him to stay here and labor here or would he have to go away as a missionary to another country? The truth is that to succeed here will require a battle and much danger. The enemies though will be isolation, discouragement, unbelief, and emotional draining. A horde of dark opponents will stand against anyone trying to shake free from their idols and worship and serve the one true God. The battle ground will be within. Only the word of God and the voice of God in our spirit will cheer us on. The world around us will be in oblivion to such a quest. Everything around us will tell us we are kidding ourselves about being chosen and called by God. Our fellow Christians will most likely not understand the deposit within us that is growing, struggling and breaking our heart as it strains to burst into fruitfulness. Truly, Satan is the accuser of the brethren, and one of us, with our stronghold reminding us of our weakness, is easy prey for an accuser.
Can we not stand with Paul and say “ Here indeed we groan, and long to put on our heavenly dwelling, so that we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we sigh with anxiety; not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.” Inner healing is a cry like this; to be cleaned, lifted up, dressed in armor and strengthened in the inner man. It is a long and difficult process, but let us obtain it and help others to obtain it,
THE OLD TESTAMENT EXAMPLES OF MOSES, JOSEPH AND DAVID. These three great old testament figures can teach us much about our own struggle. They all three share elements of purification from strongholds that we can learn from. In general, these were men chosen by God from an early age. Now of course, everyone chosen by God for any task has been chosen “before the foundations of the world”; but often we can’t see that about ourselves and we tend to believe that our spiritual formation began when we came alive to faith. Our response to hearing the word of God, our response to God, did in fact move us into Christ; and in terms of being born again into a new life it did indeed have a beginning here on earth. But, God chose us before we responded. Can anyone come to Christ unless the Father draw him? Doesn’t God protect and direct people as He draws them to Himself? In David and Joseph’s case they were chosen as young men. Moses can rightly be said to be called from birth. For our purposes, as examples related to inner healing, we need to look at the formation that these men went through. We will start with Moses.
Moses ended up being raised by his own mother, but was greatly influenced by his Egyptian “adopted family”. Evidently he suffered somewhat of a conflict in his “identity”. We are told that “by faith Moses, when he was born, was hid for three months by his parents, because they saw that the child was beautiful; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict. By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to share ill-treatment with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin.” He finally saw who he was, but it was not automatic, or easy. From the point of view of purification, the event I want to draw your attention to begins when Moses is a young adult: he sees an Egyptian beating a Hebrew and he kills the Egyptian. When he does that act, he is acting as a deliverer of the Hebrews. This is viewed by Pharaoh as treason, and he seeks to kill Moses; he flees from Egypt and for forty years Moses is formed into the actual deliverer by working as a shepherd. Why did God have to form Moses in the way He did? We read elsewhere that Moses was the “meekest of all men”. Evidently, somewhere between the brash young man and the meek old man a formation was occurring. Did Moses have to go through this because of his own sin? He had the calling from birth, he knew his calling from his youth onward, but his complete preparation took many years and many trials. This was a man of faith that God chose, who himself chose God in return. A man who was willing to live up to his calling. Then why did he have to wait 40 years to hear the actual call? The answer is that intention and zeal are not the only ingredients in forming a mature, meek, fully prepared person. God works these in us through circumstances that we don’t understand. Our task is to wait on God, continue in the faith, continue in obedience until the process is complete; we must let patience have her perfect work. Don’t you think Moses had to deal with doubt and discouragement during those forty years on the back forty? Don’t you think that he more than once blamed himself for “blowing it”? The issue here isn’t sin; its purification from states that we can barely recognize. Like self reliance, or leaning to our own understanding, or impatience or unbelief. The point is, we are in the same situation as Moses, we have our calling and our faith tested by ordinary life.
