Did you know that everyone has a Gospel story inside aching to be
written – and a world screaming to listen?
“God, says Bill Johnson, has ideas; he puts them into words and speaks them.
And those words form inside the heart of surrendered individuals, and from
that comes a demonstration of who Jesus is.” Chris Rosebrough asks “where is
he getting this – and much else – from? Bible verse please.” (“Birthing the
what? Last 45 minutes, Rosebrough’s “Fighting for the faith.”).
Johnson continues: “The Lord wants to bring forth something out of every life,
out of every heart, something that is absolutely impossible. God loves
manifesting himself through your gifts, your history, your family, the good the
bad and the ugly. He loves being recognised by others as your God in the
midst of that. I’m not wanting to do a study of the gospels, I just want to say,
you’ve got your story too, and Jesus is wanting to bring something out of the
impossible through you. I want to challenge every believer. There is a miracle
that God has been planning in eternity past, a miracle, something
impossible,something that can only be brought forth in its purest form through
you. It cannot be done by someone else. it is a representation of this
wonderful saviour, this wonderful king, it cannot be brought forth accurately,
powerfully, purely except through you. The world is looking for, the expression
of Jesus through you. You’re highly favoured (Johnson compares believers with
the mother of Jesus, but on a less exalted level), set aside for the impossible.”
And, which is the inspiration behind my title:
“I want to see the expression of Jesus in and through you in ways that the
world is aching for. Some of you carry some gifts and praises on you that are
so unique that there is a gospel to be written. Every one of you has a gospel
story that can be only told through your life experience. There’s a book to be
written in and through your experience with this wonderful saviour that will
touch people whether it’s the Greeks or the Romans.There’s a gospel story to
be written through your life, by countless numbers of people that will represent
him (the saviour) well in a way they can relate to. And that’s the miracle of
this mother’s day.
The last sentence explains Rosebrough’s title “Birthing the what?” Only
mothers give birth. You o man can give birth too; so mother’s day is also for you. Indeed you are a mother.
I ask: Is the world really aching to see the expression of Jesus in and through
me, or Bill Johnson or anyone? Absolutely not. The world doesn’t give a toss.
Ask Jesus: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated
you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but
because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore
the world hates you (John 15:18).
Here, in a similar vein to Johnson, is Walter Brueggemann.He distinguishes between “certitude” and “fidelity.” For Brueggemann, any interaction between 1. certitude, which he considers limited because it is restricted to a single meaning (univocity) and 2. fidelity,
should be frowned upon. We should, therefore, be open, as Jacques Derrida
says, to “an unlimited number of contexts over an indefinite period of time,”
and thus to an unrestricted interaction. The main focus of the Bible, for
Brueggemann, is suffering persons desiring to tell their personal stories. For him,
there is no no such thing as the (objective) True story, but only
hurting people telling their “true-for-me” stories, which are the only stories
that ultimately matter. And if the Bible stories are able to buck – and back –
them up, thank you Holy Spirit.
Jesus says: The Truth will make you certain and free. Brueggemann says The
Truth will make you uncertain and flee.
The Truth necessarily brings suffering and makes you feel very unsafe. Unsafe
in the world, yes; for the supernatural reason that the biblical story clashes
with the world’s story/stories (the world system).
This is what the Cross means to Brueggemann: “The symbol of that (fidelity) is
the way of the cross. The way of the cross is always to be departing certitudes
so that we may be in the company of Jesus.” Now, one can feel certain about
something yet it may not be true, that is, objectively true (Truth). In
Brueggemann, however, “certitude” is synomymous with Truth; as we read
earlier, he says “certitude” is restricted to a single meaning (univocity), that is
the normal meaning of words; in their context, of course.
According to Brueggemann, fidelity means being in the company of the
crucified Jesus, but this can only become a reality if we “depart” from our
“certitudes;” If language has consensual meanings, I presume Brueggemann
means by “certitudes,” all certitudes. Surely, though, if we are to be faithful
(fidel) to the way of the cross, as Brueggemann suggests, we need to be
certain that “Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he
was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the
Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3).
