Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ, and through
us diffuses the fragrance of His knowledge in every place. For we are to God the
fragrance of Christ. 2 Corinthians 2:14–15 NKJV
Christ’s prayer “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10) shows His desire for the Father’s will to be freely accomplished here—unhindered—as in heaven. Why, then, is there such a barrier to even His prayers being fulfilled?
In the early 1970s, while in the military, I was stationed at Wong Tong Nee, Korea, where I visited Dr. Paul Cho’s (comparatively small) “Revival Center at Sodaemoon,” as it was then called. Now their members number over 750,000! Back then I saw about two thousand people praying, rocking back and forth and crying out to the Lord. They were so caught up and so impassioned for Christ that their pursuit of the presence of God humbled me. Over two decades later when I visited again, they were still praying with passion. On that trip, Dr. Cho taught me a painful lesson as we sat together in a restaurant in downtown Seoul.
“Tell me, Pastor Cho,” I said earnestly, leaning across the table toward him. “What is the number one key to having an effective ministry across the globe?”
“Brother,” he said in his beautifully accented English, “you must understand that you cannot help Jesus Christ, but you can hinder Him. Jesus sees your ministry. He wants to show you His.”
I returned to my hotel room with my gears stripped. I can’t help Jesus? But I thought I was one of the good guys who helped Him! Isn’t it Satan who hinders Jesus? I have begun to understand what Dr. Cho knew: Although we ask God to remove the barriers to our prayers, self is the biggest hindrance.
We pray for more power and more faith, but many times don’t realize we are asking God to empower our flesh. The apostle Paul taught that the kingdom of God is not things of the flesh, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (see Romans 14:17). It’s time to stop asking God to bless what our flesh is doing and to start blessing what He’s doing. A lot of what we’re doing is a mess, and God won’t bless our mess! It’s not what we’re doing that brings God’s blessing, but finding out what Jesus is doing and blessing His work.
We rebuke the devil, but the majority of what we think are his attacks are actually self-inflicted wounds from disobedience. When we try to use religious pride to enter what we believe is the presence of God, we only become judgmental and arrogant, feeling comfortable in gossiping about others because we think we “know.”
The devil cannot stop the present-day ministry of Jesus Christ: “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The only thing Satan can do is manipulate who or what will exert lordship over our lives. Satan wants to exalt flesh, which is self. Self wants identity. Self wants to trust self. Self wants control, and self is intoxicated by the seduction of power. The biggest lord we’ve served, the biggest obstacle to Christ’s ministry, is self.
People talk about Jesus, but demons will tremble only when they see His ministry manifested. It’s all about being with Jesus. When we’ve been with Jesus, we’re blessed in His presence. “[Jacob] said [to the man], ‘I will not let thee go, except thou bless me’” (Genesis 32:26). Do you have this passion for God?
The power of the Holy Spirit, the coming great awakening, the present-day ministry of Jesus Christ, and the glory that will cover the earth—all are barred by the same obstacle: self.
What exactly can we do, if we can’t help Jesus?
What does Jesus need? He needs believers who will not hinder Him so His final mission on earth can be completed. People who have been with Christ are the most important item on His calendar.
When we press into Jesus, we burst through the loins of the Lion of Judah as men and women of destiny, filled with holy fire and transforming everything we touch. When we fully comprehend what it means to be with Jesus, our lives are changed forever.
What a life to aspire to!
If you have been with Jesus, the life of Jesus will be manifested in you and through you. God is ready to move heaven and earth to accomplish His purposes for the man or woman who has been with Jesus.
Others know when you’ve been with Jesus. God is raising up a people who will spend time with Him, who are determined to do everything in their power to release Christ to fulfill His destiny through them and impact a lost and dying world.
How could Jesus have prayed or prophesied what seems like wishful thinking, pie-in-the-sky dreaming? Rarely does an average churchgoer have the ambition to do greater things than Christ did. We generally wrestle to obey His Spirit within us rather than wrestling and pressing forward to fulfill the promise that even greater works would be accomplished.