Joseph is another case in point. We see his early election reflected in the dreams that God gave him while he was still a youth. Have you ever had visions of grandeur? They just might be from God. Even if our large dreams are from God, they may cause trouble from our brothers; and our understanding of them will need time and testing to come to fruition. Like Joseph we don’t understand what our true purpose and calling is when we first hear the promise and vision of God for our life.. We are likely to have an obnoxious, proud and naive view of what is entailed in fulfilling our calling. Still, it is not sin, it is normal human soil; to be mixed with blood, sweat and tears as our life unfolds. Don’t you think that Joseph thought long and hard about his life when he was in prison? We know from the end of the story that he had come to peace with his brothers, with God, and with his whole life: “you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.” We have a similar challenge, to continue in the faith, holding our vision while yet releasing our vision, during the process of purification. As many people have observed and noted, a vision needs to die before it can be resurrected. God brings us to the point where we no longer need anything but Him; ambition is replaced with contentment, and our will is abandoned to His will. This process, is a long, hard and severe test of our faith. Surrender to the will of God, however, is not the same thing as quitting. We don’t surrender our vision, or let our vision die, in the sense that we become discouraged and stop trying. We cannot be those who “shrink back” if we want to fulfill our calling; we must endure the process. This is serious business; a full time job, a matter of life and death. Only as we see our desperate need for Jesus, who went before us in this process, can we endure. To say that we need a life of prayer, not just a prayer life, is an understatement. Gazing on the beauty of our Savior, receiving His love, lost in His love, consumed by His love; these are real, necessary and attainable states. The mixture of comfort, correction, revelation, breaking and healing that only God can give will bring us to our eternal home. May the Lord help us as our hearts cry out to Him for victory.
David’s life, like Paul’s, seems too great to apply to our own. The lover of God, a man after God’s heart, the great poet and psalmist. Who dares try to learn anything from his life? Yet, I doubt if he would agree with that if he were here. More than anyone else though, David’s life illustrates the principle that purification is for those that please God, not for those that displease Him. Both the narrative account in the books of Kings and Chronicles, as well as David’s writings in the Psalms, reveals a man that was pleasing to God. Yet, who went through more purification than David? Trials, undeserved persecution, temptations, opposition, dark nights, dry places; David had them all. Mixed with these is worship, comfort, beauty, awe, intimacy and communion with God. Can we not learn from him to do the same? Let us take heart in our trials; drawing close to God in the Spirit, loving Him and letting Him love us. Let us too seek God with our whole heart, not holding anything back, striving with all our might to run the race.
A pure and simple reading of the entire Gospel cannot lead to any other conclusion but that it is God’s will to heal us and bring us to wholeness.
In summary then, the foundation of unbelief is the most hidden and difficult of the four foundations to cure. Faith in God’s goodness, despite trials and sufffeing is difficult. Furthermore, to believe that God loves me while at the same time He is revealing impurity is difficult. Let us study the word and conform our thinking to what it teaches us about our own efforts and failures; not allowing our thoughts to condemn us.
The demonic realm. Are demons real? Do they interact with us? Can we perceive them? Do we need to be aware of them? Is wholeness, in part, related to victory over demons? We need to answer these questions. I want to start, first, with the Bible as the source to answer these questions. Then, I will give some beliefs that I hold because of my experience.
Are demons real? The Bible is clear on this subject. They are real. We find evidence of this from Genesis to Revelation. The church, both Catholic and Protestant, has affirmed the biblical evidence as compelling in declaring the present reality of the demonic realm. We find Satan as the serpent, Lucifer, the leader of one third of the angels that were expelled from heaven, the accuser, the father of lies, the god of this world, the tempter, the dragon, the enemy of God. We find Satan tempting Eve, mocking Job, offering the world to Jesus, entering into Judas, whispering to Peter, falling from heaven as lightening, opposing the plan of God, hating the people of God, and being thrown into the lake of fire; prepared for him and his fellow fallen angels.
