Article by Dr Allan Meyer.
The Lifewell Conference is committed to encouraging the church to embrace its calling as a restoring and healing community. Careforce Lifekeys exists for the same purpose. We are committed to encouraging and strengthening the local church in its function of discipleship that restores.
When people come to Christ they bring with them the wounds and collateral damage of life in a broken world. People need more than forgiveness, they need restoration. When Jesus appropriated Isaiah 61 as an explanation of his ministry he underlined the fact that his presence was not confined to the forgiveness of sins. While the foundation of our restoration is the forgiveness of sins, the saving work of Jesus Christ goes beyond the forgiveness of our sins. Jesus applied this passage of the scripture to his own ministry:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’s favour, …” Is 61:1-2 (ESV)
- Bringing “good news to the poor” involves the informing of our thinking to allow for the renewing of our minds.
- To “bind up the broken-hearted” involves the healing of emotional damage.
- To “proclaim liberty to the captives” and the “opening of the prison to those who are bound” involves new steps of obedience and life opportunity that result in people finding a liberty in their lives that previously had been impossible.
The ministry of Jesus is intended to have such a profound restorative impact in the lives of broken people that they can be appropriately described in this way:
- “… that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified.” Is 61:3 (ESV)
God thinks the greatest advertisement to His character is a human life restored to the place that could be described as an “oak of righteousness.”
When the oil and wine of truth and amazing grace are genuinely applied to the wounds people have suffered in life they experience the goodness of God, his kingdom comes, and the hearts of people are made strong for life and service.
If the church does not function as a restoring community the wounds and damage may remain unresolved, even after years of Christian life and church attendance. Careforce Lifekeys exists because God helped us become a restoring community. As a local church we encountered many Christians who had struggled with unresolved life issues; some were courageously coping while waiting for a cure, some were stuck and deeply disillusioned with their faith life, others had withdrawn from church life altogether. As we pioneered the Lifekeys ministry we saw many of these people restored to faith and function. People who had given up hope discovered new life as they gained understanding into their issues.
Since the church is the body of Christ, his ministry has become our ministry. We are called to be a restoring community.
Isaiah 61 not only reveals God’s passion for restoration, it also reveals the necessary elements involved in the process of restoration. For restoration to be effected the necessary elements must be present.
(1) The Presence and Power of the Spirit:
“The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me …”
Human beings are more than physics and chemistry. Human beings are a miracle of clay and spirit. Restoration is more than giving people better advice and encouraging them to try harder in the future. Restoration involves the reconciliation of a human being to the heart and life of God – a life empowered by his Spirit.
The work of the Spirit in restoration is profound. Jesus did not begin his ministry until the Spirit of God had been poured out on him without measure at the baptism of John. Christ then poured out that Spirit on his body at Pentecost in Acts 2.
The work of the Spirit in restoration involves the miracle of conversion or the “new birth”. “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.” (John 3:6) The work of the Spirit in restoration also includes the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, deliverance, the power of spiritual warfare, developing the fruit of the Spirit, a growing devotional life, nurturing the presence of God, putting on the armour of God, inner healing, forgiveness and transformation. All of these things are the outcome of the presence and power of the Spirit.
The presence and power of the Spirit is essential for the ultimate restoration of any human heart – and the church is the dwelling place of the Spirit. Have confidence in your church as the Body of Christ, the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit. This is the first essential element in restoration.
(2) The Cognitive impact of the Word of God:
“… the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; …”
Throughout the Bible the Spirit and the Word work together. Restoration requires more than a Spirit-filled environment. We are spiritual beings, but additionally we are also cognitive beings.
Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31-32.
The parable of the sower – the first parable of the Kingdom of God – highlights the primacy of hearing, embracing and holding on to the Word of God. Truth is like DNA – it has the power to unpack in a human heart and produce the very life it contains. For restoration to be effected in people’s lives it requires more than sitting in a group sharing mutual ignorance, regardless of how much empathy a person might find in that environment. Truth must be told; it must be laid out carefully and completely for transformation to be a possibility.
Jesus summarized the good news in these words: “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near.” Mat 4:17.
The word REPENT, is the word metanoia. It means, “to turn the mind”. You used to think a certain way – but your thoughts are not His thoughts. Turn your mind – your thinking – and embrace a new thought and the life that goes with it. For this reason the Lifekeys courses are built around a teaching process in which truth is unpacked in every session before the group discussion takes place. When people hear truth and allow it to impact their thinking the Kingdom of Heaven draws near. All things are possible when the Kingdom of Heaven draws near.