Jacques Derrida, Jean Paul Sartre, Andre Gide, Albert Camus, as well as every
postmodernist, poststructuralist, deconstructionist, in fact, anyone who doesn’t
believe in Certitude, would ask the question: “What fun’s left once you find the
Messiah, once you’ve found the “Cross?” After all, the ideal, says Renan, is
fundamentally a utopia. What is more utopian than Truth? (See my Certainty
and Fidelity in Biblical Interpretation: The Deconstruction of Walter Brueggemann).
Where do Bill Johnson and Walter Brueggemann get all this stuff from? It
seems that Postmodernism has influenced Brueggemann. And Bill Johnson?
He’s into contemplative Spirituality. In his Sozo manual on inner healing, he
“Sozo is a Christian based prayer ministry helping to heal people from the
effects of sin and wounding, of delivering individuals from the resulting
influence, control and dominion of the demonic, and of restring them to
relationship with God. This is accomplished through prayer and the guidance of
the Holy Spirit, during which He uncovers past and present lies believed,
reveals sin issues, as well as points of entry or access. When we remove the
ground for this access, the spirits lose their ability and right to influence and
control our lives. It is then that blessing and obedience can be established. The
primary purpose of Sozo, at its best, is to move through healing and freedom,
and into restoration of the relationship with Papa God and out of that
relationship, to reestablish destiny, purpose and direction.” (The Shack’s Mamma Papa God?)
Sozo (which is Greek for “salvation”) reminds me of the French Jesuit,
Jean-Pierre Causssade, famous among Roman Catholic contemplatives for his
book “Abandonment to divine providence,” highly recommended by Thomas
Keating, founding member and spiritual guide of “Contemplative outreach”
extending beyond the monastery into the home. Here is an excerpt from Caussade. For
him, the Gospel is merely “a tiny stream” in comparison to the river that God
wants to pour into us. If, however, you want the river to swim in you, you’ll
need a guide – like Thomas Keating. I italicise the parts in Causssade that
resonate with Bill Johnson and Walter Brueggemann. Caussade is describing
the gospel that God is writing on contemplative hearts:
The Holy Spirit has pointed out in infallible and incontestable characters,
some moments in that ocean of time, in the Sacred Scriptures. In them we see
by what secret and mysterious ways He has brought Jesus before the world.
Amidst the confusion of the races of men can be distinguished the origin, race,
and genealogy of this, the first-born. The whole of the Old Testament is but an
outline of the profound mystery of this divine work; it contains only what is
necessary to relate concerning the advent of Jesus Christ. The Holy Spirit has
kept all the rest hidden among the treasures of His wisdom.
From this ocean of the divine activity He only allows a tiny stream to escape,
and this stream having gained its way to Jesus is lost in the Apostles, and has
been engulfed in the Apocalypse; so that the history of this divine activity
consisting of the life of Jesus in the souls of the just to the end of time, can
only be divined by faith. As the truth of God has been made known by word of
mouth, so His charity is manifested by action. The Holy Spirit continues to
carry on the work of our Saviour. While helping the Church to preach the
Gospel of Jesus Christ, He writes His own Gospel in the hearts of the just. All
their actions, every moment of their lives, are the Gospel of the Holy Spirit.
The souls of the saints are the paper, the sufferings and actions the ink. The
Holy Spirit with the pen of His power writes a living Gospel, but a Gospel that
cannot be read until it has left the press of this life, and has been published on
the day of eternity. Oh! great history! grand book written by the Holy Spirit in
this present time! It is still in the press. There is never a day when the type is
not arranged, when the ink is not applied, or the pages are not primed.
We are still in the dark night of faith. The paper is blacker than the ink, and
there is great confusion in the type. It is written in characters of another world
and there is no understanding it except in Heaven. If we could see the life of
God, and behold all creatures, not as they are in themselves, but as they exist
in their first cause; and if again we could see the life of God in all His
creatures, and could understand how the divine action animates them, and
impels them all to press forward by different ways to the same goal, we should
realize that all has a meaning, a measure, a connexion in this divine work. But
how can we read a book the characters of which are foreign to us, the letters
innumerable, the type reversed, and the pages blotted with ink?
Teach me, divine Spirit, to read in this book of life. I desire to become Your
disciple and, like a little child, to believe what I cannot understand, and cannot
see. Sufficient for me that it is my Master who speaks. He says that! He
pronounces this! He arranges the letters in such a fashion! He makes Himself
heard in such a manner! That is enough. I decide that all is exactly as He says.
