It was another week of deep disturbance. More encounters with burned out believers, more cases of sexual immorality in the church, more questions about why things are not deeply changing. In prayer with some others I believe God led us in the unusual direction indicated below.
A few people involved in Christian counselling were praying into the transactional analysis model of human personality and asking God is it could yield some insights into the present damaged condition of the church. This then led me into a more developed biblical reflection on the life of Jesus and the apostles and how we might see a release of holiness in the church today. (Those who are interested in getting to the application quickly should probably skip the next two sections.)
2. The Integration of the Inner Life: Psychology
Transactional analysis sees individuals operating from three levels in their lives: parent, adult, and child. The child-the child wants to have fun, play, avoid pain, have things their own way, to be accepted and so on. Some of this, like healthy enjoyment, is valid, but the child dimension is naturally self-indulgent and sensuous, characteristically directed at meeting felt needs. The adult is the level that is engaged in ordering the world around us, getting tasks done, ordering priorities. Adult maturity means delaying immediate gratification for a fuller and deeper reward. The parent dimension is the part that takes responsibility for oneself. It performs an executive or supervisory capacity. It “looks after” the child by exercising appropriate authority and discipline on its behalf. In a properly functioning person the parent state will provide self-care for the child state whilst the adult will live in harmony with the decisions thus made.
All of this tends to come out in “self-talk”. Our inner dialogue is an expression of the three states. For example, the adult within could say to the child, “You need to get out of bed and pray because it’s good for you to be with God.”, whereas the child part may prevail by suggesting, “It’s cold this morning, stay in bed and keep warm.” If the child dimension prevails on a regular basis this person cannot mature as a Christian because they will never be inwardly disciplined.
It is plain, when we look at the dominant mode of contemporary (especially, but not exclusively) charismatic spirituality that it is predominantly “child-ish”. Some have called western religion “microwave spirituality”. We want answers and we want them now! We live in a technological and consumerist culture that teaches us to expect immediacy as our birth right. As a result, when we turn up to church we expect the worship leader to take us straight into the presence of God and the preacher to touch us where we need it most. In terms of personal spirituality, there is explosive consumption of Christian self-help books but a decline in Bible reading. People will pay big money to go to conferences but spend relatively little time alone in prayer with God.
Looked at from another angle, many pastors are attempting (naively) to parent their congregations. We tell them how they may fit into the vision God has shown us (professional Christians) for the church. Our motivational and inspirational preaching provides a solution for their daily problems. As such, they do not need to think it out and take responsibility for their own lives. There are external voices that guide their lives. The fruit of this is the lack of deep spirituality in the church and the shortage of men and women who can function as true mothers and fathers in the faith.
Whist the child part may have matured into an adult in the sphere of material responsibilities, such as the task oriented work place, many have failed to grow into genuine adults and parents in the relational and emotional sphere. Since spirituality is much related to interpersonal relations, it becomes clear (from a psychological viewpoint) why there is so little depth in so much of the life of the church today.
What is happening in so much of the church is an interaction between the psychic states of men and women without the mediatorship of Christ. Church leaders cannot take there congregations, with whom they are often in a co- dependent relationship, further than their own dependency on God. Just as Paul said to Corinthians, who were certainly a vital Spirit-filled congregation, “I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. I fed you with milk, not solid food; even now you are still not ready.” (1 Cor 3:1-2). My next step is to relate this psychotherapeutic model to Jesus presence in the church today.
The limitation of the transactional analysis model presented so far is that it is intra – personal. It deals with the self as an enclosed so that final authority must come from within the individual’s own ego states. The best we can hope for is a responsible and caring parent state and a mature adult.
