"There is Power in Pain: How Authority is Earned Through the Cross" by Mike McLoughlin

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Mike McLoughlinwrites a blog I recently found. It has been of incredible value, especially in the area of ministering at work. Perusing his blog while home sick today, I came across this article which was worthy of a re-post here at M.O.G. It is called, "There is Power in Pain: How Authority is Earned Through the Cross." Feel free to link back to the original, but I was strongly impressed to post it here too.

There is Power in the Pain – How Authority is Earned Through the Cross

by Mike McLoughlin on Fri 22 Sep 2006 10:56 AM PDT Permanent Link Cosmos

"I forgive! I forgive!" These were the dying words of Sister Leonella who was gunned down by Muslim extremists in Somalia last week. ("I forgive" whispers dying Italian nun).

I have heard it said, " Forgiveness is the fragrance of the violet which still clings fast to the heel that crushed it."

There is great power in the fragrance of Sister Leonella's forgiveness. Power that is greater than all the signs and wonders the church would hope to unleash to prove the love of God.

Forgiveness is a power that does not overwhelm evil, but takes on board the full measure of the pain of evil. By allowing evil to do its worse and not returning evil for evil, it captures the evil act for God and uses it to demonstrate a power that is greater, the power of love.

Today I look at the notions of power and authority and how they work in the Kingdom of God. Power and authority are not the same thing. One can have power without authority. For example, those gunman in Somalia exercised their power to kill Sister Leonella. They had no authority to do it. There can be no rational legitimization for murdering an innocent nun.

On the other hand, one can have authority but have no power to exercise that authority. The recently deposed Prime Minister of Thailand has a legitimate authority to govern the country but without the military on his side he no longer exercises that authority.
One can have the authority to exercise power such as President Bush has, but by exercising that power unwisely and alienating people, it will reduce the legitimacy of the authority that stands behind the exercise of that power.

Finally, one can exercise power wisely and in doing so gain authority in the minds and hearts of the people who one wants to influence for good.

The Kingdom of God is all about that last approach. In this post I want to contrast the Charismatic approach to gaining authority through the exercise of power: signs and wonders; with what the gospel of Mark says is the true pathway to authority inherent in the gospel -- the Cross. In doing so I want to challenge the Charismatic church to earn its authority in and through the pain rather than seeking to earn that authority through the "raw power" of signs and wonders.

In a previous post on Bill Johnson’s book When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide To A Life Of Miracles, I talked about how the Charismatic Church needs to ground its hope in the bodily resurrection of Jesus, the event that established once and for all that God intends to redeem creation. The resurrection is an affirmation of our creatureliness so we do not need to be insecure about the “natural” because as Johnson says “the anointing transforms the vessel it flows through.” That is, the Holy Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead is at work even now in our naturalness empowering us to do God’s work. Johnson’s stated purpose for his book is to raise up a generation that would walk in the “raw power of God”. By that he means demonstrations of God’s power to heal and set people free from spiritual oppression. His hope is for a Church that would operate in the authority of God and have a “dominating impact.”

Johnson’s stated purpose for his book is to raise up a generation that would walk in the “raw power of God”. By that he means demonstrations of God’s power to heal and set people free from spiritual oppression. His hope is for a Church that would operate in the authority of God and have a “dominating impact.”

He states that “vision starts with identity and purpose. Through a revolution in our identity, we can think with divine purpose. Such a change begins with a revelation of Him.” (p.34) So in his chapter on the Christian identity. Johnson states that “As He is, so are we in this world.” (p. 145) Since Christ is glorified, powerful, triumphant and holy so we are to be as well as his church. This is what ought to be shaping our Christian identity as Christ followers. This is what will give us the authority to have a dominating impact.

“His promises for the Church are beyond all comprehension. Too many consider
them to be God’s promise either for the Millennium or heaven, claiming that to
emphasize God’s plan for now instead of eternity is to dishonor the fact that
Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us. Our predisposition toward a weak
Church has blinded our eyes to the truths of God’s Word about us. This problem
is rooted in our unbelief, not in our hunger for heaven. Jesus taught us how to
live by announcing, “The Kingdom of God is at hand!” It is a present reality,
affecting the now.