I do not see the reason, but He is the infallible truth, therefore all that He
says, all that He does is true. He groups His letters to form a word, and
different letters again to form another word. There may be three only, or six;
then no more are necessary, and fewer would destroy the sense. He who reads
the thoughts of men is the only one who can bring these letters together, and
write the words. All has meaning, all has perfect sense. This line ends here
because He makes it do so. Not a comma is missing, and there is no
unnecessary full-stop. At present I believe, but in the glory to come when so
many mysteries will be revealed, I shall see plainly what now I so little
understand. Then what appears to me at present so intricate, so perplexing, so
foolish, so inconsistent, so imaginary, will all be entrancing and will delight me
eternally by the beauty, order, knowledge, wisdom, and the incomprehensible
wonders it will all display.
End of Caussade
Caussade’ description of God as the arranger of “type” (letters) evokes the
Jewish system of Gematria described in the Zohar where the 27 letters of the
Hebrew alphabet in different combinations have the power to release the riches
of your unconscious mind. Materialists would agree that the human being, at
bottom, is a concatenation of letters but only four – in the DNA, but you’re not
going to find the “Endless One” (Ein Sof) there. So, if that’s what you want to do, see your doctor.
To return to Caussade. In the gospel that God is writing on Caussade’s heart,
Caussade sees himself – as I understand him -in a glass darkly, and says when he shucks off his mortal coil, he would see himself as he really is. Is that what the Bible says,
see himself as he really is? Frankly I only want to see God as he really is – and
myself covered in his light. Here is the Gospel of the scriptures?
1 Corinthians 13:9-12
“I know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is
come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as
a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things. 12 For now we
see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but
then shall I know even as also I am known.”
What shall I know even as also I am known (by God)? God.When Causssade says:
“At present I believe, but in the glory to come
many mysteries will be revealed, I shall see plainly what now I so little
understand,” he is not talking about what is written in the scriptures, but what
has been left out of them; what has been written in the mystical realm – about
Caussade, and you and me. If only, as Thomas Keating says, we would dare to
enter our closet, sit down, shut up and allow God to write Himself – much of
whom is not found in the “little stream” of the scriptures – into our hearts.
Contrast this self-preoccupation of Johnson, Brueggemann and Caussade with
the Gospel writers, for example Matthew’s cameo appearance, who only
mentions himself is in the third person. “And as Jesus passed forth from
thence, he saw a man, named Matthew, sitting at the receipt of custom: and
he saith unto him, Follow me. And he arose, and followed him” (Matthew 9:9).
For our three kissing cousins described above, scripture is insufficient. For them,
there’s the patchy universal Gospel story in the scriptures, which becomes heavily
supplemented by your story/gospel that God is writing on your heart or
you are aching, if you’re Johnson, to write in a book. Paul warns us in
“6 I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the
grace of Christ unto another gospel: 7 Which is not another; but there be some
that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But though we, or
an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we
have preached unto you, let him be accursed. 9 As we said before, so say I
now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have
received, let him be accursed. 10 For do I now persuade men, or God? or do I
seek to please men? for if I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of
In the Roman Catholic Church, tradition interprets and supplements scripture,
where “tradition” is generally understood as 1. those sacraments not found in
the biblical material, for example, confession and holy orders (the priesthood,
etc) and 2. dogmas such as those about Mary, the mother of Jesus,
indulgences, purgatory and papal infallibility. There is another domain of
Roman Catholic tradition, namely, the mystical/contemplative tradition as in
Caussade. In the last decade, many who call themselves “evangelical” such as
Bill Johnson are embracing mysticism. As someone said, what begins in a
myst, ends in a schism – the Gospel (about God) and gospels about oneself.
Caussade spoke of the Scriptures as a little stream. I prefer Jonathan Edwards’
puritan fountain, which taps into the pristine ocean of the scriptures:
“God is the highest good of the reasonable creature. The enjoyment of him is
our proper; and is the only happiness with which our souls can be satisfied. To
go to heaven, fully to enjoy God, is infinitely better than the most pleasant
accommodations here. Better than fathers and mothers, husbands, wives, or
children, or the company of any, or all earthly friends. These are but shadows;
but the enjoyment of God is the substance. These are but scattered beams;
but God is the sun. These are but streams; but God is the fountain. These are
but drops, but God is the ocean.”