In 1987 Bill Johnson attended a John Wimber conference on signs and wonders. He left discouraged because those speaking at the conference had fruit for what they believed. All Bill Johnson had was good doctrine. How times have changed! Now Bill Johnson and his Bethel Church are synonymous with the miraculous. I read somewhere that the church has a full-time member of staff whose job it is to record all the miracles taking place.
I saw some of that first-hand when Bill Johnson preached at the recent Manifest Presence conference. Hundreds were healed, including me. And the really neat thing about it was that Bill Johnson hardly prayed for anyone. He just preached on the kingdom of God, stirred our faith, and got people to pray for one another.
Before going to the conference I read what is probably his most well-known book, When Heaven Invades Earth: A Practical Guide to a Life of Miracles. Now there’s a title to catch your attention! In this book Bill Johnson writes about two things: the kingdom of God in the here and now, and how you will miss it unless your mind is renewed.
Heaven is not merely something to look forward to. Jesus said, “the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Jesus revealed heaven on earth by healing the sick, delivering the oppressed, and forgiving sinners. Jesus came to reveal the superior reality of his world and to show us how to exercise faith so that we might bring that reality into our world. John said that the works of Jesus might fill the planet if they were all recorded. Yet Jesus was just one man working in partnership with the Holy Spirit. Jesus did not come to show us what God can do, but to reveal what God can do through a man.
Imagine what might happen if we all did the works and greater works of Jesus? The answer is obvious – we’d have heaven on earth.
Why did Jesus come to earth? According to WHIE, the ultimate reason for Christ’s coming was not that we might be saved, but that we might be filled with the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the greatest gift ever given to man. As Johnson writes, “He is in me for my sake, but He is on me for yours.” There’s no economy version of the Holy Spirit. He comes fully equipped. He is the ruling spirit of every place He’s invited and He bears no teeth marks or battle wounds.
Few of us will doubt that the Holy Spirit can do great things, even through us. So why doesn’t He? According to Johnson, the main cause of the problem is found between our ears. We emphasize understanding over belief, reason over faith. This is fatal. Often we are more convinced of our unworthiness than we are of His worth, or our inability instead of His ability. “The mind makes a wonderful servant, but a terrible master.”
God will never contradict His Word, but God is bigger than His Word. If we try and chart our way based on our own understanding of the scriptures, we will find ourselves living under law. That’s what happens when you prioritize boundaries over relationship. Jesus never said, “My sheep will know my book.” Under grace we don’t get a road map, but a tour guide – the Holy Spirit. I love the way Bill Johnson said it at the Manifest Presence conference:
It’s difficult to expect the same fruit of the early church when we value a book they didn’t have more than the Holy Spirit they did have. It’s not Father, Son and the Holy Bible. No, this is the word of God, but you’ve got to understand… it is the Spirit of God that makes it living.
God is more eager to invade this world than we are to receive the invasion. We sit and think when we could be praying and acting. We warn each other about the sin of presumption, while God warns us of the sin of unbelief. We strive for balance and control and end up with the order of the graveyard. All this happens because we submit the things of God to the mind of man, instead of the other way around.
These are themes which Johnson explores more fully in his book on The Supernatural Power of a Transformed Mind. But the main point is neatly captured in WHIE: When we submit our way of thinking to God’s way of thinking, we end up with faith and a renewed mind.
It’s no longer a question of heaven or hell. It’s only a question of how much of hell’s thinking I will allow into this heavenly mind of mine. Doesn’t it honor Him more when His children no longer see themselves as sinners saved by grace, but now as heirs of God? (p.149)
The central challenge of this book is to re-present our loving Father to an orphaned world. This is not a call to engage in acts of charity – even though these things are important – but to release His presence and His kingdom in places where darkness still reigns. His kingdom come is not some future event which requires no faith. It’s the dominion of His kingship in our communities today. What does it look like? It is characterized by miracles of conversions, healings and deliverance. We are not merely to tell people about God’s goodness, but we are to show them. Just like Jesus did.
WHIE’s main takeaway is for believers to pray with faith until they get the breakthrough and to exercise their Christ-given authority over the circumstances at hand. If your world isn’t marked by conversions, healings and deliverance, then you might say that the kingdom of heaven has not fully come. This means you have a wonderful opportunity to show and tell the good news of God’s grace. If you don’t know where to start, read this book. There’s a lot here to make you think and it will inspire you to act. Even the chapter titles are helpful: “Repent and see,” “Teaching into an encounter,” and “The high cost of low power.” I particularly liked the author’s take on the Sermon on the Mount (it’s a treatise on the kingdom) and the Beatitudes in particular (they are lenses through which the kingdom is revealed). But be warned, if you take the lessons of this book to heart, the invasion will be underway. Heaven will come! Warn your neighbors!
Ultimately, though, this is not a book about signs and wonders. Yes, there are many riveting accounts of the miraculous in the book. But all of these simply point to the goodness of God. It is Him alone that we need and His heart that we must reveal to a world in peril:
In this present hour we need much more than to learn how to identify our personal gifts or discover ways to be more successful in ministry. We need the Father Himself. We need His presence – His alone. The gospel is the story of the Father wooing the hearts of mankind through His love. All the other stuff we do overflows from that discovery. (pp.100-1)