The Spirit-empowered believer is not the one who can only see the outward but also is able to minister to the inward need of those around us.
Have You Heard From God Lately?
This title of this article, Have You Heard From God Lately? on the surface may appear somewhat confusing. From a natural standpoint one might be tempted to answer, “We have all of the word from the Lord we are ever going to have,” which is certainly true as it pertains to that which is recorded in the pages of the inspired word of God (II Tim. 3:16, 17; Acts 20:27; Jude 4 et al).
There is, however, a sense in which there are two forms of revelation about which every growing believer must become aware:
General Revelation–The revealed message contained within the 66-books of the Bible as applied to the place, time and circumstances specified either directly or indirectly in the text itself–the historical and contextual setting of Scripture.
Personal Revelation–The revealed message received by each believer personally through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, for the purpose of his own growth and edification as a disciple of Jesus Christ.
It is General Revelation that determines what a verse meant, while it is Personal Revelation that determines what the verse means. Since no two believers are at the same exact level of growth and development, it follows that the receiving of a personal word from the Lord may differ from person to person as God continues His work of transforming us daily into “image” of Jesus Christ (II Cor. 3:18; Rom. 8:29). This ‘difference’ in Personal Revelation between believers does not imply that we are free to tamper with that which is written, only that God, through the manifestation of His grace, is able to communicate with us that word which draws us ever closer to Himself.
Jesus illustrated this concept many times during His earthly ministry. Jesus met people where they were and connected with them at the point of their faith. One day has Jesus journeyed with His disciples into the upper regions he encountered a woman of Samaria engaged in her daily routine of retrieving water from Jacob’s well (John 4:1-7). His conversation with her illustrates how God takes from the natural that which became for that woman a personal word from the Lord. It might be reasonable to conclude that had another person encountered Jesus that day His word for them would differ in accordance with their spiritual need.
The humanity of Jesus is seen in this text, He “being wearied by the journey, … sat thus on the fountain” (John 4:6). As this woman approached the fountain to draw water, Jesus asks her politely to give him a drink (John 4:7)–a natural question given the circumstances at the time. The woman at once recognized Jesus as a Jew, perhaps from His style of dress, perhaps a difference in dialect–what gave His identity away the text does not say (John 4:9). The woman appears somewhat startled by His inititiation of the conversation in effect asking, “Why are you talking to me?” How often we ourselves are also startled when God speaks to us and deals with us in His firm, but loving manner. Even as this wordwould forever change the life of the woman, the word Jesus speaks to each of us is meant to bring about the identical effect.
There was no expectation on the part of the woman that this Jewish man sitting at the well would even acknowledge her presence much less actually speak to her. The national division between the Jews and the Samaritans had created such a broken relationship that Jesus had to be first in making contact–a beautiful picture of God’s intervention into the lives of people, contacting them first because of their spiritual corruption, alienation and inability to contact Him. “No one is able to come to Me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him…” (John 6:44a). Whatever barriers existed, Jesus was willing to look past the moment and into the heart of the woman.
Jesus transforms the conversation from the physical into the spiritual and thus distinguishes between the importance of the one over the other. This woman had only access to the limitations of physical “water.” H2O, liquid–a substance that could only quench the thirst momentarily (John 4:13). Jesus had something far better–access to“living water” (John 4:14).
It is apparent from the text that this woman did not immediately make the connection as to exactly what Jesus was offering. Her life was so grounded in the physical that it was difficult for the word to break through the soil of her soul into her parched spirit–the abode of Almighty God (John 4:10-12; Mark 4:14-20). Jesus had an unexpected gift to share with this woman. Not only did He want to share the “living water”with this woman, but He wanted to transform her into a “fountain of water”–a source through which others would be blessed (John 4:14). The woman did not understand–at first (John 4:15).
Jesus then gets personal. He tells the woman to “go call your husband and come here” knowing all along her life and circumstances (John 4:16). The question seems completely out of context from the discussion the two were having. This word from the Lord needed to penetrate beyond the superficial moment in time circumstances. God never speaks to His children in generalities, but always individually and always personally. Jesus knows your life and mine–intimately and cares about the details. “For the Word of God is living and powerfully working, and sharper than every two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of both soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge of the thoughts and intentions of the heart; and there is no creature unrevealed before Him, but all things are naked and laid open to His eyes, with whom is our account” (Heb. 4:12, 13).
