Pure Hearts | John Wimber


By John Wimber

Sometimes God offends our minds in order
to reveal our hearts.

Recently I met with a Christian leader who is respected internationally for his scholarship and integrity. Our purpose was to explore areas of disagreement over significant theological issues.

Congenial and warm, hospitable and ambassadorial-he truly deserves his fine reputation. His skillful and selective response to questions and comments revealed a brilliant mind.

He held serious reservations about praying for the sick, though in theory he accepted the idea that God heals today. He also objected to power evangelism, the idea that supernatural demonstrations of God’s work greatly increase the effectiveness of preaching the gospel. “An emphasis on the supernatural will only dilute the gospel,” he said.

Immediately after our exchange I felt that I had been dull and clumsy in explaining and defending my beliefs. During the following week I reviewed our discussion again and again, realizing how foolish I must have sounded.

Oh, his arguments weren’t persuasive. I had worked through all of them many times. But I was weary, tired of the controversy, opposition, misunderstanding, and accusation that my ministry was generating. Too many good Christians were offended by what I taught and-more to the point-by what I did.

Around this time I started mumbling to myself. “Why bother trying to heal the sick, cast out demons, equip the church for spiritual warfare? Why make such a fuss over these things? Why not just teach the Bible in a palatable way, a way acceptable to reasonable men and women, thus avoiding controversy?” Then, in the midst of my pity party, it struck me: “Wait a minute. I am teaching the Bible, and, what’s more important, I’m doing what the Bible says!”

When my grandchildren ask me what I do for a living, I can open up the New Testament and show them. I don’t mean that I’ve attained the excellence of the ministry or maturity of character of leaders like Peter and Paul or Timothy and Stephen. But I am involved in the same process as they; I’m walking the same spiritual path that they travelled.

When New Testament writers describe praying for the sick, feeding the poor, dreams and visions, laying hands on people, preaching with power, casting out demons-all activities treated as a part of the normal Christian life-I say, “I can identify with what they’re trying to do. I only wish I could do it as consistently as they!”

As I reflected on my conversation with the respected leader, I observed that he is especially offended by how the Holy Spirit has chosen to work in our midst. He’s uneasy about people shaking, falling over, speaking out in tongues, and claiming to be healed. He objects not to the idea that God can heal, but to how God frequently heals today. He thought that God couldn’t possibly work in these odd, often bizarre ways.

This leader isn’t alone in his reaction. All Christians are easily offended at times by how God chooses to work in their or other’s lives.

“Wellspring of life”

God regularly acts in ways that both the righteous and rebellious will misunderstand. However, his purpose isn’t to offend our minds, it’s to reveal our hearts: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? ‘I the Lord search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve.’” (Jer. 17:910) The heart is the “wellspring of life” (Prov. 4:23), the core of our being. It is the center of the human spirit, from which spring emotions, thought, motivations, courage, and action (Ps. 4:7).

When God offends our minds he knows that the righteous will patiently seek him for understanding regarding the circumstances that created the offense. The rebellious, on the other hand, will use circumstances to justify their hidden desire to dismiss God’s will and live only for themselves.

Patient hearts

Consider the two responses to Jesus’ clearing the temple (John 2:13-22). After driving the businessmen and money changers out of the temple with a whip, Jesus said, “Get these out of here! How dare you turn my Father’s house into a market!” Then, in response to the Jews demand for a miraculous sign, he said, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days!”

Jesus would have been more reasonable had he first explained his concern, rebuked those who resisted his explanation, and then-only as a last resort-cleared the temple. Instead, he cleared the temple, rebuked the offending parties, and offered scant explanation for his actions.

The rebellious Jews used the temple clearing to condemn Jesus and justify their own actions. When Jesus was tried before the Sanhedrin two false witnesses came forward and said, “This fellow said, I am able to destroy the temple of God and rebuild it in three days”‘ (Matt. 26:61).

The humble disciples, on the other hand, may not have understood the temple clearing but they reserved judgment about its meaning. They were patient. In fact, at first they remembered the Scripture: “Zeal for your house will consume me” (John 2:17).

They sensed God’s hand in Jesus’ actions; later, after the resurrection, they understood the meaning of the incident. “After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said [regarding the temple and rebuilding it in three days]. Then they believed the Scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken” (John 2:22).

Teachable hearts

A righteous response to these times of testing brings great blessing. This was true for Naaman, commander of the Aramean army back in the ninth century B.C. Namaan was “a great man in the sight of his master and highly regarded, because through him the Lord had given victory to Aram. He was a valiant soldier, but he had leprosy” (2 Kings 5:1).

A young girl from Israel who had been captured and was serving Naaman’s wife told her about the prophet Elisha. “If only my master would see the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy!” Naaman listened to her advice, and he received permission from the King to go to see Elisha.

However, Elisha didn’t treat Naaman in a manner to which he was accustomed. When Naaman approached his house, Elisha sent a messenger to him, instructing him to wash himself in the Jordan River seven times-“and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed” (2 Kings 5:10).

Naaman was offended and angered by Elisha’s refusal to maintain protocol. “I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call on the name of the Lord his God, wave his hand over the spot and cure me of my leprosy” (2 Kings 5:11). The Jordan was considered a second rate river by Naaman’s standards; the very least Elisha could have done is send him to one of the great rivers of Damascus! So Naaman left in a huff.

Before he had gone far, however, Naaman’s servant convinced him to give Elisha’s cure a try. “If the prophet had told you to do some great thing, would you not have done it?” (2 Kings 5:13). Naaman listened to his servant, as he had earlier listened to the Israelite girl, thus revealing that he had a teachable heart.

So he went in the Jordan seven times, “and his flesh was restored and became clean like that of a young boy” (5:14). In response to his healing Naaman then went to Elisha, humbly stood before him, and said, “Now I know that there is no God in all the world except in Israel… [I] will never again make burnt offerings and sacrifices to any other god but the Lord” (2 Kings 5:15,1 7).

Humble hearts

God is just as committed today as he was during Naaman’s time to revealing hearts. For most of us, the only way he can touch our hearts is through offending our minds.

Back in March of 1985 Fr. John Bertolucci, a powerful Catholic evangelist from Ohio, experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in an unexpected manner.

He met one evening with 12 or 13 members of his monastery and two other leaders to discuss how the Holy Spirit had worked in healing and renewal at a conference that the two attended. Fr. Bertolucci’s Superior then asked the two leaders, “Well, why don’t you pray for us?” Fr. Bertolucci tells what happened next: When they invited the Holy Spirit to come, one brother immediately broke into laughter, and soon we were all laughing. Then I came under what I can describe only as the glory of God-I was knocked to the floor and felt drunk. When I tried to stand up, I couldn’t. I cried out, “Lord, I’m an intelligent man, but I can’t get up!” Since this happened to me I have experienced a greater awareness of God’s presence and a new anointing of his power.

Fr. Bertolucci had no intellectual category for judging his experience. But he had a humble heart, so he received God’s anointing and as a result came into a deeper awareness of his presence.

God is looking for men and women with pure hearts. When he offends our minds, when he acts in ways that do not meet our expectations of him, we have to make a choice. The best choice is the one made by the disciples, Naaman, and Fr. Bertolucci. Patience, teachableness, humility. In the ’90s God is calling for these attributes in the hearts of Christians.

Source: Equipping The Saints, Vol. 3, No. 3/Summer 1989