Often the missing element in a struggling life is a lack of understanding. The Bible says in Ephesians 4:18 we are “…alienated from the life of God through ignorance.” Ignorance helps nobody. Into the Spirit-filled atmosphere words need to be spoken; words that illuminate, explain, give insight, and shine a light on the changes that must be made for life to flourish.
For this cause it is important to construct a curriculum that addresses issues in depth and detail. Sometimes marriages never improve for lack of understanding and insight. Survivors of abuse struggle without the insight to the challenges they must face to be well. A person can attend a church for many years and yet never hear a specific and detailed exposition that addresses an area of need – so the struggle goes on without resolution. But let the truth be unpacked in detail and suddenly change and healing become possible.
Every Careforce Lifekeys course is a curriculum devoted to unpacking truth and insight in an area of common human struggle – expose a person to the truth and the truth can set them free.
(3) An Emotionally Safe and Nurturing Environment:
“ … he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, …”
For restoration to be effected we need the presence and power of the Spirit, the breaking open of the Word, and an environment that appreciates the importance of addressing the emotions.
It is not enough to provide a download of truth in a Spiritual environment. Restoration requires more than an educational experience – it requires an environment of safety, kindness, and nurture – the truth in love; an environment that brings restoration to emotions as well.
This is not always easy for Christians to do. There is a tension between truth and grace and without deliberate care we tend to polarise around one or the other. Grace, unconditional love, acceptance and forgiveness are often seen as incompatible with truth – truth seems to be so narrow, legalistic and demanding. When we have strong views on what is right or wrong it is easy for us to quickly become judgmental, harsh and condemning. By contrast, Jesus was able to hold his crystal clear insight to right and wrong in tension with amazing grace for the failures and struggles of broken people. This is a skill that needs to be learned.
The restorative environment requires an understanding of the role of the emotions and how to work with them. The book of Job is a testimony to the dangers involved in giving unhelpful help with good intentions. Job’s three friends came to his home to be a comfort in a time of terrible loss, but they were unprepared when raw emotions were exposed. Small group ministry with untrained leadership has the potential to become damaging.
The Word must be allowed to hold a higher place in the restorative process than emotions, but emotions cannot be ignored. The old “FACT leads to FAITH leads to FEELINGS” is a valuable insight at one level, but it is not the end of the discussion when dealing with emotions and the process of restoration. “Blessed are those who mourn …” is also a vital insight in the restoration of wounded lives.
In reading Isaiah 61 it is impressive how much the ministry of restoration deals with the restoring of wounded emotions. It includes:
“ … he has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, …” v 1 “ … to comfort all who mourn; …” v 2
“ … to grant to those who mourn in Zion …“ v 3
“ … the oil of gladness instead of mourning, …” v 3
“ … the garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair; …” v 3
“ … instead of their shame … a double portion, …” v 7
“ … instead of disgrace they will rejoice in their inheritance … “ v 7 “ … and everlasting joy will be theirs.” V 7
There is a degree of skill and training required to ensure that in a truth-filled environment the tone and behaviours involved in nurturing emotions is maintained.
(4) Clear Behavioural Direction:
The importance of spelling out clear behavioural direction is underlined by the practice of the apostle Paul in the New Testament. The general pattern of his letters to individuals and churches is to lay out doctrinal truth followed by clearly defined behaviours that are consistent with truth; behaviours that apply and reinforce the truth he has unfolded. Without application truth has a tendency to escape us.
For example: Peter was in prison (Acts 12) when an angel wakened him and instructed him: “Get up quickly”. “Dress yourself and put on your sandals.” “Wrap your cloak around you and follow me.”
Had Peter not done what he was told to do he would have stayed in that prison and died. Chains fell off and doors opened – but there were steps that had to be taken for Peter to be free. Jesus has come to open prison doors and declare liberty to people who have been bound – but if they don’t take steps – if they don’t act – they will never leave the prison they have been living in. Christianity is not a behavioural modification program – but without appropriate and consistent behavioural responses freedom will be a hollow and elusive platitude.
The restoration process includes helping people see what to do tomorrow morning. It matters that we help people take appropriate steps and continue in those steps until liberty is their lifestyle.
In deliberately bringing these four elements together the necessary environment for restoration can be established in a way that makes the restoration of a life both possible and an expected outcome. At the Lifewell Conference this year we will again be sharing insights both theological and experiential that can empower you personally and as a church community to embrace and experience in greater measure the ministry of the greatest healer the world has ever known, Jesus Christ, the Son of the Living God.
Dr Allan Meyer is the founder of Lifekeys International, a ministry that has released healing, discipleship and evangelism in more than 2300 churches and organisations in over twenty countries around the world. Allan is passionate about preaching the biblical themes and insights that have touched lives through the Lifekeys ministry all over the world.