Hope, Healing & Freedom Podcast: Episode 70
What does an Encounter with Jesus look like? What did it look like in the bible when Jesus touched the lives of people? In this podcast I am going to look at a few of the characteristics found when people had a face to face encounter with Jesus.
I’m Lee Whitman from Restoring the Foundations and we just concluded our 2023 RTF International Conference here in Nashville. The theme of the conference was Encounter. I encourage you to get the recordings of the messages from that conference if you do not have them already.
Here are some of the highlights from the conference. The conference started with Betsy Kylstra sharing the timeline of the amazing encounters she has had with Jesus throughout her life. Then Chester talked about Living in Goshen. Then my favorite speaker, my wife Cindi gave a wonderful message on the power of sowing and reaping. Pastor James Lowe, the senior pastor of Bethel World Outreach in Brentwood, Tennessee joined us and had a powerful message on Encountering Jesus in your personal life. One nugget that I took away from Pastor Lowe was sometimes God will ask you to leave a good thing for a God thing. Then my pastor Jarod Smith from New Tribe Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee talked about encountering the Holy Spirit. One take away from his message was that we are not to live in reaction to the headlines but in response to the Holy Spirit. Then our amazing worship leader Ryan Hall talked about positioning ourselves for encounter. Then the teaching pastor from New Tribe Michael Stephens talked about encountering Jesus in the prophetic. It was exciting to see how each of the messages fit together to give a full spectrum view of having encounters with Jesus.
I got to conclude the conference by talking about some characteristics of encounters with Jesus found in the Gospels. As I went through the Gospels I noticed three common characteristics when people had personal encounters with Jesus.
- Jesus focus is on your future not your past. Jesus has the ability to separate your behavior from your being.
We live in a shame based world. Shame is that thing that keeps telling you that there is something wrong with you. Chester Kylstra defines shame as being uniquely and fatally flawed. In a shame based world you get identified by your bad behavior. I’m a failure, I’m dirty, I’m stupid.
Look at Jesus interaction with Peter – Luke 22:31-32 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith will not fail; and you, when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”
Peter is wonderfully flawed. Yes he was the only disciple to walk on the water but he is also the one who took his eyes off of Jesus and sank. Faithful and flawed.
Matthew 16:18 Jesus gives us a picture of Peters future. “And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
Jesus speaks destiny into Peter knowing that Peter was going to mess up. He encouraged Peter knowing full well what was going to happen to Peter.
Matthew 16:23 Five verses later Jesus turned to Peter and said, “Get behind Me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to Me; for you are not setting your mind on God’s purposes, but men’s.”
I know I am wonderfully flawed like Peter yet every prophetic word that I receive Jesus continues to speak purpose and destiny into me. I love that about Him
- The woman at the well. John 4 – Jesus knew everything about her past, five husbands and the man you now live with is not your husband – yet even by talking to her he was focusing on her future and not her past. He should not have been talking to her, she was a woman, and a Samaritan. He valued her and knew what she could become.
The facts were that she had made many mistakes trying to get her needs met through men. The facts were she is currently living a sinful lifestyle, living with a man who is not her husband, again looking to a man to meet her needs. Jesus is able to look past her behavior and speak destiny into her life. God’s truth is always higher than our facts.
Some of us are facing situations with family or friends where the facts from their past and even what they are doing right now is not what it ought to be. Do what Jesus did, Ask Father God what His truth is for that person and begin declaring it into their life.
- Woman caught in adultery – John 8 – Jesus says to this sinful woman “Neither do I condemn you. Go and sin no more.” How could he say that to this woman who was caught in the very act of adultery? He was looking at her future and not her past. People who have been forgiven much take that forgiveness to heart. Through an encounter with Jesus this woman’s heart was changed and Jesus could say to her, “Go and sin no more.” I guarantee that this womans life was changed and she never returned to this sinful behavior. Why? When we encounter Jesus we are changed.
The power of RTF ministry is that the ministers facilitate an encounter with Jesus. I was a Christian Counselor for 18 years and was able to share wonderful truth with the people who came to me for counsel. I had an ungodly belief that it was by me sharing God’s truth with people that they would be changed. And some were changed because the truth does set people free. And being very honest, I enjoyed being able to share truth and my great wisdom with people and seeing some of their lives change. But real change comes when someone encounters Jesus. When we do RTF ministry the minister does not need to bring the truth to someone, we set the table for the that person to have a personal encounter with Jesus. And when they encounter Jesus, they are changed.
- Zacchaeus – Luke 19 – Tax collector for Rome. Enemy of the Jews even though he was a Jew. He was hated by the Jew. Jesus looked at Zacchaeus’s future and not his past. Jesus looked up in that tree and said to Zacchaeus “come on down little man. I am going to your house for dinner”. Can you imagine the total shock that Zacchaeus must have experienced. This was a man that was totally rejected and even persecuted by the religious Jewish people of that day and Jesus wanted to come to his house for dinner.