3. The Integration of the Inner Life of Jesus
Unlike other human beings, Jesus was always vitally conscious of his Father as an indwelling presence (John 10:30;14:10;15:10). He was an extraordinary “holy child” (this is a valid translation of the Greek used in Acts 3:26;4:30). As he was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Matt 1:18, 20; Luke 1:36) he always knew God as his “Holy Father” (John 17:11). Living constantly in communion with his Father, there was no deviation or immaturity within or between the parent, adult and child states of Christ. They were perfectly integrated within the love of God. When Jesus heard himself speaking, in thought, word, conscience or reflection, he never heard an indulgent, rebellious, authoritarian or censorious voice. No matter how imperfect were his own natural parents, he lived from the basis of his Father’s voice. The great thing that needs to be revealed by Jesus to the church in our day is the meaning of “holy Father.”
The meaning of “Holy Father” is deep and powerful. Fatherhood stands for parental power and authority, and the holiness of the Father means that he will never use this power and authority to harm any of his children in any way. Jesus knew that no (inner) harm could come to him as the Son because of the Father’s presence (John 16:32). His experience of authority within was not wise “self talk” but the agreement between his own voice and that of his Father. Jesus was able to express holy power in the world: casting out demons, healing the sick, feeding the hungry, teaching with authority, not because he was God, but because his humanity was perfectly submitted to the Father. In being constantly responsible to the Father, Jesus owned responsibility for his own actions.
This dynamic explains the comment of the centurion who sought the healing power of God for his servant: “I too am a man under authority with soldiers under me; and I say to one ‘Go’ and he goes, and to another ‘Come’, and he comes…” (Matt 8:9). This Roman intuitively sensed the same order as that operating in his own vocation: the willing discipline of submission to a higher power. He knew that for the Father to heal through Jesus was not a matter of effort but a natural expression of his relationship with his Son.
Since Jesus had authority on the inside he manifested authority on the outside. The external works fully mirrored the internal submission of a holy child. If we are lacking in the area of signs and wonders today, and the miraculous is hardly commonplace in the church, the solution is not to pray for more power but to recognise that we are lacking in holiness. The pathway of holiness is so rare because it takes us directly to the cross.
The cross seems to contradict the central thesis of this paper that the holiness of the Father is the key to the inner healing of the church. The cross seems to violate the principle that “Holy Father” means an absolute sphere of safety for the deepest possible vulnerability. Outwardly, that is in the world of the senses, and in the sphere of the emotions, this is completely true. Jesus physical appearance was “marred beyond human resemblance” and he “poured out his soul to death” (Isa 52:14; 53:12). Yet, at another and far deeper level, the cross is the place for the complete integration of all the dimensions of humanity – in the terms of this paper: the inner parent, adult and child.
Hebrews tells us the pioneer of salvation “was made perfect through sufferings” (Heb 2:10). The word “perfect” could also be rendered “mature” or “complete”. How this was achieved is more specifically defined when we are told “Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him” (5:8). The obedience of Jesus is a response to the discipline of the Father in going the way of the cross for us (2 Sam 7:14; Ps 89:32) and the perfection is the perfection of his entire inner life. Later, the writer expresses this in terms of God being the “Father of spirits” (12:10). In totally submitting inwardly on the cross to the discipline and punishment of the Father (on the entire human race) Jesus has been perfected in holiness (12:10, 14).
In other words, the humanity of Christ now shares fully in the holiness of the Father (Heb 7:26). Even if we were to conclude that the cross is not “safe”, in the sense of being painless, it is glorious in the more ultimate sense of unifying the inner life of humanity in Christ so that it may be perfectly united to the inner life of God. The resurrection of Jesus “by the Spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:4), sent by the Father (Rom 8:11), demonstrates that however destructive the cross may have been in the experience of Jesus, it was never intended, nor did it, destroy his inward personal life. In the resurrection of Jesus, the Father’s holiness is vindicated as the source of human healing and the destruction of all that fragments our inner lives.
As the risen and ascended Lord, Jesus now does greater works (through his church) than any he ever did in the days of his flesh on earth (John 14:12). This is not because he is operating in the power of his godhead whereas previously he depended upon the power of the Spirit. The new measure of power is because the ultimate submission of Jesus to the authority of the Father (going to the cross) means that God is able to share fully his own authority with our human mediator (1 Tim 2:5). “All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me” (Matt 28:18). A human being now shares the full authority of God.