We find a whole world of fallen angels revealed in the Bible. Paul talks about “principalities”, “powers”, “world rulers”, “a spiritual host of wickedness in the heavenly realm”. They are spirits. Evil spirits. When Daniel sought God in prayer and fasting, he learned from an angel (a good angel, described as “a man, clothed in linen, whose loins were girded with the gold of Uphaz. His body was like beryl, his face like the appearance of lightening, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and legs like the gleam of burnished bronze, and the sound of his voice like the noise of a multitude.”) that as soon as Daniel had set himself to understand and had humbled himself that he (the angel) had been sent by God; but that for 21 days he had been delayed by “the prince of Persia”. One of the “chief princes” (Michael) had to come help him so he could get away and come to Daniel. Now, ask yourself, what kind of being are we talking about here, who could resist God’s angels with such power? Who is the “prince of Persia”? A principality perhaps? A power? We don’t know for sure who is who, but we know that there are demons ruling the nations. We also know that lesser demons are found in individuals. Jesus was teaching in the Jewish synagogue once and a (human) man yelled at Him: “what have you to do with us Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” Who is talking here? Jesus sees that it is a demon in the man and He orders it to leave. The people in the synagogue, who in that era understood about the demonic realm, wondered what sort of teaching and authority Jesus had that He could “command the unclean spirits and they obey him”. In case you are thinking that such stories are just cultural metaphors from a primitive time in history, I refer you to a similar story where Jesus cast out a whole “legion” of demons from a man. Those demons talked to Him too, and begged that He would not cast them into the “pit”. When He agreed to not cast them into the pit, they left; and entered into some nearby pigs. The pigs went berserk and ran off a cliff. Can a cultural metaphor cause an animal to run off a cliff?
Demons are real. So, can they interact with us? We are told to “be sober and vigilant against the attacks and wiles of the devil”. Told to “resist the devil”. To put on the “armor of God”. We read about “doctrines of devils” that will be promoted to the church in the last days. John tells us to “test the spirits, to see if they are from God”. Peter suggested to Jesus that He would not have to endure the cross; that seems like a very natural, carnal, human point of view doesn’t it? Yet Jesus says “get behind me Satan”. Who was He talking to? Paul says that the man that the Corinthian church disciplined should be forgiven (since he repented) and encouraged because “he may be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow.” Rather psychologically sophisticated of Paul don’t you think? Then Paul adds: “I have forgiven him in the presence of Christ, to keep Satan from gaining the advantage over us; for we are not ignorant of his devices.” I am afraid that, in comparison, we today are ignorant of Satan’s devices.
Now, can we perceive demons? Since they are invisible, spirit beings, we note that we don’t see them with our natural eyes. I can only see physical objects with my sense of vision. The Bible talks about “discerning” spirits. This is a spiritual gift that allows a person to “see” a demon. Paul could discern spirits. This gift is listed as a gift that the Holy Spirit can give to individuals to help build up the church. When John tells us to test the spirits; to not believe every spirit or when Paul says to “take the shield of faith, and use it to quench the fiery darts of the evil one” they imply a common Christian power. These and other passages make it clear that a Christian can, at times, God willing, see into the demonic realm.
Usually, though, demons cannot be seen. The more important question is this: should we see into the demonic realm. I believe that there are places in our life story where the influence of demons is real and must be seen. I do not believe, however, that we should look for demons, or try to be aware of them on any regular basis. When we are told to put on the armor of God, resist the devil, test the spirits, etc. I don’t believe it means to try to encounter them or seek to have our eyes open to them as a normal part of our daily walk. I don’t think that such a strategy can be supported biblically. At best, I could agree that a few individuals in the church may have such a calling. Considering, though, the deceptive power of the demonic realm, and that Satan can even disguise himself as an angel of light, I believe it is wise to interact spiritually with the Trinity directly; not with angels or demons.