Churches struggle just to fill Sunday services and teach members to tithe 10 percent. In no way has the church taken over the world, as Christ intended when He called us the ekklesia (Greek for “ruling body”). If Christ has delegated His power to each believer, there is truly something wrong with the picture today!
The spirit of competition, fueled by flesh, fills the body with boasts: “First Church [ours] is bigger than Second Church”; “We have a better choir”; “We have a larger budget”; and “We have stronger programs.” Sister Smith is on the phone gossiping all day about everything that he said or she said about anyone in the church, and then ends it with “I’m just telling you so you can pray.” Let’s get to the place where we finally cut off our flesh!
We claim to be baptized with the Holy Spirit, but we know nothing about fire. John the Baptist said we would be baptized with the Holy Spirit and fire; this fire burns up the flesh, even “religious” flesh.
We have the Holy Spirit, but does the Holy Spirit have us? So many of us say, “I have Jesus.” Perhaps the real question is “Does Jesus have me—all of me?”
It’s time we do what we’ve signed up to do: empty ourselves, allowing God to fill us with His fire. We can’t fellowship with Jesus without experiencing the fire of God. So many declare, “I am the righteousness of Christ.” Well, what part of us is the righteousness of Christ? It isn’t our works, our deeds, our acts, and it certainly isn’t us! The only righteousness is Christ in us, shining and working through us when we surrender. The scandal of the cross is that Christ is right and righteous—and we are not.
Jesus drove a nail through all the works of the flesh.
Humankind, in a battle between the flesh and the purposes of God, crucified Christ out of a determination to be righteous in the flesh. Religion tries everything—including man-made rules, legalistic standards, and the doctrines of men—to improve or domesticate the flesh. Religions try to convince us we are holy by what we do:
Holy because we go to church
Holy because we read the Bible
Holy because we pray
Holy because we dress a certain way
Holy because we don’t do certain things
Not true. Jesus is the One who is holy. Only when Christ in all of His glory is abiding in us are we also holy. We say others are in the flesh, but certainly not us. The truth is, we can be sincere but be sincerely wrong, wallowing in the flesh and not even knowing it. The flesh does not fear God because the flesh does not live in the light of eternity. When we understand that we live our lives in the light of eternity, then we will fear the Lord.
What a tragedy that Christians can have a Bible under their arm, don a choir robe, hold a communion cup in their hand, have a Sunday school pin for perfect attendance on their lapel, and say, “Lord, I’ve cast out demons in your name and I’ve healed the sick,” yet hear these words: “Depart from me, you cursed worker of iniquity ... I never knew you.”
It’s all about Jesus. He has no predecessor and no successor. The grave couldn’t hold Him. There was no one before Him, and no one will come after Him. We can’t live without Him, and we can’t live outside of Him.
We can only expose self, our greatest hindrance to fellowship with Him, and take it to the cross so He can manifest himself in our lives. We need all of Him—the living Christ—in all His glory!
I’ve been with this personal Jesus. At age eleven, after witnessing another Friday night beating of my mother, I sneaked into my bedroom and sat on the edge of my bed, crying with my head in my hands. Suddenly I could see light around my hands, and I cringed, thinking my father had come into the room to beat me, too. Instead, as I moved my fingers to peek, I saw glowing, nail-scarred hands reaching toward me. Stunning! I followed them up to the smiling face of a Man lighting up the whole room. I’ve never seen eyes so beautiful. All the colors of the rainbow were in those eyes. I could see eternity through those eyes. They were smiling eyes. It was Jesus!
He said three important things to that little boy. The first was “Son,” the term I’d never been called before, the name that now gave me a sense of belonging I’d never had. The second was “I love you.” I loved my mother, a precious woman who was abused first by her father and then by her husband, but I don’t recall ever hearing her say, “I love you.” Like most abused children, I assumed I was unlovable—but now the radiant Christ had said He loved me! Lastly: “I have a wonderful plan for your life.”
I didn’t know who He was, but I believed in Him. I didn’t believe in healing, because my father had mocked Oral Roberts (seen on television) and told me healing was fake. Yet in that moment I was divinely healed of my stuttering and ulcers. I didn’t know what “deliverance” meant, but I was miraculously and instantaneously delivered from fear. I didn’t know what a “sinner’s prayer” was, but I was gloriously converted. All because I had been with Jesus!