In a moment of truth, the word reached into the innermost parts of the woman’s being and she shared what Jesus already knew: “I have no husband” (John 4:17). The probing touch of the Master’s hand continues: “You have had five husbands, and now he whom you have is not your husband” (John 4:18). Jesus met the woman at the point of her pain, at the point of her despiration, at the point of her shame–and He ministered unto her.
The Spirit-empowered believer is not the one who can only see the outward but also is able to minister to the inward need of those around us. The woman did not need to hear that her life was a mess–she already knew that. Perhaps on the way to the well each day she pondered how it could have gotten so out of control–five husbands speaks to the craving for love and acceptence. Jesus did not come to judge her, but to bring deliverance into her life.
What do we do when the word from the Lord touches a sensitive spot in our soul? We do just what the woman did: She tried to change the subject (John 4:18-20). It is always easier to discuss doctrine then it is to be confronted with the realization that our life in need of transformation. Change the subject to predestination, forms of worship, eschatology–anything but that which speaks to our need for deliverance from the risen Christ. She brought up the hot theological topic of the day, Jesus answered the question, and then moved her in the direction of accepting his Lordship (John 4:20-26). Jesus revealed to her personally that which He kept secret from the crowds. She needed the acceptance of His Lordship because with it comes obedient living and deliverance from the bondage to sin and death.
How did this word affect the life of that woman? The verses following show that she became an evangelist, telling everyone in town that they needed Jesus even as she needed Jesus (John 4:28-30). In a short period of time everything about her changed. She had gone from darkness to light, from spiritual blindness to now having the ability to see.
Some may be asking by now, what does this story have to do with Preterist-Idealism? Because what Jesus did in using the physical illustration of the well is exactly when we see with regard to the totality of Scripture. The Bible is more than a narrative–a story that says what it says and means what it means. Jesus used the physical to picture the spiritual in a real and meaningful way.
The difference between the Full-Preterist approach to the Scriptures and that of Preterist-Idealists is the acknowledgement that the message has a meaning beyond the scope of historical fulfillment in the first-century. The New Testament word from the Lord that carried the first generation of believers through trials, suffering and even death is that which today empowers believers to live a victorious life in the midst of the very same sort of trials, suffering and even death. The same Jesus who delivered them is the very same Jesus who now delivers us.
The events of the first-century must be seen against the tapistry of parabolic expression–a snapshot of what happens in the lives of believers and how God is there with us all the way through–delivering us and bringing us into His victory. This does not imply that the accounts are not historical and factually correct, but we are convinced that there is far more than “just the facts” to consider. The “core” message for each believer today is, “What God did for them, He also will do for me!” Whatever our problem, whatever our circumstance at this moment in time, Jesus already knows about it and is working behind the scenes to bring about our deliverance and to secure our victory.
If we do not see the underlying elements of the story (as in the case of the encounter of Jesus with the woman of Samaria at the well), we lose so much insight and blessing that God wants us to have. If you have not heard from the Lord lately then perhaps the breakdown has not been in His speaking but in your listening.
A woman, sitting in the truck, talking to her husband of twenty years was recalling how that in the early days of their relationship they used to sit right next to each other with warmth and affection, and that now they no longer have that kind of closeness. At this point the husband turns to the wife of his youth and says: “I am stilling sitting where I have alway sat, you are the one who moved!” If we are not as close in our relationship with the Lord as we once were, it was not our Father who moved away, it was us who moved away from Him.
Preterist-Idealism is not the answer to everything, but it does promote the fact that Jesus is “the same yesterday, today and forever” (Heb. 13:8) and that He did not cease dealing with His people in A.D. 70. He did not just “give us a book” and then “withdraw Himself back into the Heavens” waiting to see how well we do on our own. The story of love and redemption is written daily in every chapter of our lives as Jesus manifests His presence and His power now and forevermore. Our prayer is that the scales fall from our eyes in order that we may see the glory and the majesty of our God who Reigns Supreme. If you have not heard a word from the Lord recently, then the plea from God remains clear: “If anyone has an ear, let him hear” (Rev. 13:9).