So then how does knowledge of the demonic realm enter into a victory over strongholds and a healing that moves us towards a state of wholeness? What we need to see is that the demonic realm is true, and that it has had an influence in our lives. This is different than “seeing demons” on a daily basis. Let me give you an example from my life. As described above in the section on strongholds, my family was plagued by sexual problems. It was my particular “generational curse”. Looking back in my life I can see the influence of “voices” (suggestions, inclinations, intuitive knowledge, patterns of behaviors, compulsions, and temptations) that helped form my stronghold. This included the lies that I received about myself as well as the methods that I used to respond sinfully in my situation. Demons played a role in wounding me, lying to me, and helping me sin. I was good at certain types of sin; I had help. Now, I don’t mean to suggest that “the devil made me do it”. In fact, our guilt as humans is actually increased when we let a demon help us sin. It is a false God. An idol. The point is, it is real. All of us have, to some degree, encountered the demonic realm in our lives. It is important to see the influence of the demonic in our lives because deliverance is a specific remedy for demonic oppression. Deliverance is different than repentance. Devils do not repent. You cannot reason with a demon, or repent your way out of an oppressed state. You must be delivered; you must resist the devil. It is a fight; it is spiritual warfare. Here again, there is room for error. I have seen “deliverance ministries” that I would not recommend. I have seen people become deflected from true spiritual growth by trying to see and “fight” demons. I am not referring to that sort of activity. The safest way to proceed is this: prayer. Ask God to show you if any demonic influences exists in your life. Ask Him to deliver you if there is a need for it. Let God open your eyes to any enemy you might have that you are confusing with your own flesh. Let Jesus show you if you need something beyond repentance. When you consider that the “prince of Persia” could resist the type of angels that Daniel described, then it is clear that we don’t want to fight demons on our own. We want Jesus to do the fighting.
THE MINISTRY OF INNER HEALING
I’d like to share a few thoughts on how to apply the information contained in this essay/testimony and include inner healing as a ministry in a church setting.
First, realize that this will be a difficult task. It is difficult for a lot of reasons. People don’t like to expose sin for one thing. It feels shameful. The “audience” to such confession often will judge or gossip. If something is “hidden” or “in darkness” (subconscious in modern terminology) then it will not easily be seen by the person you are trying to help, and they are likely to feel criticized, not loved. Confidentiality, compassion, understanding, patience, wisdom: wow, what a list of “staff qualifications” is needed to minister inner healing effectively.
Second, realize that the ministry of inner healing is “caught not taught”. That is, the formation of an effective inner healing minister occurs in a mentoring context, not merely through education.
Third, effective inner healing ministry will take a team effort. Some people are good at listening, some “just know” what direction to take a conversation, some can “see” a deep problem. Others discern spirits and yet others know how to interceed. I believe that a team leader who can both exert authority and draw out other team members will be required. Team members must be mature enough to submit to authority and yet be creative. Likewise team members must understand the vision of inner healing and pay the price in prayer and humility in order to operate in love. The balance between comfort and confrontation will most likely be a group effort and will require a great deal of cooperation between members and towards the team leader.
Fourth, I believe that without the support of the senior pastor an inner healing group will not succeed. The senior pastor must understand inner healing in order to support such a ministry. Such support should include using the authority of the pulpit to educate and motivate the congregation about inner healing.
Fifth, I think that receiving inner healing ministry should always be optional and voluntary. Although education from the pulpit can motivate people to seek inner healing there needs to be room given to people to find the right time and have the needed foundation to benefit from this ministry.
Sixth, the ministry of inner healing is part of the larger task of discipleship. This is true principally because becoming a disciple takes more than discipline. It takes spiritual health and that goes beyond the application of the will and requires that a person see those painful areas of their life that they often cannot easily see without help. I recommend, in fact, that any leadership development program require a “diploma” from the inner healing team as one of the steps to a full release into gift/sevice ministries.
Seventh, the person receiving the ministry of inner healing must ultimately be responsible for their “healing”. They must seek God, be zealous for health, humble themselves and examine themselves. A rich interior life is a necessary foundation to receiving the efforts of the ministry team.