You will never reign with Christ in the sunshine if you refuse to allow Christ to reign through you in the storms.
Anxious to serve Him, I tried for many years to be a great evangelist. People applauded me. I served on prestigious committees. I had the esteem and favor of men, but I didn’t walk in God’s grace or peace. I called the ministry “my burden.”
When I turned thirty-two, everything I’d worked so hard to achieve came crashing down. I was working nonstop, sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, thinking I had to keep up the pace for Jesus. I ended up in a cardiac ward with stress-induced constricted arteries and a rare neurological disease. I didn’t dare tell anyone for fear they wouldn’t have me in their churches or conferences again.
When self stubbornly refuses to give up control, your heart is incapable of being broken by what breaks the heart of God.
Finally, in desperation, I called Jamie Buckingham from the hospital: “I’m afraid; please don’t tell anyone about this.” His comforting words were, “I’d be afraid, too.”
When I hung up the phone, I raised my hands and said, “Lord, I’m sick, I’m tired, and I’m not going to lower these hands until you show up, Jesus, and touch me as you did when I was eleven.” It had been so long. After what seemed like an eternity, God bathed me with the sweet love, grace, and peace I’d longed for but repeatedly missed.
From another room in that hospital ward, I could hear a man crying out, “God, help me! God, help me!” Jesus spoke softly to me, and I pulled off all the hospital wires, alerting the nurses to come running. They allowed me a brief visit to the man’s room. I asked him if he was scared, told him I was, too, and then laid my hands on him and began to pray.
My problem wasn’t physical. It was spiritual. I had tried to live my Christian life in my own strength and found that I couldn’t. No one told me that ministers could be afraid or have insecurities, so I’d hidden mine. Even so, they weren’t hidden from God, or myself, and eventually they overcame me. What I didn’t understand is that having the fellowship and suffering of Christ in my life means being willing to admit everything that I’m not. I was afraid to admit what I wasn’t for fear of rejection, but when I did, Christ revealed to me who He was, and then I understood the apostle Paul when he said,
[I count all my “credentials” as loss] that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings. (Philippians 3:8, 10)
The fellowship of His sufferings is acknowledging what we’re not. God doesn’t leave us there. He takes what we’re not and infuses us with what He is. The power of the Resurrection is Christ manifested in all of His glory.
We are human beings in need of a Holy Spirit dose of humility so we can first acknowledge what we’re not. When we do, Christ acknowledges who He is and fuses the two together. When what we’re not and what God is come together, we experience Jesus in the power of His resurrection, and His present-day ministry can be manifested in all His glory, in us and through us.
The entire battle is over the present-day ministry of Jesus. How does His ministry fully function between you and your spouse, you and your children, you and your job, you and your other relationships? Many sincere believers try hard to die to the flesh by remembering, “What would Jesus do?” But it’s not what we think He would do that shakes hell. It’s Satan seeing what He has done—in us! We have to surrender our kingdom to the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords, letting Jesus do what He wants to do through our lives.
From the time I ended up in that cardiac ward, I was struggling. Why? I kept asking God. I wept intermittently for more than fourteen months, often sitting on the back steps of our ministry offices. All the pain and hurt I had experienced as a child resurfaced in my emotions. Instead of seeing the loving faces of those around me, I only saw my father’s face—laughing at me and telling me what a failure I was. I felt that I was failing and dying inside. What I didn’t realize was that I had to die: die to my flesh and my pride. I’d lived the Christ-ian life, but not the Christ life.
God’s glory wants to blast like a fire through our being, drawing us into such fellowship with Jesus that we will know that we know that we know we have been with Him; those around us will know the same. Without total commitment, our self life is both an instrument of Satan and the greatest hindrance to the glory of God being manifested in and through us on earth.
God-Wrestling by Mike Evans
Copyright © 2004, Mike Evans
Published by Bethany House Publishers
Used by permission. Unauthorized duplication prohibited.