4. The Integration of the Inner Life of the Apostles
This pattern of inner reformation through painful discipline preceding the release of authority applies to everyone who is in Christ. We can trace the transformation in the character of authority in the lives of the apostles.
They all operated with a gift of authority from Jesus that enabled them to cast out evil spirits, to cure “every disease”, and to raise the dead (Matt 10:1, 8). All twelve performed these tasks, including Judas. We can only conclude from this that they were operating in the “raw power” of God rather than by “holy power”. God’s power was with them rather than in communion with them in a deep inner manner.
Jesus’ own words help us understand what was happening; “On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many deeds of power in your name?” Then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; go away from me you evildoers’.” (Matt 7:22-23). By “knew you”, Jesus means intimacy. Unless Jesus knows us on the inside deeds of power are not a sign of salvation or maturity. The inner transformation of the apostles would come through the impact of the cross.
The apostles were men who were sovereignly chosen by Jesus to go the way of the cross (John 15:16). “You are those who have stood with me in my trials; and I confer on you …a kingdom” (Luke 22:28-29). In the case of Peter, to deny Christ on the eve of the crucifixion and to then be reconciled personally at the resurrection was a pathway of bitterness and glorious joy (Luke 22:62; 24:41), but it meant entry into the power of the kingdom of God. Peter was now a man authentically ready to die for the cause of Christ (John 21:18-19). As a man now inwardly disciplined and whole he could exert authority in the material world.
The reply to the crippled man at the Beautiful Gate, “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give to you; in the name of Jesus of Nazareth stand up and walk.” (Acts 3:6). The wholeness and integration that Peter now enjoyed within through Christ flowed out in the Communion of the Holy Spirit and restored the man to “perfect health” (Acts 3:16). As the witnesses to this miracle beheld the cripple walking and leaping and praising God, insight was given to them of the perfection of humanity in the resurrection of Jesus through the holiness of the apostle Peter (Eph 3:6). It was this reality that made Peter a true foundation of the church (Eph 2:20)
5. Holiness, Healing and Authority Today
The frequency and impact of signs and wonders and mass movements of the Spirit of God in the contemporary western church is rare compared to past revival situations in our nations. Even more startling, is the difference in spiritual vigour between our churches and the churches of the third world. My examination of the material presented above leads to the following conclusion.
Jesus is holding back a much fuller expression of his power in the church in Australia today until his people are holy. He does not want there to be a contradiction between what is happening on the inside of the people of God, immaturity and childishness, and what may be manifested by the Holy Spirit in the external world. Such a contradiction opens up many opportunities for Satan to deceive and destroy. This has been the experience of many revival movements that were birthed with energy and hope but that fractured or fell into immorality and false teaching after a few years. The last state was worse than the first.
It is therefore time that we shifted our attention from longing for changes in the outer world: huge numbers of converts, mass rallies, spectacular signs and inspirational worship to the discipline of our inner lives. The Spirit is seeking to raise up a body of people who are internally integrated, whose priorities stand in stark contrast to the indulgent consumerism of the culture drowning our society and threatening to swamp the spirituality of the church. These persons will know the way of the cross. They will be a body that understands voluntary deprivation for a higher cause (perhaps this can be summed up as humility) means an inner authority over fleshly passions that the Spirit of Jesus will honour with outer displays of visible power. Such persons will not be influenced by issues of personal security, wealth or status. They will neither attempt to be surrogate parents to other believers nor allow themselves to be influenced in this way. In other words, their life style and presence will be self-evidently holy.
Clearly, despite all our best efforts at theological training, preaching, worship and inner healing, such persons as this are quite rare. Just like the cross and resurrection themselves, persons of this sort of inner development are the fruit of the sovereign work of God. This way of costly service is too hard for any one to embrace apart from the urgency of the Spirit of God. Nevertheless, we can pray for the emergence of such persons, and even that we will be among their number.