We lack understanding of who we are because we have little
revelation of who He is. We know a lot about His life on earth. The Gospels are
filled with information about what He was like, how He lived, and what He did.
Yet that is not the example of what the church is to become. What He is today,
glorified, seated at the right hand of the Father, is the model for what we are
becoming!” (p. 178)

Johnson goes on to give a list of “the heart of God for us right now.” Wise – especially as demonstrated in excellence, creativity and integrity. Glorious – with the Holy Spirit’s presence and anointing. Without spot or wrinkle; unified; knowing Christ; mature; filled with the fullness of God; with the gifts of the holy Spirit fully expressed; doing the Greater Works and seeing God’s Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven. All these are attributes of the Church God wants manifest now. Johnson quotes the passage from Haggai, where the prophet says, “The latter glory of this house will be greater than the former.” (Haggai 2:9)

The problem is that most of the church is mired in powerlessness. Johnson attributes this to being on “the wrong side of the cross.”

“The Christian life is not found on the Cross. It is found because of the Cross.
It is His resurrection power that energizes the believer. Does this diminish the
value of the Cross? No! The shed blood of the spotless Lamb wiped out the power
and presence of sin in our lives. WE HAVE NOTHING WITHOUT THE CROSS! Yet, the
Cross is not the end—it is the beginning, the entrance to the Christian Life.
Even for Jesus the cross was something to be endured in order to obtain the joy
on the other side! The great majority of the Christian world is still weeping at
the foot of the cross. The consciousness of mankind remains fixed on the Christ
who died, not on the Christ who lives. People are looking back to the Redeemer
who was, not the Redeemer who is…

Jesus said, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.”10 A misunderstanding of this call has led many to follow His life of self-denial, but to stop short of His life of power. For them the cross-walk involves trying to crucify their sin nature by embracing joyless brokenness as an evidence of the cross. But, we must follow Him all the way—to a lifestyle empowered by the resurrection!” (p. 145-146, see online here)

I agree that God calls us to a lifestyle “empowered by the resurrection.” but I disagree that this means we are to march forward in a triumphant or dominating manner. I believe the Bible teaches us that the Christian life is cross shaped through and through. It is not that we are on the wrong side of the Cross but that we need to enter through the Cross to live a life of resurrection power. It is only by suffering the indignity of pain and evil that we can truly know the full measure of Christ's victory over the powers at the Cross. (Colossians 2:15)

Johnson likes to emphasize that “As He is, so are we in the world!” However, before we can get to be "as He is” we must answer the command that Jesus gave his disciples which was “As the Father sent me, even so, I send you!’ (John 20:21) Jesus did not come as a triumphant Lord, he came as a suffering servant. So too, we are called to a life of service as we take up our cross. This is how the Charismatic Church earns its authority. It earns it in and through the pain not by calling down the "raw power" of God from heaven.

In Mark 10:35-45, the gospel writer shares the story of two disciples who were looking for positions of authority in Jesus’ kingdom As Jesus approached Jerusalem for the last time, these disciples asked him for a big favor. “Can we sit at your right hand and at your left hand when you come into your kingdom?” James and John knew that something big was about to happen when Jesus arrived into Jerusalem on the back of a donkey with people waving palm branches and crying out, “Hosanna to the son of David!”

Their hope was for the kingdom of God to come in full force: Jesus would throw out the Romans, establish his religious order in the Temple and appoint spiritually gifted leaders, such as themselves, to wisely exercise power on his behalf. This was their fast track to fame and fortune.

Instead, Jesus rebuked them. “Can you drink the cup I am about to drink?” he asked. “Of course,” they said, “we can drink it.” But little did they know what Jesus had in mind. Sure they thought it would involve some suffering but hey, ‘no pain, no gain,’ was their motto. Their focus was on the power not on the pain. The power they were interested in was simply the world’s power dressed in new clothes.

So Jesus promised them that they would drink that cup, but that the positions to his right and to his left were not his to give. There were those who were already appointed for such places.
I can just see the disciples scratching their heads and thinking, now who was it that had earned those special positions of authority? Who else had journeyed all those miles with Jesus? Who else had suffered deprivation and persecution? Who else had he sent out to heal the sick and cast out demons? Who else but them?

They did not get it. They didn’t understand what Jesus understood was the pathway to his kingdom. It was an entirely different pathway to power. A pathway that led to the Cross. A coronation that involved thorns. An ascension to kingship that confounded all the world’s concept of authority and power. (See Colossians 2:10-15)

Jesus knew the disciples would have places of authority in his kingdom, but the power they would exercise was not at all what they thought. It was the power found in forgiveness. It was the authority earned through pain. It was the glory that came through death.

This was the lesson they were about to learn and that Jesus was about to demonstrate. It was a lesson that there is a power that is greater than all the world’s power. This is the power that Jesus demonstrated as nails were driven through his wrists and he said, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” This is the power demonstrated as he was lifted up on a cross with a crucified thief on his right and on his left, wearing a crown of thorns on his head, under a sign announcing to the world, ‘Jesus, the King of Jews’. This is what real power looks like in God’s kingdom, not the shallow pretentious power of positions, abilities and words.

