I was privileged to be at Glasgow University at the time when Murdo Ewen MacDonald was Professor of Practical Theology. Without doubt he was one of the very best preachers I have ever heard. He had a fascinating life story as well, part of which involved being a prisoner of war in the Camp where “The Great Escape” actually happened. He was one of those whose responsibility it was to get rid of the earth and sand resulting from the digging of the escape tunnels. He became chaplain to the American prisoners who had no chaplain of their own. News of the war was passed back and forward between the British and American sectors in the prison camp by Gaelic! A Gaelic speaker on the side of the fence that had a radio shouted over the news in Gaelic to Murdo Ewen who then shared the news on his side of the fence. The Germans could not work out what on earth was being said!
Come D-Day, having received the momentous news of the landings in the customary enemy confusing way, Murdo Ewen simply went back inside the prison huts and announced to his fellow prisoners, “They’ve come.” There was a moment of absolute silence which was followed by unforgettable scenes: grown men were sobbing, laughing, dancing, screaming with joy. This was the effect of hearing what had been done and accomplished for them.
We must never forget as Christians what has been done for us. In these days it is great that Christians seems to be coming into a new confidence that God can use us to spread His Kingdom; a confidence that by the Holy Spirit we have been equipped with ministries and gifts with which the church and the world can be blessed. However, it is hearing what Christ has done for us rather than what we can do for Him that must always be the joyful centre of everything; all that His living, His cross and His empty tomb has done for us. D-Day has happened already for us at Calvary, where sin, guilt, shame, were carried by Him on our behalf. Enemy principalities and powers were disarmed; the decisive spiritual battle of all the ages has been won; there may still be battles but the victory of God is sure.
My experience of deliverance ministry has been very minimal. I have witnessed this though: demons go and freedom comes to troubled individuals not when someone shouts and postures and makes a great show of their ministry, but when the victory of the cross is simply announced and proclaimed with assurance and joy.
Amongst other ways that Paul described his ministry, when writing his second letter to Timothy he refers to himself as a herald. I guess a herald announces to the citizens of a Kingdom what has happened already or what is with equal certainty going to happen in that Kingdom. Whatever may be oppressing you today, you need to realise your D-Day has happened. Christ has come into this world for you, He has died for you, He has been raised for you and one day He will surely come for you, and you shall reign with Him forever. Rejoice in Him afresh and be a herald of His victory to your own self and others!
I confess a slight worry: over the years I have sought as a part of my ministry to equip people in understanding and experiencing the ministries and gifts of the Holy Spirit. I hope however that we never replace what Jesus did for us all already on the cross, which any person can access by personal God given faith, with what we can do for one another in the power of the Spirit in terms of ministry. That would be the wrong centre of gravity to try and establish. Perhaps there needs to be a redress in balance for some of us reading this blog. Maybe you have become too dependent on ministry times, prayer times, the gifts of God operating through God’s people rather than resting and rejoicing in Christ and the D-Day of the cross. Do you need to go in faith to Calvary yourself? If you do then go there, stay there, until you hear the announcement of D-Day in your spirit: “FINISHED!”
Christ and what He has done rather than church and what we can do must ever be the centre of our announcements as heralds of the Kingdom of God. By the way, whatever your ministry may be – and we do all have one – let’s never forget our prime ministry is to get people into a steady and living relationship with Jesus, not keep then in a continual dependence upon us or our ministry. Hugh Black always encouraged people in ministry to take people through to Christ Himself.
Just listen over the next few weeks to all that you hear in church, in your house groups, on God TV, at summer conferences or to what a book or a purchased teaching series is saying with this one central question in mind: How central is Christ in what I am being told? Am I being sold a ministry under the guise that it is indispensable for walking in victory? If so, we are being sold a lie. Christian advertising should be truthful; exaggeration is lying. Leave that ministry aside; get alone with Jesus.
I once was ministering to someone and felt God gave me a picture to help me and them. In this picture I saw the man I was seeking to help struggling to do up buttons on his shirt. The interpretation that I put on that is that if we get the first button of a shirt in place every other button will fall into its proper place. Actually the real meaning was he had a phobia of buttons which became apparent in quite a dramatic way as I mentioned the picture God had given me! However my wrong interpretation then is a permanent spiritual truth as well; getting the first button in place really does matter; Christ and His finished victory first in my thinking and my hopes: the bedrock of my trust.