In the weekend service at City Harvest Church, Bill Johnson taught on receiving the power and authority of Jesus.
By Christal Ong
“City Harvest is a place of extraordinary hope!”
These were words that the congregation at City Harvest Church spoke out loud, at the prompting of guest speaker Bill Johnson.
“And I pray, that God will release peace over the church, so that people will be free to dream, free to hope, free to love, free to live in Jesus; and the dreams that seem so far away, they will come to pass,” prayed Johnson.
Over the weekend of Mar. 17 and 18, churchgoers at CHC enjoyed the teaching of one of the most sought-after preachers in the world today. Bill Johnson is the senior pastor of the Bethel Church in Redding, California; he is a fifth generation pastor who inherited the love for the things of the Spirit. Johnson believes that by learning to recognize the Holy Spirit’s presence and to follow His guidance, Christians will be enabled to do the works of Christ, destroying the works of the devil.
At turns hilarious and deep, Johnson preached two separate messages over the weekend, giving the members new perspectives on Jesus’ way of discipleship and on the phrase “on earth as it is in heaven.”
Thy Kingdom Come
In the first session, Johnson emphasized that all Christians should create a “Kingdom culture” on this earth. “It’s not just about being kind or treating my wife right, but our relationship must pattern after that which is in heaven,” he explained.
The Bible says in Luke 3:22 that the heavens parted when Jesus was baptized. The word “parted” has the meaning of “rend” and is the same word used to describe the tearing of the temple’s veil when Jesus died on the cross–it is a violent action, said Johnson. The parting of heaven was really God tearing open the atmosphere, creating an open heaven. Thereafter, whenever the Holy Spirit comes upon the believers of Christ, there will be an open heaven above them.
“So we need to be conscious of the things that are happening in heaven, [and] pattern it in our daily living, and let this Kingdom culture influence the world we live in. To do that, we need authority and power. Authority comes from commissioning but power comes through encounters,” he said.
“Believers need to understand how the Kingdom of God works,” Johnson continued. “We often think that we are in conflict because we did something wrong. But in fact, we are in conflict because we did something right.”
Linking Luke 3:22, which says God openly acknowledged Jesus as His beloved Son, to Luke 4:3, in which Satan challenged the identity of Jesus, Johnson said, “The first thing Satan attacks is the last thing God said. God’s word attracts conflict.”
Johnson shared two reasons why. Firstly, it is to test and understand the strength of the Word; secondly, it is so that there is a second option available to believers. “God wants us to choose well and when we do, He will reward us.” He refers to this as the two trees—mirroring the choice that Adam had to consciously make in the garden of Eden.
Conflict arises when there is contradiction. “When we pray and do everything that the Bible says, but the one we are praying for still dies. We are confused, we have questions. So what do we do?” posed Johnson.
Johnson shared his own intimate experience of this dilemma—he had lost his beloved father to a disease, even after having watched the same man heal many sick people. While disappointment, sadness and confusion overwhelmed him greatly, he chose to give the Word of praise in the midst of pain. “There will never be another chance to give God an offering of praise in pain, because there is no pain in heaven,” he said, with no small amount of emotion at the recollection of the pain. “So I embraced the moment and praised Him.”
Many people receive the Word of God but fail to display the power; that is because when conflicts arise, they cannot decide which to choose. When Satan challenged Jesus’ identity in contradiction to what God said, Jesus chose to hold on to the Word of God. From then on, He had the authority to release the power of God.
In Luke 4:18-21, Jesus, returning in the power of the Holy Spirit after being tempted by the devil, spoke in the synagogue. His words carried spirit, and for the first time, the Jews felt hope in the Word. But the word of contradiction came in verse 22, when someone recognized that He was the son of Joseph, the carpenter they were familiar with. At that point in time, those in the synagogue were faced with the second tree: they could choose to hold on to God’s word and believe Jesus, or they could choose unbelief. They chose the contradiction and gave no honor to Jesus. The Nazarenes did not receive the provision and were subsequently known as a people of unbelief.
Johnson taught that God is Jehovah Jireh our Provider and He has given His provision to everyone who believes. But there are still those who cannot receive, and that is because they did not give sufficient honor to the prophets, or those anointed by God to bless them.
“The one that God sent to bless us could be the one sitting next to you! But that is the problem; our familiarity can cause us not to see the anointing on them. When we recognize and give them the due honor, we will receive the blessing they can release to us,” he explains.
At Johnson’s second service, the crux of Johnson’s message came from the verses in John 15: 1-2, revealing Jesus’ method of training disciples. He said to the congregation, “There is no end to training; you are designed for the realm of the miraculous.”
Jesus was very clear about what Christians are supposed to do: heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons (Matthew 10:8). But it is impossible for human beings to do that. Therefore in Luke 9:1, Jesus gave the disciples the power and authority to heal the sick and cast out demons.
“To have more power, we need to have more encounters with the Anointed One,” he emphasized.
Johnson went on to explain that the disciples were untrained people when Jesus sent them out. But because they were with Him, He had the chance to correct their wrong ideas and re-calibrate their hearts.
Johnson also illustrated a point using Luke 9:46-48, where Jesus’ disciples argued over who would be the greatest among them, and also in verses 51-56, where the sons of Thunder James and John offered to kill a whole village of Samaritans for not honoring Jesus. If Jesus could accept this group of obviously flawed men and consider them disciples, Johnson was encouraged because obviously most people could be a disciple of Jesus.
Referring to John 15:1-2, where Jesus is called the vinedresser and His disciples the branch, Johnson said that God rewards all growth by pruning. The disciples were like branches that grew and bore many good fruits, but as they continued to grow, some parts went awry–in other words, they had wrong ideas. But Jesus pruned them and let them continue to grow.
“We live in a system that tells us that we can’t do anything if we aren’t great. Religion tries to kill anyone who has a passion to have any form of greatness, but Kingdom redefines it for us, so we can pursue it correctly,” he explained.
The desire for greatness has been placed in our heart by God Himself. “No child ever dream of being insignificant,” said Johnson. However, God understands that humans have weaknesses, such as selfishness and conceit, which need to be removed. That is why He gave His disciples grace, patiently pruned them, preparing them to spread the gospel and eventually change the course of Christianity.
“Rule with the heart of a servant; serve with the heart of a king,” Johnson reminded the congregation. “When we, as disciples of God, humble ourselves like a servant, we will be exalted in Him.”
Johnson shared a story of how his foster children, who were orphans, were fighting for food when they first came to their house. “They were not provided for; they had no security in their hearts, that is why they had to fight to survive,” he explained.
“Jesus came and provided for us, so we are secure and free to dream. I want people to dream, to hear a word of encouragement, to relax and not need to fight for themselves all the time.
“Whole cities can be saved. Jesus has done it before and He wants to do it again. In God’s biography. He wrote: ‘With God, nothing is impossible.’ God knows no limit!”
Johnson concluded the service by telling the congregation to be encouraged by reading Luke 9. “If God can use these people, who thought they were the greatest, who wanted to kill an entire village, then we can be used. We have been individually selected to be part of this family that is going to change world history.”
Both services concluded with a time of healing ministry and many of those who were sick in their bodies were healed. Johnson also prayed over the congregation, imparting his mantle of healing to them. Many in the congregation left the services feeling encouraged in their hearts and emboldened in their action to follow the ministry of Jesus Christ.
Miracles can indeed be commonplace in day-to-day events when the children of God know the power and authority given to them.