In the screen play, Jesus Christ Superstar, there is a scene where Jesus is leading his disciples up to Jerusalem and they are singing joyfully,

Jesus, I am on your side
Kiss me, Kiss me, Jesus.
There must be over…
Screamin' love and more for you
And every one of them
Would do whatever ya asked them to
Keep them yellin' their devotion
But add a touch of hate at Rome
You will rise to greater power
We will win ourselves a home
· You'll get the power and the glory - You'll get the glory
· Forever and ever and ever - Ever and ever
· You'll get the power and the glory - You'll get the power
· Forever and ever and ever - Ever and ever
· Forever and ever and ever - You'll get the glory
You'll get the power and the glory
Forever and ever and ever
You'll get the power and the glory
Forever and ever
Forever Amen

In reply Jesus sings the refrain,
“Neither you, Simon
Nor the Romans nor the Jews
Nor Judas nor the twelve
Nor the priests nor the scribes
Nor doomed Jerusalem itself
Understand what power is
Understand what glory is
Understand at all
Understand at all
If you knew
All that I knew
My poor Jerusalem
You'd see the truth
But you live a lie
But you live a lie
While you live
Your troubles are many
Poor Jerusalem
To conquer death
You only have to die
You only have to die “

In my article Earning The Moral Authority to Govern, I discuss the tendency that those who experience power assume there is a uniform way in which it gets exercised, that is, it provides authority to govern. In other words, it gives you the legitimacy to “rule over others.”
Bill Johnson’s hope for a Church with a dominating impact rings similar to this view of power. He wants to see the ”raw power of God” activated. It stirs images of “shock and awe”. Images that are more about overwhelming force than they are about genuine love.

Is this the kind of power that is on display in the New Testament? No, in fact it is exactly the opposite. (See 1 Corinthians 1:17-29;1 Corinthians 2:1-5;1 Corinthians 9:22;2 Corinthians 11:30;2 Corinthians 12:9;)

Johnson believes in the Cross. He believes in atonement theology, but he fails to see how that theology connects with the power of God. The grand statement of atonement theology in Mark comes right at the end of this section we have been examining. The gospel writer ends his story about the two disciples and their request of Jesus with the words, “For the Son of man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Mark 10:45).

Luke also makes this point in telling the story of Jesus' rebuke of the two disciples who wanted to call fire down from heaven on a rebellious town.

But He turned and rebuked them, and said, "You do not know what kind of spirit you are of; for the Son of Man did not come to destroy men's lives, but to save them."> And they went on to another village. (Luke 9:54-56)

These stories illustrate the way power works in the Kingdom of God. It is completely upside down from the way power works in the world. Power in the New Testament is the power of love.

The point of Marks’ story is that Jesus is advocating a different way of doing power, a way that is only fully seen in the Cross. The Cross already was a symbol of power, Roman power, power to crush all those who dared challenge the might of Rome. The beauty of the atonement is that it took a symbol of overwhelming force and turned it into a symbol of divine love. That is the power of God. That is the power that overwhelms evil.

In summary, there are those in the Charismatic church who are candidates for the list in Jesus Christ Superstar of those who do not understand what power is or what glory is. They want the supernatural power but without the Cross shaped life through which it comes. They want the glory but without the shame of suffering. They want the fast track to triumph but they are not willing to drink the cup of pain by which God triumphs over all the powers of this world. “And having disarmed the powers and authorities, he made a public spectacle of them, triumphing over them by the cross.” (Colossians 2:15)

For the Charismatic church to operate in the power of God, in resurrection power, it must abandon its pursuit of world domination via the "raw power" of God and instead follow the way of the cross, bearing the world’s grief and pain in love. The power is in the pain, through the pain and out the other side of that pain. That is the way the Charismatic Church earns its authority in this world.

This classic prayer was found in the breast pocket of a Civil War soldier shot at Gettysburg: (HT: The Presidential Prayer Team)

"I asked for strength that I might achieve.

He made me weak that I might obey.
I asked for health that I might do great things.

He gave me grace that I might do better things.
I asked for riches that I might be happy.

He gave me poverty that I might be wise.
I asked for power that I might have the praise of men.

He gave me weakness that I might feel a need for God.
I asked for all things that I might enjoy life.

He gave me life that I might enjoy all things.
I received nothing I asked for.

He gave me everything I hoped for."

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