We have the opportunity to declare peoples destiny in RTF ministry. I am going to quote one of the great theological sources of our day, The movie The Lion King. Mufasa the father says to Simba the son who had gotten involved with the wrong crowd because he had been believing lies about himself (sound familiar), I wish I could say this in my best James Earl Jones voice, “Remember who you are. Who you are is not what you have become.”
That is a message many of us and the people we know need to hear. Your behavior does not define who you are. Father God defines who you are. Part of RTF ministry is to minister to False Identity Statements. False Identity Statements are ways that we define ourselves based on what has happened to us in this world. Our Father is so extravagant in the way He sees us. I love ministering to False Identity Statements because we often see when the receiver hears from Father God react like this. No, it can’t be. It’s too good, that can’t be true. It is so good we would never dare say that about ourselves. It can only be a loving Father who is looking beyond our failures and calls us what we really are.
Jesus focus is on your future and not your past.
- The second thing that is obvious is that Jesus was not religious. In fact many times it appears that He did things just to stir up the religious leaders of the day. Several times He healed people on the Sabbath. The famous “Take up your mat and walk” healing at the pool of Bethsaida was on the Sabbath. According to the Law people were not supposed to “work” by carrying their mats on the Sabbath. Jesus would have known this law but He healed this man on the Sabbath anyways and told him to carry his mat home.
Religiously Jesus should not have been talking to the woman at the well. First he should not have been talking to a woman and especially not talking to a Samaritan woman. Jesus focus was on doing what His Father told Him to do regardless of the religious standards of the day. Since Jesus only did what His Father told Him to do, it appears that God the Father was not real concerned with the religious standard of the day either.
The woman caught in adultery is another picture of Jesus caring more about this woman than about the religious standards of the day. The religious penalty for adultery was stoning. It was pretty cut and dried. She was caught in the act. No doubt about it. Yet Jesus does not enforce the religious law of the day, instead He offers this woman mercy and grace. And I find it interesting that this woman does not even repent for her sins. She didn’t have to go before the church and confess her sins publicly in order to be forgiven? Jesus simply told her to go and sin no more.
We did ministry with a guy one time and dealt with several issues in his life. On our follow up call he said he had not been struggling with pornography since our ministry week. Pornography was not one of the issues we dealt with. We didn’t know that he had a struggle with pornography. But he had an encounter with Jesus in such a powerful way that an issue that we didn’t even know was there was dealt with.
Zacchaeus was a tax collector and well known sinner. No religious leader of that day would have anything to do with him. The people of that day scoffed and criticized Jesus for going into the home of a notorious sinner. Yet Jesus looked at Zacchaeus through the lens of who Jesus knew he could become and not through his past. He did not let the religious criteria get in His way. He went to this sinful man’s house and Zacchaeus life was changed forever.
We consistently see that Jesus challenged the religious and loved and accepted the sinner.
We live in a day in which we as the church are going to be presented with some issues that are going to challenge our religious upbringing. How are we going to handle them? Are we going to bring them in front of the church for stoning, or are we going to be able to express the heart of Jesus for these confused people. An encounter with Jesus took people beyond their sins plus He released them from the religious standards of the day to meet them in a life changing encounter with Him.
We have the opportunity to represent Jesus well by allowing God to give us His view of who they are becoming and not according to their current behavior. I believe the reason that people who are struggling with life controlling sins do not come to the church for help is because the church has rejected them because of their sinful behavior.
- The third thing you see in the gospels is that Jesus did not heal the same way every time. Sometimes he’d spit on the ground and put the mud in their eyes. Sometimes he just spoke to them and told them to get up and walk. He even sent his healing and was not even in the room. If we are not careful we can get stuck expecting Jesus to operate the same way He has operated in the past. Even in RTF ministry whenever we say “We always do this. We always do that” we are assuming that Jesus will do it the same way every time.
It would be easy to rely on the method, a method which has been very effective for 30 years instead of relying on the leading of the Holy Spirit. Every encounter with Jesus is different. We need to be flexible and tuned into the leading of the Holy Spirit in order to not miss what Jesus wants to do in each of our ministry sessions. I have been in church services where people act a certain way because that is the way they reacted to the Holy Spirit in the past.
Finish this podcast with a challenge. I believe the church of Jesus Christ is at a crossroads. Are we going to rely on the way church has been done in the past or are we willing to keep asking God for new revelation.
The cloud of God is moving and we need to move with it.
I want to encourage you to go to the RTF website and get the messages from the Encounter Conference. They are powerful.