John Gavazzoni
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The Gavazzonis'

Father or Formula?
By John Gavazzoni

One of the leading lights of the Charismatic Renewal within the mainline denominations was Dennis Bennett, an Episcopal priest of the Episcopal Church in the U.S. which is part of the world-wide Anglican family. During the time I pastored an independent charismatic congregation, there were a number of times when I was edified by the brother's sermons in print that often contained gems of wisdom very succinctly stated. One to which my heart responded with nothing less than exuberant agreement, was his observation that "our God is not a formula, He's a Father." Even believers with some maturity under their belt, and some experience of intimacy with "the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ," nevertheless drift at times into formulizing God. There exists in all of us -- in our flesh, as Paul would put it -- what Harry Robert Fox called the fear of intimacy, and that especially in re: to our relationship with the Lord.

Given that proclivity, there are times when we "backslide" into living--in some area of our lives--by ideological formula, rather than by the Spirit of Christ within, who relates to God as Father, not formula. Because we've found that God often does not explain Himself to us, as to what He sovereignly directs into our lives circumstantially, with many of those intrusions being against our soulish preferences, we find snuggling up to God to be uncomfortable, not knowing what might be in His agenda for our spiritual wellness, when we would prefer that agenda to belong to the category of overtly demonstrated goodness, and not severity.

So it is that we hear of God granting a healing to someone, for instance, in a certain -- but somewhat to our sloppy observation -- very uniquely personal way within the Way. Since that way "worked" for that person, so to speak, subconsciously, we find in that the opportunity to avoid intimacy with God by turning that person's experience into a formula to get what we want from the Lord. A case in point:

In one of his books -- I'm quite certain it was in "The Normal Christian Life" -- Watchman Nee testified to the time when he was desperately ill, confined to his bed in a state of extreme physical weakness. In that state of helplessness, as Nee put it, "I received a word of healing from the Lord," or words to that effect. Prompted, energized, and moved by that word, Nee struggled to get one leg out of bed, and upon his foot touching the floor, he was instantly healed. So, one might be inclined to think, if that one finds himself/herself bedridden as Nee, to remember Nee's testimony, and conclude, "If I can get just one leg out of bed and get it to touch the floor, I too, like brother Nee, will certainly be healed."

But you see, that person did not have a personal word of healing, all they had was turning Nee's experience into a formula for healing in a certain circumstance. As another example, we may know of some brother or sister who, upon visiting a friend, heard the Lord say, "Just speak to the illness to depart, and it will." So we figure, "that's so great, I'm going to start doing that to the afflictions of others and myself. It worked for so-and-so, so it should work for me." Exit Father, enter formula.

You see, though Jesus testified that "no man cometh unto Me except the Father draw Him," and that the gospels record that Jesus healed all that came to him, it became dogma in the teaching period following that recent renewal of healing ministries in the 40's and 50's (think Oral Roberts, Jack Coe, T. L. Osborne, and many others of that period), to conclude that God is always willing to heal everyone all the time, if the healing evangelist along with the agreeing faith of the sick person, will claim healing based upon Jesus healing all who came to Him, they will be healed by "holding God to His word." But one seeking healing by coming to a "healing evangelist" does not equate, necessarily to, coming to Jesus by being drawn by the Father. And, by the way, the concept of "holding God to His Word," is open to much abuse.

But, of course, they/we sloppily fail to remember that the person will only be healed if the Father has drawn that one to Jesus. And that truth applies to coming to the Lord for healing. God is, of course, willing to heal all of all disease, and will do so when we receive our glorified bodies, but in the meantime, He chooses times when we receive a down-payment of that ultimate healing, according to His wise sovereignty, for God is always working toward the wellbeing of the whole man, which at times might mean that physical healing is denied toward the end of a healing of spirit or soul. Jesus did not go around looking for someone, anyone, by whom He could demonstrate His healing power, He only did those things that He saw the Father do, and during our Lord's time on earth, THE FATHER DID NOT CHOOSE TO HEAL EVERONE IN JERUSALEM, JUDEA, GALILLEE, AND SAMARIA.

God gives to us what we need, according to His determination to make us whole, spirit, soul and body, and that entails divine priorities. I'm amazed that we can, on one hand, take a stand against legalism in all forms, and yet not realize those times when we effectively legalize our relationship to God by substituting formula for Father. I've never forgotten the wise admonishment from a brother in Christ: "beware of ways to the Way." God's Way, Christ, came to us, and He is with us, still doing only those things He sees the Father do, and He never goes out with an independent agenda of responding to folks who have not been drawn to Him by the Father.

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